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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

The horseracing fan's guide to the World Cup

Spain celebrate with the World Cup in 2010
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If you prefer fetlocks to football and view this summer's World Cup merely as an inconvenience that forces Royal Ascot on to ITV4, fear not, here is the Racing Post's ultimate guide to the World Cup – for racing fans! We've cast each team as a racehorse to provide a better idea of the team for you

Group A

If Russia were a horse they would be 11-time Fontwell winner St Athans Lad. They look up against it on all known form as the lowest ranked team in the competition, but it is always dangerous to rule out the team competing on their home turf.

Saudi Arabia would be Derby 'hope' Diore Lia. The lowly rated filly who nearly ran in the greatest race on turf was an absolute no-hoper, and so are Saudi Arabia.

Vintage Stakes winner Expert Eye resembles Egypt
Egypt would be Vintage Stakes superstar and Dewhurst and 2,000 Guineas disappointment Expert Eye. Like Expert Eye only one thing suggests they could be any good at all, Liverpool ace Mo Salah.

Uruguay would be Might Bite. Described by many pundits as a dark horse, and Might Bite is literally a big, beautiful dark horse. He also possesses a potent attack, as do Uruguay with Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez. The last mentioned should also come with the horse's name emblazoned on his forehead as a warning.

Luis Suarez just might bite!

Group B

Portugal would be the mighty old-timer Cue Card. Sure they are getting on a bit, but the reigning European champions still possess the talent to be a factor with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Spain would be the Derby-winning son of Derby winner Galileo and Oaks winner Ouija Board – Australia. In short, they have got the pedigree and class that very few possess, a full trophy cabinet and a squad absolutely stacked with world-class talent.

Spain would be Aidan O'Brien's superstar Australia
Morocco would be Supasundae. They are a lot better than you might expect and definitely capable of causing an upset – albeit they are up against stiff opposition.

Like Supasundae, Morocco are certainly capable of causing an upset

Iran would be Sheikhzayedroad. Game, competitive, capable and better than odds suggest, but likely to come up agonisingly short given the size of the task presented to them.

Group C

France would be Kauto Star. Big, powerful, athletic, imposing and full of Gallic flair with the likes of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann capable of winning any game – but they are also capable of blowing it all in a moment of madness.

With France make a mess of things like Kauto Star at the last?
Australia would be cross-country chase specialist Any Currency. They'll certainly try and be incredibly popular, but they just lack the class to make an impact at this level.

Peru would be grand old warrior Lough Derg. They play entertaining, heart-in-mouth attacking football, but will ultimately be outclassed.

Christian Eriksen has that touch of class that elevates Denmark
Denmark would be Greatwood and Kingwell winner and Champion Hurdle fifth Elgin. Despite coming in under the radar they have a touch of class in the likes of Christian Eriksen and are better than the odds suggest.

Group D

Argentina would be superstar speedball Battaash. With Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain they possess an electric attack. Their defence, on the other hand, is infinitely more vulnerable.

Messi and Aguero form a potent attack for Argentina
Iceland would be 2,000 Guineas runner-up Tip Two Win. The smallest nation in the competition, but more than capable of a big performance and sure to give their clap-happy supporters something to cheer about.

Croatia would be last year's Supreme winner Labaik. They are highly volatile and could easily blow over, but they are also incredibly classy if they consent to run their race.

Croatia can be as headstrong as Labaik
Nigeria would be Mad Moose. More than capable on their day, but prone to throwing in a shocker. They could also be Oh So Risky, given they have easily the coolest kit in the tournament.

Group E

Brazil would be the 'will he fall or will he win' merchant that was Moscow Flyer. Brilliant and dazzling at their very best, with the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho capable of tearing even the best defences apart, but also possessing that vulnerable underbelly that makes them all the more loveable.

Brazil have a touch of Moscow Flyer about therm
Switzerland would be grand old campaigner Somersby. They are certainly solid, but unspectacular, and are almost certain to come up short in this company.

Costa Rica would be somewhat surprise Grade 1-winning hurdler Mick Jazz. Yes, they could potentially cause an upset, but realistically they would need the big guns to underperform.

Lightning Spear is the racing equivalent of Serbia
Serbia would be nearly horse Lightning Spear. Yes they are an outsider, but they are also capable of running well above their odds.

Group F

Germany would be The Tank – also known as Denman. Ruthless efficiency is a hallmark of German teams and with the vast array of superstars at their disposal the reigning champions will try to grind their rivals into submission.

Like Gabrial, Mexico may find one or two too good for them
Mexico would be Marwan Koukash's loveable Gabrial. They absolutely deserve their place in the line-up, but when push comes to shove they are likely to be found wanting.

Sweden would be JP McManus's Grand Annual winner Le Prezien. Definitely decent, with an efficient approach, but just lacking the talent to go all the way.

Le Prezien is Sweden in equine form
South Korea would be Paul Nicholls' summer stalwart Alcala. They would appear to have absolutely no chance whatsoever unless the sun – or in their case Son (Heung-min of Tottenham fame) – shines.

Group G

Belgium would be 'how has he not won that' specialist Harchibald. They are wondrously talented – an attack featuring Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku is the envy of many a nation –but so far they have failed to deliver on anything like their potential.

Are Belgium the Harchibald of international football?
Panama would be Cerium, the horse whose Gold Cup participation at Cheltenham forced officials to revise entry requirements. They are absolute no-hopers.

Tunisia would be Haldon Gold Cup runner-up, Tingle Creek fifth, Clarence House fourth and Celebration Chase runner-up San Benedeto. They are a decent yardstick, sure, and even capable of winning races, but they are just out of their depth.

Idaho: the perfeect metaphor for England
England would be Great Voltigeur, Hardwicke and Ormonde winner Idaho. They have looked great dominating weaker opposition en route to the big-time, but always seem to be exposed against top- class opposition.

Group H

Poland would be sprinter/miler/seven-furlong specialist Limato. They are fundamentally a bit flawed, with one or two holes in them, but in the likes of Robert Lewandowski they also have that touch of class.

Poland possess Limato's flawed brilliance
Senegal would be Derby runner-up De Ex Bee. They do look up against it, but with talent like Sadio Mane in their ranks they could certainly outperform their odds.

Colombia would be Gold Cup hero Native River. With James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao leading the line it is going to be all-out attack for the quarter-finalists last time.

Japan are the footballing equivalent of The New One
Japan would be gallant The New One. They certainly deserve to be here and will have massive and passionate support, but are unlikely to feature at the hot end.

Have your say: think you can do better, comment below as to which horse you would cast as each of the 32 teams involved in this year's World Cup.


If England were a horse they would be Idaho. They have looked great dominating weaker opposition, but always seem exposed against top class opposition
E.W. Terms
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