The World Cup automotive underdogs

One of the great things about the World Cup is that it's guaranteed to throw up a few surprises. The competition may have its giants, but the fringe teams are better prepared than ever, and all seem determined to write their names into the history books.

In honour then of the underdogs, we've compiled a top ten list of the World Cup outsiders, and picked an unlikely automotive hero to represent each nation.

We've arranged them in reverse order of the likelihood they stand of actually emerging victorious in South Africa. Enjoy.

Click below to see the Top Ten.New Zealand – 1000 to 1
Hulme CanAm

Any list of World Cup outsiders has to include the plucky All Whites who, if the bookies are to be believed, stand only a mathematical chance of winning the most coveted title in international football. The Hulme CanAm is an outsider too – just 20 of the hand-built, carbon composite supercars will be made and the manufacturer has priced them at £295,000 each.

South Africa – 500 to 1
Superformance Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

The host nation may not have much of a chance of winning the World Cup, but the nation considers the competition its best chance to plant its flag on the international map. Superformance's manufacturing plant at Port Elizabeth shows what they're capable of – the modernised replicas it builds are so good that old man Shelby signs them off himself. The Cobra Daytona Coupe is heart-breakingly pretty and heart-stoppingly fast. We want one more than final tickets.

Australia – 500 to 1
Holden Maloo

Being English, it's nice to see the Australians on a list of rank outsiders when it comes to international sport. The Aussies haven't exactly set the automotive world on fire either, but they do crank out some idiosyncratic cars – none more so than the Holden's insane pick up, the Maloo. Current holder of the world's fastest production pickup truck title, the Maloo packs a 6.0-litre V8 beneath the hood, and whatever you want in the back. Mental.

Japan – 250 to 1
Toyota Century

The Samurai Blues might be on the fringes of international football, but they're capable of upsetting some big names on their day. The Toyota Century however is not likely to upset anyone. Virtually unheard of outside Japan, the Century is a four-door limousine built in tiny numbers for royalty and senior governmental figures. Virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1967, the car is powered by a unique 5.0-litre V12 and sits above Lexus in Toyota's luxury hierarchy.

Nigeria – 200 to 1
Peugeot 504

The bookies might think the Nigerians have a slightly better chance of winning the World Cup than the Japanese, but they could certainly do with a lesson from their rivals on how to build cars. The African nation was still cobbling together ancient Peugeot 504s as recently as 2006. Huge suspension travel and basic strength meant the French saloon made an excellent bush taxi.

Serbia – 125 to 1
Zastava Yugo

The Yugo is a perfect car to represent Serbia because, like the football team, the eighties supermini was little blot on a large landscape. The car was based on the Fiat 127's mechanics, and was derided as backwards and basic almost as soon as it appeared. However, thanks to decent marketing (in the US of all places) and even better pricing the Yugo went onto sell almost 800,000 examples before production was halted.

Switzerland – 125 to 1
Monteverdi Safari

In the same way that they don't have many football heroes to call on in the competition, the Swiss don't have many automotive heroes either. One of the few is Monteverdi, the brainchild of Peter Monteverdi who attached his family name to the luxurious cars his company began turning out in the seventies. One notable success was the Safari, a new kind of luxurious off-road station wagon with a V8 engine and Italian good looks. We all know how popular those kinds of cars would come – especially amongst international footballers.

Mexico – 100 to 1
Volkswagen Beetle

Yes, that's right, the VW Beetle. Germany's Car of the People remained in production in Mexico until 2003, helping the iconic vehicle onto 21 million sales worldwide. Even at the end it took emissions standards and pressure from Volkswagen itself to finally discontinue the Mexican Beetle. The national side would give their right boot for that kind of longevity in South Africa, although yesterday's victory against France will help their cause.

USA – 80 to 1

The Americans have already proved to be a thorn in our side. The Excalibur was a thorn in everyone's eye. Conceived as a 'contemporary classic' the car was originally built on a Studebaker chassis, but made to look like a 1928 Mercedes SS. The unholy mix of European looks and chintzy Americana stayed in production well into the eighties. With any luck the European-influenced American team will be gone by the knock-out stages.

England – 8 to 1

OK, England's odds are a lot better than the other outsiders on this list, but the team's laboured draw against USA and ability to go all giddy at the prospect of penalties means it is still not time to place the inventors of the game on the favourites' list. Spyker might seem an odd choice for this list too, but the Dutch company that hit the headlines for buying Saab moved production of its own cars to Coventry with the creation of a factory there in 2009.

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