World Cup 2014: Underrated National Sides the Power Teams Fear
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is getting closer with each month. As the qualification process intensifies, many underrated sides are still flying under the radar while the high-profile nations get attention.
In the host continent of South America, Brazil has qualified as the host. Meanwhile, Argentina and Colombia attract the most attention in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying because they contain two of the world's best players in Argentina's Lionel Messi and Colombia's Radamel Falcao.
In North America, the perennial favorites Mexico and the United States should qualify, but there are plenty of dangerous sides left in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
UEFA contains the past two champions in holders Spain and 2006 winners Italy. Joining those two nations as favorites for 2014 are Germany, France, England, Holland and Portugal, all of whom are expected to qualify for the tournament in Brazil.
In the other three continental zones, there are no true favorites to win the World Cup but they can always pull off a surprise run in the World Cup, much like Ghana did in the 2010 edition in South Africa.
Here are six nations that will be underrated going into Brazil and could surprise a few people.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina were close to making their first appearance in the World Cup in 2010, but they lost to Portugal in the UEFA qualifying playoffs. They also lost to Portugal in the Euro 2012 qualifying playoffs.
This time around, the Bosnians are making sure they don't suffer the same heartbreak.
Manchester City star Edin Dzeko headlines an attack that has scored 15 goals in their first four World Cup qualifying matches.
Dzeko is not the only star on this team. The Bosnian side also boasts Stoke City keeper Asmir Begovic, Sevilla defender Emir Spahic (captain) and attackers Miralem Pjanic (Roma) and Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart).
If they continue at their current pace, Bosnia and Herzegovina will beat out Greece for the Group G title.
As World Cup rookies, they could nevertheless challenge some of the perennial powers in the group and knockout stages.
If they make it to Brazil, expect the Bosnians to have no fear.
The last time we saw Ecuador in the World Cup was in 2006, when they lost to England in the Round of 16.
After a disappointing qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, La Tri have come back with a talented squad. They currently sit in second place in CONMEBOL qualifying with 17 points.
The biggest name on the Ecuadorian roster is Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, who has plenty of scoring threats to find with his crosses.
Christian Benitez and Felipe Caicedo are both strong goal scorers that opponents will have difficulties with.
Another benefit for Ecuador going into the 2014 World Cup is that the tournament is being played on their home continent, which means more fan support at their matches than in other years.
If you're wondering how Ecuador has fared against the top nations in CONMEBOL, they lost 4-0 to Argentina but defeated Colombia 1-0.
Fabio Capello is working wonders with the Russian team that are on top of Group F with a full 12 points.
Russia are trying to erase the memories of not qualifying for South Africa four years ago and their disappointing Euro 2012 performance. So far, so good: They have not lost a match under Capello,
Capello took over after Russia failed to make it out of the group stage this summer at Euro 2012.
The Russians have plenty of young talent in the squad with Alan Dzagoev and Denis Cheryshev leading the youth movement.
Capello has a good mix of veterans to work with, as well. Captain Igor Denisov is a strong leader, and there are four players on the current roster with over 65 appearances for the national team.
Capello also has something to prove after his spell in charge of England was not as successful as many people thought it would be.
Speaking of youth movements, Belgium has to be mentioned.
Belgium were the team with the most expectations going into the qualifiers.
Some of the world's best young talent has come out of this small European nation, which has not played a World Cup match since 2002.
The Belgians will not be a favorite to win the World Cup in Brazil, but they will cause trouble. They have a mix of speed and height in attack together with a strong back four and goalkeeper.
If Belgium do qualify out of Group A, all of the attention will be on Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, but every player on the roster has world-class quality in their game.
Currently Belgium lead Group A with 10 points over Croatia and Serbia.
If Senegal survive the unpredictability of CAF World Cup qualifying, they will go into Brazil as the African nation with the best chance of advancing to the knockout round
The biggest names on the Senegal squad include Newcastle United pair Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. But they are just two of the players in a forward lineup that also includes Moussa Sow and Dame N'Doye.
Senegal will be well rested during their qualifying campaign after failing to make the field for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, which has to be the most unpredictable football tournament on the planet,
The last time Senegal qualified for a World Cup was in 2002 when they made the quarterfinals in South Korea and Japan.
In March, Japan can become the first team to qualify for the World Cup (after hosts Brazil) with a win over Jordan in AFC World Cup qualifying.
Japan has always been a power in Asia. They are showing that power again with their dominance of Group B in the fourth round of qualifying that includes Australia, Iraq, Oman and Jordan.
In 2010, Japan made it to the Round of 16 but lost in a penalty shootout to Paraguay.
Half of the Japanese squad play in the domestic league in Japan. The other half, including Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United, have made the trek to Europe to play top-flight football.
Japan has developed into a top footballing nation since co-hosting the 2002 World Cup with South Korea.
Everyone they play in Brazil should be wary of the threat they pose.