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Vendetta 2022 FIFA World Cup Roundtable

2022 FIFA World Cup
DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 17: A sculpture of the FIFA World Cup trophy stands outside Lusail Stadium, which will host the final during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, on November 17, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Fu Tian/China News Service via Getty Images)

Vendetta 2022 FIFA World Cup Roundtable

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just days away and that gave Vendetta Sports Media’s soccer experts Jerry Walker, Alex Chick, Garrett Burroughs, and Jarrod Prosser time to get their predictions for the action in Qatar.  

It has been a four-year wait since France lifted the World Cup trophy in 2018 as champions. Now the World’s biggest sporting event is about to get underway on Sunday, Nov. 20, and will go for four weeks with the 2022 World Cup Final being on Dec. 18.

Without further ado, here are the Vendetta Sports Media 2022 World Cup predictions. 

Who Wins the World Cup?

Jerry: After winning four straight World Cups, Europe’s dominance will come to an end. And it will be at the hands (or maybe feet) of Argentina. Winning the 2022 World Cup would be the first time Argentina has won a World Cup since 1986.

While Brazil may have the deepest team, Argentina finally has the pieces that are needed to give serious support to Lionel Messi. They also now know what winning a major tournament feels like after winning the 2021 Copa America. 

Sometimes it is not the best team to win a major tournament, but the hottest team. Argentina is one of the best teams at the 2022 World Cup, but they are also by far the hottest. Argentina is two matches away from tying Italy with a 37-match unbeaten streak and that is great news for Argentina. Over their long streak they have beaten some of the big dogs, but none bigger than handing Brazil their only loss since the start of 2020. 

Garrett: Argentina wins the World Cup this year. This might be the greatest supporting cast Messi has ever played with internationally, and with his form as of late, I don’t think there is a better team in the world right now than Argentina.

Alex: This is the Messi Fanboy in me but we’re going with Argentina. This might be Messi’s last cup and this is one of the best Argentina has ever been, it’s time for Messi to cement himself in the GOAT conversation for good.

Jarrod: Depending on where you look, they’re the bookies’ favourites, so this answer is perhaps a touch boring, but I think Brazil will claim their first World Cup finals win since 2002.

As is customary, the Brazilian squad is chock-full of world-class attacking talent: Neymar, Rodrygo, Richarlison, Vini Jr, Raphinha, Martinelli. Just who do you leave out here? In addition, they’re in possession of some fantastic midfielders in Fabinho, Casemiro, Lucas Paquetá, and Bruno Guimarães.

Defensively, the Brazilians are stacked. Danilo, Alex Telles, Marquinhos, the ageless pair of Thiago Silva and Dani Alves. It’s almost comical that this side will be backstopped by either Ederson or Alisson, both amongst the best handful of keepers in world football.

Crucially, they also have Tite. The boss is a charismatic figure who can be almost evangelical in his speech. He straddles the line between motivator, tactician, and disciplinarian perfectly. The World Cup finals will be his final act as the Selecao coach – he’ll want to come away holding the trophy aloft.

Who are going to be the Semifinalists?

Jerry: Along with Argentina, I think their South American nemesis Brazil will make the semi-final on that side of the bracket. Brazil is the deepest team in the tournament and it is a bummer that this will not be the final. 

On the other side of the bracket, I see England advancing to their second straight World Cup semifinal. In the 2022 FIFA World Cup semifinal they will be playing Belgium. England is finding their groove at international tournaments having made the 2018 World Cup semifinal and the 2020 European Championships final. The “Red Devils” will be looking to make a splash in what could be the final World Cup of their golden generation. 

Garrett: The Semi-Finalists are Argentina/Brazil and England/Belgium

Alex: Argentina, Germany, Belgium, France. I fully believe it’s Argentina’s year (Messi’s really). Death, Taxes, and Germany making a deep run in the World Cup. Expect them to be in the semi-finals. Belgium is old but the bracket can work out quite favorably for them, more on that later. I’d kick myself if I didn’t pick France to make the semi-finals despite injuries. They’re way too talented for me to just not pick them. Sorry Jerry Walker but I can’t pick England over France to go to the semi-finals. But I hope England does well for you.

Jarrod: Joining Brazil in the final four will be England, who are establishing themselves as a very professional tournament team, even if they’re a relative outsider to win it all, and Argentina.

There is always a bolter that makes the semi finals. This time around, I’ll go for Serbia (more on them later) as my last semi finalist, beating Belgium on penalties in the quarters.

Who is going to be the Golden Ball winner for the best player?

Jerry: The last time that a player won the FIFA Golden Ball and the World Cup was in 1994 when Romário won both with Brazil. That will change this year when Lionel Messi wins his second FIFA Golden Ball. If Argentina is going to end European dominance then Messi will have to play in his best World Cup. 

Messi has been the leader of Argentina over their historic unbeaten streak and will continue to be so at the 2022 World Cup. There is not much that Messi cannot do on the pitch. Between his incomparable skill and knack to find the back of the net, Messi is still the best player on the planet. 

For PSG this season Messi has looked incredible. In 19 matches, he has an impressive 12 goals and 14 assists. These numbers go slightly under-appreciated because of how good Messi was at Barcelona.

Garrett: Is it a cop-out to take Messi for the Golden Ball? No? Deal, I am taking Messi.

Alex: The GOAT: MESSI. I pray to God Messi wins this but he’s the best player ever to me and the best player in the tournament. In what could be his last World Cup, get ready for Messi to prove why he’s the GOAT.

Jarrod: On the assumption that Brazil wins the whole box and dice, it will probably be a Brazilian that takes home the Golden Ball (yeah, yeah, I know the Golden Ball almost never goes to a player from the winning team). Whilst it’ll probably be Neymar (because…umm…name recognition or something?) I think that a more deserving winner will be Vinicius Jr.

The winner of the Golden Ball generally goes to an established veteran star. At just 22 years of age, Vini is no veteran. He is, though, an established star of world football, breaking through to become a key player at Real Madrid last season.

His style of play lends itself to winning this award. Nominally a left winger, Vini can play anywhere along the attacking line, including the #10 role. His electric pace, dazzling dribbles and powerful shooting should see him both create and finish chances for Brazil.

He’s certainly not the favourite, but I think that should Brazil win, Vini Jr will win – by a hair over Lautaro Martínez. Which is a seamless segue to…

Who is going to be the Golden Boot winner for the top goalscorer?

Jerry: The highest-scoring player in a World Cup has always gotten off to a hot start in the group stage. In 1958, Just Fontaine scored seven goals in the group stage for France on his way to 13 goals (the record for most goals in a World Cup). And when Gerd Müller scored 10 goals at the 1970 World Cup he too scored seven times in the group. This tells me that the player with the weakest group will likely win the FIFA Golden Boot.

With that being said, I like Karim Benzema to have a big group stage in his return to the World Cup and win the Golden Boot. Benzema has gone through some injury issues this season but is still one of the best strikers in the world. His great 2021-22 season helped Real Madrid win both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. It resulted in him being named the Ballon d’Or winner.

France’s group at the 2022 FIFA World Cup includes Denmark, Australia, and Tunisia. On paper, France should win this group even though I think Denmark will give them a hell of a challenge. Australia and Tunisia are not as good as they have been in the past especially defensively so keep an eye out for Benzema scoring multiple goals in both of these matches.

Garrett: Golden Boot goes to Harry Kane. I wanted to go with Kylian Mbappé but I have France going out in the Round of 16, so I don’t think his life in the World Cup will be long enough to be in contention.

Alex: Mbappé. The man just scores goals. With injuries for France, there is more pressure for Mbappé to score for France. Watch out.

Jarrod: …Lautaro Martínez. The Inter Milan forward is just entering his prime and is as prolific as they come.

In tournament play, generally speaking, teams tend to be a little more circumspect in their play, knowing how much the cheap concession of a goal could cost them. In those situations, taking your chances as a forward becomes imperative and Martinez is one of the most clinical finishers in world football.

Quite rightly, there will be plenty of attention afforded to Lionel Messi who is playing in his final major tournament. I think that Martinez could be the primary beneficiary of all those eyeballs watching Argentina’s little master.

Martinez will find pockets of space and thrive in the shadows created by Messi’s towering presence, scoring 7 goals as Argentina make the semi finals.

Who is going to be the Golden Glove winner for the best goalkeeper?

Jerry: This may be somewhat of a longshot solely because he may not end up starting, but my pick for the FIFA Golden Glove is German keeper Manuel Neuer. I would assume that Neuer will be the first-choice keeper for “Die Mannschaft” for the fourth straight World Cup, over Marc-André ter Stegen. If he does then expect a lot of saves from the 2014 Golden Glove winner. 

Germany does not have nearly as good of a defense in tournaments past and that will result in a lot of shots against Neuer. Neuer is still one of the top goalkeepers in Europe and is more than capable of stopping nearly every shot he faces.

Garrett: I think this award just might go to Yann Sommer of Switzerland. I have the Swiss team in the Quarterfinals of the World Cup this year, and I believe they will be spearheaded by a breakout performance by Sommer.

Alex: Thibaut Courtois. This man has been on fire as of late, he’s playing to the best of his ability and that’s only going to show as he can help Belgium make a deep run in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Jarrod: As a former goalkeeper, I’m here to tell you this: if your team is dominant, your keeper isn’t going to shine.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the keeper is twiddling his thumbs. They’re still organising the defense in front of them, playing the ball with their feet and always ready to spring out and play the sweeper role.

Whilst coaches are thrilled with that sort of stuff, it doesn’t win you a Golden Gloves award. For that, you need to be peppered with shots, repelling them away with metronomic regularity, mixed with a dancer’s agility.

For this award, I’m looking for a keeper who will play for a team that will concede some ground, allow it’s fair share of chances, but is also good enough to make it to – at worst – the last eight of the tournament.

That gives us a few options: England’s Jordan Pickford; Belgian Thibaut Courtois (looking to be the first gloveman to retain the award); Kasper Schmeichel of Denmark to name but a few.

I’m going for a genuine outsider, however: Vanja Milinković-Savić.

The 6’9” giant has played some superb football over the past couple of seasons after finally establishing himself as the first choice keeper at Torino. Given his height, he’s a keeper that controls the airways but is also one of the few genuinely huge keepers who can get down to cover a low drive comfortably.

On a team that will attack and has a somewhat ropey defense, the younger Milinković-Savić brother will get his chance to make his name.

Who is going to be the Young Player Award winner?

Jerry: For me, there are two players that I can see winning this award. Those are Brazil’s Vinícius Júnior and England’s Jude Bellingham. While these may be kind of obvious picks, both players are more than capable of thriving at the 2022 World Cup. 

Vinícius Júnior is already one of the best young players in the world and has become a star for Real Madrid. For the reigning European Champions, he has been impressive this season having scored 10 goals and five assists in 21 matches across all competitions. Vinícius has become the perfect second piece beside Karim Benzema for Real Madrid and I can see him doing something similar alongside Neymar. 

At 19 years old, Bellingham has already established himself as the England midfielder of the future. For Borussia Dortmund, the rise of Bellingham is already paying off as the midfielder has been linked to numerous transfer rumors. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup ending less than a month before the January transfer market opens, I would expect Bellingham to play out of his mind at his first World Cup and get a big payday in the transfer window. 

Garrett: Jude Bellingham is the next big thing for not only England but soccer as a whole. The Borussia Dortmund Midfielder is only 19 years old but has two years experience already playing with the national team. Besides, how can you vote against a kid who has his jersey retired by his former club AT 19 YEARS OLD?

Alex: Mbappe duh. One of the best players on the planet and he’s young, no question. Basic answer I know.

Jarrod: Disclaimer: If Vini Jr (see above) doesn’t take home the Golden Ball, he’ll surely win this one.

A coin flip, here.

In a race between a pair of German based youngsters, I’ll go for England and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham by the hair on a bee’s dick over Germany and Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala.

Despite his tender age, Bellingham – who won’t turn 20 until after the current season – is already established as the midfield motor for both club and country. There is a maturity to Bellingham’s play that is almost unfair.

A teenager with Bellingham’s ability to beat people off the dribble generally does it for the sake of it. Bellingham, though, always has his next move in mind and it’s almost always the right move. A simple one-two or a dribble to create space for a teammate to run into. He’s an impressive player.

With my prediction of England making the semi final, Bellingham will play every match and get to genuinely shine on a world stage for the first time.

Dark Horse?

Jerry: There are three or four teams that I think can surprise people at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but the one I am going to go with is Morocco.

Four years ago Morocco may have finished bottom of the group at the 2018 World Cup, but they were much closer to getting out of the group than it seemed. Drawn with Portugal, Spain, and Iran, “The Atlas Lions” lost to Iran with a 95th-minute own goal and drew 2-2 with Spain in an extremely controversial finish. The equalizing goal for Spain came in the 91st minute after VAR overturned an offside call to count the goal. In response, Moroccan player Nordin Amrabat made his thoughts on VAR clear by saying, “VAR is bull***t.”

Morocco was unlucky at the 2018 World Cup but has a similar style of group with two big names. With the likes of Achraf Hakimi in defense and Hakim Ziyech in attack, Morocco is more than capable of getting out of the group and upsetting either Germany or Spain in the Round of 16.

Garrett: My Dark Horse team is this Switzerland team. They have the experience on the big stage, even defeating France in the Euros in 2020. In the last 4 European and global tournaments, they have reached the last 16 every time. As mentioned before, if they can get great goalkeeper play from Sommer, they might just surprise some folks.

Alex: Belgium. They are old but things could be very favorable for them if they win their group. Facing a possible young Spain team if Spain is 2nd in group E. Having my prediction for the Golden Glove winner in the net, they should win that matchup. After the round of 16, they should be playing the winner of a Serbia/Portugal matchup, neither stacking up to Belgium’s talent. If they get out of the quarterfinals, they most likely play an injury-riddled France or an England team that is known to choke in big moments. Belgium might get a really good draw after the group stage. Being that this might very well be the last World Cup for an old Belgium squad, they might have the experience and the determination to surprise people. This is a very dark horse though.

Jarrod: Well, I’ve already alluded to it all through this round table, so let’s cut to the chase: Serbia is my dark horse.

This Serbian side are the embodiment of their manager, the legendary and fearless Dragan Stoijkovic. They’re a team that will attack with almost reckless abandon and in a tournament setting that can take people by surprise.

Up front they’ve got some serious talent in Dušan Vlahović, Luka Jović and Aleksandar Mitrović (playing career best football) with the languid veteran Dušan Tadić – Serbia’s best #10 since the manager last laced them up – teeing them up.

Behind them is the long-limbed playmaker Sergej Milinković-Savić who makes the squad after racing to recover from injury and Nemanja Gudelj who form a strong partnership.

Defensively, the Serbs will play rather gun-ho. Filip Kostić will bomb up and down the left flank, swinging in crosses to his hearts content. Strahinja Pavlović is almost David Luiz-esque in his ability to swing from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, though he can play a killer pass. Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenković is the rock that the team will rely upon at the back. Behind him will be Vanja Milinković-Savić, who will be tasked with keeping better teams at bay long enough for his attack minded teammates to do their thing. 

They’re in a tough group, but I think they can take 2nd place and then take some scalps in the knockout rounds.

Which team will disappoint?

Jerry: The team that will be a major disappointment comes at the expense of Morocco, and that team is Croatia. The 2018 World Cup runners-up have lost some key players since then, especially in the attack with Mario Mandžukić retiring from international play. The key players who are still around are at the end of their careers with Luka Modrić being 37 years old and Ivan Perišić being 33.

Croatia expects to get out of Group F with Belgium, and ahead of Morocco and Canada. However, I think their age will show and Croatia will not be able to control the tempo of play as they did in 2018.

Garrett: France will be the biggest disappointment in this World Cup. I only vote for them because of how riddled they are with injuries. They still have a great supporting cast, but they simply cannot afford another injury.

Alex: The United States. I hate to say it, but until they prove otherwise, they have been known to disappoint in the World Cup. While this USA team is getting more talented, they’re extremely young and inexperienced. I like them a lot more 4 years when the US is the host nation, but USA could lay an egg in their group. Still, I picked them to make it to round of 16 but wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen.

Jarrod: It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good ol’ fashioned Gallic meltdown, isn’t it?

In the six World Cups held since France’s breakthrough victory on home turf in 1998, the current holders have made a pair of finals and suffered an honorable loss to in the 2014 quarter finals to eventual winners, Germany.

Their other campaigns, though, have been disastrous.

In 2010, the team quite literally quit on then coach Raymond Domenech after six months of conflict leading up to the cup. The last time the French defended their world championship, they were sent packing in the group stages, failing to find the net in any of their three games.

This time around? Well, there’s some issues.

Paul Pogba will miss the tournament with injury. Hugo Lloris looks well past his best, as does N’Golo Kante. Injuries have cruelled Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembélé. Benjamin Mendy is fighting rape charges.

Their key man, Kylian Mbappe, has transitioned from carefree, captivating talent, to demanding and egotistical mega star. A little bit like Nicolas Anelka in 2010, isn’t it?

I predict France to fall flat on their faces in Qatar and then blame literally everybody but themselves.

How will your team do?

Jerry: I have high expectations for England, yet know that they could go out in the group stage at the same time. I do think that England will win the group and help knock the United States out of the 2022 World Cup. If Gareth Southgate can get the defense organized and back on the same page, with the talent up front “The Three Lions” could find themselves in the semifinal if not one step further. 

Garrett: How my team will do and my bold prediction go hand in hand. I have the USA in the Quarter-Finals, defeating Senegal in a stunner in the Round of 16. I also think if they get hot, they can give Argentina fits. I will take Argentina over the US 2-1 in extra time.

Alex: I kind have touched on it already but the US will have a ceiling of the round of 16, or disappointing by not making it out of the group.

Jarrod: Australia are a brave team, though low on both technical ability and tactical acumen (I’m no fan of manager Graham Arnold).

That said, for my France prediction to come to fruition, the Socceroos will need to get a result from their opening game against the French. I’ll go for a 2-2 here with at least one Lloris clusterfuck.

We’ll eke out a tight 1-0 against Tunisia before getting a bare-bottomed spanking from the Danes. Fortunately, Tunisia will crush a French side in revolt and we’ll progress to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2006, where we’ll be roundly outclassed by Argentina.

Boldest prediction?

Jerry: 2022 FIFA World Cup officials in Qatar will try to have at least one player removed from the country due to speaking out about the issues surrounding the host nation. FIFA has tried to make sure that when the tournament begins all talk is about what is happening on the pitch. But, in an era of social awareness, there are bound to be players, teams, and fans who protest something one way or another. This will annoy Qatari officials who are rumored to be paying fan groups to post good things about the 2022 FIFA World Cup host nation.

Garrett: (See How will your team do? section)

Alex: Portugal doesn’t make it to round of 16. Cristiano Ronaldo has been having many problems with Man Utd and we can’t act like some of that won’t translate to the group stage in the World Cup. This Portugal team is not talented enough to overcome anything if CR7 is not at his absolute best. The group that Portugal is in isn’t strong but they might catch Portugal slipping if they’re not careful. (I still picked Portugal to win the group, I can just see this happening.)

Jarrod: Our man Jerry Walker is heading over to Qatar to carry the Vendetta flag. After reading this article, I’m not entirely sure that Jerry’s ever coming home. Hope you enjoy those Qatari jails, mate!!!

***

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