The World Cup in Qatar is almost upon us, and people are frantically making predictions about who could be the big winner, who could surprise and who could disappoint. With 1.3 million expected visitors to a country of fewer than three million people, it may not be the largest tournament in the World Cup’s illustrious history, but it could be the most intriguing.
Here are the top 10 surprise twists we could witness at the first-ever winter World Cup.
Qatar scores a point
Qatar’s footballing heritage dates back to around the time they were awarded the World Cup. The tiny nation has little in common with football, and this will likely be their one and only appearance. In a group with Ecuador, Netherlands and Senegal, imagine if they scored at least one point.
It’s been a long time since the World Cup has seen a first-time winner, and the winter logistics mean this could be the year. Interestingly enough, the World Cup odds (found on WSN.com) for the overall winner are swinging in favor of dark horses Belgium, Croatia and Denmark. Could it happen?
Ronaldo and Messi fail to score
The international swansong of two legends has a lot of expectation surrounding it. Yet over the last season, neither player has looked especially sharp. The dramatic declines caused by age mean that there is a very real chance neither of these legends could score.
Belgium crash out in the group stage
Many expect Belgium to go deep into the tournament, but they sit in Group F with magnificent Croatia, surprise package Canada and a frustrating Morocco team. It’s not inconceivable that they could find themselves finishing third.
Canada makes it to the knockout stage
Canada’s last World Cup appearance was Mexico in 1986, where they never made it out of the group. Yet this year feels different.
Canada dominated their qualifying campaign and are easily the best team the country has produced in its history. If they can get one over on Belgium, they may make the knockout stage for the first time.
An African team makes the semifinal
Ghana came the closest in 2010, before the opportunity was snatched away by one Luis Suárez. The African continent has been waiting for a semifinal for some time, and this could be the year.
Senegal is the obvious favorite to make it happen. Currently reigning as Africa Cup of Nations holders, Senegal has demonstrated itself to be a solid team that could give some of the big boys a scare.
Brazil qualified with a record 45 points in their qualifying group, with many having them nailed on to win the World Cup. Unfortunately, the South American contingent is relatively weak in a historical context.
Against the strong European teams, we’re predicting that they fall at the first hurdle, as in the last 16.
Mexico make the last eight
Mexico is a nation that loves football, which is something of an understatement. The nation has produced some impressive players over the years, yet they have never managed to advance past the round of 16.
The wait continues, and Mexico hopes. Inevitably, the march of time means that eventually, they will batter that door down. Could this be the year, in sunny Qatar?
Karim Benzema wins the Golden Ball
All sports news outlets are focused on Mbappé for the Golden Ball this year after he took the best young player award in 2018. Yet Benzema has enjoyed an incredible career renaissance well into his 30s, since becoming the main man in a Real Madrid team widely projected to flop after their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo departed.
We believe that this could be Benzema’s time, particularly if France manages to live up to expectations.
England beat France in the final
As it stands, if England and France do well, they could meet in the final. The ultimate grudge match would be a tasty one to close the curtain on Qatar 2022.
England is well known for choking in the big games, including against Italy at Euro 2020. Sooner or later, England will mature, with many of their players showing their discipline and demonstrating their mettle.
Could the unthinkable happen, and the cup finally comes home?
Every World Cup brings its own surprises, with some teams crashing out in humiliating fashion and others reinvigorating their respective nations with incredible performances. New stars emerge while others fade.
The dynamics of Qatar 2022 in November could transform the landscape of world football. So, what are your bold predictions for this year’s World Cup?