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.

World Cup 2022 Predictions For The Knockout Rounds

Anyone else find it odd to be catching World Cup games while you’re doing Christmas shopping? I think this may be the last World Cup where the Round of 16 will kick off the knockout round. As many of you know, the next World Cup will be having a field of 48 teams. It’s unclear how they’ll do the second stage. It could be the knockout stage starts with a “Round of 32.” Or it could be a second set of group play. Four World Cups — 1950, 1974, 1978 and 1982 — did have a second set of group play. In the meantime, it hangs in the balance and is up for FIFA to decide.

As for 2022, the sixteen teams for the knockout round have been decided over the past thirteen days of group play. I don’t know about you but this seems like the fastest World Cup I’ve ever seen. With 3/4 of the total games completed, the play was quite something. Qatar became the first host nation to lose all three of their group games. Senegal is the most notable of many nations fined by FIFA for managers not bringing a player with them during a pre-game press conference. Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey became the first player of the Cup to get an instant red card. South Korea coach Paulo Bento had the rare achievement of a coach being given a red card. VAR use has caused excessive additions of stoppage time. It’s also been the subject of some controversial goal calls like one disallowed for France and another all owed for Japan. There were surprise losses like Argentina falling to Saudi Arabia, Germany to Japan and Belgium to Morocco. With six goals, Germany became the highest-scoring team that failed to advance. Speaking of Germany, highly lauded teams like Germany, Belgium and Uruguay didn’t advance, and the three teams that were guaranteed advancement after their second games lost their final match with a -1 goal differential. I guess they figured since they were already guaranteed, why put in the effort?

What can I say? Every World Cup has their shocking moments and controversies. There were a lot of good things that have happened during the World Cup. First of all, only three red cards have been given out. Only two own-goals have been scored. Every team in Qatar scored at least one goal and the goal average is 2.5 per game right now. Attendance for games has been excellent. Their lowest-attended match was just over 39,000 and their highest-attended match so far was Argentina vs. Mexico with just about 89,000. The World Cup attendance record is over 91,000 for the 1994 Final. Television broadcast has been excellent and American television has it highest-ever World Cup ratings. Plus this Cup’s knockout round makes it only the second ever to consist of teams from all six continents! On a Canadian note, Canada had the relief of only finishing second-last! Thanks, Qatar! Actually I don’t feel too bad. Like I illustrated in my previous blog, the team was mostly young and I think the team was had a bigger focus on 2026 when we co-host instead of 2022. Best of luck to the team!

Anyways enough about my blabbing about the previous 48 games. We’re heading to the knockout round where each round separates the contenders from the pretenders. Here’s my look at the first two sets of knockout rounds.

ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS

This is where it all starts. The sixteen being reduced to eight, the quarterfinals reducing the eight to four, the semifinals reducing the four to the two to play in the final for the Cup. The knockout format is the same it’s been since 2006 for which team from which group plays who. We have some interesting pairings to start off with. So here I go starting my predictions for the Round of 16. For my predictions, I will be taking into account their play here in Qatar as well as past head-to-head results. Note that my pick to win will be in bold.

NETHERLANDS vs. UNITED STATES

The first Round of 16 match will be contested between two teams that didn’t qualify for 2018 and are obviously eager to be back. For the Netherlands, it all started with a 2-0 win against Senegal, then a 1-1 draw against Ecuador and finalized with a 2-0 win against hosts Qatar. The US opened their World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Wales followed by a scoreless draw against England. The US knew they needed nothing less than a win against Iran to advance. It just took a single goal from Christian Pulisic at the 38th minute to book the US to the knockout phase.

For this opener, I will have to go with the Netherlands. In head-to-head, The Netherlands have won four times while the US won only once. On top of it, the US has a team mostly of young men. The Netherlands has a well-seasoned team of young and experienced players. That’s why I feel it’s Oranje’s for the taking.

ARGENTINA vs AUSTRALIA

The second Round of 16 match is between two teams that couldn’t be more different in reputations. One team hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1970, advanced past the opening stage 14 out of 18 times, and even won the Cup twice. The other has competed in only six World Cups, this being their fifth consecutive, and just advanced to the Round of 16 only for the second time ever. Both teams lost their opening match but won the other two. Argentina opened with a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. The Albiceleste knew they needed nothing but wins for qualification and their reputation, and they delivered with 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland. Australia opened with a big loss to France 4-1. However the Socceroos did what they needed to do with 1-0 wins over Tunisia and Denmark.

As for the match, this will be the eighth time the two will square off. In the past, Argentina won five times and Australia has only won once. Even though this is the World Cup where Australia has had their best-ever group play, I expect the magic to end here. I’m sure this will be a clear victory for Argentina with a big score.

FRANCE vs. POLAND

It’s something how instead of being subject to the alleged curse of the defending champion, France was actually the first team to qualify, thanks to winning 4-1 against Australia and 2-1 against Denmark. Les Bleus had the luxury of losing 1-0 to Tunisia in its last game (Tunisia’s first-ever win over France) and still finish top of the group! Poland didn’t have it as easy. They started with a scoreless draw against Mexico, won against Saudi Arabia 2-0 but ended with a 2-0 loss to Argentina. Nevertheless their game stats and goal differentials held up to take the Eagles to the knockout round for the first time since 1986!

This Round of 16 pairing will become the seventeenth time the two will have dueled each other. France has won eight times before while Poland has won three times before. I will have to go with France because they’ve shown more consistency and have been better at scoring.

ENGLAND vs. SENEGAL

For England, it was another chance to start the chase on football glory. The team headed by coach Gareth Southgate is seen by many as the best England team ever. In its opening game against Iran, they proved they were ready by winning 6-2. Against the US, they came to a scoreless draw. Then against common rivals Wales, they delivered big in the second-half winning 3-0. For Senegal, it was a chance to get the berth that eluded them by such a close call four years ago. It actually started on a bad note as they lost to the Netherlands 2-0. Against Qatar, they were able to prove themselves better, winning 3-1. Then their match against Ecuador. Whoever won qualified, and it was Senegal that stepped up to the challenge winning 2-1.

This will be the first ever match between England and Senegal. They have never dueled before. It’s hard to tell, but I feel it will be England that will take it. Senegal have proven themselves to be more than what most people expected, but England has continued to show their brilliance and team chemistry on the field.

JAPAN vs. CROATIA

When a group has big-name teams like Spain or Germany, you think you’re chances are over, right? Not Japan. They opened with a 2-1 win over Germany and ended with another 2-1 win to Spain. Even a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica didn’t stop Samurai Blue from topping Group E. On to Croatia. Interesting that the group play of this World Cup has amassed six nil-nil draws, and Croatia was part of two of them! Despite that, they had the biggest win of Group F play: 4-1 against Canada. That gave The Blazers what they needed to qualify to the knockout round for the third time!

Now down to the game. Two different teams. One has been to the Top 3 of the World Cup twice, the other is eager to win their first ever World Cup knockout match. The two have squared off only three times ever, with Croatia winning once (in World Cup 1998), Japan winning once, and a draw. I feel this will be a very tight match. Judging by their play these past two weeks. both teams are roughly parallel in scoring and defending. I feel this will be a tight came that would end in a draw, with Croatia winning on penalty kicks.

BRAZIL vs. SOUTH KOREA

When people watch the World Cup, most people want to see what Brazil has to offer. Brazil opened with a 2-0 win over Serbia, with both goals coming from Richarlison. Brazil followed it up with a 1-0 win over Switzerland With qualification secured, Brazil could afford to lose to Cameroon 1-0 and still top Group G. For South Korea, they opened with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay and endured a 3-2 loss to Ghana. They needed a win against Portugal to advance and nothing less, and they got it 2-1! Their big scoring in their Ghana loss gave them the edge against Uruguay in advancing to the knockout stage for the third time ever.

This match will become the eighth time Brazil and South Korea will have faced off. In their seven previous matches, Brazil won six. This is their first time squaring off at the World Cup. Brazil may have been rather tame compared to the Brazil we’re used to seeing while South Korea has delivered consistently. I pick Brazil to win it.

MOROCCO vs. SPAIN

Interesting this is the Round of 16 match has two teams with the least geographical separation! Just the Aiboran Sea separating the two! Before the World Cup play, I had a feeling nations with desert climates might have an advantage in Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Iran scored surprise wins, but neither of them qualified. Morocco, on the other hand, delivered their best World Cup group play results ever. The Atlas Lions opened with a scoreless draw against Croatia, but went onto a surprise 2-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Canada. This is their second time qualifying to the knockout round and first since 1986! Their rivals Spain opened brilliantly with a 7-0 win over Costa Rica. After that, La Furia Roja were lacklustre with a 1-1 draw to Germany and a 2-1 loss to Japan.

Now onto the game. The two have met three times before. Morocco has never won. Spain won twice. Their one draw was a 2-2 draw at the 2018 World Cup. I have a feeling with Morocco pulling a lot of surprises, they will take this game in added extra time.

PORTUGAL vs. SWITZERLAND

Even before Qatar 2022 began, Portugal was one of the headliners. Possibly because this is likely to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last chance to win the Cup. They secured their qualification with a 3-2 win over Ghana and a 2-0 win over Uruguay. With their qualification already clinched, the Selecao could afford to lose 2-1 over South Korea and still top Group H. Switzerland arrived with low expectations here in Qatar. They proved a lot as they first won 1-0 against Cameroon, then lost 1-0 to Brazil, but ended their run with a 3-2 win over Serbia. Their two wins were just what they needed to advance for the eighth time and third consecutive.

This will be the 26th time Portugal and Switzerland will have challenged each other. In their previous 25 duels, Switzerland has won eleven times while Portugal has won nine. In their ten most recent matches, Portugal has won more often but Switzerland won the last match 1-0 back in June. For this one, I think it will go to Portugal in added extra time.

QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS

Very rarely do I make another blog about quarterfinal predictions. Only if my Round Of 16 predictions end up being dreadfully way off would I go out of my way to make a new blog of quarterfinal predictions. So assuming that my Round Of 16 winners do in fact win, here are my predictions for the quarterfinals:

UPDATE – December 7, 2022: I can’t believe it! All eight of my predictions were right! That means the teams I predicted to be in what quarterfinal tuned out to be right. Since the Round of 16 matches ended, I did some minor updates on the predictions below. The play from the Round of 16 shifted my opinion a bit on the teams.

CROATIA vs. BRAZIL

It’s interesting the two matches they had. Croatia’s match against Japan was a case the Japanese scored first, but Croatia led the second-half to equalize. It came down to penalty kicks and Croatia did it. Brazil was a case that they won their first two games, but they looked relaxed in their play. Even that loss to Cameroon can be seen as holding back. Whatever the situation, it was like the sizzle Brazil is famous for exploded in their win over South Korea.

The two have faced off against each other four times before. Brazil winning three times and a draw the other. Two of those Brazil wins were in World Cup group play in 2006 and 2014. After the play I saw on Monday, I’d expect another win from Brazil. I doubt there will be a Croatian surprise this time around.

NETHERLANDS vs. ARGENTINA

This is the pair from the very first day of Round of 16 matches and both won in strong fashion. Netherlands went on a scoring spree against the USA, proving they are ready for this tournament..Argentina were the ones in control against Australia. The Albiceleste were the ones in control of the game while the best Australia could do was stick to defending.

They’ve met nine times before; Netherlands winning four times and Argentina winning once. As for World Cup results, Netherlands won the first duel in 1974. As for the second duel, Argentina’s one win was in the 1978 World Cup final! Netherlands did get some World Cup revenge winning their 1998 quarterfinal.

For this match, I pick Argentina in added extra time. Both teams have shown their strengths and weaknesses in their group play. I think it will be Argentina that most has what it takes to deliver the win.

MOROCCO vs. PORTUGAL

Both teams were decided on the last day of Round Of 16 matches. Morocco has normally lost to Spain, but they defended like never before to a 0-0 draw. When penalty kicks happened, Morocco was 3 for 4 while Spain couldn’t sink a single one! That makes Morocco only the fourth African nation to qualify for a World Cup quarterfinal! For Portugal, they knew they had to play well against Switzerland to win. They’ve won some but lost some to the Swiss. In the last Round of 16 match, they were a scoring force, winning 6-1.

Interesting that Morocco’s Round Of 16 rival Sapin was also their rival in 2018 group play.Here in the quarterfinal, Morocco will again meet up with another group play rival from 2018! They’ve met twice before. Morocco won the first time. Portugal won the second time. Yep, the World Cup game was won by Portugal.

On Saturday, I anticipate Portugal to win in regulation time. I am expecting Morocco to challenge and defend well, but for Portugal to win in the end.

FRANCE vs. ENGLAND

Here’s another case of two teams with brilliant wins in the Round Of 16. France opened up with a strong 3-1 win over Poland. The second-half scoring of Kylian Mbappe has him as the World Cup scoring leader with five goals! England continued to perform well as they won their first-ever match against Senegal 3-0.

They’ve crossed paths 31 times before. England has won seventeen times. France nine. In the two times they’ve faced off at the World Cup, England won both times: 2-0 in 1966 and 3-1 in 1982. Their last meeting was a friendly which France won 3-2. As for this match, I think this will go to a draw that will be decided on penalty kicks. Of course, France will win.

And there you have it. Those are my predictions for the Round Of 16 and Quarterfinal matches. Now time to see how they pan out. Also don’t expect to see another blog from me until the semifinals.

World Cup 2022: Group Stage With One Game To Go

Many of you may ask why do the final games of the World Cup group play for each group happen simultaneously? It’s a controversy that goes back to the first round of group play at the 1982 World Cup. For a long time, I thought it was the 1978 Cup but it’s 1982.

The first round of group play at Espana 1982 was just like at this World Cup; four in a group and the top two advance. With 24 teams in 1982, they were divided in six groups of four. Group 2 had West Germany, Algeria, Chile and Austria. In the opening match West Germany lost to Algeria 2-1 while Austria beat Chile 1-0. For the second matches, West Germany won big over Chile 4-1 and Austria beat Algeria 2-0. The third matches were held a day apart. Algeria played Chile and won 3-2.

With a day to go, West Germany and Austria knew Algeria’s final results: two wins, a loss, five goal scored, five conceded. Austria had two win, three goals scored, none conceded. West Germany had a win and a loss, five goals scored, three conceded. For West Germany and Austria to qualify to the next round, West Germany would have to win 1-0 or 2-0 to advance along with Austria. In the match the next day in El Molinon Stadium in Gijon, Spain, West Germany did beat Austria 1-0 and both progressed to the next round. Three teams with two wins and a loss, but West Germany’s and Austria’s better goal differentials helped them advance.

It was right there in the stadium that thousands of people suspected something. Especially since the lone goal from Horst Hrubesch in the tenth minute was pretty lacklustre and Friedrich Koncilia appeared to put a weak effort into stopping. The mostly Spanish crowd was infuriated, West German fans even were angered, and FIFA investigated it to see if any match fixing. In the end, they could not find any evidence to prove that the match was fixed between the two. Nevertheless the match, one of many shockers and scandals of Espana 1982, would be remembered as the “Disgrace of Gijon.” In addition, FIFA instituted a new rule that each World Cup group’s final matches of group play all be held simultaneously. Simultaneous play of final group matches even happens at the Euro, Copa America, CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

Now onto Qatar 2022 and the tenth time the final matches of group play will be played simultaneously. With one game left to play, three teams have already qualified for the knockout stage, two teams are already out of all chances, and twenty-seven teams will need Game 3 to decide who’s among the other thirteen to advance. In this blog, I’ll break down each group’s action and give the details of which team needs what to qualify for the knockout round. Teams that have already qualified are in bold and links to my original blogs are in the headings.

Group A:

It started with a win for Ecuador over hosts Qatar. Then followed with a win for Netherlands over Senegal. Senegal won against hosts Qatar, then Netherlands and Ecuador had a 1-1 draw. As of now, none of the teams have guaranteed qualification. The Netherlands and Ecuador can make qualification happen if they just draw in both their games. Senegal will face Ecuador in their third game. Winner definitely qualifies. Ecuador can afford to draw but this is a must-win game for the Senegalese to qualify. The only way the Netherlands can’t qualify is if they lose to Qatar and the Ecuador/Senegal game ends in a draw, and I bet that won’t happen.

As for Qatar, it’s over. They are now the second host nation to not advance past the opening round of a World Cup. Netherlands and Ecuador have a win and a draw each which means even if Qatar win against the Netherlands, which I doubt would happen, it will be too much too late.

Group B:

Sometimes it happens in a group with a World Cup group with a single game to go, all four still have chances to qualify. That’s how it worked out with the play. England opened strong with a 6-2 win over Iran. The US and the Welsh drew 1-1 thanks to goals from American star Tim Weah and Welsh sensation Gareth Bale. In Wales vs. Iran, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey got the Cup’s first instant red card in the 86th minute. That may be what allowed Iran to score two goals in stoppage time and give them their biggest World Cup victory ever! The England-US game was expected to be a tough rivalry, but it ended in a scoreless draw. That’s how it all makes game three to be a free-for-all.

England has the easiest chance to qualify. Even if they lose to Wales, the loss will need to be 3-0 if they’re to fail to advance. Iran could qualify with a draw, but they shouldn’t take chances as it may be possible Wales wins and qualifies based on goal differentials. Don’t forget Iran’s loss to England was by four goals. Both Iran and Wales have goal differentials of -2. The US need nothing less than a win to qualify. Wales not only needs a win over England to qualify, but for a draw to happen in the Iran-US game. If a winner happens in that game, Wales victory over England will have to be a three-goal differential like 3-0 or 4-1. It’s that tight!

Group C:

Of all groups here in Qatar, this group has the most shockers. Nobody expected Argentina to lose to Saudi Arabia 2-1. Saudi Arabia was so elated by the win, a national holiday was declared! The Mexico/Poland match resulted in a scoreless draw: one of five scoreless draws in Qatar 2022. Game 2 became a case for teams to want to play like they meant it. Poland made up for its lackluster opener by defeating Saudi Arabia 2-0. Argentina, disappointed with their loss in what should be called the “Saudi Surprise,” knew they had to defeat Mexico to regain their reputation. And they did 2-0.

All four teams have a chance of qualifying. Poland in the top spot has it easiest because they could just simply draw against Argentina and it would be enough to qualify, but they know the Albiceleste are hungry to redeem themselves, so they don’t want to take any chances. Speaking of Messi and the boys, they could draw against Poland, but could face elimination if Saudi Arabia defeats Mexico, so you can bet the Albiceleste will want to make this a win. As for the Saudis, they too can’t take chances against Mexico. Don’t forget they had a win at the last World Cup, but also had two losses and failed to advance. A draw would be too risky with goal differentials coming into play, plus who knows how the Argentina/Poland game will go? So a win against Mexico will be needed. Mexico, in last place, still have a chance if they win against the Saudis and Poland beats Argentina. If Argentina wins or draws against Poland, Mexico will need a win of either 3-0 or 4-1 to make it in. Slim, but still possible.

Group D:

It’s widely considered that there is a curse of the World Cup champion. Four of the previous five World Cups, including the last three, have seen the defending champion end their World Cup run in the group stage. Here in Qatar, France ended all concern of the curse by winning their first two games and becoming the first team to guarantee qualification! They opened with a 4-1 win over Australia and followed it up with a 2-1 win over Denmark, and that secured it. They ended the curse! Funny thing is they appear to have started it in 2002 when they not only were ousted, but failed to score a single goal! Even if France loses against Tunisia, they will still qualify.

All of the other three teams still have a chance. Second in the group is Australia. After their 1-4 loss to France, they knew they needed to win their next game against Tunisia to be in contention, and they did it: 1-0. For the Australia/Denmark match, it’s a case of whoever wins qualifies. While Denmark needs nothing short of a win to qualify, Australia could qualify simply by drawing, but they could be ousted if Tunisia defeats France and goal differentials come into play. A win against France and the Australia/Denmark game being a draw is Tunisia’s only chance of qualifying for the group stage. Also if Denmark wins over Australia, Tunisia’s win over France will have to be 2-0 or 3-1 to have that chance. Although I don’t think France will have them win, anything is possible.

Group E:

Group E is another case where all four teams still have chances to qualify for the knockout round. Group E is another group that had surprises. First was Japan’s win over Germany 2-1. Then came the huge win of Spain over Costa Rica: 7-0. Then Costa Rica won over Japan 1-0 and Spain drew against Germany 1-1. Although it’s not guaranteed, Spain has the best chances of qualifying even if they lose. It could be a case they lose to Japan and Germany wins their game, but their big win over Costa Rica puts them in an excellent position to qualify.

Japan looks like the team that can best qualify if they draw, but their chances are slim because of Spain’s huge win. A win over Germany will solidify. Same with Costa Rica. They will need to win over Germany if they want to advance because of the huge loss they had to Spain. Their win against Japan was a boost, but goal differentials will have an impact in qualifying. Germany is the nation where a win is absolutely critical. The Mannschaft are the only team in this group without a win. They will not only need to win against Costa Rica, but hope that the Japan/Spain game results in a draw or Spain winning because if Japan wins, Japan and Spain will have the advantage with goal differentials. That’s the World Cup for you.

Group F:

At first it appeared that Group B would be the “Group Of Death” of the Cup. Seems like almost every group has become like a Group Of Death and Group F is no exception. The first matches started with Morocco and Croatia in a scoreless draw and Belgium defeating Canada 1-0. How about that? The first games end and there’s only a single goal! Then in the second matches, Morocco surprised Belgium 2-0– Morocco’s first World Cup win since 1998 — and Croatia dominated over Canada 4-1.

Three teams still have a chance at qualifying. Although both Morocco and Croatia have a win and a draw, Croatia have the best chances of qualifying because of their goal differentials. Either team can qualify by simply drawing, but it may not be something they’d want to do because of the opponents they’ll face. Belgium knows it will need a win if they want to stay alive. That loss to Morocco really set them back and they can’t afford to take chances since Morocco will be taking on Canada.

Canada is the second team in this World Cup to be eliminated after the second game. They lost 1-0 against Belgium but impressed the world with their strong play and strong defense. In their match against Croatia, they opened strongly with Alphonso Davies delivering what is so far the fastest opening goal of the World Cup. Over time, the Croatians poured it on and exposed the weaknesses in Canada and they lost 4-1. Even before the World Cup, I knew Canada’s chances of qualifying were slim. Nevertheless, I wasn’t too worried about qualification because Canada will be co-hosting the next World Cup. I figured this would be a learning experience for the team as the team consists mostly of young players while teams like Belgium and Croatia consist of well-seasoned players. I wish Canada all the best for 2026.

Group G:

Before Monday, November 28th, France was the only team assured qualification with one game to go. At the end of Monday, two more were added, and both are lusophone nations! You can imagine that the nation football fans would most have their eyes on would be Brazil. Brazil did not disappoint. They opened their World Cup with a 2-0 win over Serbia, thanks to two second-half goals from 25 year-old Richarlison. Their second match was against Switzerland and it was a single goal from Casemiro in the 83rd minute that gave Brazil their victory 1-0. Even if they lose to Cameroon on Friday, they’re guaranteed in there.

The three other teams in Group G also have chances to be the other team to advance. Switzerland has the best chances as they had a 1-0 win over Cameron and their loss to Brazil leaves them with even goal differentials. In fact if Switzerland wins over Serbia and Brazil loses to Cameroon, they can take the top spot of Group G if their win is 2-0 or 3-1! A draw against Serbia is too risky because if it so happens that Cameroon beats Brazil, Cameroon could advance because of better goal differentials thanks to their 3-3 draw to Serbia. Actually both Cameroon and Serbia will need wins to have any chance of advancing. Serbia has the slimmest of chances to qualify with a loss, a draw, three goals sores and five conceded. If they win against Switzerland and Cameroon draws, they can be the team that advances. Even in football, the slimmest of chances are still possible.

Group H:

Four short hours after Brazil became the second team to qualify to the knockout stage, Portugal became the third! It all started in their first match against Ghana. After a scoreless first-half, Portugal won 3-2 and Cristiano Ronaldo made history as the first player to score a goal in five World Cups! A win against Uruguay thanks to two second-half goals from Bruno Fernandes booked them qualification to the Round of 16! Even if they lose to South Korea on Friday, they’re still going!

Any of the other three Group H teams can become the second team to qualify, but their play in the third game will finalize who’s the one. Both matches on Friday are of intrigue. The South Korea/Portugal match because both have Portuguese head coaches, with South Korea’s playing in the 2002 World Cup. The Ghana/Uruguay game because…well, if you saw the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal, you’ll know why Ghana has an axe to grind with Luis Suarez!

Of the three still waiting, Ghana is the one with the best chances. To think before Qatar 2022 began, Ghana was seen as the team with the least odds of winning the Cup and was the team in Qatar with the lowest rank on FIFA’s list: 61st. They may have lost in their opener to Portugal, but their 3-2 loss sent the message not to underestimate the Black Stars. Then against South Korea, they clinched a 3-2 win! A win against Uruguay will solidify qualification. Ghana could qualify if they draw, but they better hope South Korea doesn’t beat Portugal. I’ll bet they don’t want to chance it. As for South Korea and Uruguay, both are in a case where they will need nothing less than a win to qualify. Not only would South Korea need Ghana to draw to qualify, but the Taegeuk Warriors have to win 2-0 or 3-1. Uruguay have it toughest of all as they haven’t even scored a single goal yet. They’ll have to win 2-0 or 3-1 over Ghana and just hope Portugal either beats South Korea or draws against them in order to advance.

And that’s my breakdown of the qualifying chances of the teams of the World Cup right now. These next four days will finalize everything. No wonder I call the final games of the group stage a test of nerves.

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Disgrace of Gijón. Wikipedia.com. 2022. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgrace_of_Gijon>

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!