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2022 World Cup

(Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Who are the 2022 World Cup Favorites Following the Final International Break?

2022 World Cup
(Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Who are the 2022 World Cup Favorites Following the Final International Break?

With the conclusion of the final international break of 2022 this week, next up is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The world’s biggest event will kick off in 51 days on November 20. 

During this final international break, we learned a lot about the 32 teams competing in Qatar. Some teams stood out and impressed like Argentina and Brazil while teams such as the U.S. have a long way to go before heading off for the World Cup. 

The U.S. team struggled immensely, losing 2-0 to Japan and drawing 0-0 with Saudi Arabia. In both of those matches, the U.S. failed to score or even look threatening to score. In the match against Japan, all of us sitting at home had the same number of shots on target as the U.S. team did. 

Clearly, the U.S. is not going to have much optimism ahead of this year’s World Cup, but there are plenty of teams that can be considered favorites to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy in December. Here are the five teams that lead the chase for world gold. 

Brazil

There seems to be no team in the world with the attacking depth that Brazil holds. With an abundance of stars including PSG’s Neymar, Barcelona’s Raphinha, Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, and Tottenham’s Richarlison, Brazil’s attack is good enough to start on two separate teams. During the international break, Brazil beat fellow World Cup qualifiers Ghana 3-0 and Tunisia 5-1. 

The story in those matches was the attack with Richarlison scoring three goals, Raphinha scoring twice, and Neymar having one goal with two assists. The defense also impressed in the two matches, holding two of Africa’s best teams to just a single goal. There’s a strong back four that includes Chelsea’s Thiago Silva, PSG’s Marquinhos, and Sevilla’s Alex Telles in addition to the best goalkeeper duo in the world of Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson. It’s going to be a tough task scoring on this team. 

Brazil has the most well-rounded team in the world. They’ll look to take a step forward and win their sixth World Cup. The last time Brazil hoisted World Cup gold was in 2002 when the greatest, Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice to defeat Germany. It is hard to see any team compete with the talent and depth of this Brazilian team. They are the current betting favorite to win it all, according to Draft Kings.

Argentina

While Brazil was the last South American team to win the World Cup, the most recent team from South America to make a World Cup final was Argentina in 2014. The Argentina team this year looks entirely different with PSG star Lionel Messi leading a bunch of younger players. Among the new talents are Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martínez, Manchester City youngster Julián Álvarez, and Athletics Madrid midfielder Rodrigo De Paul. 

Any time Messi is on your team you have a good shot at winning. When you have Messi playing in the form he is as the best player in the world, you have an even greater shot. Since the beginning of the summer, Messi has scored 15 goals with 10 assists. He’s playing in the best form in the last few years. During the most recent international break, Messi scored twice in each match against Honduras and Jamaica, leading the Argentinian side to a pair of 3-0 victories.

Messi is a key part of this Argentina side that has gone unbeaten in 35 straight matches. Two more matches without losing would have Argentina tie Italy for the longest unbeaten streak in world soccer history at 37 matches. In a group of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland, it should be a record-breaking World Cup for Argentina. But the record is not that important for the team that has its eyes set on winning their third World Cup. A World Cup win would all but solidify Messi’s status as the GOAT of recent history. 

France 

The defending champions have the potential to repeat as the third team to do so following Italy in 1934 and 1938, and Brazil in 1958 and 1962. With much of the same team as four years ago, France has only gotten better and more experienced since their triumph in 2018. The biggest improvement for the French team since the last World Cup is the return of Karim Benzema. Benzema seems to be in the best form of his career, having carried Real Madrid to the Champions League title last season. Benzema is the clear favorite to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player.

As good as France has been in recent years, they faltered in the 2020 European Championships. They went out in the round of 16 against Switzerland on penalties. The Euro performance was less than ideal, but France has the potential to run it back in the World Cup. During the international break, they played Austria and Denmark, a team in France’s group in Qatar. France rode goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud to a 2-0 win against Austria. The French team floundered against Denmark, losing 2-0. Giroud’s goal vs Austria was his 49th in a France shirt. He is trailing only Thierry Henry by two goals for the most all-time for the French National Team.

Behind an attacking core of Mbappé, Giroud, Benzema, and Antoine Griezmann, France looks dangerous. The questions for them come on the injury side, as they had over a dozen players missing this break due to injuries. Depending on who returns to health, France will have a potent team that could very easily repeat as champions. They have goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, and defender Lucas Hernandez. They all hope to return for the trip to Qatar.

Spain

The international break for Spain saw them lose 2-1 against Switzerland. Then, they beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal 1-0 in their second match. A late goal from Alvaro Morata secured the win over Portugal. Expect Morata to be Spain’s main target at the World Cup with Marco Asensio storming down the field alongside him.

Spain has a relatively young team, but that does not mean they are lacking experience. Among the 25 players called up for the latest international break, only six players have less than 10 appearances for their nation. Four of them were called up for the first time. Their veteran leadership will come from captain Sergio Busquets and defender Jordi Alba. They have a combined 225 appearances for Spain.

After a second-round knockout in the 2018 World Cup, Spain surprised people. They made it to the 2020 Euro semifinal before losing to eventual winners Italy. Their Euro performance has shown that the young generation of players can compete at the highest level with success. Spain has only made one World Cup Final. They won it all in 2010 during their six-year dominance of the soccer world.

England

England finally showed a spark in a 3-3 draw with Germany during the international break. They went scoreless in three straight and scoreless from open play in their last five matches with the only goal being a penalty against Germany in June. If the England team that showed up in the most recent Germany match shows up in Qatar, it could be trouble for the other 31 teams. Harry Kane is still one of the best goalscorers in the world. He now needs just two goals to tie Wayne Rooney as The Three Lions’ all-time leading goalscorer with 53 goals.

That feat will likely be reached in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup. England has a relatively easier group with Iran, Wales, and the U.S. filling it up. Kane scored once against Germany, but the attack as a whole looked non-existent in the first match of the international break against Italy. They lacked that finishing touch in the 1-0 loss while outshooting Italy 4-3 in shots on target. When it gets to the World Cup manager, Gareth Southgate will need to call up Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. They are two of England’s most dangerous and creative attacking options.

There is no lack of depth for this England squad, but that may be an issue as it is too difficult to get a perfect starting 11. The hope for England is to return to the World Cup glory of 1966. They have been slowly moving their way to that since the 2018 World Cup where they went out in the semifinal. The last major tournament for England was the 2020 Euros. They made it all the way to the final before losing to Italy on penalties. Anything less than becoming World Cup champions is a disappointment for one of the best English teams we have seen this century.

***

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