By Andreas Gkoumplias,
With the World Cup just about to start, the second part – where we take a very short and comprehensive look at the groups until I finally get to share with everyone reading this my own predictions – is finally here! As expected, this article focuses on the next 3 groups that were not mentioned in the previous part, and in the end, in the third part, I will be analyzing the last three groups and sharing my personal predictions for the biggest football event.
GROUP C (Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Poland)
One of the favorite and expected teams to progress far in the tournament is Argentina. Arguably in their best form ever with a run of 36 (!) unbeaten games throughout all competitions, having won the Copa America final versus Brazil and their captain Lionel Messi has announced that this is probably going to be his last big tournament with the national selection, team morale is at an all-time high, as they will surely be looking to make this one count.
Mexico’s participation in the last phase of the tournament comes as no surprise, as their solid defending allowed them to go through the 3 phases for the qualifiers, placing second in the last qualification tier, and gathering 28 points alongside Canada. Although not seen as a favorite to go far, they surely are a dangerous team that can exploit opportunities very easily, while at the same time they managed to concede less than 0.5 goals on average in their last 10 games. The spotlight is surely going to be on Guillermo Ochoa at some point, as the Mexican goalkeeper managed to impress with his previous appearances in the last World Cup.
The beginning of this World Cup finds the Polish national team in a weird spot. Whilst being solid defensively, they tend to squander a lot of opportunities in scoring and that could pose a serious problem for them as the tournament is not long-lasting. The team’s overall age is also concerning as, despite their undisputed quality, it can prove challenging for an older team to play so many matches consecutively.
Finally, the outsider of the group is no other than Saudi Arabia. A quite defensive team that managed to get through the three qualification teams thanks to practically not conceding more than 0.6 goals per game, which is quite impressive. They are viewed as complete outsiders and they are not expected to progress far in the tournament, however, in such a competition, pretty much anything is possible and what remains is to see whether they can prove the vast majority of the world wrong.
GROUP D (France, Denmark, Tunisia, Australia)
Group D starts off dynamically with the winner of the previous World Cup, France. One of the best teams and arguably one of the teams that play exceptionally well, France is coming from a rather frustrating experience in the Nations League competition, as despite their quality, they won just one match, drawing twice and losing thrice, therefore relegating to Group B. To add to that, two of the team’s stars Christopher Nkuku (RB Leipzig forward) and Karim Benzema (Real Madrid forward) were injured the last week and would be missing the tournament. Surely a big hit for the team, however, France is the absolute favorite in its group and is one of the teams that most probably can make it all the way to the grand final.
Next on, there is Denmark. Challenging and ambitious, the last years the Danish football team has grown stronger by the day and they managed to qualify having conceded just 3 goals in 10 games in their qualification group, qualifying of course first. Giving emphasis on keeping possession of the ball for the majority of the game and attacking mostly from their wings, they surely hope they can put their very good defending form to good use to progress far. In their recent Nations League run, Denmark finished second, just one point behind Croatia, and managed to beat world champions France twice! Special credit should be given of course to Christian Eriksen who, despite his health scare in the Euro of 2020, managed to make a great comeback and will be here to assist his national team.
Tunisia is the third team in Group D. The African team managed to make it to the final tournament relatively easy ranking 1st in the group with Mauritania, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea in the second qualification stage. They then proceeded to eliminate Mali by winning 0-1 away and drawing 0–0 home, to make their progression to the final stage. Considered already outsiders they seemingly have nothing to lose and will surely be looking to make as best a run as possible.
The second outsider of Group D is no other than Australia. The Australian national team managed to secure their position in Qatar after an intense game against Peru, where both teams squandered a lot of goal-scoring opportunities. The match went into extra time and afterward to the penalty shootout, where Australia’s goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne saved the last penalty and allowed Australia to progress. Now in their third consecutive final tournament run, Australia will surely be looking to make a better run that the previous two times where they gathered 0 and 1 point respectively, although the forecasts see them as very unlikely to progress.
GROUP E (Germany, Spain, Japan, Costa Rica)
Two favorites and two outsiders for group E of the Qatar World Cup with the first one being Germany. Despite their latest troubling results in Nations League where they drew 4 (!) consecutive times before finally winning a game, they are viewed as one of the teams with good potential to make it far. Excellent wingers and a sturdy defense set up what seems to be a promising run for the Panzers that will surely be looking to get over the 2018 World Cup upset where they were disqualified in just the first round of the final tournament finishing 4th in their group.
Spain is the second favorite of group E and is arguably in a very solid form lately. Having qualified as first from the qualifiers for the World Cup without breaking a sweat they went on to continue their emphatic run in the Nations League where they also finished first conceding in both competitions just 10 goals, 5 in each. Having fresh, young footballers in the team, Luis Enrique’s men should be aiming high as they are considered one of the tournament favorites, despite the recent criticism asked the team’s coach for his picks in the squad list.
Japan is coming off 3rd, the Samurais are back at it after the world cup of 2018 where they made a pretty good run, ending after losing 3-2 to Belgium in an astonishing game. They have proven to be very good at defending, conceding just 6 goals in their 18 qualifying games for the final tournament, and with that as their weapon, they are surely hoping in making an upset in the group stage.
The last team in group E is going to be Costa Rica. After managing to land 4th in the qualifiers and managing to beat New Zealand with a marginal 1-0 to secure the place in the final tournament, Costa Rica is ruled as total outsiders of the group. A team that likes to give off possession and play for the counterattacks, having been present in the world cup of 2014 and 2018 they surely have plenty of experience, however, the draw was not in their favor and certainly, the odds are not as well, leaving them with not much to hope but a good run.
GROUP F (Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada)
Belgium’s golden generation of players is surely coming to an end as most of its players are over the age of 30-31. With that in mind, quality and experience surely are not lacking, but the 2022 Qatar World Cup is probably their last chance to fight toe to toe for the grand trophy. In the qualifiers, Belgium took over the first spot fairly easily scoring 25 goals while conceding only 6. Based on the creativity of its midfielders and the sturdiness of its defense, everyone in Belgium dreams big and aspires to go far before having to make massive changes to the squad, to make space for younger players.
The runners up of the World Cup 2018 surely surprised Europe back then and keep on doing it with their amazing performances. Croatia went through the qualifiers conceding just 4 goals, claiming the 1stposition in their group fairly easily. Now in the final tournament, they surely are hoping to repeat what they managed the last time, as they have plenty of experienced players to do so. Star of the team is none other than Luka Modric, with the experienced Real Madrid midfielder and captain of the national team hoping to make this one count, which could possibly be his last big tournament with the national selection.
Morocco’s qualification came as no surprise considered how good of a run the national team made. Starting off in the second qualifying round, the won all 6 matches in their group scoring 20 times while conceding just 1 goal! In the last qualifying round, they went against Republic of Congo, drawing 1-1 in the first match, only to go to the second one to dominate 4-1 over their opponents. Now in the final stage, and with the team being solid both in attack and in defense, they should be looking to progress farther than the group stage.
Canada completes group F as the group outsiders, competing for the second time only in the final tournament after 1986. To get there, they managed to come a long way, going through 3 qualifying rounds, making an impressive run as they managed to qualify as 1st, tying with Mexico at 28 points and leaving behind USA and Costa Rica. It should be already considered an achievement reaching this far into the tournament; however the Canadians should be motivated to make a good run as they have absolutely nothing to lose.
GROUP G (Brazil, Serbia, Cameroon, Switzerland)
One of the most experienced teams, Brazil is surely aiming for the trophy-and nothing less. Hoping to leave behind the loss at the Copa America final from Argentina, the Brazilians styled through the qualification matches scoring a whopping 40 times whilst conceding just 5 in 17 matches, proving that they are not messing around. A generation of charismatic, talented players with Neymar leading first, they are hoping to not repeat what happened in their last two world cup entries where in 2014 they lost with a shocking 1-7 to Germany in the semi finals and in 2018 they were stopped by Belgium abruptly (1-2) in the quarter finals.
Serbia’s going to be present again after 2018 in another final tournament stage, hoping to do better this time, as more experienced and more concrete than the last time. Ironically, two of their three opponents are the same as in the last world cup (Brazil, Switzerland), so they should be looking to exact their ‘’revenge’’ after not managing to make it through the group stage last time. A team based on the offensive aspect of the game, and with Fulham’s forward Aleksandar Mitrovic coming in from a hot season, they should be aiming high in what will be a real challenge.
Switzerland qualified for the final stage after an amazing run where in 8 games they scored 15 times while conceding twice, placing 1st and qualifying directly to Qatar, leaving Italy second. As mentioned above, two of the three opponents are the same as in the world cup of 2018, providing the Swiss with experience, as last time they managed to make it to the next round, and they are certainly hoping to do the same again, despite coming from a mediocre Nations League campaign (3W-3L).
Cameroon is the 4th team of group G. After a brief absence in the World Cup of 2018, they return this year after a good qualifying run. To get to the finals, they managed to overcome the obstacle of Algeria, after an amazing second match that featured two goals in the extra time, with Cameroon taking the spot for the final tournament. With their solid defending so far, they have managed to come this far, and that’s what the Cameroon players will emphasize in order to have hopes of making it out of the group stage.
GROUP H (Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana, South Korea)
In what is going to be probably the last tournament with the national selection for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese surely are aiming on a final to close off their campaign as best as possible. Placing second in their qualifying group below Serbia, they had to go over extra matches, overcoming Turkey (3-1) and Northern Macedonia (2-0) to secure a place in the tournament. Mostly based on its attack, while maintaining ball possession throughout the game, the Portuguese national team doesn’t lack in talent, skills or technique and is surely one of the favorites to progress far.
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are set to retire from their national selection as well after this year’s world cup, marking the end of an era for the Uruguayan attack. Uruguay managed to qualify as 3rd from the South America qualification group scoring 22 times over 17 matches but also conceding 22 times, which can prove to be a problem, as defensive stability is vital in such short tournaments. Looking to put the best end possible in that era before turning the page, the Uruguay players surely will be inspired and are favorites to make it at least out of the group stage.
Ghana is the 3rd team of group H, managing to qualify to the world cup with two draws (0-0 and 1-1) withstanding the immense pressure of Nigeria. In their fourth world cup appearance, the Ghana national team, with their good defensive skills and techniques and basing their games in giving away possession and playing for the counter attacks, is hoping to perform more than a good run, with their guide being their presence in the world cup of 2010 in South Africa, where they reached the quarter finals.
Last but not least we have South Korea, one of the most challenging teams that have proven their worth several times. Qualifying as second from their group and conceding just three goals, they may be considered as outsiders in a demanding group but that doesn’t mean that they will go down without a fight. After all, everyone remembers the upset they performed in the world cup of 2018, when while disqualified as they had 0 points they managed to emerge victorious in the match with Germany (2-0) with both goals scored in injury time! Team’s undisputed star in Heung Min Son, who finally managed to make it in time for the world cup, despite an injury that demanded surgery a few weeks prior.
It is definitely going to be an interesting tournament, as most of the teams are at a top level. While it is not very easy to predict a winner right away, I’m positive that Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Portugal are very likely to make it past the group stage and far into the tournament. France, England, Germany, Netherland are all very well organized teams that also play astonishingly well, and I think that Serbia is going to be a surprise team to move on. And lastly, I would very much like to see a final or semi final between Argentina and Portugal so as to watch a final clash between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, on what seems to be their last big tournament.
- World Cup Group C table. sportingnews.com. Available here
- Qatar 2022: Groups, fixtures, stadiums, squads, tickets and more. fifa.com. Available here