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2022 World Cup Power Rankings – who are our early favourites for the trophy?

We’ve enjoyed a thrilling set of World Cup qualifiers, and we now have the majority of our line-up for the tournament. 29 of the 32 teams have booked their place in Qatar, with the other three set to be confirmed in June.

There are still eight months to come until the tournament begins. A lot can change in that time – and a lot probably will. However, it’s always fun to speculate over who our champions could be.

For now, here is our ranking of the 29 qualified teams at the World Cup.

29) Saudi Arabia

They had a reasonably comfortable qualifying campaign, but we’re not expecting big things from Saudi Arabia.

The Green qualified for the last World Cup, but lost two of their three group stage games and were eliminated. Furthermore, they haven’t made it past the round of 16 in the Asian Cup since they were runners up in 2007.

Key player: Salem Al-Dawsari

28) Tunisia

Tunisia gave a decent account of themselves in 2018, picking up three points and almost taking a draw from their clash with England. However, we don’t think they’ll do much this time around.

Their recent form hasn’t been particularly encouraging. From their last eight matches, they have won just three. They had a relatively disappointing Africa Cup of Nations and only just qualified for the World Cup thanks to an own goal by Mali’s Moussa Sissako.

Key player: Wahbi Khazri

27) Japan

At the last World Cup, Japan got out of the group and came close to pulling off a shock in the round of 16 against Belgium. They will be hoping for more of the same in Qatar.

Qualifying was comfortable enough, finishing seven points clear of Australia in third place. However, they will have been disappointed to have dropped points against Oman and Vietnam.

Key player: Takumi Minamino

26) Ghana

2022 has been a mixed year for Ghana as they are yet to win a match since the turn of the year.

This run began at the Africa Cup of Nations, where they crashed out in the group stages with just one point. However, they were able to get the better of the heavily-fancied Nigeria in their qualifying play-off, which they will take some confidence from.

Key player: Thomas Partey

25) Iran

Iran were another who did themselves proud four years ago. They got a victory over Morocco, lost by only one goal against Spain, and took a point off Portugal.

They had a good qualifying campaign and have lost just once since November 2019. They may not be the biggest name, but they’re not one to underestimate.

Key player: Sardar Azmoun

24) USA

The LeBron James of soccer

After their shocking failure to qualify in 2018, the United States are back to compete on the biggest stage.

Since then, they have had a bit more success on the pitch. They were runners up at the Gold Cup in 2019 and went one step further and lifted the trophy in 2021.

Key player: Christian Pulisic

23) Ecuador

CONMEBOL qualifying is difficult, with several top sides trying to squeeze into four automatic spots. Ecuador were one of the lucky four to book their tickets to the tournament.

In the last year, they have managed to get draws against Brazil and Argentina, which helped them finish above the likes of Chile and Colombia in their group. They could be a potential banana skin for any high-level opponents.

Key player: Enner Valencia

22) Cameroon

Cameroon appeared to be the dominant force at the Africa Cup of Nations. They had won four out of their five games without too many issues, before being knocked out in the semi-finals on penalties to Egypt.

They managed to get to the World Cup in the most dramatic circumstances. Their tie against Algeria looked set for a penalty shootout until their opponents grabbed what seemed to be the decisive goal in the 118th minute. But incredibly, Karl Toko-Ekambi netted one right at the death to put his side back in front.

Key player: Vincent Aboubakar

21) Morocco

Despite the absence of playmaker Hakim Ziyech, Morocco have functioned reasonably well over the last few weeks. They were the strongest African team in qualifying, winning all six group stage matches and demolishing DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate in the play-offs.

At the Africa Cup of Nations in February, they topped their group and reached the quarter-finals, before being eliminated by Egypt after extra time.

Key player: Achraf Hakimi

20) Qatar

Qatar are the third-lowest ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings to qualify for the tournament, with only Ghana and Saudi Arabia achieving a lower placement. Naturally, this makes them huge underdogs.

However, they are the host nation. All of their current squad play in the Qatari league, so they will be used to the climate and conditions. In addition, they come into the tournament fresh from their 2019 Asian Cup triumph.

Key player: Almoez Ali

19) South Korea

Despite going out in the group stages, South Korea had some joy at the last World Cup. They pulled off a huge shock by defeating Germany in their final match, ensuring that the holders didn’t make it to the knockouts.

They may not have been the strongest in qualifying, but we’ve selected the Taegeuk Warriors as our highest ranked Asian team. They could be ones to watch next winter.

Key player: Heung-min Son

18) Mexico

Mexico’s qualifying campaign was perhaps a bit tighter than they would have liked. They didn’t guarantee their spot at the tournament until the final match.

Nonetheless, El Tri tend to put up a good fight on the biggest stage. They have got out of the groups in each of the last seven World Cups – although all seven led to a round of 16 exit. They also won the Gold Cup in 2019, and came close to lifting a second last year, losing in the final to the USA after extra time.

Key player: Hirving Lozano

17) Poland

Since reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Poland have struggled at major tournaments, picking up just four points from six group stage matches. They will be hoping to better these results in the winter.

They’re far from the strongest side in the competition, but they have arguably the world’s best player. If they can get the best out of Robert Lewandowski, they will give themselves a real chance of causing some upsets.

Key player: Robert Lewandowski

16) Canada

Featuring in just their second-ever World Cup, Canada have the makings of a solid side who could surprise some people.

Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies has emerged as one of the world’s brightest young talents in the last few years, while Cyle Larin and Jonathan David have formed a deadly strike partnership. If these players are on top form, Canada will make their mark in Qatar.

Key player: Alphonso Davies

15) Serbia

With the talent at their disposal, Serbia will have been very disappointed to have missed out on Euro 2020. But they’re back on the big stage following a dramatic late win against Portugal.

The Eagles are in the midst of possibly their finest generation of footballers as an independent nation. They have several players from Europe’s top leagues, including some prolific goalscorers.

Key player: Dusan Vlahovic

14) Senegal

We’ve selected Senegal as our highest ranked non-UEFA/CONMEBOL nation, following their success at the Africa Cup of Nations in February. The African champions have several top players in their ranks.

Edouard Mendy has risen to prominence as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, Kalidou Koulibaly has been an excellent centre-back for a while, and Sadio Mane is a Premier League Golden Boot winner. With talent like this on the pitch, they could beat anyone on their day.

Key player: Sadio Mane

13) Uruguay

This World Cup is likely to be the last for several Uruguay’s greatest ever players. Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Godin are well into their 30s now.

These players will be desperate to end their international careers on a high note. And with the younger options of Darwin Nunez, Federico Valverde, and Ronald Araujo set to make their World Cup debuts, La Celeste have a talented group of players going into the tournament.

Key player: Luis Suarez

12) Switzerland

Switzerland may not be the most frightening of national teams, but they have proven tough to beat over the last two years.

In their last 21 outings, they have lost just two matches. During that run, they knocked France out of Euro 2020, took Spain to penalties, and finished above Italy in their qualifying group. They are not one to be taken lightly.

Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri

11) Croatia

Four years on from their memorable run to the final, Croatia are back for more. Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic may have retired since the last World Cup, but there is still plenty of talent in their squad.

In Luka Modric, they have one of the best midfielders in the world. Alongside him, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic form one of the strongest midfields in the tournament.

They’re not as strong as they were before, but Croatia still pose a threat.

Key player: Luka Modric

10) Denmark

Denmark put in a spirited display at the European Championships last summer. Spurred on by the unfortunate events of their opening fixture, they managed to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.

A number of the players that featured at that tournament are still in their prime, and Christian Eriksen is back and looking at his best again. And, with an almost perfect qualifying campaign complete, they will be full of confidence heading to Qatar.

Key player: Christian Eriksen

9) Netherlands

Netherlands are probably the greatest footballing nation to have never won the World Cup. They have come desperately close on three occasions, losing in the finals of 1974, 1978, and 2010.

Their recent tournament record hasn’t been very encouraging, having failed to qualify in 2016 and 2018, and crashing out in the round of 16 last year to Czech Republic. But since then, they have had a change of management, bringing back Louis van Gaal for his third spell in charge.

During his second stint, the former Manchester United boss took the Dutch side to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2014, being eliminated by Argentina on penalties. At that tournament, they enjoyed some impressive results, including hammerings of Spain and Brazil.

There are some talented youngsters coming through the ranks in the Netherlands squad, who will be eager to impress in their first taste of the biggest stage.

And, with Virgil van Dijk fully fit and Frenkie de Jong playing some of his best stuff, the Oranje have a great chance of reaching the latter stages of the competition.

We don’t expect them to quite have enough to win the tournament, but Netherlands should improve on last summer’s showing.

Key player: Virgil van Dijk

8) Belgium

Over the last decade, Belgium have been through a golden generation of talent. Several top-class players popped up in their squad. They seemed to go from average side, to dark horses, to favourites with every passing tournament.

And what do they have to show for it? Well…not much, really. They reached the semi-finals in 2018, defeating Brazil along the way, but haven’t made it to a final. And now, that golden generation appears to be fading.

Vincent Kompany retired, Eden Hazard declined, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld aged, Dries Mertens and Axel Witsel are now in their mid-30s. All that really remains is Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku.

However, those three aren’t exactly a bad set of players to be relying on. And, if they can get Hazard close to his best again, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne

7) Portugal

Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro; Danilo Pereira, Joao Moutinho; Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota; Cristiano Ronaldo.

That is how we predict Portugal to line up at the World Cup, assuming everyone is fit. On paper, that is arguably the best starting XI at the entire tournament. So why are Portugal only in seventh?

Well…they’re just…not that good. Since their Euro 2016 glory, they have won just two of their eight tournament matches, following back-to-back round of 16 exits. Those victories came against Morocco and Hungary.

Furthermore, qualifying was a struggle for them. They had to go through the play-offs, having finished below Serbia in their group.

Nonetheless, when you’ve got as much talent as they have, you can beat anyone. If manager Fernando Santos can get this team on song, they will be a serious threat.

Not to mention, this is almost certainly Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup. The 37-year-old has won everything there is to win in football aside from this trophy. If he can get his hands on it in December, it will complete his astonishing career.

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo

6) England

England are international football’s resident underachievers. Every tournament for the last 50 years they’ve been touted as contenders, and every two years they leave empty-handed, usually not even coming close. Even when they had goodness knows how many top players in the early 2000s, they couldn’t get past the quarter-finals.

But 56 years of hurt never stopped them dreaming. And, in the last two tournaments, those dreams have edged closer to reality.

The Three Lions progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 – the furthest they had reached in any tournament since 1996. Three years later, they reached the final of the European Championships, losing on penalties to Italy.

For the first time in a while, there seems to be genuine expectation around this England side, as opposed to blind hope. It should be interesting to see how Gareth Southgate’s men handle the pressure that comes with this.

They have several highly-rated attacking players in their side, with Harry Kane being the obvious standout. However, there are still question marks over their backline, with no top-level centre-backs in their squad.

Key player: Harry Kane

5) Spain

Looking at Spain’s squad, you’d perhaps find it difficult to pick a strong starting XI on paper. They lack the superstar quality that they had during the glory days of Vicente del Bosque.

But what they do have is a manager who should suit their current crop of players perfectly. Luis Enrique has got his team playing the beautiful stuff that we’ve come to expect from La Furia Roja, and it has come close to achieving brilliant results.

They were unlucky to be knocked out by Italy on penalties at Euro 2020 and lost in the UEFA Nations League final to France.

Now, with a bit more time together, Spain’s heavily possession-based style should be close to fully functional. Additionally, they have several young, vibrant players who will be eager to prove themselves to the world.

But if there was one main weakness in the Spanish team, it is the frontline. They could do with a reliable marksman emerging over the next eight months, or else they could struggle in front of goal.

Key player: Pedri

4) Brazil

It wouldn’t be a World Cup if Brazil weren’t one of the main contenders for the crown. Although they haven’t been at their best on the world stage for a while, they continue to be one of the most feared national sides.

This current generation has tasted some success, winning the Copa America in 2019. Last summer, they came close to defending their title, losing in the final to Argentina.

Neymar has said that the upcoming tournament will probably be his last World Cup. If this is the case, the 30-year-old will do everything in his power to get his hands on the trophy.

Whatever you think of the winger, you can’t deny that 71 goals in 117 matches for his country is a very impressive return. He is just six goals short of the great Pele’s record for Brazil and will be hoping to overtake him during 2022.

And it’s not just Neymar who will be up for it. Despite his age, Thiago Silva remains one of the world’s best defenders, and his partnership with Marquinhos will be very difficult to break down. Meanwhile, they have plenty of quality in midfield and attack.

Key player: Neymar

3) Germany

Germany were very disappointing in 2018, exiting in the group stages. They followed this up with a round of 16 elimination at the hands of England. Since their defeat at Wembley, Toni Kroos has retired from international football.

So why have we put Germany in third place? Two words: Hansi Flick.

Die Mannschaft are a bit of an unknown quantity going into the World Cup, but the new manager could be a game-changer for them. He has prior experience with the national side, working as Joachim Low’s assistant from 2006 to 2014.

In that period, he helped them to one World Cup trophy, a Euro 2008 final, and two semi-finals. Germany never reached the same heights after his departure.

Not only that, but he has also worked with a number of top German players during his very successful stint in charge of Bayern Munich. Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka were all regulars in Flick’s team that won the treble in 2020.

They’ve had their dip, but Germany might be back to compete for major honours.

Key player: Thomas Muller

2) Argentina

Much like Ronaldo, Lionel Messi is expected to make his final World Cup appearance this year. He has already hinted at international retirement after the tournament.

We can expect the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to be fully motivated and hungry for success. For many, this trophy is the difference between him and legendary compatriot Diego Maradona.

Argentina go to Qatar in some of their best form. They are closing in on the longest unbeaten run in the history of international football, having not lost a match since the Copa America semi-final in 2019 against Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni has proven to be a huge hit with La Albiceleste in his first managerial job. He guided his country to the Copa America title in 2021, ending their 28-year trophy drought.

An in-form team and a fired-up Messi, under the guidance of a popular manager? Usually a recipe for success.

Key player: Lionel Messi

1) France

France lifted the trophy back in 2018, and we’ve gone for them as our world champions for the second time running. Should they triumph this year, they will become only the third team ever to win back-to-back World Cups and the first since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

There is world-class talent running through the entire French side, with the perfect blend of youth and experience.

Jules Kounde, Dayot Upamecano and Aurelien Tchouameni will be hoping for joy in their first World Cup, while Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante will have good memories from starring in the previous one.

Their front two is where things get really frightening. Mbappe has developed into one of the world’s very best players, and Karim Benzema is in the form of his career. Those two up front should be devastating.

Despite this, there will still be some doubts over Les Bleus, especially after last summer. They suffered a shock early exit at the hands of Switzerland in the round of 16, having won just one of their four outings. Rumours of disharmony in the camp followed their elimination.

But they’ve been there and done it. If they can sort out whatever issues they’ve had in the dressing room, they should be capable of putting up a really strong fight for the title.

Key player: Kylian Mbappe

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