As is World Championship tradition, the host nation always competes in the opening game and so Qatar kicks off their first ever World Championship against Ecuador on Sunday 20th November. The Netherlands are the ones to look out for in this group, with the Dutch carrying the less-desirable label of bridesmaids. Will they be the ones in the spotlight in 2022 at last and clinch their first ever World Championship? Senegal and Ecuador are hardly there to make up the numbers, so this will be a tricky group to navigate and we will see what impact the home support will have on the host nation.
- The Netherlands
England are always considered amongst the favourites on the international scene and Gareth Southgate’s team did well to reach the final of the European Championship in 2021. A match against Wales will be an eagerly anticipated affair, while the USA will also prove stiff opposition. The Americans boast a hungry young squad and are keen to impress to keep putting America on the football map. Iran are the lowest ranked team in Group B, but write anyone off at your own peril.
- IR Iran
Group C gets exciting! Argentina, Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia clash here and we’ve got an Argentina side which is bursting with talent. Leo Messi needs to add one trophy to his cabinet to complete football and cement his status as the one true GOAT, and he’s in a fantastic Argentina side with a strong chance of reaching the final. Mexico and Poland will compete with Saudi Arabia for second spot and with Poland v Argentina, Mexico v Saudi Arabia on the final day, anything can happen.
- Saudi Arabia
World Championship holders France are in Group D, alongside Denmark, Australia and Tunisia. France are always strong on the international scene and their performance in 2018 was fantastic. They’ve lost Paul Pogba to injury, but have plenty in their ranks. The Danes are always dark horses, while Australia did well to qualify after a tense play off against Peru. Tunisia are the lowest ranked team here, but are more than capable of stealing some points off bigger guns.
Group E gives us real “Group of Death” vibes. Germany and Spain are amongst Europe’s finest teams and also amongst the tournament favourites, so good luck picking top spot here. No one can sleep in Japan either, by the way. They are ranked 24th in the national team’s ranking and always come up with the goods on the big stage. Costa Rica will struggle here, but if they get an early draw against the heavy-weights, this group will be wide open.
- Costa Rica
Belgium’s golden generation was fun to watch, but despite topping the World Rankings, they could not bring any silverware home. Still, this group is packed with stars and they should do well in this group. Canada is going to be tricky, while Croatia, the 2018 finalists, also boast the likes of Luca Modric and Ivan Perisic in their side. Their experience will be key when facing sides like Morocco, who will probably look to employ defensive tactics to escape Group F.
There has never been a World Championship where the words Brazil and “World Championship favourites” aren’t in the same sentence. Some things are certain in life, and Brazil as potential winners is one of them. Neymar wants to lead his nation to the pinnacle of world football, and he’ll rely on the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Vinicius Jr to help him. Switzerland’s defence will be as tight as ever, so they should make the knockouts, but don’t write off Cameroon or Serbia – yes, this group is finely poised.
European Championship 2016 winners Portugal lead this group and Cristiano Ronaldo and co will look to dominate. Portugal has a tonne of excellent athletes, plying their trade in Europe’s big leagues. Look out for big performances from Ronaldo, Cancelo, Pepe and co. Uruguay is their closest rival in this group, but Ghana can surprise us too. The Korean Republic has their work cut out already.
- Korea Republic