Denmark is on an upswing. In the Euro 2020 last year, they were only stopped in the Semi-Finals. In the World Cup Qualifiers, they earned 27 points out of 30 in their group. In the Nations League, they beat France twice. If that doesn’t make them one of the favorites, don’t know what will.
While pretty much every frontrunner has less than a week to prepare as a team, Qatar has been training together for almost six months. In a crazy, crazy world, where the World Cup winner will be decided just before Christmas, anything can happen. Tough to break down and organized in attack, be ready for a surprise. Qatar has the tools to do damage.
A young Ecuador team exceeded expectations in qualifying, beating Colombia, Chile, and Peru. They were a match for everyone at home soil and aim to surprise in Qatar.
Led by 33-year-old Enner Valencia, they also have 2019 Under-20 World Cup bronze medalists breaking through – a few future stars might get their chance on the big stage.
Senegal made everyone follow a dream 20 years ago, when they opened the World Cup by beating holders France 1:0 and ended up in the quarter-finals. Four years ago, cruel fate intervened on their quest, sending them home after the group stage on Fair Play points.
Now they come to Qatar as reigning African champions and probably one of the best African teams ever. A core of Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane can match up with anyone.
The Netherlands had a rather disappointing European Championship campaign in 2021, where they fell to the Czech Republic in the Round of 16. Now, the Oranje have the legendary Louis van Gaal once again as their manager, and the team looks as strong as ever. The Qualification for the World Cup wasn’t always easy but in the end, they topped the group containing Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, and Gibraltar.
They love to keep the ball and had the highest possession alongside Germany and Spain in qualifying. Their attack is quick and straightforward with quick passes and heavy usage of wingers. All eyes will be on Memphis Depay, their top scorer (12 goals) in the Qualifiers, but also beware of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, and Frenkie de Jong to be a handful for any opponent.
Four years ago, England reached the World Cup Semi-Final and in the 2020 Euros, already to the Finals. So the logical next step would be to win the World Cup or at least make it to the Final, yet this year’s Nations League has set off alarm bells for all involved. They failed to win a single match (!) out of the 6 and raised many eyebrows with their performances.
Then again, they still have none other than Harry Kane, a bunch of young and fierce strikers and one of most exciting players around – Jude Bellingham
Iran has never advanced from the World Cup Group Stages and it’s rather optimistic to think, that they will manage it this time around. Still, England, Wales and the United States need to be alert as the squad is a difficult opponent for everyone. Iranian players aren’t the most famous ones in the world, yet there are plenty of names to keep an eye on – starting from their leader Sardar Azmoun and finishing with the young stud, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh.
Christian Pulisic, also known as Captain America, will most likely focus on gaining experience for the young American squad, as they will host the World Cup in 2026. The US National team has the youngest average age, so expect it to reflect in their brave and aggressive playing style. Who knows, maybe this “no guts, no glory” type of approach will see them advancing to the play-offs.
After being absent for 64 years, Wales are back in the World Cup, most of it thanks to Gareth Bale. This will be his last big tournament and a chance to accomplish something really big. Let’s see if they can utilize the generous draw.
This might be Lionel Messi’s both last and best shot at World Cup glory, despite reaching the final eight years ago. Finally, the Argentines seem to have enough quality and depth to support the diminutive maestro.
Winning Copa America last year made people forget about previous failures and gave them new-found hope. Argentina has a distinct style; if everything is running smoothly, who knows?
Four years after a disappointing group stage exit, Saudi Arabia has been drawn into much tougher company, where they will need to overcome the odds against Argentina, Mexico, and Poland, to stand a chance.
Luckily for them, head coach Herve Renard has done it before and they have one full month to prepare – something most teams can only dream of.
Is there a curse on Mexico? Some certainly believe so. The last seven teams to go to a World Cup have all been sent home after the Round of 16, a trend dating back to 1994.
Very experienced, but missing the target way too often in qualifying, Mexico still has a few problems to iron out. Don’t count them out, though.
After two straight failures, Poland will be looking to make the most of its current generation led by Robert Lewandowski.
The talent is there, but there are no guarantees in international football. Just look at the Barcelona striker: he might be one of the world’s best, but has scored no goals at World Cups for the time being.
For the past 3 (!) World Cups, the reigning title holder has not made it through the Group Stage and you can bet the French will be eager to break that curse. Then again, the same curse got them 20 years ago, when they finished 4th in the 2002 World Cup, after winning in 1998. Didier Deschamps has his hands full, as the French side is full of talent, but also big personalities and drama. They have all the potential to go all the way. Let’s see how the French manage.
For the Aussies, life is sweet. No one really expected them to defeat Peru for a spot in the World Cup, yet they did it. The same applies to the big stage itself – expectations are low and the chances of causing an upset are high. Beware of a team that has nothing to lose.
South Korea has one of the world’s best at their disposal, with Tottenham forward Son Heung-min ready to lead them on.
This isn’t just a one-man show, however. With some interesting talent, who knows how far can they go.
It has been almost ten years since Spain ruled the world, but with a new generation of talent coming through, it might happen again sooner or later.
Their distinct style stands out and will cause a lot of headaches for the opposition. If there is a team you ought to watch in this World Cup, it may be Spain.
Eight years after Costa Rica surprised the world, they will have to conquer those similar heights. It shouldn’t happen, but then again, that was also the case in Brazil 2014.
Just don’t expect them to play nice.
We might remember Germany for their horrorshow in Russia 2018 or for the four sets of World Cup medals they have collected this century, a magnificent feat. Either way, they will be hungry this time around.
After 15 years, a new face will be at the helm – someone who only needed a season and a half to go down in history. Hansi Flick has some old war-horses still running plus a host of talented starlets, so they are ready for a deep run.
In the Group of Death, Japan will have to face rejuvenated heavyweights Germany and Spain, while a dogfight awaits against the gritty Costa Ricans.
They have some interesting players and will be enjoyable to watch, but have they learned from the heartbreak of four years ago?
Belgium, who reigned the FIFA ranking table for many years, still has not won major titles. They finished 3rd in Russia 2018, but they surely crave a big win. This is the golden generation’s last chance to do it.
For the first time in 36 years, Canada is back in the World Cup. If you look at the team’s average age, we should expect to see them more often in the future. This is their trial by fire and it could very well set up for a good performance in 4 years’ time when they host the World Cup together with the USA.
The Moroccan national team has too many worthy players to perform as poorly as they have in recent times in title competitions. They passed the African Qualifiers with a clean sheet and several stars have returned to the team. Could Qatar 2022 be the start of Morocco’s rise?
In the year 2018 Croatia sailed all the way to the World Cup final and Luka Modric was crowned the best footballer in the world. Although he’s now 37 years old, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Several legends have since then retired from the national team, but head coach Zlatko Dalic has brought on a pack of younger players and Croatia is once again looking as scary as ever.
Brazil sits at the very top of the world leaderboard and is a team filled to the brim with superstars. If they don’t win the world title this year, it will mean a 24+ year gap between titles, which is the longest streak they’ve had in history. Is that a good sign or a bad one?
As news to literally nobody, Brazil and Argentina are packing some serious offensive power. But Serbia has a squad of nearly the same quality to show. How far will their wings carry them? That remains to be seen but one thing is for sure – Serbia at this World Cup is a squad you just have to see!
Switzerland’s golden generation, which left Italy out of the World Cup, has reached its prime. So far, they have failed to achieve big things in international tournaments, but now the hopes are high that Switzerland can have a deep run.
Cameroon, who made it to the World Cup after a crucial goal scored in the 120+4th minute, now goes head to head with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in the Group stage. While definitely not an easy task, there’s no doubt that this team has enough talent to lock things up at the back and score goals. But how will head coach Rigobert Song succeed in getting the new team play well together on the first go?
With or without Cristiano Ronaldo, that is the question many are asking. Even a man who has scored 117 international goals will fade eventually, but is it happening now?
Ronaldo doesn’t think so. With a chip on his shoulder, he is preparing to prove everyone wrong once again.
It’s been mostly downhill since that Luis Suarez handball in 2010 denied Ghana a World Cup semi-final spot, culminating with a loss to the Comoros this January.
They can’t go any lower. The only way is up, and with some shrewd additions, they are ready to leave the past behind.
Most likely, Tunisia had the easiest journey to the World Cup, as they didn’t have to beat a single team, that has participated in World Cups. Put France, Denmark and Australia beside them, and you get a squad that’s a clear underdog in Group D.