Supposed whipping boys prove their World Cup worth
The so-called whipping boys of this World Cup are determined to confound the critics, and they are unearthing some talented prospects as they do so.
New Zealand, who drew with Slovakia 1-1, and North Korea, valiant 2-1 losers to Brazil, have both exceeded the low expectations of a dismissive general fan and media consensus.
New Zealand’s standout performer in their creditable stalemate with Slovakia was the scorer of their dramatic late equaliser, right-back Winston Reid.
21-year-old Reid currently plays for Danish club Midtjylland, and he has earned glowing reports from Scandinavian commentators and scouts.
Having represented Denmark at youth and under 21 level, Reid declared himself available for New Zealand in time for the World Cup.
He has since excelled, and the young defender would be an excellent summer acquisition for most Premier League clubs.
Another minnow to confound dismissive pre-tournament expectations is North Korea, whose prized asset is striker Jong Tae-Se.
The 26-year-old Tae-Se, who was born in Japan, is known as the ‘Asian Wayne Rooney’ and his display against Brazil went some way to justifying such a tag.
Strong, quick and technically able, Tae-Se held the ball up very well for North Korea despite often being isolated in attack.
Tae Se still plays in Japan for Kawasaki Frontale but his international record of 15 goals from 23 caps could attract some interest from Europe’s leading clubs.
And in light of his eye-catching display against Brazil, he is an enticing 5/1 to North Korea’s top scorer at the World Cup.