We love football, and we love it even more when a major competition comes around. This year, the 2022 FIFA World Cup may have been a slow burner, with controversy about the choice of venue and time of year, but the heat is definitely beginning to rise! Those of us who love sport know only too well it is entirely foolish to make predictions, but we just can’t help it. So here goes, who do we think is going to dominate, who could be taking an early bath, and a couple of less fancied teams to watch!
The venue: Qatar
You have probably gathered that Qatar is hot! Average temperatures range from 14 to 41°C, with the hottest day ever in Qatar peaking at 50.4°C. In November and December, the outside temperature when the games are being played should average around 26-28°C, with the later knock-out games being played in the evening, when temperatures are lower.
Normally, these higher temperatures might favour teams from hotter climates, in particular the South American sides, however in 2022 there is a new factor; air conditioning. All eight stadiums are air conditioned, with the chilled and cleaned air expected to be around 21°C, or a typical Northern European later spring day. So which teams will it favour? It all depends how effective the air conditioning is and how teams will adapt to the reconstituted air.
The favourites: Brazil and France
It should be no surprise to anyone that Brazil are favourites to win the tournament. Five-time previous winners and a team that includes Neymar, Richarlison, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha. One defeat in the last 29 games is hard to argue against. However, they have not played much football against European teams and if the air-conditioning produces a British spring, maybe there might be a chance for the rest.
France, current holders and clear second favourites with the bookies. Their team is a fabulous collection of individuals, but will they play as a team? Or indeed play?? It is hard to see them not getting out of the group stage, but it would not surprise us if they failed to play as a team and got knocked out as a result.
Big guns: Argentina, Spain, and Germany
Like Brazil, Argentina has an enviable track record, including beating Italy in the Copa Finalissima in June. They play as a team and get the most out of their star players, and Messi is (probably) in his last World Cup. Certainly a team to watch and it would surprise no-one to see them in the final.
Spain and Germany are united by one fact, they would have rather not been pitched in the same group. We expect both sides to make the knock-out phase, but of the two, Spain has the edge. That said, Germany has the pedigree and who would bet against them meeting England at some point. Please, not penalties!
Home nations: England and Wales
Whilst the bookies have England as third favourites, that is more to do with balancing their book than the current form of the team. Whilst the team undoubtedly have talent (a lot of it), their recent performances under Southgate have not been epic. England should make it at least to the quarter finals, but from there it depends which team turns up.
Wales have it all to do, scraping through qualification. They last qualified in 1958 where they reached the quarter-finals before being eliminated by eventual winners Brazil. This time they are in a group with England and the very capable USA. They could make it into the knockout stages as one of the best losers. They will certainly be up for the group games against England, which could be pivotal!
Teams to watch: Serbia, Croatia, and the USA
This is the part where we stick our neck out and talk about three teams that we think are underrated. Serbia have peaked at the right time, and a strong team in all senses will be focused on getting the runners up spot in the group stage. Another Aleksandar Mitrovic hattrick at some point would not surprise us.
Croatia deservedly topped a Nations League group which included Denmark and France, and Luka Modric is a force of nature. They have the experience and motivation and could give Belgium a fright in the group stage.
On paper, the USA have it all to do, however we all know that one year they will make the breakthrough into the big league of teams, and why not 2022? If Gregg Berhalter can find the answers, expect them to make the round of sixteen.
Who will win the 2022 World Cup?
The easy answer is Brazil, but that’s not a given. Argentina should make the last four, England could make the semis, and Spain would hope to be there too. The country that will lift the trophy is the one that stays focused, plays as a team, takes their chances, and has a lucky break or two. And the one that can best cope with air conditioning, which really does mean the answer is up in the air!
But so we don’t sit on the fence we are going to with… England. We don’t care if it’s wrong, we couldn’t go against our home team.
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