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The British newspaper The Guardian called the Brazilian team the main favorite for the 2022 World Cup. The publication compiled a ranking of the finalists, and Tite’s team took first place. Argentina and Spain made it into the top three.
Brazil hasn’t lost to anyone besides Argentina in three years. The forward line of Neymar, Richarlison, Vinicius Junior, and Raphinha is so strong that Gabriel Jesus was not included in the recent victories against Ghana and Tunisia in friendlies. The main question is that they haven’t played a European team since losing to Belgium at the most recent World Cup. The latter makes their remarkable 29-game winless streak seem doubtful.
The retirement of the vast bulk of the fleet’s outstanding forwards has clarified Argentina’s situation. Although Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina team may not be as flashy as more recent editions, they are cohesive and harmonic and get the greatest performance out of Lionel Messi. They defeated Italy in the Copa Finalissima in June, ending a 35-match losing streak. Yet Estonia is the only European team they have faced since October 2019.
La Roja suffered their first home loss in nearly four years against Switzerland after Luis Enrique announced his final pre-World Cup team in a video showing him riding in homage to the Vuelta a Espana. This was not quite the good reaction he might have hoped for. Nevertheless, his team won the top spot in their Nations League group after Alvaro Morata’s late winner in Braga. This happened despite the Spain manager feeling Portugal had a better chance of winning in Qatar.
4. The Netherlands
Could this be the great finish for Louis van Gaal? The 71-year-old coach turned around a qualifying campaign that had started poorly and has put together a balanced group playing exciting football, albeit none of the goalkeeping alternatives inspire confidence. Memphis Depay’s goals may be their biggest reliance. However, this team has a sense of direction and organization that makes them feel like the group from 2014.
Germany has a chance to win in Qatar. However, they must fix some obvious problems like many of their longtime rivals. Hansi Flick’s first loss as a coach came at Hungary’s hands, who outplayed them in Leipzig. Despite controlling England for most of the match, how they faltered during a 15-minute burst will raise questions. Despite playing in Flick’s appealing manner, they lack a deadly instinct.
Denmark did not display any signs of being alarmed by last week’s close loss to Croatia. They defeated France three days later with a spectacular performance and are still playing at the same tempo that made them so popular at Euro 2020. Christian Eriksen’s return in such a commanding shape is also helpful. After scoring a spectacular goal in Zagreb, he outperformed his French opponents. The honors challenge appears feasible.
France is the only country with as much talent. However, none of the other favorites has as many players involved in various off-field distractions, and there is genuine animosity amongst the families of some players. The danger of implosion is great when Didier Deschamps, a controversial coach, is added. Deschamps favors attritional football and rarely seems to obtain the best performance from his team.
Any advice? The notion that Croatia is a waning force has been dispelled by the fact that they justifiably won a Nations League group that also included France and Denmark. Luka Modric scored in a resounding victory over Austria after being unstoppable in last Thursday’s 2-1 triumph over Denmark. The veteran players seem to have one last push left in them, which might help the club significantly in Qatar.
England should be optimistic about heading to Qatar after making the semifinals at the World Cup and the Euros. However, they haven’t won in their last six games, some important players are ill or out of form, and time may be running out for Gareth Southgate. The mood was at least slightly improved by the 20 impressive minutes against Germany, but the Harry Maguire controversy still looms big.
Say it quietly, but Serbia’s optimism seems well-founded. They are in excellent shape, and their convincing victories this month against Sweden and Norway indicate that Dragan Stojkovic has fostered maturity and balance to go along with their undeniable flair. In Oslo, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic scored; the former did so against Sweden. The concern of a tough group in Qatar should be minimal.
Switzerland, who followed up their victory against Portugal in June by triumphing in Spain with tactically excellent performance, should be taken seriously by all of the favorites. They then defeated the Czech Republic, helped by Yann Sommer’s save of Tomas Soucek’s penalty. An experienced team, boosted by Breel Embolo’s goals, seems well prepared to bother the later stages.
Last Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne overcame his self-admitted weariness with the Wales match to orchestrate a victory that was gained by a commanding first-half performance. However, the manner in which they narrowly won the game revealed that defensive concerns persist. After June’s humiliation, a tight loss to the Netherlands was fiercely disputed and restored some pride. However, there is a sense that the golden generation’s ship has sailed.
When the agonizing decision to dismiss Oscar Tabárez after 15 years in charge was made last year, a qualification campaign that was losing pace was saved. They traveled to Qatar with four straight victories thanks to Diego Alonso. However, they are still having trouble striking the perfect balance: one attacker leaves them lacking in potency (and Darwin Nez is an unlikely wide man), but two leave them vulnerable through midfield.
Portugal’s spirits may have been a little tempered by a poor performance against Spain following the 4-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic, but they still rank among the favorites. After the first game, their seasoned manager, Fernando Santos, was criticized by some of his followers after admitting he forgot Lille defender Tiago Djaló was one of his replacements.
Aliou Cissé’s team will travel to Qatar with high expectations as they look to build on their historic victory at the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations. However, despite a convincing victory against Bolivia in France, the team’s 1-1 draw with Iran on Tuesday demonstrated that there are still doubts about their capacity to score enough goals to advance far enough in the competition.
Poland will always struggle to shake the perception that they are just Robert Lewandowski plus ten other players. However, given the inclusion of Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski in the team, as well as a variety of excellent goalkeepers, they really should be. Paulo Sousa was replaced as coach by Czeslaw Michniewicz in January, but his Nations League record has been inconsistent, with just one victory coming against Wales.
Canada’s 2-0 loss to Uruguay on Tuesday in Bratislava demonstrated that they can compete with some of the top teams after their victory over Qatar last Friday. As they prepare for the World Cup, their manager, John Herdman, acknowledged that his players had been waiting for a chance to play teams from outside of North and Central America. They will be hoping for another challenge in their last exhibition match against Japan.
Wales has had a challenging few days following the thrill of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958 as losses to Belgium and Poland saw Robert Page’s squad demoted from their Nations League group with only one point after six games. Of course, none of that will matter if they can advance from Group B to Qatar’s knockout rounds.
Supporters of the Atlas Lions are feeling more upbeat now than they did when Vahid Halilhodzic was fired in August, the second time the seasoned manager had been fired following World Cup qualification. Before Walid Regragui’s team drew 0-0 with Chile last Friday in front of 25,000 mostly Moroccan ex-pat fans, Hakim Ziyech, who had been recalled, had played a key role in the victory against Paraguay.
Hajime Moriyasu’s team will have more confidence going into their last preseason game against Canada in Dubai on November 17 after strong showings in a 2-0 victory over the USA and a 0-0 draw with Ecuador. To have a chance of making it to the knockout stages for the fourth time, Japan will need to be more decisive given the formidable obstacle of having to play Spain and Germany in their group.
After goalless draws with Saudi Arabia and Japan, nobody really learned much more than the fact that Gustavo Alfaro’s team shouldn’t be counted on for excitement. If Enner Valencia had not missed the penalty shot, the latter game would have been more interesting. Although Ecuador can field talented young players like Moises Caicedo of Brighton and has not conceded in their last five games, their lack of teeth is concerning.
As Hirving Lozano’s goal against Peru gave El Tri hope that their bad run was over, their confidence grew after a scorching first half gave them a two-goal lead over Colombia. However, Mexico ultimately fell short 3-2, and the evening was marred further by homophobic chants in the Santa Clara crowd, which forced the game’s 82nd-minute suspension. It is urgently necessary to improve both on and off the field.
23. The USA
It was hardly the finest preparation for the World Cup to follow up a pitiful performance in their 2-0 loss to Japan last Friday with another lackluster showing in the 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia, and Gregg Berhalter is still looking for solutions in a number of crucial areas. If things continue as they are, it will be difficult for the US to leave Qatar with their group.
This month, Carlos Queiroz was reinstated in an endeavor to surpass the accomplishments of his previous eight years in leadership. It seems like the proper choice after victories over Uruguay and a draw with Senegal, both of which were played in Austria. Before taking on the African champions, Team Melli made a public stance against women’s repression during these matches, which were played against the backdrop of domestic protests. Sardar Azmoun, a forward, made it obvious that he doesn’t worry about the consequences.
The Socceroos have gained some optimism with back-to-back victories over New Zealand, the second with an experimental team. However, they continue to play clumsily, and it is still unclear what Graham Arnold’s final roster will look like. Though Jason Cummings’ debut against the Kiwis was encouraging, the goals aren’t exactly coming in, and the lack of elite experience doesn’t bode well for considerable advancement.
26. South Korea
Under former Portugal coach Paulo Bento, South Korea easily qualified for the third round, winning seven and drawing two of the ten qualifiers. However, the results since then have been inconsistent, with victories over Egypt and Chile sandwiching convincing losses to Brazil and Japan. The recent 0-0 tie with Costa Rica and 1-0 victory over Cameroon didn’t change much.
Rigobert Song and his team will not be feeling confident going into the World Cup after two disappointing losses in friendlies against Uzbekistan and South Korea. After switching from France to England, Bryan Mbeumo made his debut against Uzbekistan. Nicolas Nkoulou, a senior defender who won the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, also made his comeback after five years away.
The 5-1 hammering by Brazil on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes was a disappointment for a club that has based its recent success on defensive prowess after three straight triumphs and a run of clean sheets dating back to March. However, the Carthage Eagles club will continue to have faith that Jalel Kadri is building a group of players who could pull off a surprise in a group that includes France and Denmark.
While losing 3-0 to Brazil in a match in which Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey made his Black Stars debut off the bench was not embarrassing, Ghana labored to a 1-0 victory over Nicaragua on Tuesday exposing their offensive flaws. Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao, who made his debut against Nicaragua, might make all the difference if he can adjust fast.
Will Qatar be the World Cup host nation with the worst team? Their physical appearance makes a strong case. Canada lost 2-0 in Vienna, conceding softly early before struggling to make an offensive impact; they lost much worse, 3-0, to Croatia’s Under-23s three days before. Unless they can generate a large amount of momentum at home, it is difficult to see them advancing farther than they have.
31. Costa Rica
Jewison Bennette got the equalizer for Sunderland at Watford eleven days ago after coming on as a substitute. His first goals for his nation came in a 2-2 tie against South Korea, where he started for Costa Rica and scored both goals. Bennette, who is only 18 and was not included in Tuesday’s victory over Uzbekistan, already appears to be Costa Rican football’s greatest hope, providing a touch of refinement to an otherwise unremarkable team.
32. Saudi Arabia
Under Hervé Renard, the first coach to ever win the Africa Cup of Nations with two separate teams, Saudi Arabia had been dreadfully consistent, losing only one of their ten third-phase group games. The team’s performance since the beginning of December, which included a group stage exit in the Arab Cup, has been terrible, with only two victories in the previous 11 games and only four goals scored.