Will an Underdog Like Mexico Rise This World Cup?


Will an Underdog Like Mexico Rise This World Cup?

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander


avor Suker spent the 1990 World Cup, sitting on the bench, watching a promising Yugoslav side almost reach the semi-finals. A year later, he scored his first senior goal, but for a team that wasn’t even a country recognised by FIFA. Seven years after that unnoticed solitary goal and a dissolved Yugoslav republic, Sukur made his debut at the World Cup and so did an un-fancied, unknown Croatia. By the end of the tournament, Sukur was top-scorer, winner of the golden boot ahead of the much popular Brazilian Ronaldo.

More than his individual accomplishments, however, the tournament is largely remembered, not just for France’s usurping of a prodigiously talented Brazil, but one of the most inspiring performances, by a little known country, let alone a football team – Croatia’s annihilation of Germany in the quarter-finals. A good underdog story often feels therapeutic, not just because it offers the profane pleasures of watching dynasties and reputations crumble, but because they are also the kind of raw stories we want to live and tell.