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Five outsiders to watch at 2014 World Cup

Sports Mole looks at five outsiders who will be good to watch at the 2014 World Cup.

The 2014 World Cup is beginning to take shape, with many teams now qualified for the tournament. There are now far fewer than half the spaces up for grabs, with many of these reserved for the playoff stage of the European qualification. The seedings have been announced, but outside the top four most teams will be regarded as outsiders.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the outside tips for the tournament and why they will be well worth watching, even if you are unlikely to get a return on your money.

1. Chile - 50/1

South American teams always have the potential to excite and impress during international tournaments. Chile are no exception. Chile's last defeat came in a World Cup qualifier to Peru earlier this year but in the nine games since they have gone unbeaten. And there have been goals. The Peru game is the only match since August last year that Chile have failed to score in.

Sergio Ramos of Spain and Alexis Sanchez of Chile compete for the ball during the Spain v Chile international friendly at Stade de Geneve on September 10, 2013© Getty Images

Their manager Jorge Sampaoli has a refreshing cavalier approach to football and while this can also tend to calamities at the back Chile will head into the tournament fancying their chances of outscoring anyone. With players such as Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Matias Fernandez it will be interesting to see how they manage against well-drilled England in November's friendly.

2. Russia - 50/1

Since they were hotly tipped for success in the 2012 European Championships Russia have perhaps slipped to the back of many people's minds. The 2018 hosts only managed a draw against Azerbaijan in their final qualifier, which was enough to put them through, but with former England boss Fabio Capello at the helm they will surely be a tough side to beat in 2014 and will be a team many will look to avoid.

They have a squad full of tricky, creative players and will be led once more by the Zenit St Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has 24 international goals. It will be his last chance at a World Cup and alongside Alan Dzagoev and captain Roman Shirokov they will certainly have a good chance of qualifying from most groups.

Russia's Alexander Samedov celebrates with teammates after scoring during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group F qualifying match between Luxembourg and Russia on October 11, 2013© Getty Images

3. Japan - 150/1

The odds seem harsh for a side that is blessed with a number of very good players indeed. It is at the back where they suffer, as was shown in the summer's Confederations Cup, but should they manage to tighten things up then they could pose a real treat for many teams on their day. Most of their squad are dotted around various European top flights and many are hitting a good age for tournament football.

Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda will be the most recognisable stars and much of Japan's play will go through the two of them. However, there is more to Japan's armory. In Hiroshi Kiyotake and Shinji Okazaki, Japan have two players who consistently perform in the Bundesliga. Both are adept at set pieces and possess fine technical ability that could grace any international tournament.

4. Belgium - 14/1

Belgium, who were recently confirmed as a top seed in the FIFA rankings, are not particularly big underdogs having qualified with a game to spare. However, few are expecting them to genuinely challenge for the tournament in Brazil. For a start, this will be the first tournament for most of their squad and the average age will be one of the lowest at the World Cup.

Romelu Lukaku of Belgium and James Collins of Wales stretch for the ball during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group A match on October 15, 2013© Getty Images

That said, no-one can deny that they will be fantastic to watch, however far they end up getting. In their most recent squad just one player - Timmy Simons - was over 30. They have two monster centre-forwards in Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku with a host of creative midfielders to supply them. Take your pick from Axel Witsel, Kevin Mirallas and Eden Hazard to supply the assists.

5. Ecuador - 150/1

Ecuador celebrated qualification for the 2014 tournament as if they had won the thing, but the truth is that they are better placed than many of Europe's minnows. Firstly, squeezing Uruguay into the playoffs is no mean feat but with the conditions expected to play a huge part in the tournament the team with the highest capital city in terms of altitude in the tournament - Quito - are used to playing in tough surroundings.

In truth they scraped into the tournament with just one win in their last six, but they had already shown what they were capable of with wins over the qualified Chilem, Colombia and a 4-1 victory against Paraguay. Should their coach Reinaldo Rueda get things right then the likes of Felipe Caicedo and Antonio Valencia could prove a stern test.

Click here for more stories about Shinji Okazaki

Click here for more stories about Belgium

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Romelu Lukaku of Belgium and James Collins of Wales stretch for the ball during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group A match on October 15, 2013
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