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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Qatar 2022: The Main Contenders

Not long to wait now. One of the biggest sporting events on the planet will soon be upon us, as Qatar readies itself to play host to the first-ever winter World Cup.  

Kicking off on the 20th of November, and running through to the 18th of December, this month-long celebration of the beautiful game will once again dominate the sports news headlines and have fans flocking to sites such as, to assess the odds ahead of the action.

Of course, the question on the minds of many fans is, who will be getting their hands on that famous trophy? 32 nations will head to the Middle East with high hopes; some will simply be happy to be there, but for others, anything less than ultimate success may come as a disappointment. Here we take a look at how four of the main contenders for glory are shaping up.


With five previous wins, Brazil is the most successful nation in the history of the competition, and many fans and bookmakers rate the Selecao as the most to prevail once again in Qatar. It’s certainly not hard to see why Tite’s men have assumed favouritism. So overloaded with quality is the squad that one of the coach’s toughest tasks may come in deciding on whom to award a seat on the plane, and whom to leave at home.

Dominant in the notoriously tough South American qualifying section, and with talent right through the spine of the side, including the likes of Alisson, Marquinhos, Casemiro, Neymar and Vinicius Junior, it’s hard to see them not going well should all go to plan. A draw in Group G alongside, Serbia, Switzerland and Ghana is tricky but should be comfortably negotiable. Rather than the opposition, Brazil’s toughest task may be coping with the immense pressure. They last lifted this trophy back in 2002, and no side in the competition will arrive with so much expectation on their shoulders.


The strongest European challenge may well come from the defending champions France. Any side boasting forward line options such as Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele rates a major danger at a tournament such as this, with so many games likely to hinge on a moment of brilliance. The defence also looks in good shape, with Ferland Mendy, Raphael Varane, Jules Kunde and Benjamin Pavard forming a formidable back line.

The picture isn’t entirely rosy, however. Key midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté have both been struggling with fitness issues of late. And of course, it wouldn’t be France without a little off-the-field controversy heading into a major tournament – the latest issues surround Mbappé’s refusal to take part in sponsor activities, and Paul Pogba’s legal troubles with his brother. Recent form hasn’t been great either with just one win in their last five heading into the competition. Still, much of this squad knows what it takes to succeed, and a draw in Group D with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia should allow them to ease into the tournament.


Could this finally be the year for Lionel Messi? A seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, with more club titles than you can count, just about the only thing missing on his illustrious CV is a World Cup success. 35 years of age now, this may well represent his last chance.

Many neutrals would love to see the greatest player of the modern era – and possibly all time – lift the trophy, but do Argentina have what it takes to do it? They very well might. Lionel Scaloni’s men arrive at the tournament as the most in-form side in the global game, having now gone without defeat in their past 33 international fixtures. That sequence includes a win in last year’s Copa America Tournament – Argentina’s first international trophy of any description since back in 1993. Solid in defence and through the centre of midfield, and with a variety of attacking options in support of the mercurial Messi, it would be no surprise to see Argentina make a deep run.


Of the other European sides, Belgium have talent teaming through the squad but always seems to come up short, whilst Gareth Southgate’s England outfit appears to be in decline at just the wrong time. One side who does have the potential to go well, however – and is well fancied to do so in some quarters – is Luis Enrique’s young and improving Spanish team.

Looking more solid than is often the case at the back, La Roja would look to hold the edge over the majority of the sides in the competition in midfield, with the experience of Rodri and Sergio Busquets, providing an excellent balance to the youthful brilliance of Pedri and Gavi. Continuing to rely on Alvaro Morata as a lone frontman is not ideal in the eyes of some fans, but Spain does tend to spread the goals around and look set for a solid tournament.

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