FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers: Early Favorites and Surprise Teams

FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers: Early Favorites and Surprise Teams

FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers: Early Favorites and Surpr...

With the imminent arrival of FIFA World Cup 2026, footballing pundits are weighing in on their early front-runners and underdogs shining bright in the qualifiers. The journey to the 2026 World Cup offers much excitement and anticipation, with seasoned powerhouses and emerging talents all along the road.


Early Favorites


Ecuador: A Rising Force
We are only two rounds in and the side is already generating some noise in the early qualifiers, boasting a rich World Cup history. Even though the team, led by coach Felix Sanchez, has gotten off to a slow start, it has shown a lot of promise and determination. Ecuador is undefeated in its home World Cup qualifiers and has staked a claim thanks to wins over the heavyweights. They are hungry and experienced, and have had previous experience in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup. 


Leading the Way from Malaysia


It is in the AFC qualifiers where Malaysia has created an impact - and unexpectedly being the early pace-setters in the process - because Malaysia has previously captured the imagination, just not enough to speed past goalposts. Coached by Kim Pangon, the Malaysians have promoted their growth with well-deserved victories recently, making a statement for the future of football in the country. 


Rwanda: Africa's Surprise Package


How Rwanda rose to the top in the World Cup Qualifiers, and Torsten Spittler's men have become the surprise package of Nigeria 2009 after making their way through a tough group against Nigeria and South Africa. Their victory over South Africa last week brought jubilation throughout the nation, a reminder of just how powerful sporting successes can be in terms of national morale and unity. Rwanda's remarkable story in the qualifiers is the beauty of football, and its power to encourage and inspire dreams.


Future Keepers and Up-and-Comers
France: The Era of Supremacy


Now it's officially the decade of French football, at least the end of French football, with France seemingly bound to reign supreme till the end of the late 2010s and 2020s. Even if the likes of Raphael Varane and N'Golo Kante have moved on, with Ibrahima Konate, Aurelien Tchouameni, and Randal Kolo Muani among a promising new generation, the expectation is that the performance levels -- and with it the entertainment factor of the matches -- will remain high. There will be the necessity, no doubt, but with players like Kylian Mbappe destined to hit his prime by 2026, ambition has a way of seizing the imagination across France, of all the countries, and the promise of a wonder show will excite the headlines.


Transitioning to Next Gen: Uruguay


The 2026 World Cup will be the next stage of a process of change for Uruguay, a side currently undergoing a renewal of its playing staff. Though they continue to produce stalwarts like Luis Suarez and Diego Godin, attention has completely shifted in the past few years to Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Valverde, and Ronald Araujo who are set to be the three musketeers in the prime of their Uruguay careers. Watching those stories also adds an intriguing dimension to Uruguay's quest for success this summer; the new protagonists contending with the ghosts of their forbears; the anticipation of what Uruguay's footballing identity could in time become.


ITALY — THE QUEST FOR A RENEWAL AND A REBIRTH


Italy, a former European superpower, are in a transitional phase as they look to identify the key men being readied for the 2026 World Cup. Such a pursuit of top-tier talent up front, at the rear as a successor to Alessandro Bastoni, and in the middle of the park are all examples of the hunger that remains alive and well within the Nerazzurri to take back its place amongst the footballing aristocracy. As Italy's squad evolves and they look to rejuvenate, the stage is set for a similarly fascinating story as they gear up to return to the world's top table in 2021.
The qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2026 have completely opened the door for an amazing journey with an unexpected winning, the rise of some new talents, and will be a symbol of Football. While the spectacle that will play out across Canada, Mexico, and the United States brings the world together in anticipation of the action ahead through the early favorites and surprise sides, the surrounding excitement and the path those teams and their fans will travel on through the tournament serve as a friendly reminder of soccer's universal appeal.


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