The World Cup is coming closer, and this year it will begin uniquely late, beginning in November, to avoid the scorching heat of summers in Qatar. This year, the USA has again qualified for the World Cup after missing it for the first time in half a century.
The U.S. has been drawn into Group B and will play with England, Wales, and Iran. Out of these teams, the Americans and English are the two clear favorites to emerge from the group stage; our matchup with the English will be one to watch during the group stages. However, Wales and Iran can potentially upset the U.S. even if they beat England, so the U.S. will likely have no pushover matches this tournament. The top two teams from Group B will advance into the playoff bracket and have a shot at winning the iconic FIFA Trophy. The U.S. team has not been in their best form in their most recent contests, but they have great talent and opportunities to win with a young core. Their strengths lie in the midfield, with many of their top players, including Captain Christian Pulisic (Chelsea F.C.), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), and Weston McKinnie (Juventus F.C.), all playing midfield. If the USMNT gets hot at the right time, leading up to their games in Qatar, they have a chance to be a dark horse and go deep in this year’s tournament.
Prediction: The U.S. will win Group B and make it out of the group stage, then win their first matchup against the second-place finisher from Group A before being knocked out by France in the Quarterfinals.
Group A- Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Despite having the first letter of the alphabet, Group A will most likely be one of the least exciting groups in this World Cup. Qatar, by virtue of hosting the World Cup, automatically earns a spot in the group stage. They would be lucky to get a point in this group, let alone the points needed to qualify for the knockout round. Ecuador will also struggle to get out of the group, taking only the fourth CONMEBOL qualifying spot. Senegal and the Netherlands are both solid national teams, with the Senegalese coming off their AFCON 2022 victory. They are anchored by players like Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Eduoard Mendy, all world-class players in their positions. However, the Dutch have perhaps an even more impressive team and look to go deep into this tournament with players like Virgil Van Djik and Frenkie de Jong.
Prediction: 1st. Netherlands, 2nd. Senegal, 3rd. Ecuador, 4th. Qatar
Group B- England, Iran, USA, Wales
This group is quite an interesting draw for many reasons. Iran seems to be the weakest in this group and will most likely struggle to progress. However, the remaining three teams will be tough to separate. Despite going from the highs of finalists at Euro 2020, this England squad does not look like they are in good shape. They have been relegated from the UEFA Nations League A and have not won in their last six matches. The United States, winners of the 2021 Gold Cup, would seem to be the runners-up in this group if it was a more traditional setting; however, as of writing this, they have won just two out of their last six matches. Wales is the dark horse in this group; they progressed through the playoff spot by beating Ukraine back in June. They can take advantage of the faltering forms of both the United States and England. However, Wales relies on the stardom of their 33-year-old captain Gareth Bale. It will be difficult for them to move on if he is not in form.
Prediction: 1st. United States, 2nd. England, 3rd. Wales, 4th. Iran
Group C- Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Argentina looks to be the clear favorite in this group. It will likely be the last World Cup for Lionel Messi, and he looks to cement his legacy among the greatest of all time by avenging his 2014 loss. Saudi Arabia appears to be the weakest team. Mexico and Poland will compete for the last spot in the knockout stage. This edition of the World Cup will also likely be Robert Lewandowski’s final last, as he is off to a great start for Barcelona in La Liga. The Pole will try to push to earn the elusive Ballon D’Or, which many believe he should have won in 2020; however, it was not awarded due to Covid. While Mexico does not have a standout player, they form an effective and cohesive unit, making them a formidable team.
Prediction: 1st. Argentina, 2nd. Poland, 3rd. Mexico, 4th. Saudi Arabia
Group D- France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
The 2018 champions will look to defend their trophy with a very talented squad. Their dual star power upfront of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema will be frightening for any backline. However, the team has not fared as well recently, shockingly losing to Switzerland in Euro 2020, prompting an early exit. In addition, they lost 2-0 to Denmark in the Nations League in September. Didier Deschamps seems unsure about their best XI for Qatar. The manager has been reinforcing the lineup with players from the 2018 squad who are out of their prime. If France cannot solve this issue soon, they may face an earlier exit than expected for the reigning champions. A resurgent Denmark with Christian Eriksen and Andreas Christensen will look to build off momentum from their victory over France and their Euro 2020 semi-finalist appearance and hope it continues into November. Tunisia and Australia are far behind the other two teams and will likely battle for third place in the group.
Prediction: 1st. Denmark, 2nd. France, 3rd. Australia, 4th. Tunisia
Group E- Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
This group has two very historic and dominant national teams. The 2010 and 2014 champions, Spain and Germany, look strong and can make a deep run into the knockout stage. Spain has youngsters like Pedri and Gavi in addition to aging legends like Sergio Busquets. Germany seems to have a striker issue with players like Timo Werner and Kai Havertz struggling to produce for their clubs. However, their excellent midfield with Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala will give their forward players plenty of chances. The Japanese team looks solid and will do well in AFC competitions, but they will likely struggle against these juggernauts. Costa Rica qualified through the playoff round and looks outmatched.
Prediction: 1st. Spain, 2nd. Germany, 3rd. Japan, 4th. Costa Rica
Group F- Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
While there is not a proper group of death in this World Cup, Group F is the closest. Belgium has one of the strongest squads with stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, and rising stars like Charles de Ketelaere. They have not won any international accolades, disappointing for a group dubbed the ‘Golden Generation. Croatia has an aging squad, but players like Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic prove that class is permanent. The 2018 World Cup Finalists look to rebound from their 4-2 defeat to France. Canada is a dark horse for this group, qualifying 1st out of CONCACAF. Some believe Alphonso Davies the best left-back in the world, and Jonathan David is an excellent striker. Morocco will find difficulty gaining a point in this group.
Prediction: 1st. Belgium, 2nd. Croatia, 3rd. Canada, 4th. Morocco
Group G- Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
This Brazil squad is perhaps the best in the whole tournament. Forward players like Vinicius Jr., Rodrigo, and Neymar are currently at the pinnacle of their game. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker is believed by many to be the best in the world. Midfielders like Fabinho, Casemiro, and Bruno Guimaraes are also performing well. Serbia and Switzerland are much closer in strength. Serbia has great goalscoring power with Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic up front. Switzerland has an all-around squad that beat France in the Euro 2020 knockout round. Cameroon performed well at AFCON 2022, placing 4th.
Prediction: 1st. Brazil, 2nd. Serbia, 3rd. Switzerland, 4th. Cameroon
Group H- Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
While Portugal had a rough start to their World Cup campaign, qualifying through the playoff round, they seem a much more assured squad, recently beating Czech Republic 5-0 and Switzerland 4-0. Their team is extremely deep, with Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Rafael Leao, Diogo Jota, and Joao Felix, among others. This will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup, and it will most likely be his last chance for a major trophy. South Korea vs. Uruguay appears to be the competition for 2nd in the group. South Korea is reliant upon the stardom of Heung-Min Son, who won the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season. Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde is the best Uruguayan player, who provided the Champions League-winning assist in May. It will be an exciting match between Uruguay and Ghana. In the 2010 World Cup Quarter-Finals, Luis Suarez blatantly blocked a shot on the goal line with his hand in the dying minutes. Ghana missed the following penalty, and Uruguay advanced. This event prevented Ghana from going the farthest in the tournament that any African team has ever gone. The match will be quite a spectacle to watch.
Prediction: 1st. Portugal, 2nd. Uruguay, 3rd. South Korea, 4th. Ghana