Just like every other World Cup, this one has been full of surprises and upsets. Germany were knocked out in the group stage and similar to South Korea in 2002, hosts Russia exceeded everyone’s expectations and reached the quarter-final.

England reached the semi-final after 28 years and Croatia have made it to their first ever World Cup final. With such results, there were many teams who performed way better than what was expected of them.

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We have a look at the five teams who punched above their weight and performed much better than anyone expected them to.

Croatia

Croatia have qualified for the World Cup final for the first time in their history and that speaks volumes about how much they have already achieved.

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Croatia centre-back Dejan Lovren (Photo: AFP)

 

Led by their talisman Luka Modric, Croatia have shocked everyone with their progress so far. They  defeated Argentina 3-0 in the group stage and England in the semi-final. Even if they do not win the final against France, they have already achieved a lot by reaching the final.

England

England qualified for the World Cup semi-final for the first time since 1990 and no one expected them to do the same with the team they had.

2018 FIFA World Cup, England
England’s players celebrate winning the penalty shootout against Colombia (Photo: AFP)

 

In the past, when players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were at their peak, they could not go beyond the quarter-final mark which shows how big an achievement this is for England.

Some people may argue that they had easy fixtures, but a semi-final is a semi-final. They beat Colombia in the round of 16 and Sweden in the quarter-final only to go down fighting against Croatia.

Russia

Russia definitely exceeded the expectations when they reached the quarter-final of the World Cup. To put things in context, Russia had not won a single international match since one year, before playing the World cup. They qualified only because they were the hosts.

Russia Football, 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia vs Saudi Arabia
Russian players celebrate after scoring against Saudi Arabia Photo: AFP)

 

They pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when they eliminated Spain in the round of 16 and came very close to defeating Croatia in the quarter-final as well. President Vladimir Putin is definitely a happy man after Russia’s superb display at the World Cup.

Sweden

Sweden already surprised everyone when they stopped Italy from even reaching the World Cup as they knocked them out in the playoff. Sweden topped their group and beat Switzerland in the round of 16 to face England in the quarter-final.

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Swedish players celebrate their goal (Photo: AFP)

 

Although they lost to England, they surprised everyone by reaching the quarter-final without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They will definitely take away many positives from this World Cup.

Japan

Poised against Colombia, Poland and Senegal in Group H, not many people expected Japan to go beyond the group stage and reach the knockouts. Surprising many, they beat Colombia in their opening match as they qualified for the next round.

2018 FIFA World Cup, Japan
Japanese players celebrate their victory over Colombia (Photo: AFP)

 

They faced Belgium in the round of 16 and were 2-0 up in the second half. They ultimately lost 2-3 but won many people’s heart with their brave and disciplined performance.