World Cup 2022: My Prediction For The Final, And Third-Place Playoff Too

I always say about the World Cup after month of play, there’s only one nation still smiling in the end! It’s been unusual to see World Cup matches as winter has been approaching. The time zones didn’t help too much. Nevertheless I made every opportunity to enjoy games at cafes and other viewing places. I also had my share of entertainment with the 442oons videos.

It’s crazy that World Cup 2022 already felt like a circus. I think every World Cup becomes a bit of a circus. Throughout this World Cup, talks of endless corruption, the corruption of the nation of Qatar, questions about matches being fixed or some referees having prejudices. Possibly one of the best things about the match for the Cup is not just to reward the winner, but the fact that all this will end. I remember before the start of one World Cup final, I thought to myself that all the craziness is over. What happened, happened. What didn’t happen, didn’t happen. And now all that should matter is who will win the Cup.

Onto the World Cup finals, it’s interesting that the two teams playing have a few notable things in common. Both have won the World Cup twice before. In both cases, their first World Cup win was when they were host nation. Both played in the very first World Cup in 1930, and one of the teams was even a finalist. Both teams have a striker who has amassed a total of five goals this World Cup, and both teams lost a group stage match here in Qatar. Without further ado, here are my reviews of the last two matches of World Cup 2022:

THIRD-PLACE PLAYOFF REVIEW:

The third-place match will take place on Saturday December 17th in Khalifa International Stadium in Al-Rayyan: a suburb of Doha. One team is looking to make this its third Top 3 finish. The other is looking to make it their first Top 3 result ever. Both teams didn’t get a defeat until their semifinal match. Both teams are also the same two Group F teams that rivaled each other in their first group play match. This is the second consecutive World Cup in which the bronze-medal match is between two group play rivals!

Past Head-To-Head Results:

Croatia and Morocco have met only twice before. Besides the scoreless group play match here in Qatar, the only other time was back in 1996. That too ended in a draw. The score was 2-2.

CROATIA

They’ve only existed as an independent nation since 1991 and they’ve gotten as far as the World Cup semifinal or further a total of three times. It’s no wonder why I call Croatia “The little nation that can.” Since their independence, they’ve qualified for the World Cup six times out of seven attempts. Three of those times they’ve made it to the semifinals or further. The first was in 1998:their very first World Cup. Last World Cup, they made it to the final. Sometimes you wonder what’s the secret to The Blazers? Me, I can’t answer. One thing I have to say is that Croatia is one team low on arrogance, big on play!

Croatia has been getting a lot of attention for the overall play of Luka Modric, the scoring of Ivan Perisic, and the eye-catching fashion of Ivana Knoll! At the last World Cup, Croatia was known for great play as well as good luck. They opened with three wins in group play and then followed with penalty kicks in both their Round of 16 match and quarterfinal. Their semifinal was a win against England, but France ended their dream in the final 4-2.

At thins World Cup, the Croatian team has changed, but it’s also kept some similarities. In group play, they had two scoreless draws and a 4-1 win over Canada. In their Round of 16 match and their quarterfinal, history repeated itself and they bagged wins on penalty kicks. It was in their semifinal against Argentina where their luck finally ran out.

Croatia has shown a lot with their play from midfielder Luka Modric and from striker Ivan Perisic. Worthy of credit to the team’s success is goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. He’s one of the younger goaltenders of the tournament at 27, but he has done an excellent job in keeping Croatia alive, having only allowed in three goals before their match with Argentina. They could just be the team that has what it takes to clinch another Top 3 finish.

MOROCCO

It happens every World Cup. There’s always one team that has modest expectations before the competition but ends up going further than expected. Last World Cup, it was a case where Croatia and Belgium achieved their best-ever results. This year, it’s a case where Morocco is the “Cinderella story” of Qatar 2022. Nevertheless it’s wrong to dismiss Morocco’s success as a complete “Cinderella story.”

Morocco has to be one of the top African nations to adopt a football culture. They competed in their first World Cup in 1970. When they returned in 1986, they became the first African team in World Cup history to advance past the opening round. Returning to that success or taking it further has been a struggle. They qualified for the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, but went out in the group stage. Despite claiming a second-place in the African Cup of Nations in 2004, they had to wait until 2018 for their return to a World Cup. Even then, they were ousted with a draw and two losses.

When they arrived in Qatar, nobody knew what to expect of the Atlas Lions, but they delivered. They started with a scoreless draw against Croatia and then delivered a surprise 2-0 win over Belgium. A 2-1 win over Canada placed them at the top of Group F. Their Round of 16 match against Spain went goalless, but penalty kicks were the trick as they sunk three while Spain couldn’t sink one! The quarterfinals paved the way for a 1-0 win over Portugal. Their win made history as they became the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup semifinals. It was France that ended their quest for the Cup at 2-0.

Having Morocco in the semifinals was a big boost for African teams. Especially since none of the African teams of 2018 qualified for the knockout round. It’s hard to pinpoint how Morocco became so successful this tournament. I made the claim it could be since they’re a Sahara nation, they have better knowledge of how to play in a desert climate. Recently I’ve credited it to manager Walid Reguagui. Since he was hired four months ago, their semifinal loss to France is Morocco’s first loss since he was hired. Maybe that’s the secret. Others give credit to the great defensive play and the goalkeeping of Yassine Bounou. Bounou has only conceded three goals and a penalty kick this Cup. Whatever the situation, they had what they needed and they could just do it again on Saturday.

My Final Verdict: This is hard to tell. Both teams have played well. Both have been able to deliver when they needed to. Croatia has scored six while Morocco has scored five. Croatia however has conceded a total of six goals while Morocco has conceded a total of three. Both teams have a star player that may be absent. From Croatia, Mario Mandzukic because of his red card while assistant coach. From Morocco, Romain Saiss because of an injury sustained in the tournament. I think it will be a tight game but I expect Croatia to win 1-0 in added extra time.

THE FINAL

Can you believe it? After 28 days and 63 matches, there will be only one match left! This is the moment for a team to claim to their nation the world’s biggest bragging right! The final will be held in Lusail Stadium. One team aims to be the first South American team to win the World Cup in 20 years. The other team aims to be the first team in 60 years to successfully defend the World Cup.

Past Head-To-Head Results: France and Argentina have dueled each other a total of twelve times. Argentina have won six times including during the 1978 World Cup. France have won three times. Their last match was in the 2018 World Cup Round of 16 where France won 4-3.

ARGENTINA:

La Albiceleste knows about World Cup finals. This is Argentina’s sixth time to the World Cup final. Only three other nations have achieved six of more appearances. Argentina was even a finalist in the very first World Cup in 1930. Getting back to the finals was a real struggle. They didn’t return to the finals until 1978, which they hosted and won. Then in the 1980’s emerged a great player by the name of Diego Maradona. He helped captain Argentina to their second win in 1986. He retuned in 1990 to try and make it two in a row, but the team lost to Germany 1-0. From 1990 onwards, it was a struggle for the team to get back to the final. Early in this century, a young player named Lionel Messi was dazzling the world with his club play. Whenever the World Cup happened, he and the team would fall short. Then in 2014, they made the finals for the first time in 24 years. Unfortunately like in 1990, they lost to Germany 1-0.

Trying to get back to the finals has not been easy. In 2018, they had a disastrous run. They finished second in their group with a win, a draw and a loss, and then went out in the Round of 16. After the 2018, they hired Lionel Scaloni, who played for Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, as their new manager. Since his hiring the Argentine team has shown a lot of positive changes. Its most notable change was when they won the 2021 Copa America..

Here at the World Cup, Argentina got off to a rough start. The 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia isn’t the first shocking opener Argentina’s delivered at the World Cup, but they knew they had to get themselves in order if they wanted to advance well. They succeeded with 2-0 wins over Poland and Mexico. In their Round Of 16 match against Australia, they dominated play as they won 2-1. In their quarterfinal against the Netherlands, they endured a game marred with frequent carding from a referee to a 2-2 draw. Penalty kicks kept them alive. In their semifinal match against Croatia, they dominated to win 3-0.

Throughout this World Cup, people have been constantly talking about “This is Messi’s last chance.” or “This will finally be Messi’s” No kidding there’s a lot of attention on Messi. In fact winning the Cup will make the difference between Messi being remembered as The Best Ever or The Best Never. Nevertheless we should remember the success of Argentina isn’t just Messi. There’s also the goaltending of Emiliano Martinez and young player Julian Alvarez rising to the occasion. Argentina has the right mix of youth and experience for the team and it just might pay off in winning the Cup on Sunday.

FRANCE:

Success for Les Bleus has been like a yo-yo. Like Argentina, France has been there at the very start back in 1930. They themselves would have difficulty establishing themselves as a football power. Even when they hosted in 1938, the team was out in the quarterfinals. It wasn’t until 1958 that they finished in the Top 3 for the first time. During the 60’s and 70’s, it was a case of either failing to qualify or out in group play. It was in the 1980’s when France saw a spark of improvement. Led by Michel Platini, the team finished fourth in 1982 and third in 1986. Just after, they followed with two failures to qualify. Then in 1998, France hosted and the team performed brilliantly en route to winning their first-ever World Cup.

It hasn’t been easy for France to return. At the 2002 World Cup, they were out in the group stage without even scoring a single goal. In 2006, they were runner-up to Italy. In 2010, the team revolted against the coaches and their federation and they went out in the group stage. Then in 2014, there emerged a new French team coached by 1998 player Didier Deschamps. The team featured a lot of young promising talents and they finished in the quarterfinals. That was just the warm-up as they’d go on to make the finals of Euro 2016 and win France’s second World Cup in 2018. Staying on top wouldn’t be easy. France was reminded of that when they bowed out of Euro 2020 in the Round of 16.

France was often reminded of the alleged curse of the defending champion. At the beginning of 2022, it was still in question how France would do after they endured three losses in Nations League play. Any questions France were given, they were answered in Qatar. They won their first two games of group play 4-1 against Australia and 2-1 against Denmark.The win against Denmark was a boost as they lost to them earlier this year. The 1-0 loss to Tunisia didn’t set their confidence back much, if any. After group play, it’s been nothing but wins for France as the won their Round of 16 match against Poland 3-1, their quarterfinal match against England 2-1 and their semifinal against Morocco 2-0.

The success of the French team has proven this “Curse of The World Cup Winner” is a myth. Mind you it was uncertain at first. And now they appear poised to repeat as World Cup champions. Only twice before has the reigning World Cup champion successfully defended its title: Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962. The World Cup team had a lot of notable players from 2018 like Paul Pogba and Samuel Umtiti left off and Karim Benzema benched because of injury. Nevertheless the team has delivered excellently with the striking of Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud and the goaltending of Hugo Lloris. They’ve shown they won’t give up their World Cup title easily.

My Final Verdict: A lot to think about. Argentina’s group play loss came in the opener. France’s came after they were guaranteed qualification. Argentina has scored twelve goals while France has scored thirteen. Argentina has conceded five goals and so has France. This will be an extremely tight match. I think this is a match where it would go to a 1-1 draw and Argentina winning on penalty kicks. I’m sure it will be that tight!

And there you have it. My review and predictions for the third-place match and the World Cup final. This will definitely be one World Cup we will never forget.

World Cup 2022: Semifinals Predictions

The funny thing about this World Cup tournament is that with FIFA’s app, I’ve been making predictions for each game’s final score. Only three have I got the score absolutely bang on. Of course there are many I wrongly predicted would win. It’s interesting how this whole World Cup is a big circus both inside the field and outside the field. Not just the play but the politics, disputes and even brawls. In short, this World Cup is completely unpredictable. I find it weird because I’ve been quite good at making predictions on this blog and it’s come at mixed results. I successfully predicted all the Round of 16 winners, but I only got one quarterfinal winner right.

What can I say about this Cup’s semifinal teams. Before I talk about them, it’s interesting many teams that delivered some of the biggest wins in the Round of 16 lost their quarterfinal match! As for the semifinalists, two are from Group F. Two are from different groups. Only one team has won their knockout matches without even needing added extra time. While one team qualified with nothing but matches that went to penalty kicks. Two teams are renowned for their goal scorers, while the two others owe most of their credit to their goalkeepers. Two are finalists from the last World Cup. Two have won the World Cup in the past. One has made it to the semis for the first time ever. Two teams have lost one group play game while the two Group F teams have not had a defeat. This is only the second World Cup where the semifinal teams come from three different continents.

Without further ado, here is the look at the four teams that qualified for the two semifinals and my prediction for each one:

SEMIFINAL #1: ARGENTINA vs. CROATIA

Head-To-Head Stuff: Croatia and Argentina have played each other five times in the past; two of those games in the World Cup. Croatia has won twice and Argentina have won twice. For World Cup play, their first meeting was in 1998 group play. Argentina won 1-0. The second was group play of the last World Cup. Croatia won 3-0.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

ARGENTINA

For almost fifteen years when you think of Argentina, one name comes to mind: Lionel Messi. No doubt about it Messi has shone over the sport like no other player. Despite his accolades in club play, he has consistently been denied major international prizes like the Copa America and the World Cup. A common reminder that one player does not make the whole team. Argentina has a lot of talented players, but it’s always been a struggle to get them all together and win one of the biggest tournaments. They qualified for the final of the 2014 World Cup, but lost to Germany. In the two years after that, they qualified for the final of the Copa America both years and lost finals on penalty kicks. The failure of falling 4-3 to eventual champions France in the 2018 Round Of 16 added further insult to the injury.

Since the pandemic, Argentina has shown a change of play. Last year they won the Copa America and it became Messi’s first major international trophy ever. On to World Cup action, Argentina had the misfortune of losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia. La Albiceleste knew they needed nothing but wins to qualify and they delivered with 2-0 wins in both games. They topped Group C and were one of five teams to top a group in Qatar with two wins and a loss. They won their Round Of 16 match against Australia 2-1 and won their quarterfinal against the Netherlands on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw and a load of yellow cards. One highlight of the match was Lionel Messi scored the tenth World Cup goal of his career.

CROATIA

Croatia should be seen as the little team that can. They’re a nation of under 5 million that competed in six World Cups since their debut in 1998. They’ve made the Top 4 for the third time this very tournament! Returning back to the World Cup semifinals wasn’t easy. Shortly after play resumed after the pandemic, Croatia endured a lot of UEFA Nations League losses. They only made it as far as the Round Of 16 at Euro 2020, and they even struggled to resume winning during World Cup qualifying.

Things made a big improvement after their early Euro exit. Since then, they’ve only lost a single Nations League match and more than made up for things in World Cup qualification. In their play here in Qatar, the group stage was a case where they had scoreless draws against Morocco and Belgium and a 4-1 win over Canada. That big win was what they needed to qualify second in Group F. In their Round of 16 match against Japan, they drew 1-1 but won on penalty kicks. Their quarterfinal against Brazil also ended in 1-1 and again penalty kicks gave them the win. Top play has come from striker Ivan Perisic, midfielder Luka Modric and goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

My Final Verdict: This is hard to judge. Sure, Croatia won against Argentina in 2018 group play, but both teams were different teams in 2018. Back then Croatia won all three of their group stage games while Argentina had a win, a draw and a loss. Looking at the World Cup 2022 stats, Argentina has scored a total of nine goals while Croatia has only scored six. Croatia however have only conceded three goals while Argentina has conceded five. Croatia has never lost here in Qatar while Argentina had their shock loss to Saudi Arabia. On top of it, Argentina have picked up a lot of yellow cards from their card-crazy quarterfinal against the Netherlands and they might not want to risk their best players. Looking at all the facts, I have to say I predict Argentina to win 1-0 in added extra time.

SEMIFINAL #2: FRANCE vs. MOROCCO

Head-To-Head Stuff: France and Morocco have faced off against each other 11 times in the past, but never played each other at the World Cup before. Morocco’s only win came in 1963. France won seven times.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

FRANCE

Many of you remember my story of France’s long road of recovery from their embarrassing collapse in 2010 to winning theWorld Cup in 2018. It’s one thing to get to the top but it’s another to stay on top. After the World Cup win, France was still very skillful for the rest of 2018 and 2019, winning eleven of their sixteen games and only losing two. Things changed after the pandemic. They still managed to win many games but they showed sings of weakness. Especially during Euro 2020 when they topped their group with a win and two draws, but went out to Switzerland in the Round of 16 on a penalty shootout. 2022 also showed weakness in France as they lost three Nations League games including one match to Croatia: their opponent in the 2018 World Cup final. Many were suspecting France would become yet another casualty of the ‘curse of the defending World Cup champion.’

Here in Qatar, France had a lot to prove and they proved it. They were the first team to qualify for the knockout stage after a 4-1 win over Australia and a 2-1 win over Denmark. With that, they could afford to lose 1-0 to Tunisia and still top Group D. In their Round of 16 match against Poland, they won in convincing fashion 3-1. In their quarterfinal against England, the game was a controversial one with France winning 2-1. In addition, Kylian Mbappe is the World Cup 2022 scoring leader with five goals.

MOROCCO

Morocco is a team that deserves more respect than you know. Although they’re not the first African nation to compete in the World Cup, they’re the first team to qualify via a direct African berth back in 1970. They didn’t qualify again until 1986 and when they competed, they became the first African nation to qualify past the preliminary group stage. Their Round of 16 finish from 1986 would remain Morocco’s best result ever for a long time. They would return to the World Cup in 1994, 1998 and 2018, but would go out in group play. Over the next four years, Morocco would continue to have frustrations with team play and their coaches. French coach Herve Renard who coached the 2018 World Cup team would resign after the team’s Round of 16 exit at the 2019 African Cup of Nations. Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic would step in his place right after. Morocco’s ouster in the quarterfinals of the 2021 African Cup of Nations and Vahid’s fallout with star player Hakim Ziyech would cause him to be fired in August 2022. More than three months before the World Cup!

Placed in Halilhodzic’s place was Walid Reguagui. Reguagui would be the first Moroccan since 2016 to coach the team. Things looked promising as Morocco won two for their friendlies before the World Cup and tied the third. Here in the World Cup, it’s nothing but up. Morocco opened with a scoreless draw against Croatia, but would go on to a surprise 2-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Canada. In their Round Of 16 match, they would have to go against Spain: one of their Group B rivals from World Cup 2018. The match went scoreless, but Morocco won the penalty kick match 3-0. Their win made them the fourth African team to play in the World Cup quarterfinals. In their quarterfinal, they were up against Portugal: another Group B rival from 2018! The goal from Youssuf En-Nesyri was fluky, but it was enough for Morocco to win 1-0. The win made Morocco the first African team to qualify for a World Cup semifinal!

My Final Verdict: This is tough to call. Morocco hasn’t lost a World Cup game yet while France had a surprise loss to Tunisia. France has scored a total of eleven goals compared to the five Morocco has scored. However, Morocco has only conceded one goal in World Cup play while France has conceded one goal per game. You can thank Montreal-born Yassine Bonnou for that record. Also worth keeping in mind Morocco will play one man down thanks to a double-yellow card on Walid Cheddira during their match against Portugal. I’d predict the win to France 2-0.

And there you have it. Those are my predictions for the two semifinals. It should make for some interesting play. This whole World Cup has been a case of surprises and upsets so expect the unexpected here too.

Copa America 2021: My Prediction For The Final

This year’s Copa America final is the classic battle of Brazil vs. Argentina.

I’ve been so focused on the Euro 2020, I completely forgot that the CONMEBOL’s Cop America was happening this year! And the final is the very night before the final of the Euro! Interesting that both major tournaments are taking place around the same time. Nevertheless they’re both worth predicting to winner for. Before I give you my Euro pick, I will give my prediction for the Copa America final.

Copa America Summary

It seems like there hasn’t been a major event in the world that hasn’t been affected by COVID. Copa America is one of those events affected too. It was supposed to be held from June to July of 2020 in Argentina and Colombia. COVID caused its eventual cancellation and rescheduling to 2021. The twelve-month wait also led to the Copa being rebooked to another nation in May 2021. Colombia went through political unrest with protests against the president and Argentina had issues with the severity of its COVID situation. This led the Copa to be rebooked to Brazil: five venues in four cities.

For the tournament, it was originally scheduled to be twelve teams competing: the ten CONMEBOL nations, special guests Australia, and 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar. The pandemic is what caused the limit of nations to be just the ten CONMEBOL nations. The pandemic is also the reason why all matches have been contested behind closed doors. The preliminary matches were contested under five groups of two. The two groups were decided under the ‘South Zone’ or the ‘North Zone.’ In Group A, Argentina topped with Uruguay second. In Group B, Brazil topped with Peru second. For the knockout rounds, Brazil qualified with 1-0 scores against Chile and Peru. Argentina qualified with a 3-0 win over Ecuador in the quarterfinals and a penalty kick shootout against Colombia in the semis.

This is the eleventh time the Copa America final is Argentina vs. Brazil. Messi leads Argentina while Neymar leads Brazil.

Now that I did my brief summary, here’s my summary of the two teams and my prediction for the win for the Copa America:

Team By Team Analysis:

Argentina: The South American team with the second-biggest legacy in football is undoubtedly Argentina. We’re talking about a nation that has won the World Cup twice, made the World Cup finals a total of five times, and won the Copa America fourteen times. A notion that has had their share of legends on the international scene like Guillermo Stabile, Daniel Passarella, Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta, Claudio Cannigia, and the latest being Lionel Messi. Messi is often seen as the tour-de-force of the Albiceleste, but playing football is not a one-man job. In fact even at this tournament, Argentina has had other top scorers like Lautaro Martinez and Alejandro Gomez.

The Argentine team has underperformed in tournaments in the past. The most recent World Cup, they bowed out at the Round of 16. The previous Copa America, in 2019, they finished third. Their last Copa America win was back in 1993. And to think Messi has not won either a World Cup or a Copa America. This is not just a burden for Messi but the whole team as I sure they would want some big international glory too. In fact their losses in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals to Chile were to penalty kicks. The team however have been playing very well. Their last loss was to Brazil in the 2019 Copa semifinals. Since then they’ve had seven wins and five draws before this Copa, including a 1-0 win against Brazil back in November 2019. Here at the Copa, they showed moderate but strong play against their rivals. Even in their draws, Argentina always scored first. However in their semifinal against Colombia, they drew 1-1 and it had to come down to penalty kicks. Argentina will definitely have to be on and in control if they want to take the Copa this year.

Brazil: And now onto the nation with not just the biggest football legacy of South American teams but of all teams worldwide! Brazil has won the World Cup five times in the seven finals they’ve played in and have won nine Copas. If you started a list of the legendary Brazilian players in history, you’ll end up writing forever. However Brazil is not perfect. In fact the last fifteen years have been very good at exploiting Brazil’s weaknesses. Three of the past four World Cups, they’ve been out in the quarterfinals and talk about the humiliating semifinal against Germany at the 2014 World Cup which they hosted. And if there are any teams that are best at exploiting Brazil’s weaknesses, it’s the South American teams. In fact their 2019 win was their first Copa win since 2007. In between, there were three Copas and they were out either in the quarterfinal or group play.

Brazil is currently coached by Tite, who has coached many Brazilian clubs before heading the national team in 2016. Neymar is not the captain, but Thiago Silva is. The team has some good veterans, but they also have a wealth of new young talent. In the 28 matches Brazil has played since their quarterfinal ouster at the 2018 World Cup, they have won 21 of them and only lost three. Their last loss was to Argentina back in November 2019. Here at the Copa, their one game they didn’t win was a 1-1 draw against Ecuador. They won their other three preliminary matches well. However in the knockout rounds, all their wins were 1-0. Brazil will have to contend well against Argentina if they want to take their tenth Copa.

Final Verdict: This is tough one. Especially since this is one of football’s fiercest rivalries. Argentina is the team Brazil has played the most and Brazil Argentina has played the second-most (they’ve only played Uruguay more). Brazil and Argentina have played each other 107 times. 43 of those times, Brazil won. 39 of those times, Argentina won. The last head-to-head match, as I mentioned previously, Argentina won 1-0. I predict this game will go to a 1-1 draw with Argentina taking it on penalties.

And there you go! That’s my prediction for the final of the 2021 Copa America. Good to see a tournament to take our eyes off the Euro for a bit. And for a lot of good reasons!