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If only population size could win the World Cup

World Cup 2018 By: Lolade Adewuyi | 03/03/2018

Leading Nigeria to the World Cup will be tough - Mikel - FCNaija

If the 2018 FIFA World Cup was contested based on population size, Nigeria and Brazil would play in the final.

Of the top 10 most populated countries in the world, only four qualified to play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Brazil (5), Nigeria (7) and Mexico (10) came through the qualifying stages while Russia (9) entered as hosts.

Nigeria are drawn in Group D alongside Argentina and tiny countries Croatia and Iceland on for June’s summer showpiece.

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, the fifth most populous nation in the world, has won the tournament. The Selecao have lifted the trophy a record five times and have never failed to qualify for the tournament.

Meanwhile, China, the world’s most populated country, has only been to the tournament once while India, the second most populated country in the world both, has never qualified for the World Cup. Both countries have in excess of one billion people each.

Yet, countries like Uruguay (136) that has a little above 3 million people has 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.

Croatia and Iceland offer huge contrast to Nigeria - FCNaija

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson regularly gets to respond to questions about how his country has been able to find talents from a population so small.

“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 told after the World Cup draws were made in Moscow last December.

The last small country that Nigeria faced at the World Cup is Bosnia-Herzegovina (3.5m) at Brazil 2014. That game ended in a hard-fought 1-0 victory for the Super Eagles.

At the end of the day, football is between 11 players with their cheering population counting for little in the heat of battle save for each team’s preparation and strength of character, tactics and fitness levels.

Nigeria will face Croatia in their opening game in Kaliningrad on June 16 before meeting debutants Iceland in Volgograd on June 22. Whatever happens, these small countries will not be pushovers in Russia.

Keep up with Lolade Adewuyi's coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup for by following him on Twitter: @Jololade