Photo via History of Soccer
The 2022 Federation Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, World Cup will kick off in Qatar today. With this event approaching, I will be doing my best to predict every step of the way.
This World Cup is one of the most controversial in the history of the sport as it allows corrupt bidding process, thousands dying in the process of build the stadium, most of the workers being slaves and general inhumane practices in Qatar. These issues are a different conversation, but for the purposes of this article the main focus will be on football.
This year’s edition of the prestigious tournament plays host to some intriguing storylines that are impossible to ignore in the prediction process.
Possibly the two greatest and most egotistical players of all time, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will be entering the final World Cup. Neither have ever won the trophy and both are desperate to end their international careers on a high.
Additionally, the tournament will take place in November, as opposed to the summer, as is the tradition. This is due to the extreme temperatures in Qatar over the summer. However, this means the tournament is right in the middle of the club season. Most leagues have tried to cram as many games before the World Cup as possible, and this fixture congestion has led to many terrible injuries and sad stories. There will be quite a few players missing this time around, and quite a few racing to get fit as soon as possible.
Onto the predictions: each group and stage will be broken down with intermittent explanations to the decisions made.
Group A consists of the Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal and Qatar.
Group A is a tossup for second place between Ecuador and Senegal, which is wholly dependent on if Sadio Mané returns from injury in time. If he does, Senegal will advance with their talisman who brought them to African Cup of Nations glory. Hosts Qatar have no chance of advancing, with the only reason for their presence is that the host nation automatically qualifies.
Group B consists of England, the United States, Wales and Iran. The United States face a tough challenge in Wales; either team could qualify for the Round of 16. The USA team is young, but with the right attitude can make it past a strong Welsh team.
Group C consists of Argentina, Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia. Robert Lewandowski cannot single-handedly carry Poland past Mexico.
Group D consists of France, Denmark, Australia and Tunisia, while Group E is the countries Spain, Germany, Japan and Costa Rica.
Group F is made up of Belgium, Croatia, Morocco and Canada. This is the first group that any team could win. Both Belgium and Croatia have aging squads, whereas Morocco is incredibly scrappy and Canada has a bright group of youngsters. Every team in this group can be considered a dark horse to go far.
Group G is made up of Brazil, Switzerland, Cameroon and Serbia.
Group H consists of Uruguay, Portugal, Ghana and South Korea. Ronaldo cannot do everything on his own, and Uruguay’s midfield is terrifying. Uruguay will top the group over Portugal.
Round of 16 (according to the predicted group stage results):
Netherlands vs. USA — Netherlands win, the experience and class of the Dutch will be too much for the young Americans.
Argentina vs. Denmark — Argentina win, although Denmark will put up a heck of a fight. This game will be close, the Danish have a very compact and unified team.
England vs. Ecuador — England win.
France vs. Mexico — France win, although it will be a similar situation to the Argentina-Denmark matchup. The Mexican goalkeeper, Ochoa, has a tendency to become the world’s greatest keeper specifically for the world cup.
Spain vs. Croatia — Spain win, this game will be a beautiful game to watch with two of the best midfields in the world duking it out in an elaborate game of chess.
Brazil vs. Portugal — Brazil win, Ronaldo’s story will end here.
Belgium vs. Germany — Germany win.
Uruguay vs. Switzerland — Uruguay win, this will be a scrappy game.
Netherlands vs. Argentina — Argentina win.
Spain vs. Brazil — Spain win, the Spanish are a team whereas the Brazilians are a group of individuals. Brazil won’t be able to handle Spain’s style of play.
England vs. France — France win, their team has too much depth, even while missing N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba to injury.
Germany vs. Uruguay — Germany will win a close match.
Argentina vs. Spain — Argentina win; the Messi magic will carry them to the final.
Germany vs. France — Either team could win; however a repeat of the 2014 final is too tantalizing.
Final: Argentina vs. Germany
Realistically, I believe Argentina will win it all. That doesn’t mean I don’t want Messi to lose in a repeat of the 2014 final, where Mario Götze came off the bench to score a late winner for the Germans, crushing Messi’s hopes of World Cup Glory.