The draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is concluded. Although not all official competitors are qualified yet, the tournament’s group stage is set. This year’s World Cup is only the second to take place in Asia. Back in 2002, the tournament was hosted by South Korea and Japan. The tournament begins on November 21st. This year’s tournament is the last one to feature 32 competitors.
Italy, the four-time World champions and current European champions is not participating this year, thus not competing in back-to-back tournaments. The Netherlands, Ghana, Ecuador, the United States, as well as Cameroon all return to the tournament after failing to qualify four years ago. In addition, Canada has qualified for the first time since 1986. Furthermore, Russia was disqualified due to the political situation involving Ukraine.
THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP GROUPS ARE SET 🙌🌍 pic.twitter.com/RjZ9h5tjgP
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 1, 2022
Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands
It’s obvious that Senegal and the Netherlands are the favorites to make it to the knockout stage. Senegal is the current Africa Cup of Nations champions and they’re looking to build on their success. The Netherlands is looking to make a deep run in hopes of miraculously winning the title for the first time. The Dutch didn’t participate four years ago and they have a point to prove. If the Netherlands wants to prove themselves as worthy title contenders, they need to win the group in a convincing fashion. The same goes for Senegal.
Qatar won the Asian Cup in 2019. No doubt, as the tournament’s hosts, they’re under a lot of pressure. In Qatar’s case, it would not look good for them to be the second national team to fail to make it out of the group stage as hosts. This is Qatar’s first World Cup, so there’s no telling what they can do.
As far as Ecuador goes, qualifying for the tournament is simply respectable enough. However, despite facing insurmountable odds, Ecuador ought to be willing to accept the challenge and make the best of its participation. In 2006, Ecuador made it to the Round of 16 and they’d love to reach the knockouts again. But it’s going to take a miracle for Ecuador to do so.
Group B: England, the United States, Iran, and either Scotland, Ukraine, or Wales
The qualifying playoff match between Scotland and Ukraine remains delayed. The winner of that match takes on Wales to decide who books their ticket to Qatar. Scotland hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998, Ukraine hasn’t since 2006, and Wales hasn’t since 1958.
It’s interesting to have England and the United States in the same group for the first time since 2010. That year, the US and England match ended in a 1-1 draw and the US went on to win the group. Last year, the US won the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title and won their 7th CONCACAF Gold Cup. The US has a young and talented squad and is capable of making it out of the group. Winning the group isn’t impossible, but it would require them to either beat or hold England to a draw.
England finished as runners-up in last year’s Euro tournament. Four years ago in Russia, England finished in 4th place, their best World Cup finish since 1990. England certainly has the talent to win the World Cup but the lack of mentality is the problem. The last time England won a major title was in 1966 and they’re determined to end the 55+ year drought.
Iran has never made it past the group stage. Quite frankly, their chances of doing so in this tournament are minimal at best. For the first time, they qualified for three straight World Cups. Four years ago, they were close to making out of the group stage. Sadly, they only have two wins in World Cup in their history. Their unconvincing track record makes it difficult for them to have a chance of making it through the group.
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland
Argentina has to be the overwhelming favorite to win the group since they are the current Copa América champions. This may be the last time Lionel Messi represents Argentina in the World Cup, so La Albiceleste is hoping to make a deep run. Argentina, as always, is a potential favorite to hoist the title and they’re looking to avenge their heartbreaking exit from the tournament four years ago.
Mexico is participating in its eighth consecutive tournament. El Tri has advanced to the knockout stage in their last eight appearances but has not made it to the quarterfinals since 1986. Mexico during qualifiers failed to pick a win against both the United States and Canada. Recently, Alexi Lalas described the team as the weakest he’s ever seen. Their match against Argentina ought to be quite interesting, but no doubt, it’ll be tough for them. In addition, Poland is better than they look. There’s a chance that Mexico might not make it out of the group stage for the first time since 1978.
Poland’s best World Cup finish was in 1982 when they finished in third place. The team hasn’t made it out of the group stage since 1986. Furthermore, this year’s World Cup is Poland’s fourth World Cup appearance since 1986. Poland’s chances of advancing to the knockouts are high. Robert Lewandowski can’t carry the entire team on his back, but Poland has potential. With the respectable amount of talent Poland has, there’s a possibility that they can make it as far as the quarter-finals. It would depend on how they finish in the group stage.
For the first time since 1998, Saudi Arabia has qualified for back-to-back tournaments. They haven’t made it to the knockout stage since 1994. Unfortunately, their chances of advancing are minimal. In addition, Saudi Arabia would be lucky to even be able to finish one game with a draw.
Group D: France, Denmark, Tunisia, and either Australia, Peru, or the United Arab Emirates
France is the defending World Cup champions. Les Bleus remain stacked with great talent. 20 years ago, as defending champions, they failed to make it out of the group stage, and even failed to score a single goal. France’s mentality and team chemistry is always a cause for concern, so unless France gets their act together, it’ll be 2002 all over again. In addition, with all the talent France has, there’s no excuse for them to not win the group and successfully retain the title. Therefore, in France’s case, the question is whether or not France will get their act together.
For the first time since 2002, Denmark has qualified for back-to-back tournaments. Denmark’s best run was in 1998 when they made it to the quarter-finals. Last year, Denmark had a magical run at the Euro, making it to the final four. Recently, the team’s star Christian Eriksen returned to the team after his cardiac arrest incident last year in Denmark’s first Euro match against Finland. Denmark should have no problem making it to the knockouts. Aside from France, Denmark has nothing to worry about. In addition, Denmark has the potential of being a dark horse.
Tunisia is participating in its sixth World Cup tournament. Four years ago, they qualified for the first time since 2006. The team has never been to the knockout stage. Unfortunately, their chances of doing so this time aren’t good.
As far as the fourth competitor goes, it shouldn’t affect France and Denmark. Australia and Peru were both in the same group as France and Denmark four years ago, so it would be interesting to see three competitors in the same group again. In UAE’s case, they haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1990. UAE takes on Australia and the winner of that match takes on Peru to decide who goes to Qatar. If UAE miraculously qualifies, to say that they’ll face insurmountable odds in the World Cup would be an understatement.
Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, and either New Zealand or Costa Rica
Four years ago, Germany fell victim to the curse of the defending champions. They failed to make it out of the group stage for the first time since 1938. The team has struggled since its 2018 collapse. But with a new manager and new leadership, Die Mannschaft is looking to return to its dominant and successful form. Germany will not allow itself to exit the tournament on bad terms again. Their first goal is to win the group and they’re more than capable of doing so.
Spain has a young and formidable squad. Spain almost won the UEFA Nations League title last year, having ended Italy’s 37-match unbeaten streak to reach the Nations League final. Under the management of Luis Enrique, La Furia Roja is certainly looking strong. Since winning the title in 2010, Spain hasn’t done well in the World Cup. However, with a young and bright team with good management and leadership, a new Spanish golden generation is on the rise. Like Germany, Spain is capable of winning the group.
Japan has never quite had an impressive run in the World Cup. Four years ago, they almost pulled off a major upset against Belgium in the Round of 16, but could not finish the job. Japan’s World Cup debut was in 1998 and they’ve qualified for each tournament since then. However, only three times, they’ve advanced past the group stage. Unfortunately, dealing with Spain and Germany may be too much for Japan. Therefore, Japan has very little to no chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
Costa Rica takes on New Zealand takes place June 14th. The winner goes to Qatar. Eight years ago, Costa Rica had a brilliant Cinderella run when they won their group, which featured Italy, England, and Uruguay. Costa Rica made it to the quarter-finals where they lost to the Netherlands. Four years ago, finished bottom of their group. New Zealand qualified for the World Cup back in 2010 and hasn’t made it since.
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, and Croatia
The biggest story in this group is Canada participating in the tournament for the first time in over 35 years. Canada topped their group, finishing ahead of Mexico and the United States. In addition, they managed to go through the final qualifying phase without losing to the United States and Mexico. Furthermore, Canada beat them both at least once during qualifiers. Canada has a good manager and very good talent. Without a doubt, Canada has the potential of being this tournament’s Cinderella team.
Belgium finished taking the bronze medal four years ago. This is it for Belgium’s current golden generation. It’s their last chance to go for the gold. Their finish four years ago is their best finish in the World Cup. In addition, it was their first top-four finish since 1986. This is it for Belgium’s current golden generation. It’s their last chance to go for the gold. No doubt, Belgium is the favorite to win the group, but it’s a run in the knockout stage that is unknown. With Belgium, anything can happen.
Croatia was the Cinderella team four years ago. They won their group and shocked the entire world and made it all the way to the final, where they lost to France. Unfortunately, Croatia immediately began to fall following the World Cup. While Croatia has talent, its strength is a cause for concern. To be fair, Croatia’s chances to advance to the knockout stage are fair at best.
Four years ago, Morocco qualified for the first time since 1998. Unfortunately, their run didn’t go well, as they finished bottom of their group. This is Morocco’s sixth World Cup appearance. Their best finish was in 1986 when they made the Round of 16. It’s very likely that Morocco will finish bottom of the group again.
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon
There’s no way Brazil doesn’t win the group. Ironic how four years ago, Serbia and Switzerland were in the same group as Brazil, and here they are again. As always, the five-time World champions are heavy favorites to win it all. Since their last title win in 2002, Brazil’s exits/finish from the tournament have been in a heartbreaking fashion. Their longest World Cup title drought lasted 24 years, going from 1970 to 1994. Brazil is hoping to win their sixth title this time.
Switzerland shocked the world when they eliminated France at last summer’s Euro. Four years ago, they held Brazil to a 1-1 draw. Switzerland has a reputation for being a team full of surprises, and they could very well do it again in Qatar. If they hold Brazil to a draw and manage to win the other two games, there’s a chance that they could win the group over Brazil, depending on goal differential and if Brazil shockingly disappoints against Serbia or Cameroon, but that’s very unlikely. Switzerland finishing second and securing a knockout berth is respectable enough.
Serbia topped their qualifying group, beating Portugal in the last match. The team’s last magical run was in 1990 when they made it to the quarter-finals. In addition, in 1962, they finished in fourth place. However, those two runs were during the days of SFR Yugoslavia. Since Serbia gained independence in 2006, the Serbian national team has qualified twice and has not made it to the knockout stage.
Cameroon did not compete in Russia four years ago. In 1990, Cameroon had a brilliant run, making it to the quarterfinals. Since 1990, Cameroon has not made it past the group stage and missed the tournament in 2006 and 2018. Cameroon finished third in February’s Africa Cup of Nations, which they hosted. Les Lions Indomptables have talent and they’re definitely going to battle Switzerland for the second-place finish. Cameroon is determined for another magical run and with the good talent, they have, they’re capable of having one.
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea
Portugal hasn’t had a decent World Cup run since 2006 when they finished in fourth place. Cristiano Ronaldo is more than likely playing his last World Cup. Portugal’s biggest threat is Uruguay. In addition, Portugal was eliminated from the tournament four years ago, courtesy of a loss to Uruguay, so it’s only fitting for a group stage rematch. It’d be a huge surprise if Portugal and Uruguay both don’t make it out of the group.
South Korea’s last deep run was in 2002, although it was under controversial circumstances. Four years ago, South Korea beat Germany 2-0 to salvage a third-place finish in the group. Since 2002, South Korea made it out of the group once but has not managed to make any impact whatsoever.
In 2010, Ghana had a brilliant run and was so close to becoming the first African nation to make it to the final four. In 2014, Ghana’s World Cup performance was bad, and four years ago, they didn’t even participate. Ironic how Ghana’s magical run in 2010 was ended by Uruguay. Ghana would love to gain redemption, but it would take a miracle for them to do so. From the looks of it, Ghana may finish bottom of the group.
Follow Alex Al-Kazzaz on Twitter @BearManOfTX
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