World Cup 2022: How will the groups end up, who will make the last four and who will the lift the cup? Our Pundit gives his verdict
Everyone is having their say on who will lift the World Cup. For most of us it's a fairly uninformed guess. But NewsChain's football pundit DAVID BARRETT has left nothing to chance. He has studied all the stats, followed the form book and excluded all emotion to give you his definitive guide to how the tournament will unfold
Winners: Netherlands; Runners-up: Senegal; Third: Ecuador; Fourth: Qatar
Dave says: The Dutch should win the group with ease, with Senegal claiming the second spot in a tight battle with Ecuador despite losing Mane to injury for the group stages.
Winners: England; Runners-up: USA; Third: Wales; Fourth: Iran
Dave says: Gareth Southgate's side should have enough experience to claim top spot in what looks to be one of the toughest groups, while the USA, who have a strong side, should just about get the better of Wales to finish runners-up.
Winners: Argentina; Runners-up: Mexico; Third: Poland; Fourth: Saudi Arabia
Dave says: Argentina are expected to ease through this group as the opposition is nowhere near the quality of the exciting Argentines. Mexico have a better tournament record than the Polish in recent years which should see them get through to the round of 16 once again.
Winners: France; Runners-up: Denmark; Third: Tunisia; Fourth: Australia
Dave says: Benzema's late exit from the tournament has further depleted the French ranks, where the midfield duo of Kante and Pogba are already missing, but France's class and depth should see them win the group in what could be a tight battle with the talented Denmark.
But don't rule out the Danes who have already shown they are a match for the French having beaten them twice in the Nations League.
Winners: Germany; Runners-up: Spain; Third: Costa Rica; Fourth: Japan
Dave says: Da German machine should have enough to win the group despite not having a recognised number nine, though a lot will depend on their wingers Sane and Gnabry stepping up on the goal front. Spain are pretty much guaranteed a top two finish even though they lack the quality of their previous tournament teams.
Winners: Croatia; Runners-up: Belgium; Third: Canada; Fourth: Morocco
Dave says: The Croats are a side that possess great quality with young Gvardiol at the back, a top class midfield which includes the likes of Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic, and a strike force of Kramaric and Orsic. Belgium will miss out on top spot as they can only rely on De Bruyne these days with Eden Hazard and Lukaku mere shadows of their former selves.
Winners: Brazil; Runners-up: Switzerland; Third: Serbia; Fourth: Cameroon
Dave says: The Brazilians came through the South American qualifying stage unbeaten and without doubt have one of the strongest sides in the tournament. Switzerland should take runners-up spot on the basis that they have a great track record of qualifying from the group stages at major tournaments. They are also helped by the fact that they have players of the quality of Xhaka, Akanji, and Fabian Schar.
Winners: Uruguay; Runners-up: Portugal; Third: Ghana; Fourth: South Korea
Dave says: Uruguay are the best value to claim top spot against a Portuguese side that has failed to win their group at the last six major tournaments, while Uruguay have topped their group in two of their last three World Cup appearances. The changes that new manager Diego Alonso has made since taking charge 12 months ago have turned the Uruguayans into a formidable side.
Who are the Dark Horses?
La Celeste take their place in Qatar hoping to shock the world and become world champions for the third time in their history. While not one of the tournament favourites the strength and depth of their squad shows that they should not be ruled out. The experience and individual brilliance they have in their ranks with players such as Suarez, Carvani, and Godin, along with their up-and-coming striker Darwin Nunez and top midfielders Bentacur and Valverde, will make them a formidable opponent for any of the teams they come up against.
Not only do Uruguay have a very strong side but they have also beaten one of their main competitors, Portugal, at the group stage in the 2018 World Cup. Winning the group would put the Uruguayans in a great position to go far in this competition.
Is it ‘Coming Home’?..... Unfortunately not !
Despite England going so close in EURO 2020, they seem destined to fail once again in the latter stages of the tournament.
England’s recent poor run of form has hit their confidence and they will be looking for leaders like Kane and Rice to create a positive momentum in order to ensure qualification to the round of 16.
Gareth Southgate has arguably not moved on from the Euro 2020 tournament as the line up still consists of the same 3-4-3 which illustrates caution in England's style of football.
It is also concerning that Southgate does not know his best first eleven which, ironically, has not been helped by the array of talent that England have in their squad.
What makes this group even more interesting is the fact that their two main challengers, Wales and the USA play with similar caution and are quite defensive in their approach.
This makes it even more important that England don’t start their campaign slowly, which has been a tendency in the past. How far they go in this World Cup could well be determined by how much Southgate has learnt from his EURO experience and if he is prepared to take on a less cautious approach.
Who lifts the World Cup?
Argentina are in the form of their lives with the Copa America champions now unbeaten in their last 36 games.
The boys from South America have their eyes firmly fixed on the prize of becoming world champions once again. Messi, though in his twilight years, is still arguably the best player in the world and will be looking to put on a show in what will be his final World Cup.
Aside from Messi the side is packed with talent in all areas of the pitch. Argentina are blessed with a competent shot stopper in Emalinao Martinez, who is not shy when it comes to picking up silverware. They have a back line that consists of two of the most talented Premier League centre backs in Lisandro Martinez and Romero and have an equally strong midfield with the likes of Paredes, De Paul and Enzo Fernandez to call upon.
Having so much strength in the first two thirds of the pitch enables Argentina’s flair players to work their magic alongside Messi.
Dybala and Di Maria’s technical skills along with Laurtro Martinez’s ability to unlock defences will result in lots of room for Messi to do what he does best. Argentina are arguably a stronger team than they were in Brazil back in 2014 and as a result can go one step further and bring the Jules Rimet Trophy back to Buenos Aires for the first time since 1986.
Player of the tournament
Despite his advancing years, there is no sign of Messi’s talent diminishing. His outstanding
display in the Copa Americas last year was the determining factor in Argentina winning
the trophy for the 15th time.
Messi’s starring role for his national team when winning the Finalissima against European champions Italy at Wembley in June was a clear indication that he wants to finish his final years on the International stage in style.
With Messi announcing that the Qatar World Cup will ‘surely’ be his last, it seems written in the stars that he will go out on a high and show just why he is regarded as the GOAT.
Young star of the tournament
Bellingham continues to play way above his years and I expect this World Cup will show the world why he is one of Europe’s top talents.
At only 19 years of age Bellingham is one of the few regular starters for Gareth Southgate’s side which is no surprise as his technical ability at this stage of his career is right up there with the best centre midfielders that we have seen. The stage is set for this teenager to show the world just how good he is.
Golden Boot Winner
With Benzema's late withdrawal, the door opens in the battle to be the tournament's top marksman.
Neymar, Brazil’s second all-time highest scorer behind the legendary Pele, is in the form of his life having scored 15 goals from 20 appearances this season for PSG.
Given the strength of the Brazilian and that he's also Brazil’s penalty taker, he's certain to get lots of opportunities and add to his tally of six goals from ten appearances in World Cup games.
Not only do I think Neymar can win the Golden Boot but he also has a great chance of surpassing Pele’s record of 77 goals for Brazil should he score six goals.
So, who wins it?
World Cup Winners: Argentina; Runners-Up: Uruguay; Third Place: Brazil
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