Moscow — A World Cup of surprises showed once again how small teams are finding a way to compete with the big boys, as was the case at the European Championship two years ago. It was Iceland and Wales who shook up the established order in 2016, now Belgium and Croatia have shown that smaller nations can dream of success as the gap between them and the traditional powers continues to narrow. "Every team is set up so well now and properly prepared that there is not much between anybody," said France coach Didier Deschamps after his team overcame Croatia 4-2 in Sunday’s World Cup final. With a population of just more than 4-million, Croatia punched above their weight to reach the final, going down gallantly in Moscow. Belgium reached the semifinals with a golden generation of players despite a modest footballing infrastructure, and will have legitimate ambitions of claiming a first major international title at Euro 2020. At the European Championship two years ago, Wales were surprise s...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now