Football Word Cup 2022 Preview

On November 20th, the FIFA 2022 World Cup will finally kick off in Qatar. In this World Cup preview, we’ll guide you through the opening stages, highlighting the strongest teams and the key players to watch out for.

Group A

As per World Cup tradition, the host nation is automatically placed into Group A. And based on the latest FIFA rankings, Qatar will be the third weakest team in the competition, making this the poorest quality group overall.

Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands are clear favourites to top Group A. They come into the tournament on the back of a 32-game unbeaten streak, capped off by a solid 1–0 win over Belgium. That goal was scored by captain Virgil van Dijk, who is arguably the best defender in the world at present.

If any team can keep the Dutch from securing top spot, it’s likely to be Senegal. Also known as the “Lions of Teranga”, this team contains a surprising amount of top-level experience and quality. The likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyaté all ply their trade in the English Premier League. While their talismanic forward Sadio Mané needs no introduction to followers of Liverpool and Bayern.

Before this century, Ecuador had never advanced to a single World Cup. For the first time since their campaign was ended by a David Beckham goal for England in 2006, they will also be aiming to advance to the round of 16. Maybe now is their time to shine.

Group B

Although ranked 5th in the world, England will arrive at the 2022 World Cup in horrendous form. They failed to win a single Nations League game and found themselves relegated as a result. Manager Gareth Southgate is under extreme pressure back home, while Manchester United captain and key defender Harry Maguire has become a living meme.

Despite that, the Three Lions remain favourites to win what is the strongest group in the competition. However, both Wales and the United States will fancy their chances of springing an upset. The Welsh will be particularly motivated to beat their near neighbours, hoping their star man Gareth Bale be at the top of his game.

The U.S.A. barely made it through regional qualifying on goal difference past Costa Rica. However, Gregg Berhalter’s team possesses the youthful talent to stand a chance of making it out of the group stage. Meanwhile, don’t count Iran out. Ranked 20th in the world, they have plenty of experience in their ranks, particularly up front.

Group C

A sub-plot to follow is that this tournament will almost certainly be the last World Cup for Lionel Messi. Arguably the best player to have ever kicked a football, he’ll be looking to go a step further than in 2021, when he finally lifted the Copa America trophy. And his Argentina side has every chance, currently ranked 3rd in the world.

Saudi Arabia has lost in the group stages of their last four World Cup appearances. Although Herve Renard’s team deserves praise for outperforming Australia in qualifying, there is a sense that things could become much more difficult for them if they are given more challenging assignments.

Mexico qualified for the CONCACAF finals as runners-up to Canada on goal differential, continuing their streak of participating in every World Cup finals since 1994. El Tri has a roster that relies on individuals who have experience playing in Europe and North America such as, Wolves striker Raul Jimenez and Houston Dynamo veteran Hector Herrera.

Following a 2–0 victory, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski defeated Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the “battle of the talismans,” securing the Eastern Europeans a playoff spot in the finals. Aside from their 34-year-old Barcelona striker, Poland’s roster features a wealth of experienced players who compete domestically throughout Europe. After losing just twice throughout the entire qualification process, Czeslaw Michniewicz’s team will be confident of making it out of the group stage.

Group D

As the reigning World Cup holders, it’s little surprise that France enter the 2022 tournament among the overall favourites. 23 year old PSG forward Kylian Mbappé might be the star name for Les Bleus, but the squad is packed with talent.

Another strong side is Denmark. Christian Eriksen’s on-field collapse led to an emotional wave of support, which helped the Danish advance to the Euro 2020 semifinals. His return to form and play could serve as an example for others.

With a victory over Mali in the final qualifying round, Tunisia qualified for its second consecutive World Cup and secured a spot in the tournament’s championship game. For the first time, the North Africans hope to advance to the knockout rounds.

Australia was able to salvage a qualifying campaign that had a promising beginning (11 straight victories), but that faltered after losses to Saudi Arabia and Japan ended their chances of automatic qualification and sent them on the playoff route. Since the turn of the century, the Australians have participated in every World Cup, making it to the actual tournament five times in a row.

If you’re looking for a “group of death” at the 2022 World Cup, this is not it. Perhaps the most straightforward looking of all, it’ll be a huge shock if France and Denmark fail to qualify from Group D.

Group E

Group E is interesting. Both Spain and Germany are well fancied to win the competition outright and, based on world rankings, this is the second toughest group. As they prepare for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Spain is still in a transitional stage as they try to finally repeat the success they last experienced on the international stage at the 2010 World Cup. With a focus on creativity, coach Luis Enrique hasn’t been afraid to leave out marquee players like David de Gea and Sergio Busquets from recent squads. This will likely make Spain very difficult to defend against.

As they prepare to compete in a major tournament without Joachim Low for the first time in nearly two decades, Germany will be eager to atone for a disastrous performance when trying to defend their title at the 2018 World Cup. Low’s farewell last year was marred by a disappointing European Championship run, but his former assistant Hansi Flick will guide a dynamic new generation eager to make amends.

The national team of Japan has never advanced past the Round of 16 in a World Cup, but they will be hoping to have a successful tournament this time around. Japan’s tournament preparations have gone well. The Samurai Blue automatically qualified in the AFC region by beating Australia. However, it is still unclear how they will perform when facing stronger competition.

Costa Rica finished in fourth place in CONCACAF qualifying. They defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff thanks to a goal from ex-Arsenal striker Joel Campbell in the third minute. Costa Rica is best known for its attacking talent, but it is unclear whether they have the ability to hold off some of the more powerful countries at the other end of the field.

Group F

Belgium are huge favourites to take the top spot in Group F, but they are such an unusual team. Bristling with incredible talent, such as two-time Premier League Player of the Year Kevin De Bruyne, they always flatter to deceive on the biggest stage. Will 2022 be their year?

Croatia shocked many by winning the 2018 World Cup and losing to France in the championship game. However, they did not fare as well at Euro 2020 as they were eliminated in the Round of 16. Midfielder Luka Modric of Real Madrid is still an excellent player despite his advancing years. The 37-year-old will be motivated to perform well at what is probably his last World Cup. Even though Croatia is hopeful of making it out of the group stage, it is difficult to imagine Zlatko Dalic’s team having another protracted run in the competition.

One of the top teams on the African continent, Morocco will have plenty of star power in Qatar 2022 when they compete in the finals for the sixth time. Early this year, Morocco advanced to the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations before being eliminated by the eventual champions Egypt. Morocco could be a surprise contender to advance further.

After an impressive qualification campaign that took them all the way to first place in the CONCACAF standings, Canada will be taking part in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Bayern Munich star, Alphonso Davies, must be at his best for Canada to have any chance of moving on. Coach John Herdman, who will be the first person to coach a team at both the men’s and women’s World Cups, will be on the hunt for his own piece of history.

Group G

You can’t imagine a World Cup without Brazil. They are the only country to have played in every tournament since it began in 1930 and the most successful nation, having lifted the trophy five times. However, it has been 20 years since they won the World Cup. Tournament favourites Brazil have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. Many of the players who will miss out on a place in the final 23-man squad would walk into the first team of any other nation.

Serbia didn’t qualify for Euro 2020, but it did earn a spot in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup by winning a very difficult qualifying group (which also included Portugal) by going undefeated. Their opponents will likely struggle against the creativity and flair of veteran captain Dusan Tadic, while Luka Jovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham offer additional useful attacking options. Don’t count them out, they might end up surprising a lot of people.

Switzerland finished World Cup qualification by beating Bulgaria 4–0 at home last November topping Group C and booking an automatic spot in Qatar. Murat Yakin’s team are undoubtedly ones to watch at this tournament with a side built strongly from the back but that is also capable of unlocking the opposition. They went undefeated during qualifying with only two goals conceded.

Veteran World Cup team Cameroon secured a dramatic aggregate victory over Algeria in late March, securing their return to the finals for the first time since 2014. The team of Rigobert Song, former Cameroonian defender with 137 international appearances, will be looking to make positive headlines in Qatar.

Group H

By defeating North Macedonia in the playoff round, Portugal was able to advance to Qatar 2022 and secure a spot in the finals for an unprecedented eighth time. They regularly compete on this stage, but they have yet to take home the victory. Cristiano Ronaldo’s appearance at the World Cup is likely to be his last. The 37-year-old striker will be the centre of attention and the key player in Qatar. He is eager to add a world championship to his trophy collection.

Ghana defeated Nigeria on away goals in the African playoffs, and as a result, will travel to Qatar for the first time since 2014. The Black Stars went so close to an upset by reaching the semifinals of the World Cup in 2010, losing on penalties to Uruguay in a thrilling game. Despite only losing two of their ten games in 2021, Ghana now has something to prove on the world stage after a disappointing showing at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Uruguay’s team, while talented, struggles with consistency. The most recent Copa America quarterfinals saw Celeste eliminated. At the 2018 World Cup, Uruguay also advanced to the round of eight, where they were defeated by eventual champions France. Once again, the South Americans have a roster of gifted individuals. What remains to be seen is how they will blend as a team.

South Korea hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1982, and Paulo Bento’s team will continue the streak by competing in Qatar. With a spot in the finals already secured, South Korea came in second place in a difficult third-round qualification group. Bento’s team had a seven-match winning streak prior to that, and they will be hoping for a similar momentum at the World Cup, where they will be attempting to advance past the group stage for the first time since 2010.

Qatar Football Stadiums

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