Of the top 10 most populated countries in the world, only four countries qualified to play at the 2018 World Cup. Brazil (5), Nigeria (7) and Mexico (10) came through the qualifying stages while Russia (9) entered as hosts.
Nigeria was drawn in Group D alongside Argentina and very small countries Croatia and Iceland on Friday.
While Nigeria’s population is in the 190 million range, in contrast, Croatia (129) has 4.1 million while Iceland (180) is a territory that contains 335, 028 people.
Two-time winners Argentina (31), meanwhile, have a decent 44.2million people.
Does population play a role in which teams can win the World Cup? Only Brazil, one of the top 10 most populous nations, has won the tournament in the past.
China, the world’s most populated country, has only been to the tournament once while India, the second most populated country in the world, has never qualified.
Yet, countries like Uruguay (136) who have a little above 3 million people have won the tournament twice and reached the semi-finals at South Africa 2010.
For some context, the entire population of Iceland is less than that of Shomolu Local Government in Lagos State but they reached the quarterfinals at the European Championships in 2016.
When I asked Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson how his country has been able to find talents from a population so small, this was his response: “I don’t think it is about talent, it’s more about the hard work that the team puts in and the belief that they can do great things,” Hallgrimsson said.
Nigeria will face Iceland in Volgograd on June 22, 2018. It will seem like a Goliath versus David encounter, and you can be sure that this tiny nation will not be pushovers in Russia.