Generally mistaken for another Michael at betting.co.uk
Generally mistaken for another Michael at betting.co.uk
With the World Cup fast approaching, we take a look at the rank outsiders vying for football's most coveted prize in Qatar.
All odds displayed available at Betting.co.uk featured site BetFred Sports.
The only team featured on this list to have already booked their place in the Finals are the unlikely hosts, Qatar. The smallest country ever to host the tournament with a population of less than 3 million, and the first nation since Italy back in 1934 to make their Finals debut as hosts, Qatar is led by Felix Sanchez who once worked as a coach in the renowned youth setup at Barcelona.
Like their fierce rivals Saudi Arabia, Qatar's team that will aim to upset the odds in December comprises entirely of players who play their football in the country's top-flight, the Qatar Stars League.
So, aside from the controversy surrounding their hosting the tournament, are Qatar any good?
Well, historically no. But the international football landscape is changing rapidly in Asia, and Qatar has enjoyed a rapid ascent up the FIFA rankings in the latter part of the last decade.
Led by the heroics of star striker Almoez Ali, Qatar defied the odds to win the Asian Cup in 2019, conceding just once in the entire tournament and defeating four-time winners Japan 3-1 to secure the country's first major international footballing honour.
With both momentum and home advantage on their side, Qatar could prove to be the surprise package of the upcoming tournament should they receive a favourable draw in the group stage.
The youngest footballing nation to feature on this list, North Macedonia didn't officially make its debut as a FIFA recognised national team until 1994, but in recent years the Lions have made a habit of punching well above their collective weight on the international stage.
The team's penchant for upsetting the oddsmakers has made them favourites of the punters in the past, but they should be seen as a monumental longshot here because if North Macedonia is even going to qualify for Qatar, never mind winning the tournament, they are going to need something of a miracle.
After a strong qualifying campaign with wins over more historically established footballing nations such as Romania and Iceland, the team finished a respectable second in Group J. However, the trials and tribulations of the qualifying stages continue with Blagoja Milevski's men
now needing to defeat defending European champions Italy and then either Turkey or Portugal in order to progress to the finals.
As a plucky underdog, the former Yugoslav republic has completely exceeded expectations but to overcome some of the continents greatest teams to book a place in Qatar may be a bridge too far.
One of the footballing powerhouses of the Arab world, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a period of sustained success in recent years having qualified for 5 of the previous 7 World Cups.
With a team comprising of entirely domestically based players, the Arabian Falcons (incredible nickname, by the way) cruised through their initial World Cup qualifying campaign going unbeaten and finishing top of Group D to qualify for the AFC Third Round.
With just four games remaining in the aforementioned stage, the team, led by former Cambridge United manager Herve Renard, currently sit four points clear at the top of their group, but they still need to play Australia and Japan before their ticket to football's biggest tournament can be confirmed.
Despite their scintillating form so far, even reaching the tournament has to be considered an unqualified success, but with odds nearly reaching Leicester City levels of unlikely progressing beyond the group stage at the Finals will prove to be a serious task.
Football has a rich history in Canada, with the sport being introduced into the former British colony all the way back in the 1870s. However, despite having a historical leg up on some of the other nations featured on this list The Canucks have only recently begun to find success on the international stage.
Led by former Sunderland academy coach John Herdman, the country is experiencing something of a golden generation of talent thanks to the likes of Bayern Munich's Alfonso Davies and Lille's Jonothan David.
The team have gone unbeaten during the CONCACAF Third Round and are currently top of their group above both Mexico and the United States. If the Maple Leafs can continue their good form, they look set to secure World Cup qualification for the country for the first time since 1986.
Should Canada make the finals in Qatar they have a real opportunity to break new ground by advancing beyond their group, but despite their success, the first knockout stage will likely prove to be too much on this occasion.
Looking to qualify for just the second World Cup Finals in their history, Panama currently sit fourth in the CONCACAF Third Round, with a clash with Oceania's finest on the horizon should they be able to maintain their five-point lead over fifth-place Costa Rica.
With former Barcelona striker Thomas Christiansen at the helm, The Canal Men (another absolutely incredible nickname) will be looking to qualify for just the second finals in their history, after making their inaugural appearance in the 2018 finals.
The team struggled in Russia, losing all three group games including a heated affair against England that saw them concede six times, with Felipe Baloy's late consolation marking the country's first, and as yet only, goal at the Finals.
There is reason to believe that Panama could make the finals in Qatar though. The team's recent form has seen them lose just once in their last four fixtures, including an unlikely home win over the United States. Should they repeat their qualification heroics from the previous tournament, anything beyond a winless group stage exit would have to be considered an overachievement from the team ranked 63rd in FIFA's international rankings.