The biggest soccer event in the world has begun as the powerhouses of the world take aim at the World Cup!
The World Cup competition kicked off in Qatar for the 21st iteration of the historic event, and soccer fans around the globe are ready to represent their home countries as the sport steals the spotlight. As always, this World Cup is jam-packed with stars and storylines, so let’s go over some of the most intriguing ones of the 2022 tournament.
The United States Makes the Cut
After failing to qualify for the 2018 event, the United States is back and ready to face off against some of the tourney’s titans. Though the team is certainly filled with question marks, striker and star Christian Pulisic will look to lead his squad through the group stage and into the knockout stage. It surely doesn’t figure to be easy, however, as they’ll have to take on Wales, Iran and England in the group stage. While they may have the talent to take Wales and Iran, England is one of the tournament favorites and is expected to take the top spot in the group, potentially leaving the Americans to fight for survival against a group winner should they advance into the knockout stage.
Can France Defend its Title?
France heads into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as the reigning champs after prevailing over Croatia in the 2018 event hosted by Russia. Kylian Mbappé who broke out on an international stage in the country’s 2018 run is expected to play a massive role if France is to become the first country to repeat since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. France enters the group stage with the best odds to win its pool, though Denmark shouldn’t be counted out entirely. France’s squad will have to overcome a combination of injuries and difficult competitors if they want to be holding the trophy in December.
Qatar Plays Host as its Squad Debuts on the Biggest Stage
Although usually held in summer from June to July, Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup, which is why the tournament will be played in November and December for the first time in history. Despite being located in the Northern Hemisphere, the blistering heat of a Qatar summer would presumably present challenges both for fans and for players. The State of Qatar is a sheikhdom that occupies a promontory of the Saudi Arabian Peninsula on the western coast of the Persian Gulf.
With hosting duties also comes an automatic berth into the tournament for the home team. This marks the first time that Qatar’s national team will play on a stage of this level, and what a welcome it’s going to be given its tough group stage with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands. They will rely on star Hassan Al-Haydos to lead the way in an attempt to give the home fans what they’re hoping for.
The Stars Are Aligned
Possibly the biggest draw of the tournament is the star-power, with some of the world’s greatest names and talents looking to proudly represent their home countries. First and foremost is Lionel Messi, the 35-year-old striker who could be playing in his last World Cup. Having achieved nearly everything in his career, now would be the time to take advantage of a strong Argentinian team around him and deliver the glorious finish that his career so richly deserves. At age 37, Cristiano Ronaldo also enters the tournament looking to secure his first victory for Portugal, but it won’t be easy as he goes up against Neymar and Brazil, Mbappé and France, Virgil van Dijk and the Netherlands, Harry Kane and England and other world-renowned powerhouses with stacked rosters.
Who is Expected to Hoist the Cup?
Speaking of star power, the most favored teams in the tournament all appear to be armed with some of the world’s best footballers. Coming into the tournament with the best odds of bringing the Cup home is Brazil at +400. Brazil took home gold at last year’s Olympics, and they’ll look to continue their success with a deadly combination of veterans and young talent. Messi’s Argentina has the second-best odds at +500 while France rounds out the top three at +700 to defend their 2018 Cup. England slots in at fourth at +850 to win the tournament, making them the United States’ biggest competition in the group stage. The Americans appear to be a long shot at +13000, but Wales and Iran come into the tournament at +20000 and +50000, respectively, giving the USMNT a great chance at reaching the knockout stage. The host country of Qatar comes in with +30000 odds to walk away as champions, but they surely hope the home crowd can swing tough games in their favor.