The World Cup has favorites and underdogs. For the latter, reaching the competition is a feat. This year, that includes Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Qatar.
These countries can wreck stereotypically successful teams. Every year, a significant upset occurs. A minnow beats a group favorite to advance. A team with nothing to lose pushes another to the brink.
Iran and Morocco nearly knocked Portugal and Spain out of the 2018 group stage on matchday 3. In 2014, Costa Rica ended with seven points and topped its group, which included Uruguay, Italy, and England.
Then there’s the curse of losing in the group stage after winning. Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014, and Germany in 2016.These champions lost badly in the next tournament. France next?
Talent-wise, the Netherlands should win despite missing 2018. Second place is less clear. The World Cup hosts are successful. One host failed to advance past the group stage. 2010 South Africa even when Japan and South Korea hosted in 2002, both advanced. Qatar is a solid team that could win.
Ecuador and Senegal have talent. South America and Africa are tough qualifiers. Sadio Mané, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Ismala Sarr are among Europe’s active players.
American media call this the “Group of Death” based on FIFA rankings. This group may be the least prepared for the event.
England is the group’s and tournament’s favorite. Second place is uncertain. The USMNT and its fans think they’re the favorites to advance. Gareth Bale captained a Wales team that reached the Euro 2016 semifinals six years ago.
Iran pushed Portugal and Spain out of the group stage. Could England, the US, or Wales be next in 2022?
The 2021 Copa America was Lionel Messi’s first international trophy. He enters his final World Cup with Argentina’s greatest team. Argentina just made it out of the group stage in 2018, and its opponents are tough.
Mexico has reached the knockout stages in seven straight tournaments. Experience makes them a shoe-in. Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s top player. He aspires to lead Poland to the knockout stage for the first time since 1986. It adds pressure to Mexico’s and Poland’s openers.
Can France stop past champions from losing in the group stage? France isn’t too threatened by this. Talent and depth won the 2018 World Cup. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema joins them in 2022.
Denmark is strong. The Danes reached the Euro 2020 semifinals despite Christian Eriksen’s performance. His comeback could inspire others.
Tunisia and Australia have big talent gaps. This under-the-radar bunch is suited for an unexpected upset.
Champions Germany and Spain are part of this trend. Both hope to rebound after poor 2018 campaigns. It targets Costa Rica and Japan, which aren’t bad. Japan and Costa Rica tormented the USMNT in recent games.
Japan and Costa Rica may be outclassed by Germany and Spain. If Japan overcomes Germany or Costa Rica beats Spain, the group is wide open, with Germany and Spain meeting in matchday two.
This may be the toughest World Cup group prediction. Despite being ranked No. 41 by FIFA, Canada breezed through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Alphonso Davies could be a Canadian spark.
His team faces the second and third-place teams from four years ago. Croatia and Belgium came close in Russia. Both sides’ windows may be closing. That could spur success. Achraf Hakimi, Morocco’s fullback, is a star.
As expected, this group is focused on Brazil. Neymar and Vinicius Junior lead Brazil’s World Cup favorites. Serbia is fascinating.
Serbia topped their World Cup qualifying group with a late win in Portugal. This nearly wiped out Portugal. Serbia won UEFA Nations League B. Erling Haaland’s Norway, 2018 quarterfinalists Sweden, and Slovenia were in the group.
Serbia is a matchday three underdog to Switzerland for second place in that group.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s future with Portugal is less secure than Messi’s with Argentina. It’s likely his last tournament at 37. He’ll be the second-oldest World Cup outfielder in 2026. If Cristiano wants to play, few coaches will say no.
Uruguay beat Portugal in the round of 16 in 2018. Portugal’s lineup looks stronger on paper than Uruguay’s.
Group H is a balanced World Cup group. Son Heung-min leads South Korea’s good team. Ghana’s last two World Cup outings forced opponents to play well. Including 2010’s quarterfinals