As we are just months away from another edition of football’s greatest international competition, the preparations for players, manager and supporters alike is now beginning to intensify.
When it comes to international football, it gets no bigger than the FIFA World Cup and with it being held only every four years, the anticipation has been building since France won the previous edition of the competition in 2018.
That was the year in which Russia were awarded the rights to host the sport’s biggest party and with 32 nations doing their very best to rule the roost on the international scene, it was Didier Deschamps’ men who eventually came out on top.
While France will be one of 32 nations who are set to duke it out in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar and although the decision to stage the upcoming World Cup here has generated a sizeable amount of debate at times, the Qatari residents will be ready to welcome the game’s very best during November and December of this year.
Ultimately the dream for any international side is to win the World Cup final and be considered the very best footballing nation. However, for some nations the dream can be as simple as just reaching the finals themselves.
Something that Finland have yet to achieve and although they managed to achieve qualification to the recent European Championships, appearing on the biggest global stage is something that has constantly eluded them, and they will have to wait until 2026 for their next qualification opportunity.
France celebrating World Cup win in 2018. Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Something that Finland have yet to achieve and although they managed to achieve qualification to the recent European Championships, appearing on the biggest global stage is something that has constantly eluded them, and they will have to wait until 2026 for their next qualification. opportunity. The door to the next Euro still has remained open, however, as Finland’s national team, known as the Huuhkajat, is going for the top position of Nations League 2022-23
, Group B3.
World Cup schedule
When Qatar won the decision to host the 2022 football World Cup, there was almost global outrage and although the location was one overriding issue, the scheduling of the competition was also something that caused concern.
Because for the first time ever, the World Cup will not be held in its traditional summer slot and with the winter months of November and December being designated instead, it means competitions such as the Premier League and LaLiga have had to change their own schedules.
However, just because the tournament has changed months from the usual staging posts of June and July, it does not mean that the competition is any less anticipated and now that everyone has got used to the idea of a winter World Cup, preparations are almost just the same as before.
While in terms of the World Cup schedule itself, this year’s tournament will begin on November 21st, as Senegal face the Netherlands, and this will be one of the rare occasions where the hosts are not involved in the opening fixture of the tournament.
However, the hosts’ first foray into the football World Cup in Qatar will not be all that far away and with Ecuador serving as the opposition on November 21st, history will soon be made at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
Of course, this is just the first day in what will be a month-long festival of football and with the final itself being held on December 18th, the two remaining nations will then compete for one of sport’s most prestigious prizes.
Although Italy have once again missed out on qualification for this year’s tournament in Qatar, a whole host of nations have earned an invite to football’s biggest party and with France arriving as the football World Cup 2018 winners, they will soon be looking to defend the trophy they earned four years ago.
Back in 2018. It was Croatia who fell short at the final hurdle and although they are not necessarily considered one of the world’s superpowers when it comes to football, they will look to make good progress in the competition once again.
While the European giants do not stop there either and with England falling just short in last year’s European Championship plus also reaching the last four of the previous World Cup, they will look to finally end a 56-year international trophy drought.
Then again, it is not just the continent of Europe that has a monopoly on World Cup participation and with both Brazil and Argentina earning an invite to Qatar, they will also be considered as two of the teams to beat.
Top players and managers
With the World Cup being the pinnacle of the global game, it is a tournament which gives a platform to the very best and although Cristiano Ronaldo
and Lionel Messi’s
awesome powers may be fading slightly, they will still be on hand to lead Portugal’s and Argentina’s respective bids for success.
While although these two were undoubtedly the greatest to grace the playing fields in the past decade, the mantle may now be given to a new wave of talents and with Kylian Mbappe announcing himself to the world’s stage in 2018, he will now look to lead France into battle in 2022.
When it comes to battle, there is no doubt that England’s Harry Kane
will be up for the fight as well and with the Tottenham talisman also looking to better Wayne Rooney’s
scoring record for the Three Lions, there would be no better place than the World Cup to become the nation’s all-time leading goalscorer.
However, it is not just players who will be in the spotlight during the upcoming World Cup and with the some of the very best managers also ready to go to work, the likes of Luis Enrique
and Louis Van Gaal
will soon be ready to achieve what Didier Deschamps
did four years ago.
With the former Juventus and Chelsea midfielder leading France to global supremacy in 2018, the likes of England’s Gareth Southgate
and Brazil’s Tite
will look to do the same when they compete in this winter’s World Cup.
Who will win …
It is easy to ask who will win the World Cup in 2022, it is difficult to find the answer. That’s because there are at least half a dozen leading contenders before the tournament gets underway and although France are the current holders, they are not the current favourites.
A standing which is currently attached to Brazil and although they are the nation which is arguably the most synonymous with the World Cup itself, they have not won the competition since their success over Germany in 2002.
If Tite can lead Brazil to the final and beyond, it would mean that the South American nation have won the competition for a sixth time, and this would further increase their record as the most successful nation in the World Cup’s history.
However, there are plenty of other nations who will feel that they are in with a shout of success and with France not looking to relinquish the trophy anytime soon, they will join the likes of England, Spain, and Germany as genuine contenders.
With the likes of Argentina, Portugal, and the Netherlands also in the frame when it comes to World Cup winners, it is set to be a fascinating tournament and one that thankfully is now only a handful of months away.
When looking at the outright odds, the bookmakers are currently showing the most confidence in Brazil and although they have not won the competition in two decades, many punters share the feeling that 2022 will once again be their year.
While if it is not to be their year, then England will be keen to end their own World Cup drought. Because with their first and only success coming back in 1966, their fans will hope that they can finally win the tournament for a second time.
Of course, one cannot rule out the French side either and especially as they come into the competition as holders. Then again, there is one thing that both pundits and punters will have to remember before proceedings get underway in Qatar.
That is the fact that although it is tough to win the World Cup, it is perhaps even more difficult to win it again and that is something that manager Didier Deschamps will have to consider when the tournament starts in November.
Should either of these three nations not manage to rule the roost in Qatar, there are always another group that have also been at the top step before and will be just as confident when it comes to launching a World Cup winning bid.
Take Argentina for example and with Lionel Messi now absolutely desperate to win the one major trophy that still eludes him, he and his teammates’ attempt in Qatar may be the PSG forward’s last ever attempt at global domination.
While it was Germany who got the better of Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final and with manager Hansi Flick
building a new generation of Die Mannschaft, they certainly cannot be ruled out of the equation when it comes to the winning nation.
An equation that most definitely includes Spain and although they do not have the golden generation that led them to 2010 World Cup success in South Africa, their current crop of talents are not that far off either.
Then again, there is always going to be a dark horse in any World Cup and with Croatia taking that role in Russia four years ago, they and the likes of Portugal, Belgium and Denmark may be worth consideration when it comes to each-way bets for the final.
Finally, for those who love a football fairy tale, there is always the possibility of backing Qatar and although they are considered one of the global game’s minnows, the weather conditions could end up playing in their favour and to the detriment of their opponents.
Golden Boot winner
If winning the World Cup is a prize for a whole nation, the Golden Boot is the prize for the players alone and with this award being handed to the man who scores the most goals in the tournament, the globes deadliest marksmen will be aiming to come out on top in Qatar.
Something that Harry Kane
achieved four years ago in Russia and with the Tottenham marksman now back in the scoring groove, his goals could lead England to a first World Cup success since their victory over West Germany in 1966.
While in that same tournament, Kylian Mbappe
announced himself to the football world and after playing a considerable part in France’s outright success in Russia, he will be considered one of the favourites for the Golden Boot in Qatar.
Not to forget his French international teammate either and with Karim Benzema
reminding everyone of just how fearsome he is in front of goal, he will look to convert his Real Madrid form to the World Cup this winter.
Of course, we should not forget the two greatest players to have ever set foot on the field of play and with both Cristiano Ronaldo
and Lionel Messi
launching what is likely to be a final bid at winning the World Cup, they may have to make do with the Golden Boot as a consolation instead.
Then again, Lionel Messi’s PSG teammate could also be in with a chance of being the top scorer in Qatar and if Brazil are to get any joy in the Middle East, they may need Neymar’s
goals to get them over the line.
A line that Belgium will also be looking to cross and with Romelu Lukaku
moving back to Inter Milan on loan this season, it is hoped that his scoring form can be found by the time that Roberto Martinez
and his squad set off to Qatar.
With Lukaku departing Chelsea on loan, it is Raheem Sterling
who replaces him and although he could be a considered a longer shot when it comes to winning the Golden Boot, he cannot be discounted from the conversation either.
Group winner odds
In Group A, it is fair to say that the Netherlands have been handed an easy draw and they will be many people’s favourites to come out on top. Which means the other invite to the Round of 16 will be contested between the trio of Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar and the hosts may just spring a few surprises.
Although England have had a rather indifferent Nations League campaign recently, they are still well placed and well-priced to finish top of Group B and even thouugh the United States and Wales will certainly offer tricky opposition, the Three Lions should roar their way to the top of this four-team mini league.
Group C sees Argentina being handed a rather favourable draw and with Lionel Messi ready to carry the weight of the nation on his shoulders, the PSG forward should have enough to keep Robert Lewandowski’s Poland at bay – especially as they themselves will be concerned of the threat that Mexico could on offer.
The tournament holders will be pleased with how Group D has panned out and although France have had their own struggles in the Nations League this year, that form should not carry over to Qatar. Then again, if Didier Deschamps’ men do struggle, Denmark will certainly be ready to pounce.
In terms of who wins their group, Group E is arguably the toughest of all to call and that is because former winners Spain and Germany have been paired together. With the winner coming from either of these two nations, it means that both Japan and Costa Rica will be taking the first flight home.
Another difficult group to call in Group F as Belgium and Croatia have been drawn together and with the latter of this pair having reached the final just four years ago, they are certainly going to be a test for a nation that has always promised but never really delivered on the biggest international stage.
There is a sense of familiarity when it comes to Group G and with the trio of Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia all being paired together in the 2018 World Cup, the eventual outcome should be the same and that is one that sees Brazil come out on top and Switzerland join them in the Round of 16.
Last but not least is Group G and with Cristiano Ronaldo also having one last attempt at World Cup glory, he and his Portugal teammates will be rather pleased with the draw – one that sees only Uruguay offering anything in the way of a genuine challenge when it comes to topping the table.