We’ve waited four years (and a half) for this moment. It’s finally arrived. Welcome to the 2022 World Cup. Similar to March Madness, the tournament does have a few titans, but is nevertheless impossible to predict. Except for me. I will predict it.
Group A: Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador, Qatar
This has the potential to be an incredibly entertaining group, but with the recent news that Sadio Mané will likely not be able to compete for the tournament, most of these games should not be competitive. Mane’s former Liverpool teammate Virgil Van Dijk should easily lead the Netherlands to the top of Group A. They have, by far, the most talented squad. I think it’s pretty likely that Qatar will fall to the bottom of the table — I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who could name any of their players. The battle for second is slightly more interesting, especially given the Mane injury; however, Senegal still features elite talent in defender Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy. While their midfield is also solid, only a sub-optimal attack could let the Senegalese down. Ecuador and Qatar are truly no match for either, and will finish at the bottom of the table.
Group B: England, Wales, United States, Iran
Led by the “Lebron James of soccer” Christian Pulisic, could this year be USMNT’s year? Some might disagree with me, but I don't buy it. I can see it four years from now, in 2026, but as of right now, this team is too young. And, they are competing with the greatest soccer player in Welsh history, who’s playing in his last possible World Cup. Gareth Bale has been playing with LAFC this season, so he’s essentially been coasting through the season, which should help keep his aging 33-year-old body ready to compete at the highest level in November. I believe in the Bale magic, not the Pulisic magic. Maybe next time, America. As for numbers one and four, it should be pretty obvious. England is stacked at every position, while Iran is not. Nevertheless, Iran made some noise in 2018, so perhaps they could disrupt the battle for second by beating the U.S. or Wales.
Group C: Argentina, Poland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia
The story is similarly straightforward for Group C. Argentina has the longest unbeaten streak in international soccer. Ever. And, they are extremely talented at every position. And, they’re led by the most complete player of all time, Lionel Messi, who only lacks a World Cup to cement his legacy. They will win this group, if not, the whole tournament. Saudi Arabia will be last. Again we must determine who takes second. While I don’t think Poland is an incredibly deep team, I also don’t think this Mexico team comes close to the level of those past. I will always trust Ochoa in goal, and Lozano has been incredible at Napoli this season. Still, I can count on Lewandowski’s goal-scoring talent more than both of them, so I’ll give Poland the edge.
Group D: Denmark, France, Tunisia, Australia
As a Tunisian native, I have no idea how we even made it here. But, Australia should feel the same way. I only actually know one player on both teams — Youssef M’Sakni. The dude was insane in the Tunisian professional league a few years ago. Trust me. Tunisia takes third. Denmark and France are pretty interesting. On the surface, France is the more talented team, and they’re the defending champions, but are they still as complete without a midfield of Kante and Pogba? Given that Tchouameni and Camavinga have created some promising midfield play together at Real Madrid this season, I think France will be fine. Nevertheless, I believe Denmark plays an incredible system of soccer with a defense that is virtually impossible to penetrate. They surprised everyone at the Euros, and I really expect them to do it again. France will probably make it farther in the bracket, but Denmark will win the group.
Group E: Germany, Spain, Japan, Costa Rica
If it weren’t for Group A, this might be the weakest group in the tournament. Germany misses former Manager Joachim Löw — they are not the same without him. Talent-wise, they are heavily concentrated in the midfield, with the only special names in the back and up front being Antonio Rudiger and Kai Havertz, respectively. Spain are very similar but show a little more talent on the defensive end. Who’s going to be scoring goals for either of these teams? I’m more convinced by Germany, but I expect them both to get ousted early in the knockout rounds. I’ll say Japan will take third, and Costa Rica will place fourth. At least we will get to see Keylor Navas play.
Group F: Croatia, Belgium, Morocco, Canada
This is a great group to watch, but it might be too far to call it the dreaded “Group of Death.” With Luka Modric still playing at an all-time level in an excellent system, I think Croatia take the top of the group. Despite their lackluster defense, Belgium arguably has the best midfielder (Kevin De Bruyne) and goalkeeper (Thibaut Courtois) in the world. Also, Leandro Trossard could surprise many, following his excellent performance for Brighton this season. With the late addition of Hakim Ziyech to the squad, Morocco has one of the most talented rosters they’ve ever put out. It’s so hard for me to put them in front of either team, but I would not be surprised if they made some noise in the fight for second place. Oh, and Alphonzo Davies and Canada are 4th.
Group G: Brazil, Switzerland, Cameroon, Serbia
No team is more talented than Brazil. If they are able to stay in form, and play as a team, they should be the favorites to win the title. While I’ve really liked Aleksandar Mitrovic’s play for Fulham this season, Switzerland has proven time and again that they are not to be played with. They took down a fully healthy French team at the Euros after being down 3-1 in the 81st minute. I personally won’t be making the same mistake twice — they’ll take second place in the group. Still, Cameroon are led by FA President Samuel Eto’o, a legendary striker from the 2000s. While I’d trust Eto’o to suit back up for Cameroon, I’m not sure Eric Maxim Chupo-Moating can do the trick. Perhaps one of Serbia or Cameroon will grab a win off of the Swiss, but look for them to be at the bottom of their group.
Group H: Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana
Uruguay has to be the most underrated team in the tournament. They have an excellent combination of youth in the likes of Valverde, Nunez, and Araujo, and veterans in Suarez, Cavani, and Godin. Still, Portugal is a different animal. It is no longer “Ronaldo and the Gang.” They have the most versatile full-back in the world in Joao Cancelo, and an incredible attacking midfield in Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes to play balls to the talented Joao Felix and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. Both teams will easily make it out of this group, but I still hope to see at least one excellent goal by Heung Min-Son, and maybe even an upset from South Korea. Since Ghana has had players coming in and out of their squad throughout the past few months, I doubt they will win a single game.