World Cup 2022 Preview Links

And just like that, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway. It is so weird to be talking about the World Cup right around the time I’m doing my Christmas shopping. I’m so used to watching World Cup games in hot weather. You find it odd, too?

So far only four games have been played. All teams from Groups A and B have completed their first matches. This tells quite a bit in terms of how things might go, but it doesn’t tell everything. I know I’ve been delivering previews to each of the World Cup groups. This is just simply a post with hyperlinks to all my group analyses. I will also post the two countries from each group I think will qualify for the knockout round. Also even though the teams Groups A and B have already played their first games, my original predictions still stand. So here are the links:

Group A: Netherlands and Senegal

Group B: England and the United States

Group C: Argentina and Mexico

Group D: France and Denmark

Group E: Spain and Germany

Group F: Belgium and Croatia

Group G: Brazil and Serbia

Group H: Portugal and Uruguay

For the record, I’m not listing my predictions as who will finish first and second. I’m listing in group order. Anyways best of luck to all teams and let’s enjoy the show, despite the odd time differences!

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group H

With this being the last World Cup group to talk about, I want to talk a bit about the next World Cup. World Cup 2026 will be unique because of two things. First, it will be the first World Cup that will have the hosting participation of three nations. The United States, Canada and Mexico all came together for a “United” bid for this World Cup. Secondly, because it will consist of a total of 48 teams! The point of the 48-team World Cup is to give better chances for teams from Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF and Oceania. There are many people who feel a 48-team tournament is too big. Many fear the inclusion of a three-team group stage. The most recent word from FIFA is an unofficial word of there being twelve groups of four.

So it is very possible this will be the last World Cup where Group H is the last group. Whether it is or not, here’s my review of the Group H of the 2022 World Cup:

-Portugal (9): It’s safe to assume this will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth and last World Cup. He’s 37. Nevertheless, the whole team of Portugal has proven itself to be one of the best football teams of this century. They’ve participated in all six World Cups this century, had a fourth-place finish, was a finalist for Euro 2004 and won Euro 2016. Recent play has shown Portugal to be in a struggle. They were ousted in the Round of 16 of Euro 2020 and they qualified for the World Cup, but under the playoff system rather than top of their group.

The Navigators are coached by Fernando Santos who started coaching the team shortly after the 2014 World Cup. Most of their World Cup team plays for teams in the Premier League. Besides Ronaldo, Portugal has many other lauded players like Pepe, Rui Patricio and Bernardo Silva. Recent play has them with wins against Czechia, North Macedonia and Turkey. They had a recent draw against Ireland. In Nations League play, they’ve had a win and a loss to Switzerland and a draw and a loss to Spain. Qatar is the stage for Portugal to chase the World Cup one more time.

-Ghana (61): Interesting that all three African teams that once made it to a World Cup quarterfinal will all be here in Qatar. Ghana was the team with all the magic a decade ago, but it seems like their magic that the world witnessed at the 2010 World Cup has eluded them in recent years. They failed to qualify for Russia 2018. They were also out in the Round of 16 in the 2019 African Cup and in the group stage of the 2021 Cup.

The Black Stars are currently coached by German-born Otto Addo who played for Ghana in their first World Cup appearance in 2006. The team plays for a wide variety of clubs in leagues around the world. The most lauded players on the team are the Ayew brothers: Jordan and Andre. Recent play shows a mixed bag of results. They’ve won to Nicaragua and Madagascar, draws against Chile and Nigeria, and losses to Japan, Brazil and Qatar. Qatar is the scene for Ghana to prove itself. They could go better than most people expect.

-Uruguay (14): This decade has been very good for Uruguay. The first World Cup winners have done a good job in proving they’re also a present force to be reckoned with. In fact five of their ten most capped players are part of the present national team as well as their two top goalscorers ever. The last three World Cups have shown impressive results where they’ve made it to the knockout round each time and even got as far as fourth in 2010. However in the two most recent Copa Americas, they’ve bowed out in the quarterfinals.

Although much of the team’s rebuilding in the past 15 years can be attributed to coach Oscar Tabarez, the coaching of the team was handed to Uruguayan Diego Alonso, coach of the Inter Miami CF of the MLS, less than a year ago. Luis Suarez is back, but he’s not the team captain. Defender Diego Godin is. Also part of the squad is goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, defender Martin Caceres and striker Edinson Cavani. Recent wins include Canada, Mexico and Chile. They’ve also endured a draw against the United States and losses to Bolivia, Argentina and Iran. The stage is set in Qatar for La Celeste to prove they’re as much about now as they’re about their past legacy.

-South Korea (28): South Korea has proven itself to be the best Asian team. This is the tenth straight World Cup they’ve qualified for, and they did it in convincing fashion winning twelve of their sixteen games. Recently, they’ve had struggles in intercontinental play. They’ve bowed out in the group stage of the last two World Cups and they finished in the quarterfinals of the most recent AFC Asian Cup.

The current squad of the Taegeuk warriors are coached by a predominantly Portuguese coaching staff with Paulo Bento, who played in the 2002 World Cup, as head coach. This should make their December 2nd match against Portugal very interesting! The World Cup squad has some players who play for European clubs, including captain Son Heung-min who plays for Tottenham Hotspur, but most of the squad play for clubs in Korea’s K-League 1. Recent play includes wins against Egypt, Iran and Cameroon. They’ve endured recent draws against Paraguay and Costa Rica, and had recent losses to Brazil, japan and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar 2022 is an opportunity for Korea Republic to prove they are Asia’s top threat.

My Prediction: And this is it. My last prediction for the two qualifiers of the last World Cup group of 2022. I will have to say it will be Portugal and Uruguay. Best chance for an upset looks to be South Korea.

And there you go. That’s it for my reviews of the eight groups of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. I’m planning one last blog, and that’s of extra tidbits and social media hashtags for your favorite teams. Stay toond!

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group G

Before I get into my preview of Group G of the FIFA World Cup, I just want to inform of something. There has been a lot of talk over the issue of human rights in Qatar. This is especially in concern of foreign visitors coming to Qatar with tickets. FIFA has not ignored this. In fact FIFA makes public on its website that it has developed a Human Rights Grievance Mechanism. If a visitor notices a concern, the information of what to do is on this link: https://www.fifa.com/social-impact/human-rights/grievance-mechanism

And now, my review of Group G of the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

-Brazil (1): It’s easy to believe that Brazil is the best. No other team has played in all 21 previous World Cups. No other nation has won the World Cup five times. They’ve also won the Copa America an impressive nine times. Despite all their victories, it can be a mistake. Ever since their last World Cup win back in 2002, they’ve gone out sooner than expected thanks to bad mistakes on plays, blown chances and sometimes a lack of top talent or team unity. Their best World Cup finish since has been fourth in 2014 as host nation, and it was quite humiliating.

Since the 2018 World Cup where they were out in the quarterfinals.,the Seleção have showed improvements. They won the 2019 Copa America and were runners-up to Argentina last year. The national squad is coached by Tite, manager since 2016. Neymar is back, as well as Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Casemiro and goalkeeper Allisson. Since Copa America 2021, they have not lost a game since. Wins include Ghana, Tunisia, Japan and Uruguay. They’ve had a win and a draw against Colombia, and they’ve drawn against Argentina and Ecuador. The whole world is looking forward to how Brazil will performi in Qatar 2022. No doubt they will be ready.

-Serbia (21): Serbia is a team that’s full of surprises. Ever since they’ve been competing and playing on their own, they’ve never qualified for a Euro, but they’ve qualified for their third World Cup out of four tries! Even now, they rank 19th in the UEFA Nations League. As for World Cup play, The Eagles are hoping to relive the glory days when the Yugoslavian team would go far in world football.

The current squad is coached by Dragan Stojkovic who played for the last two Yugoslavia teams that played in the World Cup: 1990 and 1998. The team’s players play in clubs in various European leagues with the most common being Italy’s Serie A. Team captain Dusan Tadic plays for Ajax Amsterdam. In recent play, they’ve had wins over Sweden, Hungary and Portugal. They’ve had a win and a draw against Slovenia. They’ve also had a win and a loss to Norway and endured an additional loss to Denmark. Qatar is the stage for Serbia to show the world what they’re made of.

-Switzerland (15): Switzerland is a team that should be admired for its consistency. This will be their twelfth World Cup and fifth consecutive. But the problem is the Nati always have a problem with getting ahead. They’ve never progressed passed the second stage and they’ve never won a knockout game. That would include Round-of-16 exits in the last two World Cups. Recently they achieved a breakthrough at Euro 2020 when they won their first-ever knockout match, albeit on penalty kicks. Right now in UEFA Nations League play, they rank 9th in the A-league.

Since Euro 2020, the Swiss team is coached by Murat Yakin who played for Switzerland in Euro 2004. Most of the team plays for teams in the European leagues with the Premier League and the Bundesliga being the most common. Captain Granit Xhaka plays for Arsenal. Interestingly enough, vice-captain Xherdan Shaqiri plays for the Chicago Fire in the MLS. Four of Switzerland’s players at the World Cup rank among Switzerland’s Top 10 most capped. Recent play has been a mixed bag. They’ve had a recent win against Bulgaria. draws against Italy and Kosovo, and a recent loss to England. In Nations Cup play, they’ve had a win and a loss against Portugal, Spain and Czechia. The stage is set in Qatar and a chance for the Swiss team to prove themselves.

-Cameroon (43): Cameroon used to be seen as the leaders in African football. It seems like the glory days of the Indomitable Lions were so long ago. Their quarterfinal finish was back in 1990. They failed to qualify for 2018, and they lost all three matches in the two previous World Cups. Lately things have been making improvements for Cameroon. They finished third at the most recent African Cup of Nations. They also finished fourth in the 2020 African Nations Championship.

Cameroon is coached by Rigoberto Song who played for Cameroon in four World Cups. Song was named Cameroon’s head coach in February of this year replacing Toni Conceicao of Portugal. The players mostly play for leagues in European or Arabian nations. Captain Vincent Aboubakar plays for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League. Recent play has them with wins against Burundi, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. They’ve had draws against Jamaica and Egypt. They’ve had a win and a draw against Burkina Faso and a win and a loss against Algeria. 2022 is a chance for Cameroon to regain their old glory and pave the way for a new generation.

My Prediction: Here we go. Now it’s time to make the prediction of the two most likely to advance. For this group, I will have to go with Brazil and Serbia. I pick Switzerland as the team most likely to surprise.

And there you go. My review of World Cup Group G. Hard to believe there’s only one group left to do! The excitement doesn’t end, does it?

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group F

As we move on throughout the groups, just to let you know it’s not easy to make a call on which groups are going to qualify and which aren’t. Even the surest of sure shots aren’t a guarantee.

Some may wonder why I include past games as references for how I feel teams are going to do. Sure, it’s most often a case that they did not play the same teams before in the recent past, like the past year and a half. However past play can tell a lot about a team. It may not tell everything, but it does give a good sense of how the team is doing. I’m also aware that such a viewpoint isn’t all that accurate either. A team could be lackluster in qualifying and in friendlies but suddenly come alive at the World Cup. Plus the COVID pandemic changed a lot. Players were out of training as a team for months, games were cancelled and tournaments were delayed. How each team dealt with the pandemic differed team by team. How some of the bigger-name teams do here in Qatar will tell a lot of how the pandemic affected them. Whether they dealt with it best or whether they were hit hard.

Next group of focus is Group F. Interesting is that two of the teams in this group are teams that both finished in the Top 3 of the last World Cup! It’s all about the luck of the draw how we get these World Cup groups, or sometimes lack thereof.. This is a very interesting mix of nations, as I’ll review henceforth:

-Belgium (2): The run of The Red Devils’s luck actually started with their failure to qualify for Euro 2012. It began as they hired Marc Wilmots who played for three World Cups as coach. Soon the changes were noticed. They qualified for the 2014 World Cup with one game to go and got as far as the quarterfinals during the Cup. Their “Golden Generation” was just being born, but not without bumps. After they only got as far as the quarterfinals in Euro 2016, Wilmots was replaced by Spanish coach Roberto Martinez. Martinez led Belgium to its best-ever World Cup finish in Russia 2018: third. Belgium still ranks as one of the top teams in the world.

Despite only going as far as the quarterfinals in Euro 2020, Martinez is still head coach. Many of the big names from 2018 — Vertonghen, the Hazard brothers, de Bruyne, Alderweireld, Witsel, Lukaku — are back, along with some new faces. The World Cup squad has eight players that rank among Belgium’s ten most capped players ever. Recent wins include Estonia, Poland and Burkina Faso. They drew against Ireland and had a win and a draw against Wales. They also lost both their recent games against the Netherlands. Qatar is the stage for Belgium to continue their greatness and even reach new levels.

-Canada (41): For Canada, the World Cup has been mostly an ethnic affair. In the past, the team only qualified for the 1986 World Cup. Since then, Canadians normally cheer for the team of their ethnic background at the World Cup or just simply pick a favorite. Things really changed leading up to the qualifying rounds. In 2018, they hired John Herdman, who guided Canada’s women’s team to be a top power, to be their coach. The turnaround was amazing. In the first round of CONCACAF qualifying, Canada won all four of their games. In the second round, which consists of a single game, Canada won their match against Haiti thanks to a single goal by Cyle Larin. In the third round which consisted of eight teams and fourteen games, Canada clinched qualification with one game to go! They ended the round with the best results of all CONCACAF teams.

You can be sure the Maple Leafs want to deliver a good show this World Cup. Back in 1986, they lost all three of their group stage games, scored no goals and conceded five. Most of the current squad play for teams of the MLS. Active on the team are Atiba Hutchison, Milan Borlan and Samuel Piette who all rank among Canada’s ten most capped players ever. Also on the team are Cyle Larin and Jonathan David who are Canada’s two biggest goalscorers ever. Not to mention forward Alphonso Davies, who is a rising talent at 22 and considered one of the best full-backs in the world. As for their Group F opponents, Canada has never previously played Croatia, and they’ve never had a win against Belgium or Morocco. Their most recent wins came to Mexico, the US and Japan. They had a recent 2-2 draw to Bahrain. They’ve also had recent losses to Costa Rica, Uruguay and Honduras. Whatever the situation, Qatar is the area for Canada to go better than they ever have before, and maybe even pull a surprise or two.

-Morocco (22): Morocco is a sentimental favorite for many. They are the first African team to qualify for a World Cup, back in 1970. They are the first African team to qualify for a World Cup knockout stage, back in 1986. However they’ve continuously been trying to get their team’s top form back and even trying to take the team to new levels. Their last World Cup had them out in the group stage and their last Africa Cup in 2021 had them out in the quarterfinals.

Managing the Atlas Lions is French-born Moroccan Walid Regagui who played for France’s Ligue 1 team Toulouse and represented Morocco at the 2004 African Cup. Regagui was named Moroccan head coach this August 31st. The current team plays for a wide variety of teams in European leagues and leagues in Arab countries. Recent wins they’ve achieved include Chile, Ghana and South Africa. They’ve had a win and a draw against DR Congo. They’ve also endured recent losses to Egypt and the United States. 2022 is Another chance for Morocco to write another chapter for the team.

-Croatia (12): There’s one World Cup rule that you should never dismiss the “minnows.” That especially holds true for Croatia. They’ve only been in five previous World Cup s since their independence but when Vatreni are on, they go way further than expected. That was especially made true when they made it to the World Cup final in Russia 2018. Their player Luka Modric was also awarded the Golden Ball for being the top player of the Cup and won the Ballon D’or that same year.

The team’s coaching staff is predominantly Croatian with Zlatko Dalic head coach since 2017.Modric is back and is captain of the team. Returning with Modric are other renowned players Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida. Most of the team plays for teams in either Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A , or Croatia’s Prva HNL. Recent wins include Bulgaria, Denmark and France (for the first time ever!). Recent draws also include France along with Slovenia. Their only loss came to Austria in UEFA Nations Cup play. Nothing is guaranteed in football. One thing that can be certain is Croatia can go further than you expect it to.

My Prediction: It never fails. Once I’m done reviewing, I have to predict the two that will advance. For this group, I anticipate the advancers to be Belgium and Croatia. Best chances for an upset will be Morocco. With the World Cup being played in a desert climate, they could do it.

And there you go. This is my review of the Group F teams and prediction. Only just six days to go until the start of the big event. Already close to 3 million tickets have been sold. Stay tuned!

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group E

I must admit when I look at the team’s rosters, I often forget that most nations have not officially declared their World Cup teams. Every time I look at Wikipedia with the team information, it lists a lot, but very rarely the official cut. So I’m dealing with teams as I type along. In this group, Spain have not officially their team for Qatar 2022 and Germany only declared theirs on Thursday!.

Without further ado, here is my look at Group E of World Cup 2022:

-Spain (7): La Furia Roja are an interesting team. For so long they’ve been known as “football’s greatest underachievers.” Then starting in the late noughts, they had an amazing run winning Euro 2008, World Cup 200 and Euro 2012. Then they went back to their underachieving ways going out in the group stage at World Cup 2014, the Round of 16 at Euro 2016 and the Round of 16 at World Cup 2018. However Spain has shown progress as they made the semifinals of Euro 2020.

The coaching staff of Spain’s team is completely of Spaniards. Head coach Luis Enrique won Olympic gold in 1992, participated in three World Cups and in Euro 1996. Most of Spain’s players play for La Liga with some playing in England and France. Recent results have they’ve had both wins and draws against Portugal and Czechia. They achieved wins against Sweden and Greece, but they’ve also endured a loss to Switzerland. Qatar is the scene for them to try and achieve another World Cup.

-Costa Rica (31): If there’s one thing to learn about Los Ticos, it’s you don’t count them out of World Cup play. They often come with low expectations, but can surprise, like when they made the Round of 16 in 1990 and the quarterfinals in 2014. As they prepare for their sixth World Cup, they again come with low expectations. At the last CONCACAF Gold Cup, they only made the quarterfinals. On top of it, they’ve never had a win against any of their World Cup opponents.

Most of the coaching staff are Costa Rican, but the head coach is a Colombian – Luis Suarez – who has managed five previous Latin American teams. Most of the team including captain Brian Ruiz plays for the Costa Rican league. In recent play, they’ve won against Nigeria, United States and New Zealand. They’ve had recent draws to South Korea and Mexico, and losses to Panama and Canada. Qatar is another chance for Costa Rica to prove to the world how well they can play.

-Germany (11): It almost seemed like a given. If the Mannschaft doesn’t win the World Cup, they would at least be guaranteed to go as far as the quarterfinals. Their past record seemed to sum it up well. That all changed during Russia 2018 when they appeared to be under the alleged “curse of the defending champion.” Their failure in the group stage was their first World Cup opening round ouster since 1938. It was after Euro 2020 and their exit during the Round of 16 that they knew it was time to fix things.

Germany’s coach since Euro 2020 is Hansi Flick. He was assistant coach to the German team from 2006 to 2014 and was head coach of Bayern Munich from 2019 to 2021. Most of the players of the World Cup squad play for Germany’s Bundesliga with four playing for the Premier League and two playing for Spain’s La Liga. Since Euro 2020, they’ve had mixed results including a win and a draw against Italy, two draws against England, a draw against the Netherlands, and a draw and a loss against Hungary. Qatar 2022 is the stage for Germany to redeem itself.

-Japan (24): Since they made their World Cup debut in 1998, Japan has competed in every World Cup since and Qatar will be #7 for them. One thing they will hope to do is go past the Round of 16, which the Samurai Blue have never done. Their most recent feat is making it to the finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Since their Round of 16 exit in Russia 2018, they’ve returned to having Japanese coaches. The entire coaching staff is Japanese with Hajime Moriyasu as head coach. Interestingly enough, Moriyasu was part of the last Japanese team that failed to qualify for a World Cup (back in 1994). The team mostly play for European leagues with a few players that play for the J-League. In recent play, they’ve achieved wins against the US, Ghana, Australia and their top Asian rival South Korea. They’ve also had draws against Ecuador and Vietnam, and losses to Tunisia and Brazil. It could be here in Qatar that Japan could pull a surprise.

My Prediction: It’s not easy to make a prediction here as all four teams have known strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless I predict the qualifiers to be Spain and Germany. I predict Japan to have the best chances to upset.

And there you go! Another review of another World Cup group. This time it’s Group E. Eagerly awaiting the start. Hard to believe it’s coming this soon! Hard to believe it will be this late in the year!

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group D

Group D is one of three groups in World Cup 2022 that has all four teams that were present in the previous World Cup. Twenty-four nations that competed at the World Cup 2018 are making a return appearance here in Qatar. Surprisingly, three of the teams in Group D were part of Group C in Russia 2018! In Group D, we have the defending champion from 2018, one who made it to the Round of 16, and two group stagers!

Some may guess that the two advancers from Group D will end up being the two European teams, especially since they’re both in FIFA’s Top 10 right now, but don’t be so fast to dismiss. Here’s my rundown of Group D:

-France (4): At the last World Cup, France did it! They won their second World Cup just 20 years after their first. And with a coach that was a player for the 1998 team! However France hasn’t been completely on top since. Back at Euro 2020, they only made it to the Round of 16. Also as I’ve pointed out before, being defending World Cup champion has put them in a spot of bad luck that has happened to defending champions this century.

Didier Deschamps has been their coach since 2012. Although the World Cup team has not been declared yet, half of the team that played in the 2018 World Cup have played for the national team in recent matches. The team plays in various leagues throughout Europe with most playing for France’s Ligue 1. They’ve recently acquired wins against Austria, South Africa and the Ivory Coast. They’ve had notable draws against Croatia and Austria, and they’ve endured notable losses to Denmark and Croatia in Nations Cup play. 2022 gives an opportunity for France to prove that the bad luck of being defending champion may just all be a myth.

-Australia (38): It seems like the magic of the Socceroos we witnessed back in 2006 was a memory. They’ve been able to qualify for every World Cup since after switching from the OFC to the AFC, but it appears to have worked against them. They may have qualified for each World Cup since, but they’ve ended in the group stage each time with their last win being in 2010. Even after switching to the AFC, they’ve won the Asian Cup in 2015, but lost in the quarterfinals in 2019.

Since the 2018 World Cup, they’ve adopted a predominantly Australian coaching staff with Graham Arnold leading. The team consists of six A-League players and the rest playing mainly for European clubs; most in Scotland. Their recent wins have all been against Asian teams. They’ve had draws against China and Peru, as well as a win and a loss to Saudi Arabia and Japan. They come with low expectations in Qatar, but football is a domain where even the least-favored can excel if the seize the moment.

-Denmark (10): De Rød-Hvide have often seen as a team who have their greatest moment waiting for them. However their greatest World Cup moment still seems to be a bit of a wait. They’ve made the semifinals of four Euros and won in 1992. However they’ve only qualified for five previous World Cups and their best finish is the quarterfinals in 1998.

The team has a predominantly Danish coaching staff with Kasper Hjulmand as head coach. Despite the cardiac arrest during their first Euro 2020, Christian Eriksen is still playing pro-football as part of Manchester United and he’s on the Danish team. The most capped player is Simon Kjaer who plays for AC Milan. In recent play, they’ve had wins against Austria, France and Serbia, but they’ve had recent losses to the Netherlands and Croatia. The Danish team could just arrive in Qatar as their best team yet. They’ll just have this coming month’s time to prove it.

-Tunisia (30): Tunisia is one of many African teams waiting for their big moment at the World Cup. They’ve played in five previous World Cups and always gone home after the group stage. Recently the team accomplished making it to the final of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, hosted in Qatar. They also won the Kirin Cup this year.

The team’s coaching staff is completely Tunisian with Jalel Kadri becoming head coach this year. The team’s players play for a mix of clubs in Europe and Arabic nations. In recent play, they’ve had notable wins against Chile and Japan, draws against Mali and Botswana, and notable losses to Brazil and Algeria. Whatever you do, don’t rule out Tunisia for 2022. Plus they could have an advantage since they are familiar with playing in desert climate.

My Prediction: It’s always the case. After a group review, predictions for the qualifiers are expected. I am going to join more of the common predictions and say France and Denmark. However I think Tunisia is the team that can most pull a surprise.

And there you go! That’s my prediction for World Cup Group D. Hard to believe I’m half-done! Hard to believe the World Cup starts in ten days! Better start doing my pub-planning fast!

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group C

It’s crazy that this World Cup will be taking place in November. This is the first World Cup ever to take place in the months of November and December. Why so late in the year? Well, the COVID pandemic delaying a lot of athletic events could have a lot to do with it. But I feel it has more to do about the weather. With the average maximum temperatures in June, July and August being above 40 Celsius, it’s no wonder this desert climate would have the World Cup put on hold until November with an average maximum just being under 30 Celsius and a December maximum average just under 25. Which makes pure sense.

Now my next group of focus is Group C. With two of the teams being in FIFA’s Top 15, many think the two qualifiers to the knockout stage are the most obvious, but anything is possible in football. Favorites can be surprised in the end and team you thought we long shots actually get in. So here’s my run-down:

-Argentina (3): Even though Argentina has a lot of top calibre players over the years, all the attention seems to be focused on Lionel Messi. It’s always been about how a major championship has always stood in his way. He missed the World Cup by that much. He missed the Copa America by that much. When will he win one? He and his Argentinean teammates finally won a Copa America last year! As well as a CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions back in June.

Joining Messi in his fifth pursuit of a World Cup is star midfielder Angel Di Maria and defender Nicolas Otamendi who also rank in Argentina’s ten most capped players ever. The Albiceleste has a lot of seasoned veterans and has included some new young blood as part of their lineup for Qatar. Argentina has a history of firing coaches after the World Cup. Since World Cup 2018, the team has been coached by Lionel Scaloni who actually played on the very first World Cup team for Argentina that Messi played for: 2006! Since the Copa America, Argentina have not had a loss. They’ve had notable wins against Brazil, Chile and Italy, and draws against Ecuador and Paraguay. They come to Qatar as the team most expected to win and Messi’s last chance for a World Cup. Their moment is theirs to prove.

-Saudi Arabia (51): This is Saudi Arabia’s sixth World Cup appearance. Their best-ever result is a Round-of-Sixteen finish in the 1994 World Cup. Most recently in 2019, they were runners-up in the Arabian Gulf Cup. Expectations are not high for Saudi Arabia, but one advantage they have over most other teams is that they’re best conditioned in playing in desert climates. That’s an advantage that could pay off unexpectedly.

The Green Falcons are an interesting lineup. The Saudi team will often be coached by a foreign coach while the players won’t be allowed to play for foreign teams. The coach is currently Frenchman Herve Renard. The team has racked up recent wins against North Macedonia and Iceland, draws against United States, Ecuador and Australia, and losses against Colombia and Japan. Qatar is another chance to prove that they have what it takes.

-Mexico (13): Mexico is commonly seen as a sleeping giant. They’re a team capable of going far, but waiting for their World Cup moment. Only once did they ever win a knockout round game at the World Cup and that was back in 1986 when they hosted! They’ve all lost out in the Round-of-Sixteen these past seven World Cups. Since Russia 2018, they’ve won the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup and were runners-up to the US in 2021. They look forward to being co-hosts with the United hosting in 2026. However they come looking for glory here in Qatar.

The current Mexican team play in a mix of clubs in Mexico, Europe and the United States. Their coach is an Argentinean: Gerardo Martino. This should be interesting when El Tri play Argentina. Recently they acquired wins against Peru, Nigeria and Jamaica. They’ve also drawn against Ecuador, Costa Rica and the United States. They’ve also endured losses this year to Uruguay and Colombia. 2022 could be the year Mexico takes their team in a new direction.

-Poland (26): This century, Poland has been known as a team to blow a lot of their chances. At the 2002 World Cup, they were expected to go far, but lost out in the group stage. They made it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 and expectations were big for them at World Cup 2018, but again they were ousted in the group stage. Bad luck continued as they wer out in the group stage of Euro 2020.

Robert Lewandowski is the captain of the team. Already he holds the team records for most caps and most goals. Joining him will be star defender Kamil Glik and top midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak. Since their Euro 2020 disappointment, they’ve been coached by Czeslaw Michniewicz. Since Euro 2020, they’ve had notable wins against Wales and Sweden, draws against the Netherlands and Scotland, and notable losses against Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary. 2022 is a chance to go beyond expectations.

MY PREDICTION: And now that moment where I will have to do the eventual. And that’s make two predictions for the teams that will advance to the knockout stage. I believe it to be Argentina and Mexico.

And there you have it. My review and predictions for Group C. Hard to believe it will all start in 12 days. The excitement never dies, does it?

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group B

Interesting to note that the draw for the nations in each group took place just as three nations were yet to be decided! On April 1st, the draw for the groups had just as a European berth and two intercontinental berths were not yet decided! They all eventually be decided by the end of June. I state this here because the team of that undecided European berth is in this very group.

Group B is widely considered to be this Cup’s “Group Of Death.” All four are jam-packed with talent and are currently ranked in FIFA’s Top 20. In addition, some anticipate this group will have the most politically heated matches as Iran has strained relationships with the UK and the United States. It will all be determined in Qatar. So here’s the rundown:

GROUP B

-England (5): This is quite the time for the English national team. Ever since Gareth Southgate was made coach of the England national team after Euro 2016, the team has been playing like a team unit not seen for decades. At the last World Cup, they made it to the semifinals. At Euro 2020, they made it to the final for the first time ever! However the final exposed a common weakness England still has: penalty kicks!

The Three Lions lineup for the World Cup has the return of veterans Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling. It includes young rising talents too like Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham. All but three players are Premier League players. Since Euro 2020, they’ve had a mixed bag of results. They’ve won against Albania, Switzerland and the Ivory Coast. They’ve drawn in both their games against Germany. They’ve also had a draw and a loss to Italy. They’ve also lost to Hungary twice. Qatar will put England again to the challenge.

-Iran (20): This is Iran’s sixth World Cup and they’re still seeking their first trip to the knockout round! Iran almost had the chance at the last World Cup (where they were also in Group B) but their results of a win, a draw and a loss couldn’t stack up against Spain and Portugal. Here in Qatar, you can bet Team Melli will do what they can to break new ground.

The team is coached by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz. He has coached the team to both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. After the 2019 Asian Cup where Iran made the semifinals, the team went through two more European coaches before returning to Queiroz this September. Most of the team plays for clubs in the Persian Gulf Pro League. In the last year and a half, their wins have come against United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, they drew to Senegal and they’ve lost to South Korea and Algeria. Qatar just might be their best World Cup showing ever. They just have to make it happen.

-United States of America (16): The 20th Century had the US team looking like a joke in football. Then in the 21st Century, the US were showing how far they progressed by advancing to three knockout stages out of four World Cups. Then disaster struck before 2018 as they failed to qualify. Things changed for the US as they named Gregg Berhalter as their head coach and acquired former US team members Earnie Stewart as Sporting Director and Brian McBride as General Manager.

The squad for the World Cup has not officially been determined as of press time. The US team has a mix of players from the MLS and from various European Leagues. It’s highly likely the team will consist of their big names like DeAndre Yedlin, Kelly Acosta and Christian Pulisic. They’ve had recent notable wins against Mexico and Morocco, notable draws against Uruguay and Saudi Arabia, and losses to Costa Rica and Japan. 2022 looks to be the arena for redemption and a new chapter for the American team.

-Wales (19): Of all teams that are returning to the World Cup here in Qatar, none have had a longer wait than Wales. They only played in one previous World Cup back in 1958, where they made the quarterfinals. Since then, Wales have failed to qualify. It almost appeared Gareth Bale would be one of the best players ever never to compete in a World Cup. Then The Dragons qualified in the European playoffs of qualifying, won their semifinal against Austria and then won their final against Ukraine!

Wales is not a one-man team. Besides Bale, Wales also has star defender Chris Gunter and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. The squad mostly play in clubs with the Premier League and have been coached by Welshman Rob Page for two years. Their recent results put their status in question. Before qualifying, they’ve had wins against Belarus and Austria, and draws against Belgium and Czechia. Since qualifying, they had a draw and a loss against Belgium and additional losses to the Netherlands and Poland. It may sound tough, but all that will matter will be their play in Qatar.

My Prediction: It is a bit crazy having to make a prediction in what people call the “Group Of Death.” Nevertheless, I have a feeling that the qualifiers from this group will be England and the United States. Frankly any combination of teams would make sense at this point.

And there you go! My thoughts and predictions for Group B. Whatever the outcome is, I anticipate this will have the closest football of the whole tournament.

World Cup 2022 Preview: Group A

For those wondering with the World Cup happening, will I be doing reviews of the groups as I normally do? Yes, I will. Will I be doing reviews of the stadiums and issues involving Qatar as the host? No I won’t. I mostly want to stick to reviewing the groups. Escpe4cially since that’s what mostly gets attention to my group blogs.

I will only talk a limited amount about Qatar hosting. I know it’s a surprise selection and that a lot of people have opinions about it. Many people are crying foul about it. The most I will say is it is a surprise to see a nation of just over 4,000 square miles (just slightly bigger than the island of Jamaica) and not even 3,000,000 people hosting. I would have figured is there would be one country in the Arabic world that would host the World Cup, it would be either Morocco or Algeria. Plus a nation that small having eight stadiums. I hope most of those stadiums have temporary seating because Qatar can’t afford to have the stadiums as white elephants. Only the future will tell of the after-use.

In the meantime, I will begin my World Cup focus on Group A. Group A is always the group with the host nation and it’s in the hopes that the host nation qualifies to the knockout stage. So far only once — South Africa back in 2010 — has the host nation not advanced past the opening stage of a World Cup. So let’s get to it! Also a reminder that FIFA ranking for October 2022 is in brackets:

GROUP A

-Qatar (50): Isn’t it something that there’s only a single nation making its World Cup debut and it’s the host nation? Qatar is considered to be an underdog by many. However the team called ‘The Maroon’ know with them hosting the World Cup this year, they will want to put on a good show and have the home country proud of them. They hired a Spanish coach named Felix Sanchez to coach the national team starting with the under-20 team in 2013, then the under-23 team in 2017 and then the main national team in 2020. They have delivered surprise results in the last four years like winning the 2019 Asian Cup and finishing third as a guest nation at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Interesting to note that all members of Qatar’s team play for clubs inside Qatar. Qatar has attempted to prove its mettle in the last year and a half against both national teams and renowned clubs. They’ve had victories over Ghana, United Arab Emirates and Italian team Udinese. They’ve had recent draws against Jamaica, Morocco and Chile. They’ve also had notable defeats to Serbia, Canada and Algeria. For their Group A opponents, the only team they ever played against was Ecuador and their record against them is a win, a loss and a draw. This World Cup is the scene for Qatar to prove itself to the world and they might just pull a surprise or two.

-Ecuador(44): This will be Ecuador’s fourth World Cup. Ecuador is a team looking for it’s first major break. At the World Cup, the best they ever did was the Round of 16. At the Copa America, the most they ever got was fourth. Le Tricolor is coach by a full team of Argentinean coaches in hopes of making their dent on the world football field. The Ecuadorean under-20 team finished third in the 2019 U20 World Cup.

The team has players that play in a wide variety of clubs in Europe, the US’s MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX. The goalkeepers all play for teams with Ecuador’s Serie A. They’ve had recent noteworthy wins against Mexico, Chile and Nigeria. They’ve had notable draws against Argentina, Japan and Brazil. They’ve also had losses to Venezuela and Paraguay. 2022 is another chance for Ecuador to prove itself on the World Cup stage and anything can happen.

-Senegal (18): The 2018 World Cup was the first World Cup since 1982 that an African team didn’t qualify for the knockout phase. Of the five teams, Senegal appeared to be the team most likely to. However at the end of their group, they had a win, a loss and a draw, just like Japan. They had the same goal differential as Japan, but what made the difference was Japan had less yellow cards than Senegal. That made all the difference between qualifying or not. The Lions of Teranga are back this year with the highest rank of all the African teams.

The national team has players that play in various European clubs; most play for either English or French teams. Coach Allou Cisse is the same coach they had since 2015. The team has had recent notable wins against Bolivia and Egypt, notable draws against Iran and Togo, and only two losses in the last year and a half. Senegal looks to improve as a team in 2022 and the stadiums of Qatar are another chance for them to move forward.

-Netherlands (8): The excitement of the Oranje almost always seems to be a given during a World Cup or a Euro. But after the 2014 World Cup where they finished third, they ran into trouble. They failed to qualify for the 2016 Euro and the 2018 World Cup. Turns out after they dropped Louis van Gaal as head coach just after World Cup 2014, they dealt with seven head coaches since. Van Gaal has returned as head coach after their Round of 16 elimination at Euro 2020.

For the national team for this World Cup, most of the players either play for German leagues or Netherlands’ Eridivisie. The team features a wide variety of veterans and young players. Since Euro 2020, the Netherlands team has not had a single loss. They’ve scored big wins against Belgium, Wales and Denmark. They’ve also had noteworthy draws against Germany and Poland. 2022 looks to be a big year of redemption for the Netherlands and I’m sure they’ll prove a lot here in Qatar.

MY PREDICTION: And now for my thoughts on Group A. It’s hard to predict as some teams have proved a lot while others have more to prove. I predict the two teams to qualify to the knockout phase will be the Netherlands and Senegal.

And there you have it! The first of my reviews of the groups for the 2022 World Cup. As we get closer and closer to the start, you will be seeing more reviews and more predictions.

2014 World Cup: All Eyes On Brazil

Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin my blog, I want to give you all a quick reference post for my Group Stage predictions for this year’s World Cup. Title will open the link to my predictions:

As for predictions for the knockout rounds, I’ll wait until the qualifiers are decided. Meanwhile I will give a prediction for the final for those curious: Brazil vs. Argentina which Brazil wins. Let’s see if it hold up. Anyways enough of predictions! On with my blog!

“For any country, organizing a cup is like playing a game, sweating and often suffering, with the possibility of extra-time and penalty kicks, but the final result and celebration are worth the effort.”

-Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil

The 2014 World Cup opened on June 12th with a spectacular opening ceremony at 3pm  in the newly built Arena de Sao Paulo. The competition started with the opening game of hosts Brazil vs.  Croatia. Each team by now has played at least one match to get things rolling. Even in the months and years leading to the competition, the World Cup made headlines and continues to make headlines now for all the activity on the field and off.

NOTHING LESS THAN THE WIN

Football is a matter of life and death in Brazil. Literally. I’ll get to the Maracanazo in one of my future blogs but you will understand why Brazil has to win. And nothing less. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, more than any other country. They’re one country with such a legacy in football that anything less than the World Cup is unacceptable. In fact it’s the Maracanazo that Brazil no longer wears white. Brazil comes to this tournament not ranked #1. Actually they’ve been ousted in the quarterfinals these past two World Cups. However hosting the World Cup in a country that treats football like a religion would consider the loss of the World Cup like a stab at the heart. They have coach Luis Felipe Scolari who coached Brazil to win the 2002 World Cup heading the team consisting of veterans like Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Jefferson and Frad as well as newcomers like Oscar, Bernard and rising phenom Neymar. Will they deliver to the challenge or will they choke under pressure? Already they started with a good win against Croatia 3-1 but just yesterday they had a 0-0 draw against Mexico. Makes me wondering if they found Mexico too much of a challenge or they were saving themselves for later. We’ll see. There isn’t a single team in the world Brazil can’t beat. However it is possible for some teams to beat them. Hope it’s not here.

CONSTRUCTION OBSTRUCTIONS

As you may have noticed when I did  my blogs about the stadiums, I made comments about the construction problems that happened along the way. There were even construction fatalities like back in November when a crane inside the Arena de Sao Paulo toppled and killed two workers. This bad planning is nothing new in Brazil. Brazil has a habit of building things slower than expected. However it was already noted by FIFA as far back as 2011. Stadium expenditures were originally expected to cost $1.1 million. Instead stadium works cost $3.6 billion. Some of you may remember from the Confederations Cup that Brazil had six stadiums ready for that competition. There still six more remaining. FIFA gave Brazil a deadline of December 31, 2013 to have all the stadiums completed. Six were incomplete by that time. As you may have noticed in my group blogs, there were many stadiums that took until April or May for completion. Even the condition of the Arena de Sao Paulo was in question just 24 hours before it was to host the opening ceremonies and opening match.

It wasn’t just the building of new stadiums that was the problem. Airports in many of the cities needed upgrading to cope with a huge influx of tourists coming in. Thirteen needed upgrading and it was predicted in 2011, ten would not be ready. That led to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to auction off many of the airports to the private sector. There were even monorail projects planned for many of the host cities  but many were not completed. Some even had to be downgraded if they wanted to finish on time. In May 2014, FIFA reported that only 36 of the 93 major projects had already been completed. However FIFA secretary Jeroma Valcke did make note that many of the projects were meant to continue after the World Cup including ‘legacy projects’ sponsored by FIFA costing $20 million and coming completely at FIFA’s expense.

The slagging preparations of Brazil has garnered criticism from all around. FIFA has expressed their disappointment, even many journalists have dismissed this as the most trouble-plagued or the worst-organized World Cup in history. Even Brazil’s legendary players of the past had things to say about Brazil’s preparation problems. Romario, now a political figure, criticized Brazil’s handling of the preparations but said: “FIFA’s requirements were excessive.” Ronaldo spoke of his embarrassment of the country’s infrastructure and how: ” a series of investments were promised but won’t be delivered – only 30% will be delivered.” Pele however has been the most outspoken in his disappointment but he especially focused his disappointment on the expense of the World Cup: ”It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been. Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it.”

FORGET ABOUT THE PRICETAG?

Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA's World Cup over its huge expense.
Just like during last year’s Confederations Cup, Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA’s World Cup over its huge expense.

After Pele’s quote, you may be asking how expensive is this World Cup going to cost? Well, not as expensive as the $51 billion Putin and his Russia spent on the Sochi Winter Olympics but high enough. Brazil’s World Cup comes at an estimated price tag of $14 billion: close to the $15 billion spent on the past three World Cups combined. $3.6 billion were spent on either building new stadiums or fixing them for FIFA regulations. The other money was spent on the infrastructure and transit projects that I just talked about.  With them being unfinished, you may wonder what’s to blame? The spending or the poor planning? There was even an additional $900 million spent on security. It planned to have one police officer for every 50 spectators. Totals include 150,000 public security professionals and military along with 20,000 private security personnel. Other security innovations include facial recognition systems and unmanned security robots. Sure FIFA promised that they’d give $2 billion to the event but that can only go so far. Even Romario has described this World Cup as ‘the biggest theft in history’ which he believes expenditure will total $100 billion in the long run.

The projects, both successful and incomplete, and the costs that came with it sure did a lot to the opinions of the Brazilian public. A Brazilian polling company published results that stated the approval rating from the Brazilian public to the World Cup had dropped from 79% back in 2008 to only 48% back this April. 55% of respondents believed the event will give more harm than good to Brazil. Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted: “Brazilians were a bit discontented because they were given a lot.”

Funny that this was not the case when Brazil hosted the World Cup back in 1950. Back then, they only needed six stadiums to contest the match and only two new ones were built. Funny how times change, especially in terms of huge sports events.

PROTESTS PART TWO

You may remember I posted a blog about the protests happening around the time of the Confederations Cup. The protests were successful in bringing changes to Brazil in most areas, if not all. Back in the original blog I pointed out that Brazil is a developing country that has made a lot of developments and improvements in the quality of life in the past 30 years. I still stand by that belief however I won’t deny that there are still a lot of problems in Brazil still outstanding. The most notable being health care and rampant crime. In fact I saw a news story around the World Cup about growing up in the slums of Rio. Crime and gang problems are so bad even the police are afraid to go in to install law and order. It’s exactly like it was depicted in the 2003 film City of God. Brazil being a developing country determined to succeed does get reminders how they’re lagging in some areas and I’m sure will over time. The big protest focus around the World Cup has been about the government’s financial management of the company. I’m sure with a World Cup as expensive as that, you can’t blame them for being disappointed.

One thing about the Confederations Cup is that both President Rousseff and FIFA president Blatter were booed before their speeches. Because of that there were no speeches at the World Cup opening ceremonies. Last years protests not only made news for them happening around the time of the Confederations Cup but also that the protests reached the stadiums. Protests leading up to the World Cup led to organizers stepping up its security. The security this time have been successful from preventing protests from reaching the stadium. It’s not to say it’s without noticeable incident. In fact two CNN journalists who were covering the protests around the June 12th opening game, Shasta Darlington and Barbara Arvantidis, were injured.

Reaction to the protests has been understandable but still disapproving. Rousseff came to the defense of the expenditures saying: “the federal money spent on the stadiums is in the form of financing that will be duly repaid by the companies and governments that are exploiting these stadiums.” She also reiterated that all the construction and infrastructure were for long-term benefits for Brazilians. We shouldn’t forget in two of the stadiums I profiled, there will be extensive land development plans for two of the new stadiums so it’s not just about having bigger stadiums. Sepp Blatter has spoken his disapproval saying the protesters “Should not use football to make their demands heard” and that expenditures were “on items that are for the future, not just for the World Cup.” Pele himself, though understanding of the protesters’ anger, but is critical of them: ”Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it. That’s clear. On that point, I agree (with the protests). But I lament what protesters are doing, which is breaking and burning everything. It’s money that we will have to spend again.”

FIFA’S BLATTER UNDER FIRE

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery.
FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery and corruption.

It’s not just the World Cup that’s facing the heat. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire for corruption. Back in 2011, Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Lately there have been reports that Qatar paid for votes. It’s a wonder too for the World Cup to go to a country only 4,500 square miles wide and with a population of just over 2 million people. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing but the British paper The Sunday Times is insistent in their allegations. Already there’s talk within the FIFA membership with the most vocal opposition coming from head of the Dutch Football Association Michael van Praag and FIFA has conducted an investigation into the matter headed by FIFA investigator Michael Garcia. However it will not be handed to a FIFA jury until just days after the World Cup and Blatter says no decisions will be taken until September or October. The 78 year-old Blatter who has been president of FIFA since 1998 has always maintained that this term will be his last but already the media and certain members of FIFA want him to resign soon in the wake of the scandal and even five of FIFA’s six major corporate sponsors are demanding a thorough investigation of the allegations. FIFA has claimed it’s racism behind the accusations and Blatter himself has described the outcry as the “storm against FIFA” and “discrimination and racism” as most of those accused of accepting bribes are from African countries. The response to the scandal is something that will only be defined over time.

So there you go. This is a taste of what’s in store for the World Cup. Sure there are the pressures on the field but lots off the field too. How those get managed are bound to get some healthy media attention. Some will even require time to decide its fates. You can guarantee even after the World Cup is finished and the winning team is crowned, neither FIFA nor Brazil will stop making headlines.

WORKS CITED:

Grelard, Phillippe and Talek Harris. “FIFA’s Blatter urged to stand down” Agence France-Presse afp.com 10 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/fifas-blatter-urged-stand-down-214645012–sow.html>

Uncredited Author. “Pele critical of Brazil’s World Cup organization” AP- Sports Associated Press. 20 May 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pele-critical-brazils-world-cup-172944083–sow.html>

Woolard, Rob. “World Cup poised for troubled kick-off” Agence France-Presse afp.com 11 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/world-cup-poised-troubled-kick-off-113730515–sow.html>

WIKIPEDIA: List of 2014 FIFA World Cup controversies. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2014_FIFA_World_Cup_controversies>