The World Cup is just days away. Along with that, everyone is making their predictions for the tournament.
Here at Football Today, we’ve decided to give it a go ourselves. In a month’s time, we’ll be able to look back on our picks with the benefit of hindsight.
Do we have psychic powers that make Paul the Octopus jealous? Or are we completely clueless?
Here are our predictions for the 2022 World Cup.
Group A – Netherlands were unanimously voted as our Group A champions. Louis van Gaal’s men go into the tournament off the back of a 15-game unbeaten run and a highly successful Nations League campaign, but have not won a knockout tie at a major tournament since 2014.
Group B – England are our picks to top Group B, although there was some disagreement. The Three Lions’ recent results have been underwhelming, picking up just three points from their last six outings in the Nations League.
Group C – Again, no arguing here, as we’ve selected Argentina to win their group. Should they avoid defeat against Saudi Arabia and Mexico, La Albiceleste will break Italy’s record for the longest unbeaten run in the history of international football.
Group D – Having lifted the trophy four years ago, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that France are our favourites to top Group D. However, their poor form – coupled with injuries to several key players – have led some to believe that Denmark could pip them to first place.
Group E – Probably the most difficult to call, with two heavyweights being drawn against each other. The vote was split between Spain and Germany, but we fancy the former to edge it.
Group F – We’ve gone for Belgium as our winners of Group F. While some of their biggest stars from the last decade have declined, they still have enough quality in their squad to pose a threat.
Group G – Once again, we’re all in agreement that Brazil will win their group. The five-time world champions enter the tournament in flying form, winning 24 and losing just one of their last 29 games.
Group H – Another one that was fairly divided, we’ve got Portugal down as our Group H winners. Cristiano Ronaldo has been creating headlines off the pitch – maybe it’s time for him to be in the news for the right reasons.
He’s approaching the end of his career. This will be his last chance to win the World Cup – the only thing missing from his CV. He’s had a phenomenal season so far. It almost seems scripted.
Back in 2021, Lionel Messi put in a tournament for the ages, recording four goals and five assists at the Copa America – leading both charts. Now, it could be time for him to take it a step further and light up the biggest stage.
After a somewhat disappointing debut campaign at Paris Saint-Germain, the forward has recaptured his best form. In 19 outings at club level, he has scored 12 goals and assisted a further 14.
His performances for his country have been even more impressive of late. In 2022, Messi has featured seven times for Argentina, netting 11 and assisting three. With just two more, he will have his best ever goalscoring year on the international stage.
These are just some of the many reasons why the majority of our team have selected the Argentine for the Golden Ball. He wasn’t the only pick, with Germany’s Jamal Musiala also getting a mention.
Messi was also chosen by a couple of our writers as their Golden Boot winner. However, it was PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe who received the lion’s share of the vote.
Everyone knows what the pacey forward is capable of. In Europe’s top five leagues, only Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski can outdo his tally of 12 goals.
Not to mention, he’s been there and done it. At the last World Cup, Mbappe was the joint-second top scorer with four, including a strike in the final.
Four years later, and he’s now a better player and will be playing through the middle. There is every reason to believe he will be at his best at the tournament.
When choosing a winner from 32 teams, you’d think there would be some difference in opinions. But somewhat surprisingly, the entire Football Today team selected Argentina as their most likely champions.
For a while, it seemed like La Albiceleste were cursed. They didn’t win a single trophy from 1993 to 2021, losing five finals in that time, with three of these defeats coming on penalties. But they finally had that weight lifted off their shoulders at the 2021 Copa America, defeating Brazil 1-0 in the final.
We’ve said a lot about Messi, but there is far more to this side than just the captain. Lautaro Martinez has emerged as a top striker, Angel Di Maria is still playing to a high standard, Cristian Romero provides some solidity at the back, the likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Leandro Paredes have contributed from midfield.
But there’s one key difference – chemistry. Argentina have always had an embarrassment of riches, but forming a cohesive team out of all these superstars seemed to be an almost impossible task. Manager Lionel Scaloni deserves immense credit for this.
Having not lost in over three years, there is no doubt that Argentina are among the favourites. They are certainly a side to look out for.
Picking a losing finalist was difficult, largely down to the draw. With how the tournament is set up, most of the heavily fancied sides could end up on the same side of the knockout phase.
France were our pick for second place, and just one glance at their squad will tell you exactly why. Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, William Saliba, Aurelien Tchouameni – it’s impossible not to be envious of a team like that.
But even then, plenty of doubts remain over Didier Deschamps’ men. They were strong favourites for the 2020 European Championship and ended up crashing out in the round of 16 to Switzerland. During the Nations League, they won just one from six, narrowly avoiding relegation.
Meanwhile, they have lost several players through injury. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante played a crucial role in their success in 2018, while Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kimpembe will also be missed.
Not much unanimity on this one. Netherlands were mentioned, while Uruguay were also touted as potential overperformers.
However, the most common shout was Denmark. It’s pretty clear to see why they’ve been suggested – they enjoyed a strong showing at Euro 2020, reaching the semi-finals. And, with Christian Eriksen back in their ranks, they ought to be better than before.
The draw hasn’t been particularly kind to the Red and Whites. They face France in their group and will likely come up against Argentina in the round of 16 if they finish second.
Nonetheless, they will take some confidence from their Nations League results. They were in the same group as France and beat them twice by an aggregate score of 4-1.
Inevitably, there were going to be some areas where we couldn’t agree. This happened to be the category that divided us.
Despite being selected as our runners-up, France have also been suggested as potential underperformers. The main reasons have been detailed above – poor form and injuries make them something of an unknown quantity going into the tournament.
Additionally, for the superstitious ones, the so-called ‘champions curse’ may also come into play. Four of the last five World Cup winners have exited the following edition in the group stages, and no side has retained the trophy for 60 years.
England also got a mention in this category. Much like France, they were also terrible in the Nations League, getting relegated after failing to pick up a single win. If they don’t step it up in Qatar, an early exit wouldn’t be a surprise.
Belgium have developed a reputation lately for failing to meet expectations. Their ‘golden generation’ is yet to progress further than the semi-finals, and only a handful of their biggest stars remain. This may well be their last chance for glory.
The fourth and final team tipped as possible underperformers is Germany. Die Mannschaft are looking to get back among the big boys following a few years of disappointment.
And, for a while, they seemed to be getting back on track under Hansi Flick. However, they have since suffered a dip in form, winning just two from eight while needing a late goal to defeat Oman.
Group A winners: Netherlands
Group B winners: England
Group C winners: Argentina
Group D winners: France
Group E winners: Spain
Group F winners: Belgium
Group G winners: Brazil
Group H winners: Portugal
Best player: Lionel Messi
Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe
Dark horse: Denmark
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