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Who are the top candidates to win 2022 FIFA WC?

Who are the legit Top candidates to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

November 14, 2022 By Michelle Bonsu
32 teams will be taking part at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but only a few realistically have a shot. Who are the serious contenders, and who could emerge as potential dark horses?

With the World Cup fast approaching, fans will be looking forward to see who ultimately will be crowned the latest world champion at the 22nd edition of the quadrennial competition.

Here are some of the teams hoping to get their hands on the coveted prize this December. We have broken them into three categories: Contenders, Dark Horses, and Wishful Thinkers.

Let's have a look at which teams fall in which categories.

Contenders

France

France come into this as reigning champs, and will be hoping to become only the third side in history to win back to back titles. Of course, Les Bleus will also hope to avoid the so-called "Winner's Curse" that has plagued teams like Italy, Spain, and Germany. In the cases of gli Azzurri, die Mannschaft, and La Furia Roja, all three teams won the World Cup (in 2006, 2010, and 2014 respectively), only to be humiliatingly eliminated in the group stages four years later.

So will France avoid that same fate? Only time will tell, but there are already concerns from some quarters, especially considering they are missing key players from the 2018 edition such as N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, who formed the heart of the midfield. Moreover, France's performance in their recent Nations League tournament, in which they barely escaped a humiliating relegation by one point leaves much to be desired. That being said, with a front duo led by Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, Les Bleus certainly are a major threat and deservedly should be included among the contenders for the trophy.

Argentina

Fresh off winning the Copa America in 2021, Argentina have been in excellent form. Indeed, that win last year helped add more mileage to an unbeaten run stretching back to 2019. Lionel Messi has been back to his very best after a disappointing first season at PSG (by his lofty standards), and his team will come into this competition unbeaten in their last 35 matches. That is certainly nothing to scoff at, and they certainly are on course to snap Italy's 37 match unbeaten run at this year's competition.

Furthermore, with this being Messi's last World Cup, the 35-year-old will be giving it his all in his quest to win the one title that has eluded him, and his teammates will be willing to do likewise in order to make it a reality. After narrowly missing out in 2014, and falling short in 2018, this really looks to be the time to make it happen. However, will Argentina's dreams become a reality, or will it again end in tears?

Brazil

Simply put, Brazil are always heavy favorites at a World Cup. After all, they have won five titles, and are just one of two teams to have won back to back trophies. That being said, the South American giants have not always met expectations - one only has to go back to 2014, when they were utterly humiliated on home soil by eventual winners Germany.

Tite's squad is stocked with talent - so much so that Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino failed to make the cut - but the question remains as to whether they will able to make it count this year in Qatar. The team have looked very promising, with star man Neymar returning to form at just the right time, but they have been placed in a quartet that may be a lot trickier than one would think at first glance. Fans, and probably quite a few neutrals, would be salivating over the prospect of a Brazil vs. Argentina final which would pit the 

England

Can England finally bring it home? The Three Lions finished fourth four years ago, which is their best result in some time, but it will come as little consolation as they were painfully close to appearing in their first World Cup final in decades. Croatia blocked them from achieving that, and last year, England experienced more frustration as they were beaten via penalties during EURO 2020 by Italy.

Italy won't be featuring here, so there will be no hypothetical chance for Harry Kane and his colleagues to get revenge on the Azzurri for that loss, but it's possible they may face a re-match with Croatia. In any case, England's fans did get to see it come home in some ways with the women's side winning the women's EURO 2021 competition, but they will be really hoping that the Three Lions will be able to do one better than four years ago and finally end their wait for a second World Cup title.

Spain

After winning three major titles from 2008 to 2012, Spain hit a rough patch, as La Furia Roja were dumped out early at the 2014 World Cup. However, La Furia Roja have seen a revival in recent years, and will be determined to show that their downturn in form was just a minor blip. They performed quite well at last year's EURO tournament, despite losing to eventual finalists Italy, and with youngsters like the highly rated Pedri in their ranks, there are high expectations of Luis Enrique's side in Qatar.

Spain are expected to fight with Germany to secure top spot in their group, and as we all know, a top seed usually guarantees a more "favorable" pick in the round of 16. 

Germany

Another giant who hit a rough patch, Germany will look to put the disaster of 2018 firmly behind them. Die Mannschaft are now under the tutelage of Hansi Flick, who led Bayern to an unprecedented sextuple during the 2019/2020 season, and while many of the core players still remain, the team now has a new crop of younger talents eager to make their marks in Qatar. They are expected to battle with Spain for top spot in their quartet, and given that they have won four World Cups so far - only bettered by Brazil's five - Germany certainly are always a serious contender for the title in this competition.

Dark Horses

Portugal

Back in 2016, Portugal showed that they are not a team to be underestimated as they went on to win EURO 2016. While their record at World Cups isn't the strongest, they do have a very talented squad, with names like Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes among the stars plying their trades in Europe's "Big Five" leagues. And of course, they also have none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who will look to put his personal frustrations with his club behind him to lead his side at what could be his last World Cup.

Despite his advancing years, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner still has what it takes to be a key protagonist. In any case, Portugal did have to book their spot here the hard way after Serbia shocked them and earned an automatic berth, but showed through their two phase qualifiers that they are not totally dependent on their superstar captain - which could certainly help them at this event.

Serbia

Serbia might be a newer face at World Cups since becoming an independent nation, but they boast a very impressive squad, with the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Filip Kostic making up the 26-man delegation heading to Qatar. More significant is the fact that Serbia topped their quartet, beating Portugal 2-1 to earn an automatic ticket, and during the UEFA Nations League, finished top of their group in League B - ahead of teams like Norway and Sweden.

In addition, Serbia come into this match with a solid streak, having lost just twice in their last 15 games, and will be determined to show that their recent success is a sign of something bigger. If all of their big players can click and kick into the right gear, they just may turn out to be this year's surprise candidates.

Netherlands

The Netherlands have been to three World Cup finals, but each time, it was not to be for the Oranje. Their most recent appearance at that juncture was back in 2010, when they were beaten by Spain, and now, after failing to make the cut in 2018, Louis van Gaal's team will naturally look to make a serious statement at this year's World Cup.

They have been quite solid in qualifiers as well as in the 2022/23 Nations League, where they have beaten fellow World Cup participants Belgium (both home and away), Wales (also both home and away), and drew Poland. Players like Inter's Denzel Dumfries have been in excellent form for the national side, as well as Memphis Depay, despite seeing his playing time reduced at Barcelona with the arrival of Robert Lewandowski, so depending on how the Oranje fare in the group stages, they could set themselves up nicely for a long run at this competition.

Belgium

Many view Belgium as favorites, but based on their showings at major tournaments, the Red Devils have not done enough to earn a spot in that category. They controversially were ranked top of the FIFA charts without winning a single title, something that raised eyebrows in many quarters, and despite boasting a squad with stars like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Thibaut Courtois, Belgium seem to come up short time and time again. Last World Cup saw them make it to the final four, but lost to France and ended up finishing third. 

Time is running out for this group, described as many as the "Golden Generation" to finally win a major title for Belgium. Given their lack of success at major tournaments, the Red Devils look set to come into this competition as dark horses - but run the risk of being characterized as some as "overrated" if they fail to deliver once again.

Croatia

Four years ago, no one, except perhaps Croatian fans, really gave Croatia much of a shot. However, the Vatreni turned out to the tournament's biggest surprises, beating a highly-favored England side en route to the finals. Although they were no match for France and lost 4-2, they nonetheless left quite an impression on viewers that World Cups are truly full of unexpected results.

While key striker Mario Mandzukic, who earned himself a rather unwanted record by scoring both for and against Croatia in the final has since retired to serve as the team's assistant coach, many of the experienced players who featured four years ago, including Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic are still with the squad. Of course, another deep run will be trickier, as Croatia no longer have the element of surprise, but they certainly have shown they have the quality to perform well at these kind of tournaments. As to whether they will be able to show whether they can match the same showings from four years ago remains to be seen, however.

Wishful Thinkers 

USMNT

With a crop of young and hungry players, including Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, and Christian Pulisic, there are high hopes for the USMNT. After missing out four years ago, Gregg Berhalter's side will hope to have a strong showing in Qatar ahead of being co-hosts for the 2026 edition. However, the Stars and Stripes historically have struggled to make inroads at World Cups, with their best finish in modern times being in 2002 when they made it to the quarter-finals. Prior to that, they did make the semi's, but that was back in 1930 when the playing field was much smaller.

Having missed out on 2018, and considering the trickiness of their group, which sees the Yanks taking on England and Wales, it remains to be seen if they can progress this year in Qatar. While the team does look promising, they did not impress in either of their two pre-tournament friendlies, first losing 2-0 to Japan, before being held to a stalemate by Saudi Arabia, so realistically, what the team will look to aim for is to get out of their quartet and hope for a decent pick in the round of 16.

Mexico

Like their rivals to the north, Mexico have not enjoyed success at the World Cup in quite some time. In fact, one has to go back nearly four decades - to 1986 - to note the last time El Tri were able to get beyond the round of 16. Since then, they have been eliminated in the first knockout rounds in their last seven appearances.

Currently set to feature in a quartet alongside Argentina, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, it's safe to say that Mexico should have no issue picking up all three points against Saudi Arabia, but will obviously face a really tough battle against an Argentina side many have picked to win it all, while Poland could present a stumbling block. All in all, Mexico will certainly have high hopes at clearing the round of 16, but it might be a task easier said than done.

*For more information regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including where to watch other non-UEFA games, news, highlights, and more, check out our bespoke World Cup broadcast page. 


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