Somehow, it is already May, the football season has nearly come to a close and we can start looking forward to the World Cup. We’ll have to wait a bit longer than most World Cup years, due to Qatar 2022 being the first ever winter World Cup, but it’ll be here before we know it, and we cannot wait.
So, what are some of the things we should be looking forward to? Who are the favourites? What players are we expecting to shine on the big stage? Who do we think could cause an upset? Here, we look at answering these questions.
The Big Absentees
Before we get started though, it’s worth taking a look at some of the best teams and players who won’t be at the 2022 World Cup. The first big name is, of course, Italy. The current Euro champions somehow missed out. After going on an outrageous 37 game unbeaten run which saw them lift the Euros, dropping points against Switzerland and Northern Ireland saw them slip out of an automatic place before eventually getting beaten by North Macedonia in the play off, taking them out of the fray for November.
Egypt may not be the biggest footballing nation, but nobody can argue that Mohamed Salah has been one of the best players in world football over the last few seasons with Liverpool and has been performing miracles for Egypt. But heartbreak at the hands of Liverpool team mate Sadio Mané’s Senegal sees Salah missing out on Qatar.
According to this list of the best betting sites, the favourites for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are Brazil at 9/2, with France and England just behind at 11/2. Brazil could have a pretty solid advantage over the other favourites, given that Brazil gets temperatures of 45C or more in their summers, so they’re actually somewhat used to the heat they’re going to be facing in Qatar. However, will the temperature be as big a factor as people think it will be? Given all of the stadiums have incredible Air Conditioning units.
But then there’s their team. Brazil has an incredibly well rounded team with bonafide stars all over the pitch. Starting between the sticks, they have the choice of Alisson Becker of Liverpool or Ederson of Manchester City. Then you have their backline, the ever present Thiago Silva who even at 37 years old still commands the back four and 38 year old Dani Alves still getting time at full back. Marquinhos of PSG and Eder Militao of Real Madrid are solid options, but it’s further up the pitch where they shine brightest.
A resurgent Philippe Coutinho, Fabinho, Casemiro, Bruno Guimarães and Douglas Luiz show how much talent they have in midfield and their attacking options including the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Vinicius Junior, Neymar and Roberto Firmino is good enough to cause any team problems.
Then there’s France. The current holders will be looking to see if they can become the first holders to retain the World Cup since the 58’ & 62’ Brazil teams did it and their squad is certainly capable. A rather young team across the board with sprinklings of experience in there, the French are as formidable as they ever have been.
With the experienced head of Hugo Lloris in goal, a back line that features Raphael Varane, Pascal Kimpembe and Jules Koundé is certainly impressive. In midfield, Kanté and Pogba have shown how good they can be at this level on so many occasions, and the young wildcard in Aurélien Tchouaméni, who has been in excellent form for Monaco this season. But it’s the attack where the biggest stars are. They are spoiled for choice, with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Karim Benzema, Marcus Thuram, Christopher Nkunku, Ousmane Dembele and Moussa Diaby all fantastic options.
England being in the list of favourites isn’t something fans are used to, but this iteration of the England side is different. In their last two major tournaments, Gareth Southgate’s side have made a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final, which they lost in heartbreaking fashion via a penalty shoot-out, and have one of the best squads in the competition.
With players like Harry Kane, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Reece James and Trent Alexander Arnold, they have some of the best in the world in their positions. History isn’t on their side, and England are renowned for falling short of expectations at every World Cup. However, this side feels different and Southgate has proven himself to be a canny operator. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year Football finally comes home.
Dark Horses & Players to Look For
Outside of the favourites, there are a few teams that could cause a few upsets. Senegal, fresh off an AFCON victory could be exactly that sort of team, and looking at their group, consisting of Ecuador, Netherlands, Qatar and Senegal themselves, they should be top two. Our first player to keep an eye on, Sadio Mané, a consistent performer for Senegal and Liverpool.
Next there’s Canada, some people might be surprised by this shout, they have a pretty rough group with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco. But they have a solid chance of finishing top two and with players like Alphonso Davies looking to impress, you can be sure they’ll be wanting to make their mark on the footballing world. I feel like most people will write them off expecting Belgium and Croatia to advance, but the Canadians will genuinely surprise a few people for me.
There’s nothing better than the World Cup. While it may take some getting used to with it not being summer, once we get started and there’s constant tournament football on the TV, everything will be fine. Like every World Cup, there’s going to be twists, turns, and magic moments – strap in and get ready for the ride.