- Mathieu Lesage & Tiago Loures
Not just the Favorites: An Analysis on All the Teams that Qualified for the 2022 Qatar World Cup
Qatar qualified directly to the 2022 World Cup because they are the hosts. The country was the champion of the 2019 Asian Cup and got third place in the North America Cup, but was unable to qualify for the playoffs in the Copa América. The team participated in the North American Cup and the Copa América because they sponsored the cups and thus were invited to participate in them. The Qataris are confident for their campaign in the World Cup and, as the home team, have faith that their stars Almoez Ali and Akram Afif will make them have a solid campaign in the World Cup this year. Almoez Ali is the country’s top scorer in history, while Akram Afif is a very technical and talented football player.
Ecuador came in fourth place in the qualifiers for the World Cup in South America. The country came in third place in the 2019 under-20 World Cup and they have a very promising young generation: besides Enner Valencia, the 33-year-old national hero who plays striker, the most promising players in the country are under 25 years old. The likes of Gonzalo Plata, from Real Valladolid, Piero Hincapié, from Bayern Leverkusen, and both Pervis Estupiñan and Moisés Caicedo from Brighton & Hove Albion compose the country's very talented young generation.
Senegal was the champion of the African Cup and qualified to the World Cup in a tense penalty shootout against Mohammed Sallah’s Egypt. The country has the best generation of players in its history with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, and Sadio Mané and came very confident to the World Cup, but Mané recently got cut from the World Cup call-out after getting injured. His injury was a devastating piece of news for the Senegalese, since they lost their star player. But even without him, Senegal still has many other talents that might lead them to a solid campaign at the World Cup.
The Netherlands has a decent team for this year's World Cup. They have a mixture of young talents, such as PSV’s star Cody Gakpo and Bayern Munique’s De Ligt, and veteran players, such as Liverpool’s Virjil Van Dijk and Inter Milan’s Stefan de Vrij. The Netherlands qualified to the World Cup after getting first place (only the first place qualified directly) in a challenging group with Turkey, Norway (which has Haaland and Odegaard), Montenegro, Latvia, and Gibraltar. The Netherlands have a very strong defense and offense, but many don't consider them to have a qualified midfield since it is composed of many players from the local league, and one of their main players in the midfield, Wijnaldum, suffered an injury that took him out of the World Cup. It was expected that he would compose the midfield besides Barcelona’s De Jong, but his injury might trouble Netherlands midfield plans at the World Cup.
England has the most expensive team in this year's World Cup: according to the site Transfermarkt, England’s squad has the highest market value of all the teams. They have many young promising talents, such as Phil Foden, Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, and Bukayo Saka, who make the squad's value incredibly high. England qualified to the World Cup after being placed first in an easy group, with only Poland as a solid team; the country also finished second in the Euro 2021 after dramatically losing to Italy in the penalty shootout. England's manager, Gareth Southgate, was strongly criticized by the media after leaving Serie A TIM players Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham out of the World Cup call out.
Iran qualified to the World Cup after finishing first, in a group where the first and second qualified directly. Iran came out ahead of Heung Min Son’s South Korea, and has a considerably good generation. Iran has two players that currently play in big teams in Europe: Sardar Azmoun plays at Bayern Leverkusen, and Mehdi Taremi plays at FC Porto. Mehdi Taremi is a very good striker – in the 2021 season, his bicycle kick screamer against Chelsea was a part of the Top 3 best goals in the 2021 Puskás award.
The US qualified to the World Cup after getting third place in a qualifying scheme where the first three teams qualified directly. The US has an extremely young World Cup squad. Deandre Yedlin is the only player in the team with a previous World Cup experience; this is because the US was humiliated when they failed to qualify to the 2018 World Cup, staying behind the likes of Costa Rica and Panamá – countries that both have a population that is a small fraction of the numbers of the US population. For this World Cup, the US squad is led by the likes of Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus), and Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund). The USA does not have high hopes for this World Cup, but considers the next World Cup, which will be in the country, as their main goal.
Wales qualified to the World Cup after finishing second in their group and beating Ukraine and Scotland in the European World Cup qualification playoffs. They won against Ukraine in the final match; during this game, their goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made some fabulous saves to take his country to the World Cup. Gareth Bale, the nation’s main player, scored the goal that made them win the game, and besides that, he is the nation’s icon after playing many successful years at Real Madrid and leading his country to the World Cup. Even with Gareth Bale, Wales does not have high hopes for this World Cup due to their limited squad, but they remain quite happy that they qualified for it regardless.
Argentina is the second favorite team for this World Cup. They are led by the legendary Lionel Messi, who will be playing his last World Cup, and have high hopes that they might win the tournament. Giovanni Lo Celso got injured, who was a first team player in the squad, and the Argentinians are wondering how the manager is going to replace him. Argentina qualified second in the South American World Cup qualification and won the 2021 Copa América, Messi’s first professional win with Argentina. This will be Messi’s last chance to win the World Cup, a title that neither he or Cristiano Ronaldo have and might finally set the debate of who is better. Messi will have the help of fellow stars Lautaro Marttínez (Inter Milan), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Ángel Di María (Juventus), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa), Christian Romero (Tottenham), and many other respected footballers.
Saudi Arabia qualified to the World Cup after coming in first place in the Asian qualifiers in a group where the first and second team qualified directly. Saudi Arabia is a team composed solely by players playing in the Saudi League, but they still have a solid World Cup lineup. In the 2021 club World Cup, Al-Hilal, a team with many Saudi players, almost eliminated Chelsea and ended up losing by 1-0. The Saudis have faith that their star Salem Al-Dawsari, a player with European experience, might make them make a solid campaign at the World Cup.
Mexico qualified to the World Cup after finishing second in the North American World Cup qualification group, in which the first four teams qualified. The Mexicans are not confident in this year's generation, and believe that their team does not have the talent needed to win the championship . The squad is led by the likes of Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton), and GuIllermo Ochoa (Club América Mexico). Ochoa is known for his fabulous World Cup appearances; he always plays extremely well in the tournament and in previous editions Brazil had a lot of difficulty scoring against him.
Poland qualified to the World Cup after finishing second in a group where only the first team qualified directly. In the qualification playoffs, they were lucky enough to face Russia, who got eliminated by FIFA because of the Russo-Ukrainian War. With one game less to win, Poland only had to beat Sweden in a tough game that ended 2-0, with Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski scoring the goals. The nation's main stars are Lewandowski (Barcelona), Zielinski (Napoli), and Szczęsny (Juventus). The Polish people are confident that these three players might lead the nation to a solid campaign at this year's World Cup.
France qualified to the World Cup after finishing first in their group, which was considerably easy since it was composed of Ukraine and a handful of bad European teams. After winning the World Cup in 2018, France failed to demonstrate excellence in their games, and never achieved the same level of performances as in their 2018 World Cup campaign. They lost to Switzerland in the penalty shootouts at the Euro 2021 round of 16 and almost got relegated in the 2022 Nations League. France has lost their favoritism for this year's World Cup after many of their most important players experienced a set of injuries: Pogba, Kante, Maignan, Benzema, Kimpembe, and Nkunku all got injured and will miss the World Cup. Without these players, Mbappe and Griezmann will have to lead the squad to win the World Cup. Even with the injuries, France still has great goalkeepers and possibly the best defense in the tournament. The nation still has a strong offense, but has lost a lot of its quality in the midfield. Even with all the injuries and the French disbelief in the national team, France can’t be disconsidered as one of the favorite teams to win the tournament, thanks to all the great talents the country has.
Australia qualified to the World Cup after finishing third in their Asian qualifying group. Since they finished third, they had to beat the United Arab Emirates in the Asian playoffs, which they did by 2-1. When they beat the UAE they had to face Peru to qualify for the Word Cup. They tied 0-0, and were able to beat the Peruvians in the penalty shootout, with a good appearance by the Australian goalie Andrew Redmayne, who had a unique penalty stopping technique and entered the game just for the shootout. After the retirement of Australian icon Tim Cahill, the Australian squad has never been the same, and are arguably the worst team at this year's World Cup.
Denmark was the first team to qualify for this year's World Cup after they finished first in a decently hard group composed of Denmark, Scotland, Austria, and a handful of mediocre European teams. Denmark has a really well coached team, and the Danes are looking forward to their country’s campaign at this year's World Cup. The team is led by Eriksen, who almost died after having a heart attack during a match at the 2021 Euro Cup. While most people believed he would never return to football again, Eriksen beat all the odds and is currently playing first quality European football at Manchester United. Besides Eriksen, Joakin Maehle (Atalanta), Martin Braithwaite (Espanyol), Kasper Schmeichel (Nice), and Emile Hojberg (Tottenham) are other well known footballers at the Denmark team.
Tunisia qualified to the World Cup after conquering the first place in their group and then beating Mali by 1-0 aggregate. Tunisia has a player named Skhiri who has a very good passing ability, but the country is known for their strong and solid defense. During their African qualification games, they only conceded 2 goals in the 8 games they played. Because of this, Tunisia is a team that might pose problems to France and Denmark, and might come out as a black horse in the group.
Spain qualified to the World Cup after finishing top of group B, although their spot wasn't guaranteed until they defeated second-place Sweden in their final match. Spain's squad is full of young players, especially when compared to other teams of the World Cup. Luis Enrique decided to bring new blood instead of more experienced players like Sergio Ramos, David De Gea, and Thiago Alcántara. Spain is full of young talent, like Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati, and Ferran Torres, but also experienced players like Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets – all from Barcelona. Luis Enrique, as a former coach of Barcelona, is very biased in his opinion about the players, and tends to favor players from the catalan team. He plays Tiki Taka style, which is a tactic of passing the ball and holding the possession of the game. Spain is the favorite to pass through the group stage, but not many people outside of Spain are expecting them to win the World Cup, mostly due to the amount of young, inexperienced players they have.
Costa Rica ended up fourth place in the North America qualifiers group stage, which earned them the opportunity to play in the World Cup intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. Costa Rica became the final team to qualify to the World Cup when they beat New Zealand 1-0 in the intercontinental playoffs, with a goal from Joel Campbell. The nation’s best players are the goalkeeper Keylor Navas, the striker Joel Campbell, and the midfielder Bryan Ruiz. While they are expected to fail at the group stage because they have two big teams in their group, Germany and Spain, this is the World Cup: anything can happen.
Germany qualified to the World Cup after finishing on top of group J, and never saw any threat to their position to qualify to the World Cup: there was no team that could compete with them. An interesting fact is that they indirectly helped Italy on their disqualification, since the second in their group was North Macedonia, who eliminated Italy in their qualifiers for the World Cup. Germany is a team with a huge tradition, being known for their offensive power, and containing many experienced players like Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer. They also have players who are on their peak, like Leon Gortetzka, Joshua Kimmich, and Leroy Sané, but they also contain a promising star, Jamal Musiala. There are many players from Germany who are not playing due to different reasons, such as Toni Kroos, who retired from the national team, or Marco Reus and Timo Werner, who are injured and could not go to the World Cup.
Japan qualified to the World Cup second in their group, behind only Saudi Arabia. In the Asian qualifiers, the first and the second teams qualified to the World Cup automatically. The star players of the Japan national team are Minamino, a current striker for Monaco, Kaoru Mitoma, a current striker for Brighton, and Daichi Kamada, an offensive midfielder for Eintracht Frankfurt. They also contain a promising footballer, Takefusa Kubo, who used to play at Real Madrid, but now plays for Real Sociedad. They could possibly be an unexpected team which can surprise the football fans all over the world and have an excellent World Cup campaign.
Belgium qualified to the World Cup after finishing on top of group E, and are currently one of the favorite teams to win the World Cup. They have many amazing and top class players, but arguably their best player is the maestro Kevin De Bruyne, who plays for Manchester City and grew to be one of the best midfielders ever to grace the pitch. The Belgium national team is known as the Golden Generation, as they have many great players like Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, and many other excellent footballers that make Belgium one of the favorites to win the World Cup. Even though Belgium is at its peak, many of its players are now old and might have this as their last World Cup where they have an actual chance. They are also the ones that eliminated Brazil in the quarter-finals in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. While they have never won any trophies until now, they are one of the favorite squads to win the World Cup.
Canada qualified to the World Cup finishing on top of their group, which is the North American World Cup qualifiers. Canada qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a win over Jamaica, making this the first time they have qualified since 1986. The star player of the Canadian national team is Alphonso Davies, besides other excellent players like Jonathan David – a Ligue 1 champion with Lille in the 2020-2021 season. Canada has an extremely fast and young team and might pose problems to other nations in their group.
Morocco qualified to the World Cup finishing on top of group I, having to then fight against DR Congo in a playoff to decide who was going to the World Cup; they won 5-2. To the surprise of many, they contain many great players like Achraf Hakimi, Noussair Mazraoui, Yassine Bounou, Hakim Ziyech, and Sofyan Amrabat. If these players are able to find great chemistry, they can surprise many fans in the stadiums with their game.
Croatia qualified to the World Cup finishing on top of group H, with a win over Russia. They were the last World Cup’s black horse, reaching the final when nobody expected, but losing to France by a score of 4-2. Croatia is led by maestro midfielder Luka Modrić, who is currently playing at Real Madrid and is considered one of the best players of the planet right now, even though he is already 37 years old. Besides Modrić, there are many other star players like Ivan Perišić, Mateo Kovačić, and many others who can help Croatia become an excellent team. The team will also have the absence of Ivan Rakitić, who retired from international football and was very important in Croatia’s 2018 World Cup campaign.
Brazil qualified to the World Cup finishing on top of the South American group stage qualifiers, and is currently the favorite team to win the championship. They contain excellent players in every position of the game, except for the left and right back, which are not as strong as the rest. Their best player is Neymar, who is considered the third-best player of this generation, only staying behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo: he is the star player of the Brazilian team with his fantastic dribbling and play-making skills. There are many promising footballers who have already shown to be world-class, like Vinicius Jr, Antony, and Raphinha. The goal has three walls: Alisson, Ederson, and Weverton while the defensive line is very secure with Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, and Eder Militão. The midfield is packed with talent with Paquetá, Everton Ribeiro, Bruno Guimarães, Fred, and Casemiro. Now comes the most amazing aspect of the Brazilian National team: the offensive line, which is full of world-class players like Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Antony, Rodrygo, Martinelli, Raphinha, Vinícius Jr, and the best player of the squad, Neymar Jr.
Serbia qualified to the World Cup by finishing on top of their group A, after winning against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal with a very polemic goal that could have changed the result of the qualifying round. They contain excellent players that can perform extremely well in the World Cup, like Vlahovic, Mitrovic, Sergej Milinkovic Savic, Kostic, and Jovic. They could be one of the many teams that could surprise the fans in the World Cup, and all of their players have been playing very well in their respective clubs. So, they can show the level they have been showing in the national team, and could be the ones to qualify alongside Brazil for the Round of 16.
Switzerland qualified to the World Cup on top of group C, winning the spot over Italy – which led to their disqualification, as they also lost in the playoffs against North Macedonia. The team has star players Shaqiri, Akanji, Xhaka, and Sommer, who were involved in the defeat of France in the 2020 Euro Cup; Sommer even saved Mbappe's penalty, and because of that, Switzerland ended up eliminating France in the Euro Cup, surprising many people. They are going to dispute with Serbia for the position of second place to qualify for the Round of 16, and the Swiss people are confident that they can compete against the world’s best teams.
Cameroon qualified to the World Cup on top of group D and are currently one of the best African teams; they have the legacy of one of the best African players in history, Samuel Eto’o. Cameroon beat Argelia to qualify for the World Cup in the African playoffs after a last minute screamer scored by Toko Ekambi. The Cameroon national team star players are the goalkeeper Onana, the midfielder Zambo Anguissa and strikers Toko Ekambi and Choupo Moting; these four players are the pillars of the national team. The coach Rigobert Song is one of the greatest Cameroon players of all time and has now shown great results in this position.
Portugal qualified to the World Cup as second place in group A, losing to Serbia after a controversial goal that made Cristiano Ronaldo quit the field after seeing that it had not counted. The second place plays another playoff to see who is going to go to the World Cup, and they won against Turkey first and afterwards against North Macedonia, the team that defeated Italy. Portugal has many amazing players like Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, and, finally, the best player in the history of Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo. They contain one of the best squads for the World Cup and if they can play full of chemistry they will surely go far in the World Cup.
Ghana qualified to the World Cup after staying in first place in their group with South Africa. They qualified to the World Cup after beating Nigeria on away goals after a goal scored on a longshot by Arsenal’s Thomas Partney. The Ghanaians are very happy about their qualification after they beat Nigeria, the clear favorites. The Black Stars, as Ghana is called in the world of football, are led by Thomas Partney (Arsenal), Daniel Amartey (Leicester), the Ayew brothers, and newly naturalized Ghanaians Iñaki Willliams (Athletic Bilbao) and Tariq Lamptey (Brighton). The young stars Mohammed Kudus (Ajax), Abdoul Fatawu (Sporting) and Kamaldeen Sulemana (Stade Rennais) are also promising players in the Ghana national team.
Uruguay qualified to the World Cup as third place in the South American group stage qualifiers. They are a squad full of amazing players, many of whom are now old like Luis Suarez, Diego Godin, Edinson Cavani and Fernando Muslera; however, their team also contains young promising players like Valverde and Darwin Nunez. The star player of the Uruguayan team is not Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani, but Valverde, who has shown to be playing amazing in both club and national level and can surprise many people in this World Cup. Arrascaeta and Ronald Araujo are two other good players in the team, but they are coming back from injuries and the Uruguayans do not know what to expect from them. The unsung hero for the Uruguay team would be Rodrigo Bentancur, who is Uruguay's main central midfielder, capable of doing everything a modern midfielder needs. They could be one of the surprise teams of this World Cup and are the favorites together with Portugal to pass the group qualifiers.
South Korea qualified for the World Cup as second place in their group in the Asian Group qualifier (with the first two advancing directly). They are a team with two players that have shown to be world-class players: Heung-Min Son (Tottenham), who is arguably the best South Korean player of all time, and Kim Min-Jae, who is a defender that has shown to be amazing this season for Napoli. With these two players, Korea has shown to be an interesting team that could compete for the Round of 16 and maybe even higher, even though it’s unlikely.