Unlike all previous World Cups which took place in the summer months, due to the extreme Qatari summer temperatures the 2022 competition will start on November 20. It is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, December the 18th, after the Final in Lusail Iconic Stadium. 8 venues from 5 cities have been selected and will host all 64 matches, with the host nation of Qatar facing Ecuador in the tournament’s opener.
All major leagues across the world have been obliged to edit their fixtures accordingly to accommodate this year’s particularities, resulting in players and teams competing while in mid-season form already. This inevitable decision to overload playing times has also added extra criticism, controversy and voices of concern which started the day Qatar was voted as host nation by FIFA and continues still today.
The usual format has been followed for the 2022 tournament and will feature 8 Groups of 4 teams, where top 2 from each one will progress to the Knockout stages, so bettors will have to keep an eye on who needs points and who may not in the last games. There is also a huge interest drawn not only in game-by-game bets, but in long-term ones for the Group stage and beyond.
Group A (Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador)
The Netherlands have been knocking at the door the most times (3) without winning a Final. This year, after qualifying with ease, they should make it to the Knockout stages in a Group they can win out. Senegal looks ready to join them, presenting a strong squad which won the 2021 African Cup of Nations, led by Bayern’s Sadio Mane.
Group B (England, United States, Iran, Wales)
After last tournaments’ heartbreaks either at home (vs Italy in the European Championship final) or away (vs Croatia in 2018 World Cup Semi Final), England should make another long run for the trophy. Group B opponents can cause them little trouble and fight for 2nd place at best.
Group C (Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia)
The last missing piece for Lionel Messi’s legendary career to be completed has the World Cup’s name written on it; in what almost certainly seems as his last big tournament with Argentina, the team has gone unbeaten in their last 35 games and possesses great form. Saudi Arabia is the Group’s weakest link by far and won’t cause any surprises at this stage.
Group D (France, Denmark, Tunisia, Australia)
France is entering as the reigning champions and with a completely re-shaped roster in midfield compared to 2018. They definitely lack no talent in all positions, Mbappe & Benzema up front should drive the team forward again. Denmark also has a talented group of players which almost made them to last season’s European Championship. They are a popular pick as dark horses to progress deep in the knockout rounds.
Group E (Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica)
Germany has been the biggest disappointment of the last 2 major National Teams’ tournaments as they were knocked out of the Group stages in 2018 and lost to England in last year’s Euro 1st knockout round. Marco Reus is missing once again, but “Die Mannschaft” will challenge Spain for 1st place. Their game’s result should determine who finishes on top.
Group F (Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada)
Belgium is still highly regarded as one of the most talented National squads, not only in terms of depth but also cohesion and a great coach in Roberto Martinez. They are facing tough competition for 1st place from last Tournament’s finalists in Croatia, a team where Real Madrid’s Luka Modric should still be making the difference despite being 35 years old.
Group G (Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon)
Tite’s Brazil is rightfully considered as the biggest favourite to win it all in Qatar; Group G looks non-threatening and once they claim 1st place, their path to the Final is challenging with a potential Semi Final vs Argentina. Serbia and Switzerland will fight for the second spot, while Cameroon is probably about to exit with only a couple of points.
Group H (Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana)
In perhaps the toughest most unpredictable Group out of all 8, no place for qualification looks certain for anyone on paper. Portugal is not on the form their fans may have wanted, with Cristiano Ronaldo scarcely featuring in the season so far and Liverpool’s Diogo Jota missing with an injury. Uruguay will be a tough matchup for anyone, as always, while South Korea, a team with lots of consecutive participations, much experience and lots of talent, especially when Totthenham Hotspurs’ Son Heung-min features.
Golden ball pick
One would be surprised to see Neymar’s name being second on Brazil’s all time list; the 30-year old star of Paris Saint-Germain is only 2 goals behind Pele and should have extra incentives to combine a scoring title along with his team setting sight for a record-breaking 6th World Cup title. He is also the team’s designated penalty taker, while Group stage games with Cameroon, Serbia & Switzerland are also offered for high-scoring affairs.
Along with Neymar standing out individually, Brazil has the talent to win everything and return the Jules Rimet trophy to Rio after 4 consecutive wins by European sides. They have been sitting on spot #1 of the FIFA rankings for quite a long time and have had an easy qualifying session at CONMEBOL which allowed them to prepare and focus from quite early. On what should be a 22nd participation, the likes of Vinicius Jr., Marquinhos, Gabriel Jesus alongside Neymar Jr. are ensuring that “Seleção” is fully equipped to go all the way.
The dark horses
Senegal travelled to Qatar as the 2021 African Cup of Nations winners and is a side with the strength to potentially upset any opponent. Their best performance historically was in 2002 when they reached the Quarterfinals, with today’s coach Aliou Cisse believing it’s something they can match this year, as they can make it out of Group A and progress even further in the competition.
Switzerland is definitely the example of consistency in today’s football; a team which has not missed any major tournament recently, progresses from Group stages and has players forming a solid core. Shaqiri, Xhaka, Rodrigues, Sommer are some of the names featured every time for the Swiss and who have established themselves in the top level. Their potential matchup on the last 16 is not discouraging even if they finish 2nd, so they can dream for even more.