Football World Cup: Who to support if your team didn't make it

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The All Whites aren't in the World Cup and the thought of Tim Cahill going 12 rounds with the corner flag after scoring for the Socceroos makes you sick.

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Perennial contenders Italy and the Netherlands also missed qualifying.

England are more disappointing than public transport and you’re deflated after picking up Denmark in the office sweepstake.

The tournament is always better when you follow a team, so we've come up with five options for you.   

Les Bleus are one of the favourites to win the competition, with a star-studded line-up of pure attacking potency.

They're absolutely stacked, with the likes of Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann, wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, midfielders Paul Pogba and N'golo Kante, Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane and Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.

Ousmane Dembele
Ousmane Dembele celebrates a goal with Paul Pogba. Photo credit: Reuters

But that doesn't guarantee success. France are both enigmatic and mercurial - they're just as likely to have a dressing room fallout as they are to playing stunning football.

They were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Germany four years ago and look set for another high finish this time around.

They're fun to watch, will score some cracking goals and you never know what to expect when you watch them play. Plus they're not Germany, so you're not jumping on the bandwagon of the favourites to win the thing.

Things to watch: Pogba's range of haircuts, Kante's insane work rate in the midfield, the passion of their national anthem, and Olivier Giroud coming on as a substitute and scoring a header that somehow does no damage to his slick quiff.  

Football World Cup: Who to support if your team didn't make it

If you never know what to expect from France, then you always know what you’re going to get with Belgium.

Despite being in the midst of a 'golden generation' of players, they've stumbled their way through a series of major tournaments.

They lost to Argentina in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup and were then stunned by Wales at the same stage in Euro 2016.

They've been a regular disappointment, considering the embarrassment of riches at their disposal. We're talking Chelsea duo Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, Manchester United marksman Romelu Lukaku, artists in the midfielder like Kevin De Bruyne and Mousa Dembele, and experienced Premier League defenders such as Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld.

Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez is a sharp-dressed man. Photo credit: Reuters

Will this be the year they finally deliver?

Belgium have the players, an astute, albeit under-fire manager in Roberto Martinez and they're always capable of turning on the style.

Things to watch: The strong suit game of Martinez, the passing of De Bruyne and Dembele, two of the best afros in the competitions (Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini), Adnan Januzaj (remember him?) and striker Michy Batshuayi's Twitter account.

Mo Salah. That's basically the only reason you need.

He's the king of the footballing world right now and if he manages to recover from his shoulder injury in Russia, then Egypt are a must-watch.

Even if he misses a game or two, the Egyptians are a great underdog team to support. This is just their third World Cup appearance and they've never won a match in the tournament.

Mo Salah
Mo Salah is the man in Egyptian football... any football. Photo credit: Getty

They also have the oldest player - 45-year old keeper Essam El Hadary. In fact, he can become the oldest player ever at a World Cup if he takes to the field.

They're not going to play the most exciting football with a strong defensive game plan, but with Salah on the counter-attack, they're always a threat.

Things to watch: Salah's fitness, West Brom defender Ahmed Hegazi's scoring ability from set-piece and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.

You've gotta love Iceland. They're the smallest country to ever quality for the showpiece event, thanks to a population of about 335,000.

To put that in context, if you're Icelandic, male and aged 20-40, you have a 1-in-2000 chance of playing for the national side.

They don't fear anyone, thanks to their stunning Euro 2016 campaign, where they beat Austria and England, before losing to France in the quarters.

They also have the best chant in the game, thanks to the thunderous Viking clap from their fans that echoes around the stadium.

Clap clap
Clap, clap... those crazy Iceland fans. Photo credit: Reuters

Iceland's key player is Premier League midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who'll look to shake off an average season with Everton. The 28-year old is one of the best in the game from set-piece and he's the one player you're likely to recognise in the side.

They're a great underdog team to get in behind and they're more than capable of dishing up an upset.

Things to watch: the number of times the letter 's' features in each player's name, their fans and whether there's a spike in the number of births nine months on from the World Cup (which happened after their Euros success).    

Led by James Rodriguez and his exquisite left foot, the South American side lit up the World Cup four years ago in Brazil, before losing to the hosts in the quarter-finals.

They've got one of the most exciting squads in the tournament, led by Spurs youngster Davinson Sanchez at the back. Rodriguez drives the team in the midfield, complementing the explosive pace of winger Juan Cuadrado, while there's power and experience up front with Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca and Luis Muriel.

Juan Cuadrado
Juan Cuadrado has gas on the Colombian wing. Photo credit: Reuters

They should breeze through the group as the top qualifiers and are sure to be formidable opponents in the knockout stages.

They're a pacy, skilful side with the ability to score spectacular goals - and that makes watching them well worth your time.

Things to watch: Cuadrado running down the wing, Falcao in the box, their goal celebrations and the amount of crosses they ping into the area.