The World Cup 2022 is unusual for many reasons, but like all editions of the World Cup, it will be watched by a huge global audience and promises plenty of drama, tension, and high-class soccer.
Soccer fans all over the planet have been examining the upcoming matches and the top bookmakers on every continent are offering odds on all eventualities. Most interest, of course, is focused on which nation will emerge as the World Cup champions from Qatar 2022. So, which teams are the main contenders?
The five-time World Cup winners are always around the top of the betting for every World Cup. This time around, they have been strong favorites for months after a qualifying campaign in which they dominated their South American rivals on their way to topping the CONMEBOL group.
One look at their World Cup team reveals the main reason why they are the favorites. Brazilian head coach Tite can call upon a group of players that is strong in every department, from Premier League goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson, through defensive stalwarts Thiago Silva and Dani Alves to a forward group that includes Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Vinicius Jr., and Richarlison.
So strong is the squad that there was no place for Roberto Firmino or Philippe Coutinho, and with one of the best-balanced teams in the tournament, Brazil will take some stopping.
France are the World Cup holders and have been prominent in the betting for many months, thanks to a team that can rival Brazil’s for depth of talent.
Unlike Brazil, the French preparations have been hit with a series of injuries. Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante – the two first-choice center midfielders are unavailable, which robs the team of their engine room, posing a major problem for Didier Deschamps, the head coach.
Deschamps had been attempting a more expansive style of play, with a 3-4-2-1 formation in an attempt to include the trio of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and Karim Benzema in the same team, but that may have to change given the weakness of the midfield. The memory of the disastrous Euro 2020 campaign last summer also lingers, and it could be that this French team is more fragile than it seems.
Brazil’s great rivals and two-time World Cup winners Argentina have often been hyped before tournaments only to fall short in the competition itself. Their last trophy win came in 1986, although they did reach the final in 1990 and 2014, losing to Germany on both occasions. This time around, they have been slightly overshadowed.
As one of the greatest athletes of all time, it would be fitting if Messi was able to lift the World Cup in Qatar this year, and Argentina look to be serious contenders for the trophy.
England have been prominent in World Cup betting for several months, and there is no doubt about the improvement that Gareth Southgate has brought about in his time as manager. He guided them to the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, making the most of an unremarkable group of players, and, with a team refreshed by some emerging talent, came close to winning Euro 2020 last summer.
In the last few months, however, the England team’s momentum has stalled. Consecutive defeats to Hungary were not well received by England supporters and some critics have suggested that Southgate’s tendency towards caution is holding back a group of young players that could be among the most talented in world soccer.
Whatever the doubts, however, it remains that Southgate has a strong collection of players, particularly in the midfield and in the forward ranks, including the 2018 Golden Boot winner Harry Kane. With a relatively straightforward Group, they have every chance of finding the form they need to mount a strong World Cup challenge over the next few weeks.