World Cup 2022 Group Stage Predictions:

As Premier League action ended with an emphatic and late victory for Manchester United at Fulham, now the World Cup will begin on Sunday. Qatar will begin the tournament with their fixture against Ecuador on Sunday and so the first Winter World Cup will commence. Many controversies surround the 2022 World Cup and rightly so but now there is nothing that can be done and the focus will be on football with the worries and questions still in the backs of many minds.

In this article I will go into my predictions for the World Cup group stages. Who will qualify, who will miss out, the dark horses, the shock exits and the top goalscorers of the groups. Let’s get started!

Group A (Qatar, Senegal, Netherlands, Ecuador)

Group A of course includes the hosts who I anticipate will not win a single game. Home territory favoured Russia four years ago but I think a large part of the farce of this World Cup will be demonstrated with the hosts exiting early and bottom.

Senegal have a lot of quality in their team. The AFCON holders will hope for a better World Cup than the previous one. They will be reliant on captain, Sadio Mane who confirmed his attendance in Qatar last week. I think they will be one of the two qualifying but it’s who beats who versus the Netherlands for top spot.

The Netherlands have a very good team. With Van Dijk, De Ligt, De Vrij and Timber all options at centre back, De Jong in midfield and the likes of Depay and Gakpo up front, there’s plenty of quality. Van Gaal has reached a World Cup semi-final before and is very competent in tournament football. It remains to be seen if he can navigate this side to the latter stages but it is safe to say they will have the chance to.

Ecuador have quietly built a strong and young team that could pose a couple of shocks here and there. However, I cannot see them overcoming the quality in the Senegalese and Netherlands squads.

Predicted Table: Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador, Qatar
Top Goalscorer: Coady Gakpo
Rising Star: Moises Caicedo

Group B (England, USA, Iran, Wales)

England are the big favourites for this group and it would be truly a shock if they did not advance with three wins and no issues. The problems have been doing this previously. Euro 2016 comes to mind but this is a different England team, one with structure, purpose, a sense of community and quality. I do predict England will top the group, it will be narrow at times and often nervous. However, I anticipate England will start strong and look to build on it.

The USA have a very intriguing team. A lot of quality at the top level. I have seen a lot of USA fans not overly confident with their manager. However, the quality of the squad could bring them through and sadly for Welsh fans, should be enough for them to finish second over Iran and Wales.

I cannot say with much confidence that I know Iran’s squad but from the last tournament and what I have seen in the last few years, they are a tough team to beat and one that can weather storms and pull off great results. I can see them pushing the USA for third but I cannot see them overcoming the quality of the USA team.

Wales secured the dream with the qualifiers but I cannot see them going further. They have a squad that has great attacking players with Bale, James, Wilson, Moore and Johnson but their weaknesses lie in defence and midfield. In that they don’t have one. Dylan Levitt is a quality young player but the midfields of England and USA look far superior physically and technically. I cannot see them making it but maybe they pose a couple of shocks here and there.

Predicted Table: England, USA, Iran, Wales
Top Goalscorer: Harry Kane
Rising Star: Brenden Aaronsen

Group C (Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Poland):

Argentina should not pose many surprises. A resurgent Leo Messi will help galvanise a promising squad including attacking talents such as Lautaro Martinez, Dybala, Alvarez and Joachim Correa. The midfield is very strong and as is a potential centre back pairing of Lisandro Martinez and Cristian Romero. There’s plenty of quality in the squad and one that should take them to the latter stages of the World Cup.

Mexico impressed in the 2018 World Cup but a lot of their players are past their best. Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera and co are all over 30 and may not have the same spark they showed in 2018. I see them finishing the group third but a respectable third.

Saudi Arabia managed a win in the 2018 World Cup with a 95th minute winner against Egypt. Given the strength of the group, I cannot see that happening this time. A bottom place awaits The Green Falcons and not a pretty goal difference.

Poland have a much stronger team than when they embarrassed themselves in Russia. I can see them overcoming the matches against Saudi Arabia and Mexico but their weaknesses, while reduced from four years ago are what will let them down in progessing far into the knockout rounds. But a second place finish is likely to await Lewandowski’s team.

Predicted Table: Argentina, Poland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia
Top Goalscorer: Lautaro Martinez
Rising Star: Lisandro Martinez

Group D (France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia)

France will have familiar foes in Australia and Denmark who featured in their group during their successful World Cup campaign in Russia. I cannot see them having much trouble with the firepower up front, steel in midfield and composure at the back. They are heavy favourites and will want to put on a show as the reigning champions.

Denmark are not dark horses! The EURO 21 semi-finalists should have no surprises here as I expect two wins from them in Group D. A strong side with an aim to push as far into this tournament as the last. This will be a big moment for them and star player, Christian Eriksen.

Tunisia have our own Hannibal Mejbri in their ranks for the World Cup. I can see them overcoming the Socceroos but not getting past the quality of the European giants in their group. Third place for Tunisia sadly.

Australia will finish bottom in another tough group at the World Cup. Lacking the quality Jedinak and Cahill brought in previous tournaments, I cannot expect Aaron Mooy’s team will provide many shocks in Qatar.

Predicted Table: France, Denmark, Tunisia, Australia
Top Goalscorer: Karim Benzema
Rising Star: Mikkel Damsgard

Group E (Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan)

Spain have an interesting side. They left out Sergio Ramos, Gerard Moreno, Fabian and Thaigo Alcantara. Big misses but Luis Enrique’s decisions are final. They have underwhelmed since their 2010 glory and the reign between 2008-2012 ended. They will hope for better than the early exit to Russia in the RO16. However, I can only see one winner in their first fixture to Germany. I haven’t predicted any scorelines yet but this one I see being a 3-0 loss to Spain already.

Costa Rica, following their outstanding run in 2014, exited with just one point in the 2018 tournament. I expect not much more than that here. Japan are strong and should complete a trio of defeats for the Central American team.

Japan could pose a shock as they did in 2018 and knock Spain out but at this moment, I have to go with Spain finishing second. I am not ruling Japan out of beating Spain but I think with the quality Spain still have despite substantial absences, it would be a shock loss to Japan. Third place.

Germany should have no trouble in this group. The quality of Sane, Gnabry, Havertz, Musiala and many others outweigh a lot of teams in this competition. This will be Hansi Flick’s first international tournament and I expect him to start strong and make a statement by topping the group.

Predicted Table: Germany, Spain, Japan, Costa Rica
Top Goalscorer: Serge Gnabry
Rising Star: Jamal Musiala

Group F (Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia)

Belgium should qualify with no issues. They still have a great squad with young players filling some of the gaps being left behind by the ageing stars of the dubbed “Golden Generation”. This may be their last tournament to win something before a lot of these players start to decline or, in the cases of Vertonghen, Witsel, Alderwiereld and Hazard retire internationally. However, due to the weaknesses in the defence, I can see vulnerabilities which Croatia will punish. I predict Belgium will lose to the 2018 finalists.

Canada are at their first World Cup since 1986. But I don’t see them getting far. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David are the stars for the North American side but I can’t see them overcoming either Belgium or Croatia and I think Morocco will nick third spot over them. Bottom finish for the Canadians.

Morocco have the edge on Canada and could pose trouble for Croatia and Belgium. Ziyech, Hakimi, El-Nesyri and Mazroui are the standout players for Morocco and could cause issues in the group. Much like Japan, they could pose a shock challenger but I cannot put them second ahead of either Croatia or Belgium so into third place they go.

It may be four years on from the superb 2018 tournament that Croatia had but I can see them posing problems and moving far in the tournament too. Modric and Kovacic is a strong midfield with quality, resilience and energy in every position on the pitch. I will predict they beat Belgium 1-0 and ease through the others in the group to a first place finish.

Predicted Table: Croatia, Belgium, Morocco, Canada
Top Goalscorer: Romelu Lukaku
Rising Star: Jeremy Doku

Group G (Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon)

Brazil are the favourites for this competition but could still make tricky work of what is a tough group. I would expect them to win all three but not effortlessly. It will be tough, gritty and narrow but they’ll be able to pull through with the quality they have in every area of the pitch. Top spot with Neymar starring for Brazil.

Switzerland have a good team and a strong squad but I believe they won’t get the goals required to qualify for the knockouts. I can see them making it difficult but not having what’s required to overcome Brazil or Serbia.

Serbia’s team are my dark horses for the World Cup. With a solid squad, creative midfielders in Tadic and Milinkovic-Savic and gunmen in Vlahovic, Jovic and possibly Mitrovic, Serbia are my choice for second place. They did the double over Portugal in the group and will be tricky opponents for any team.

Cameroon have a quality but not enough to overcome any of the teams in this group. Apologies to Samuel Eto’o who predicted they would win the World Cup, but I can’t see them getting more than a point in the group stages.

Predicted Table: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Top Goalscorer: Vinicius Jr
Rising Star: Antony

Group H (Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana, South Korea)

Portugal have a fabulous team. But I do see them struggling. They failed to make the desired impact in the Euros with almost the same squad so I can see them struggling here, especially if they centre all their play to Ronaldo. If they play to the tune of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Joao Felix then they will succeed and go far in the tournament. However, if they play only to feed Ronaldo they could face an early exit. I’ll go for a second place finish.

Uruguay have a really dangerous team, a solid and resolute defence with an engine of a midfield. In attack they have Nunez, Suarez, Cavani and Pellistri. All of which will have pivotal roles in Uruguay’s predicted top spot.

Ghana have seriously improved their squad from their last World Cup in 2014. Andre Ayew is still a pivotal player but additions in Thomas Partey, Mohammed Salisu, Tariq Lamptey, Mohammed Kudus and Inaki Williams have made them a seriously dangerous outfit. I really do think they can give Portugal a big, big shock but I cannot confidently say they will qualify.

Unfortunately, South Korea will have the same result as their last World Cup. Son Heung-Min’s team will almost certainly bow out in the group stage and bottom of the table. They may have the positive ending to their campaign as they did in 2018 as they face Portugal in their final group stage game. Who knows with this group but I will say confidently that South Korea will finish last.

Predicted Table: Uruguay, Portugal, Ghana, South Korea
Top Goalscorer: Bruno Fernandes
Rising Star: Facundo Pellistri

Author: Arjun Handa

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