The FIFA World Cup begins November 20, with Qatar-Ecuador being the first game to play in the biggest competition in our existence as a species. With billions of people watching once again on the world stage, it will be a tournament to remember this winter.
With every competition, regardless of the sport, there are favourites, and there are teams and players one would expect to go out at an early stage. The FIFA World Cup follows that usual trend that was mentioned. In the tier list above, there are five rankings for this tournament on the basis of their likelihood of taking the trophy home. If starting from the absolute pit and bottom, it would be the teams needing a miracle, quite frankly, the teams that would raise the eyebrows of the entire planet if they managed to bring it home. Continuing on, the next rank is the surprise package, these are teams that have the potential to cause a few upsets, however, are not expected to progress far in the actual competition in terms of stages. Next, the potential dark horses, the teams that will go significantly further than expected. Moving onto real candidates to lift the trophy, it is the outside bets, the teams that are expected to progress far, and could go all the way, depending on the draws and difficulty of opponents in the knockout stages. Finally, we reach the promised land, the favorites, the national sides that have billions of eyes on them to perform and bring the trophy home, it is destiny for some, to others, it is a necessity to do this for their star-studded international careers.
Would need a miracle: Notable picks
Qatar: While this side are hosting the competition, their football pedigree is miniscule, so they are expected to crash out of this group, unless the rumors of corruption have some substance in them in the media, Qatar should not progress.
Ecuador: While Ecuador has some degree of footballing history opposed to Qatar, with a solid defensive line and record, they are expected to be a tough side to face, but the issue would be finding the back of the net. While their defensive record in 2022 is impressive, in their last 6 games, four of them have ended in goalless affairs.
Saudi Arabia: Now, this could go down to the difficulty of the group, but with Mexico and Poland set to be battling for the second spot, it is a predicament for Saudi Arabia, who look to be most definitely crashing out in the group stages.
Mexico: Set to battle it out with Poland, Mexico has a solid record of making it to the round of 16 in the World Cup, however, that is where it ends, and remembering that this system is on the basis of winning the competition, they will find that difficult. With an aging midfield and out of form attack, Mexico looks to struggle with Tata Martino in charge for this edition of the tournament that has all eyes on the other Americas.
Wales: While I believe that they will progress in the group, looking at the standings, that would not be a surprise to anyone, while challenging with the USA and Iran, with England expected to comfortably cruise to a top spot. They may progress ahead of US, however, I do believe that the latter have more potential to produce memorable moments with their youthful side and high hopes.
South Korea: It is true that club form occasionally goes out of the window when playing for country in major competitions, however, with Son Heung-min struggling in all senses this season for Tottenham, it would be difficult for him to suddenly reappear at his best.
Surprise package: Notable picks
Switzerland: With Granit Xhaka and Manuel Akanji finding form, the Euro 2021 surprise package might be back to raise eyebrows. The European side has never been a stranger to iconic moments in major tournaments. The side might be a surprise package; however, the challenge of their group may prove a significant challenge.
Croatia: While this national team may have an aging squad, perhaps overutilizing their golden generation for one final surge, the heart of their side remains top level. With Luka Modric seemingly getting better with age, the 2018 finalists will be hoping for a fairy-tale with a happy ending this time around.
USA: Perhaps a controversial pick, while I do believe they will crash out in the group stage, they simply do not fail to deliver in the moments department. Remembering Tim Howard in the memorable 2014 edition, their performance against Portugal, they could truly challenge for a place in the knockout stages, and it would not be surprising if they managed it.
Potential dark horses
Denmark: Seemingly the dark horses of every competition now, Denmark are looking to make rifts once again, impressing in their qualifying group, making it with a few games to spare with challenging opponents as well, Denmark look strong and ready, with Christian Eriksen returning to the side after the shocking events in the Euro 2021.
Serbia: Going under the radar this year, Serbia looks to have a strong squad on paper. With the likes of Aleksander Mitrovi and Sergej Milinkovi-savi finding form for club, it would be a massive mistake to rule Serbia out of anything and achieving the top level.
Outside bet: Notable picks
France: Oh France, it seems like everything is going against them before this competition. With their 2018 heart of midfield ruled out in the form of Paul Pogba and N’golo Kanté, along with the very recent news of Karim Benzema being unavailable for the tournament, it is difficult to see them retaining their title this year. Automatically being declared a favorite in the initial stages of the tournament draw, however, they slowly worked their way down as many injuries hampered the Champions chances of winning the competition.
Netherlands: One of the most impressive teams in qualifying, looking to redeem themselves for the 2010 final loss, with an entirely new spine, they have not seen the World stage since an era of 2014, with Virgil Van Dijk appearing in his first edition.
Portugal: What a fairy-tale ending it would be to have a Portugal Argentina final, Messi and Ronaldo having one last hurrah. While this is theoretically possible, Portugal slack behind their talented South American counter parts in this sense. However, despite Ronaldo steadily aging in the squad, players such as Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Dalot, and João Cancelo may have to fill in his talismanic shoes.
Brazil: What more can be said about this Brazil side. With Neymar performing better than ever in PSG colors, and a new generation arriving in attack, it is a very exciting time to be a Brazilian in present day, as the World Cup might see a South American winner for the first time since 2002 when, yes, you guessed it, Brazil won the tournament with their superteam.
Argentina: Lionel Messi, that is all that has to be said, the heart of the side, returning to form this season in emphatic fashion. Winning the Copa America in 2021, there is only one thing that is required to fill up the trophy cabinet to the brim, one aspect that would help him reach ultimate status in terms of trophies won. This Argentina team is sharper than that of 2014, while the other side reached the final, there were clear weak spots, however, this time, driven by passion and eagerness to find redemption, La Albiceleste could finally achieve the very drawn out and long-awaited dream since the Maradona era.
Spain: This Barcelona centric Spain side is reminiscent of the 2010 victory, with the likes of Pedri and Gavi expected to grab headlines, this is an exciting, youthful side for the team. While they are perhaps not as strong in all areas as their South American counterparts, their possession style may prove that irrelevant, as it did in 2010, with Xavi and Iniesta seemingly playing through a passing triangle for most of the game.
The author is an upcoming journalist at Michigan State University.
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