Brig’s sports writers have studied the draw, teams and players involved in Qatar to give you their predictions ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
John Turnbull: Argentina. For a nation to prevail, blistering temperatures might require a team more acclimatised to conditions. The South Americans can also rely on a stacked squad and capitalise on the five substitutions available. Qatar will witness a win for the Lionel’s as Scaloni guides Messi to the perfect ending.
Andrew Robson: Brazil. In my eyes, there are three clear favourites, Brazil, France, and Argentina. However, given the inevitable French World Cup implosion and a gut feeling that Argentina will crumble against their first tricky opponent, I have gone for Brazil. This is the most balanced squad they have taken to the tournament for years, and with Neymar back to his best, Brazil could go all the way.
Nathan Hassett: Argentina. We saw in the Euros that the momentum of a long unbeaten run benefitted Italy tremendously. Argentina head to Qatar unbeaten in 35 games, picking up a Copa America on the way. With confidence, and a determination to win the World Cup for Messi, they have every chance.
Ethan Gregg: Argentina. Messi looks back to his best this season at PSG. Defensively they have been much more solid than in recent years and defeated Italy in the Finalissima. If the draw goes in their favour, they should at least make the semi-finals before facing another tournament favourite.
Callum Rattray: Brazil. The six-time winners stand out as the competition’s strongest side, with an embarrassment of attacking options to choose from, with one of the most solid midfields and an experienced defensive core to suit.
John Turnbull: Denmark. Perhaps not, given they are ranked 10th by FIFA and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020. However, Christian Eriksen could lead the Danes to the top of Group D, land on the more straightforward side of the draw, and go as far as the final.
Andrew Robson: Denmark. I want to say the Netherlands but picking such an established footballing nation as a dark horse feels like cheating. The Danes were extremely unlucky to lose to England in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, and are in good form ahead of Qatar. They play as a team and could cause a few upsets in the desert.
Nathan Hassett: Serbia. With Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahović, Serbia can disrupt any defence in the tournament. Whilst Brazil will probably top group G, Serbia would likely play Portugal, a team they beat in qualifying, then Spain, not on par with their success in the early 2010s, giving Serbia a great opportunity for a deep run.
Ethan Gregg: Spain. I am a really big fan of some of the players Enrique has included. Yeremy Pino and Pedri are some of the most exciting young players in the tournament. If they finish second behind Germany, they could be fighting into the semi-finals.
Callum Rattray: Uruguay. Continuing with the South American theme is the 2010 semi-finalists. With experienced strike duo Cavani and Suarez complimenting the maverick Darwin Núñez – a dark horse for the Golden Boot – Uruguay has the strike power to build upon their renowned defensive ability. With one of the world’s best midfielders in Federico Valverde, Diego Alonso’s side will fancy their chances of making a late run.
John Turnbull: Harry Kane. Group stage goals are vital, and despite Gareth Southgate’s conservative approach, the Tottenham striker could get off to a flyer. Kane scored in his last two Premier League games before jetting off to Qatar and has his sights set on England’s all-time record.
Andrew Robson: Neymar. This Brazil team certainly have goals in them. Add the fact that Neymar takes penalties, and the PSG star will be a hot favourite for the golden boot.
Nathan Hassett: Lionel Messi. Is this too obvious? The greatest player of all time playing for my favourites to win the tournament? This winter feels like it is Lionel Messi’s moment after finally winning an international tournament with Copa America success last year. He is the star of this tournament, and I expect him to dominate it.
Ethan Gregg: Kylian Mbappe. It is hard to look past him with the group France has. Only once since the 1978 World Cup has the Golden Boot Winner scored more than six goals to claim the award. I can see the PSG forward scoring at least four in the Group Stages, ahead of a likely knockout tie against Poland or Mexico.
Callum Rattray: Neymar. With 75 goals in his 121 Brazil caps to date, the Brazil talisman is just two goals away from equalling Pele’s record – extra incentive for him to score in Qatar. Crucially, Neymar will also be on penalties and always seems to raise his game for Brazil.
John Turnbull: Christian Eriksen. Five of the last six winners were beaten finalists with their nation, and therefore a player from the weaker half of the draw could claim the award. Eriksen has found another new level at Manchester United this season and would be a fitting winner.
Andrew Robson: Lionel Messi. Much like in 2018 and 2014 I feel this will go to the wrong person. Modric won in 2018 with a few eye-catching displays despite being far from the best player in the tournament. With this being his last World Cup, one Messi masterclass is all it will take for the Argentine to take home the award.
Nathan Hassett: Lionel Messi. The star player for my tournament winners. It is self-explanatory really, but with a vast amount of attacking talent surrounding him, Messi should influence enough games to secure the player of the tournament.
Ethan Gregg: Lionel Messi. It would be hard to vote against the man who stands among the greatest to have ever played the game. He is likely to be high in the scoring and assisting charts, along with the romantic element of the occasion, which means that it would have to be Messi who claims the award.
Callum Rattray: Lionel Messi. Many neutrals will hope to see Messi finally raise the World Cup in what will likely be the 35-year-old’s final tournament as he looks to embed himself as the undisputed best of all time. The PSG forward has hit form at the best possible time, scoring 12 and assisting 14 in 18 games this season. All eyes will be on the diminutive superstar as he looks to bag his second Golden Ball.
John Turnbull: France. Les Bleus look like the kind of squad that could win or go home early. Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante are considerable omissions from the midfield which dominated Russia in 2018. Group position will prove crucial for Deschamps’ side, but should they finish second, won’t have the togetherness to battle past a run of tournament favourites.
Andrew Robson: England. Group B is the hardest on paper, with all four sides in the top 20 of the FIFA rankings. A defeat in the quarters should not feel like a disappointment, but given the expectations, it could signal Southgate’s departure.
Nathan Hassett: Portugal. There is an argument to suggest they have the deepest squad of talent going into the World Cup, but that talent is built around a man playing the worst football of his legendary career. Ronaldo seems undroppable, and the overwhelming attention that his performances will receive may prove too distracting for the team to succeed.
Ethan Gregg: Belgium. I would like to pick England, but Belgium will fall harder. Their golden generation looks finished, and their defence is ageing terribly. De Bruyne is a standout player, but Lukaku’s injury-hit spell at Inter makes it difficult to see how they can consistently link. It won’t be an easy group, and they will likely fall in the last 16 to Germany or Spain. Youngsters Doku and Openda may be the only source of excitement for the Red Devils.
Callum Rattray: France. Didier Deschamps arguably has the strongest selection of players to choose from. However, recent results have been poor. Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema has had a tumultuous relationship with France, and Mbappe’s ego could be detrimental, whilst quiet talisman Kante is missing. France should get out of their group but could then face Argentina or Mexico, and an early exit would be disappointing given their star-studded pool of talent.
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