There is no greater football prize than FIFA’s showpiece event which takes place in Qatar more than a year away.
With qualification yet to be completed — final draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup takes place on April 1, 2022 in Doha — no fewer than 11 teams from a possible 32 have so far booked their place including four ex-winners (Brazil, Germany, England, Spain) and the reigning champions France.
So, who are the early favourites as we look ahead to Qatar 2022 getting underway?
Sky Bet‘s top 10 2022 World Cup contenders
- Brazil – 11/2
- France – 6/2
- England – 7/1
- Spain – 8/1
- Argentina – 10/1
- Germany – 10/1
- Belgium – 11/1
- Italy – 12/1
- Netherlands – 16/1
- Portugal – 16/1
Odds correct at the time of writing. 18+ only. Be GambleAware.Org.
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2022 World Cup Favourites
Does a sixth title await the Little Canary?
Neymar was 10 when Brazil were last crowned world champions. Since that first Asia finals the five-time winners have played four consecutive tournaments with a 2014 semi-final at home being their best result. To say the beautiful game really matters in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and everywhere across that football-mad nation is an understatement. Following their quarter-final elimination in 2010 the hopes of millions have largely rested on Paris Saint-Germain’s number 10 shoulders. His performances have been modest: six goals and three assists from 10 appearances spanning two competitions.
Barring any unforeseen problems Neymar should be there in Qatar and there’s every chance he enters as his nations all-time leading scorer, overtaking the great Pele, though O Rei can point to his record three medals. And that’s what it all boils down to. Can this incarnation wearing yellow and green live up to what casuals — for better or worse — expect of a Brazilian team? Tite’s men qualified with games to spare meaning expectations that were already high only increased. More than ever the ghosts of 1970 and even 2002 linger over them. It will be curious to see if they can exercise those demons.
Can they repeat?
Here’s a neat factoid: Italy and Brazil are the only nations to win back-to-back World Cup finals. Italy’s success came in the 1930s while Brazil replicated their feat three decades later. Since then only Argentina (1990) and Brazil again (1998) had the opportunity to repeat while Netherlands and Germany, who denied Diego Maradona and company, reached successive finals. France were tipped by many to join that exclusive club four years after overcoming Mário Zagallos’ men but they never came anywhere close. It was a humbling group stage exit in 2002 and Didier Deschamps will be mindful when preparing this current Les Bleus team.
It hasn’t always been pretty under his leadership but the French can never be counted out. We saw that in October when they became the second-ever UEFA Nations League winners. Kylian Mbappe, Theo Hernández and Karim Benzema were responsible for all their goals as they put Belgium and then Spain away for the spoils. Given the strong competition they possess a squad deep in talent and capable of going real far, but it’s fair to say everything clicked in Russia, their big names — many of whom have been criticised — all turned up. Deschamps must recreate that harmonious spirit if they are to do something no one has managed in 60 years.
56 years of hurt to end?
Speaking of the Swinging Sixties, that decade remains England’s finest at international level. So much has been written about 1966 that it’s become an albatross around the Three Lion’s neck. At each tournament since that summer good teams have succumbed to the pressure of expectations. Until recently they were more in hope than anything, Gareth Southgate’s current side though are cut from an entirely different cloth.
There is a genuine argument they belong in the conversation and we can see that with Sky Bet having them down as 7/1 third favourites. At the last world championship England reached a first semi-final since 1990 but couldn’t get past Croatia, they’d go one better at Euro 2020 by reaching the final, only to lose on penalties against Italy with young stars Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missing from 12 yards.
The sadness felt of not winning a first trophy in over five decades has since fallen by the wayside as England qualified for Qatar 2022 with some ease. Poland really pushed them but they booked their place after winning eight fixtures and drawing the remaining two. Last time out they produced a 0-10 rout at lowly San Marino with Harry Kane registering back-to-back international hat-tricks.
Tottenham’s main man won the 2018 World Cup golden boot — becoming the first Englishman since Gary Lineker in 1986 to finish as finals top scorer — and he will be looking to add to his six goals. There are very few areas where England look vulnerable though Southgate is banking on recreating that spirit and togetherness which carried them four years ago.
Has time passed De Rode Duivels ‘golden generation’ by?
The 2000s was the height of ‘England Expects’ with Sven-Göran Eriksson’s men suffering back-to-back quarter-final eliminations. Consensus among observers was England boasted a ‘golden generation’ especially following the emergence of Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004. For one reason or another they couldn’t get it together and that group of players subsequently faltered on the biggest stage.
This same fate is slowly becoming a reality for Belgium who finished at the last World Cup with a bronze medal. Though it goes down as their best-ever finals performance you can’t help but feel it was a missed opportunity given the plethora of talent at Roberto Martínez’s disposal. Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku all came to party in Russia but each are four years old heading into Qatar 2022 meaning this could very well be this crop’s last chance of fulfilling their dream.
WC 🇧🇷 ✅
EC 🇫🇷 ✅
EC 🇪🇺 ✅
WC 🇶🇦 ✅ pic.twitter.com/1bHSRFYK6G
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) November 13, 2021
Old foes looking to make up for 2018
Right now Belgium sit outside the early strong favourites with former champions Germany, who crashed and burned in their defence four years ago, that should have sealed Joachim Löw’s fate but the long-serving Die Mannschaft’s coach was given a stay of execution though it lasted several years before former assistant Hansi Flick succeeded Löw after their meek Euro 2020 performance. Under him fortunes have changed: they’ve played seven matches (all WCQ) winning each while registering 31 goals and conceding just twice. Also sitting above the Belgians are former champions Spain, who have somewhat disappointed in their previous two appearances following their historic 2010 win, and beaten 2014 finalists Argentina who are all but qualified.
Below come a trio who have also yet to book their place in Qatar next winter. Italy and Portugal squandered top spot of their respective groups on the final matchday to Switzerland and Serbia meaning both will now enter the play-off round with consecutive World Cup final absences dangerously in the Azzurri’s future which is something that has never happened before. The same fate can yet befall the Netherlands, but they go into their final match against Norway at home knowing a win sees them sail through under Louis van Gaal’s leadership, the same man who guided Oranje to a third place finish in 2014. As for the Portuguese you have to go back to 1998 for the last time A Seleção stayed at home. A finals without Cristiano Ronaldo seems unthinkable.
Route to the final
Round of 16
1. 1A vs 2B, December 3 2022 (15:00, Al Rayyan)
2. 1C vs 2D, December 3 2022 (19:00, Al Rayyan)
3. 1D vs 2C, December 4 2022 (15:00, Doha)
4. 1B vs 2A, December 4 2022 (19:00, Al Khor)
5. 1E vs 2F, December 5 2022 (15:00, Al Wakrah)
6. 1G vs 2H, December 5 2022 (19:00, Doha)
7. 1F vs 2E, December 6 2022 (15:00, Al Rayyan)
8. 1H vs 2G, December 6 2022 (19:00, Lusail)
Q1. Winner 5 vs Winner 6, December 9 2022 (15:00, Al Rayyan)
Q2. Winner 1 vs Winner 2, December 9 2022 (19:00, Lusail)
Q3. Winner 7 vs Winner 8, December 10 2022 (15:00, Doha)
Q4. Winner 4 vs Winner 3, December 10 2022 (19:00, Al Khor)
S1. Winner Q2 vs Winner Q1, December 13 2022 (19:00, Lusail)
S2. Winner Q4 vs Winner Q3, December 14 2022 (19:00, Al Khor)
Third place match
Loser S1 vs Loser S2, December 17 2022 (15:00, Al Rayyan)
Winner S1 vs Winner S2, December 18 2022 (15:00, Lusail)