China has reasons to cheer

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-11 09:38

Rise of underdogs in Russia among plethora of pluses for national team

China might not have made it to the World Cup finals in Russia, but the national team can take heart and learn from a tournament packed full of surprises-such as:

Magnificent minnows

Icelandic football fans wave their national flag in Moscow's Zaryadye Park, June 16, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Teams that have traditionally had only moderate success on the international stage have proven that even the world's best can be vulnerable under pressure.

No team typified this more than Russia. The host showed the benefit of playing with passion, discipline and self-belief as it made it to the last eight for the first time in the post-Soviet era.

Iceland, despite failing to advance beyond the group stage, was another minnow to make a major impression.

With a population of less than 350,000, the Nordic nation was able to field a team that was more than competitive here. Heimir Hallgrimsson's side outplayed Lionel Messi's Argentina in the first half of its opener before holding the two-time champion to a 1-1 draw.

Iceland also pushed Croatia until the last minute in Rostov, where it was unlucky to lose 2-1.

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