When we talk about the favourite to win World Cup at the 2022 edition in Qatar, the first thoughts run to Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, Spain. To the nations that have dominated world football over time, who know very well the way to success. But at the start of the tournament which debuts on November 20, there are several other nations that can be involved in the fight for the most wanted trophy.
In the 21 editions completed so far, eight countries have managed to win at least one world title. Of these, only Italy will be absent from Qatar. Brazil is the all-time leader with five trophies, followed by Germany and Italy with four each. Argentina (2 titles), France (2), Uruguay (2), England (1), and Spain (1) are the other teams that have experienced the feeling of winning the trophy. Furia Roja is the last team to win the World Cup for the first time, in 2010.
At FIFA World Cup 2022, however, there are several other football powers that can get involved in the fight for the trophy and eventually increase the number of world champions to nine. According to the composition of the team, the results recorded recently, but also in the history of football, there are at least five nations that can win the World Cup for the first time on December 18, in Lusail, near Doha. Let’s look at them.
The list can only start with Belgium, even if they lost a battle with the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League this year. Diables Rouges’ priority is completely different now, to reach the first major trophy in history with a team that has reached full maturity.
Belgium will have the most experienced squad in the competition, with eight players who have played more than 90 matches at the international level. Kevin de Bruyne is the star of this team, he is the best midfielder in the world today (3rd place in the Ballon d’Or ranking in 2022). But coach Roberto Martinez has a lot of quality in all areas of the pitch.
The Golden Generation is coming to Qatar to take the trophy home this time. The Belgians finished 3rd in the 2018 edition after beating Brazil 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Netherlands is probably the strongest national team in World Cup history that has yet to win a title. This nation is the only one to reach at least three finals and lose each time. The most recent happened in South Africa in 2010, when they lost the battle to Spain after extra time with a score of 1-0.
After Euro 2020, when the team was knocked out in the round of 16, van Gaal was called back into charge of the Netherlands for the third time to restore confidence to a valuable side, but one that has bogged down at key moments. And the results came immediately. Since Van Gaal took over the team last year, the Netherlands has not lost a game. It also defeated its rival Belgium in the UEFA Nations League, and today it is once again considered a candidate for the world title.
The Oranje have at their disposal one of the best defenders in the world, Virgil van Dijk. A formation is built around him with very good solutions in each individual position.
When you have Cristiano Ronaldo in your team, then you become a serious contender to win titles. The Portuguese star is no longer young, but he continues to score goals. Today he is the best scorer in the history of football, but he still has one big goal, to win the World Cup, the only important trophy he is missing.
Portugal has a 3rd place finish at the 1966 World Cup and a semi-final at the 2006 edition, but more recently became European champions in 2016. Coach Fernando Santos has a star-studded squad at his disposal, with players playing for top clubs in Europe.
Apart from Ronaldo, players like Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix can help Portugal make the 2022 FIFA World Cup an unforgettable one.
The team led by Zlatko Dalic was the revelation of the last edition, because it managed to face other top with succes nations and reach the grand finale, losing to France 4-2. But Croatia have been a top team for over 20 years, with their first big performance coming in 1998 when Davor Suker and his teammates went all the way to the penultimate act and claimed the bronze medal.
Croatia is led by the same Luka Modric, the 2018 Ballon d’Or. Although they have lost several key players from the 2018 team, such as Danijel Subasic, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, Zlatko Dalic still has a significant number of experienced players, with the help of which he can build an exceptional performance. The midfield is five stars, because near to Modric there are also people like Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic. And the fact that the coach allowed himself to leave them out players like Duje Caleta-Car and Antonio Colak, the Premiership (Scotland) goalscorer, talks about the strength of the squad.
Croatia arrives in Qatar in form, having managed to win a group with France and Denmark in the UEFA Nations League this autumn and qualify for the Final Four tournament. The team beat Les Bleus with 1-0 in Paris this year, and with Denmark, semi-finalist at the last European Championship, achieved two victories, 1-0 away and 2-1 at home.
Denmark produced a huge surprise in 1992 when they won the European Championship. The players came from the beach to play in the final tournament after Denmark was invited to take the place of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the Scandinavian team is today one of the strongest in Europe and proved this in the last final tournament. It reached the semifinals of Euro 2022, being eliminated by England after extra time.
Denmark also had a good performance at the 2018 World Cup, where they drew against future champions France, and the good results continued this year. Thus, it entered the top 10 nations in the FIFA ranking.
Coach Kasper Hjulmand has a homogeneous, enthusiastic squad at his disposal, a group that was united by a shocking moment last year when Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch. Meanwhile, the Manchester United player has made a miraculous recovery and is now back in the squad. And Denmark is now dreaming with open eyes of a new chapter in the history of Scandinavian football.