(Ruy Rebollo/The Intermission)
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is only three months away and the anticipation and preparations are slowly beginning. That being said, it is a perfect time to compile my five favourites for the upcoming tournament. Unlike other World Cups, this one will be played in the middle of the club season, bringing a new dimension to the tournament which will undoubtedly be fascinating to watch. So who do I think will claim the title of World Champions?
One of the smallest nations at the World Cup, Switzerland, has become a real force to be reckoned with in recent years.
Switzerland has an impressive midfield that is central to the way that they play. This midfield includes some experienced internationals such as Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Djibril Sow. They also have a strong defence with Manuel Akanji, Fabian Schär, Ricardo Rodriguez, Nico Elvedi, and Kevin Mbabu alongside world-class goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
Switzerland’s weakness lies up top as they lack a truly world-class striker. Breel Embolo seems to be the first choice after an impressive campaign with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga, however, he has struggled to have a consistent impact with only 9 goals in 56 matches for Switzerland.
Young striker Noah Okafor is also coming off an impressive season in the Austrian Bundesliga that saw him score 14 goals and log 10 assists in 33 games with RB Salzburg. With only 8 games with the national team, Noah is an inexperienced national but is believed to be the future of the Swiss National Team. If given the opportunity, Noah could be a breakout star at the World Cup.
Depending on what they decided to do at the striker position will likely make or break Switzerland’s World Cup campaign. While Switzerland finds themselves in a hard Group G alongside Cameroon and Brazil, do not overlook the Swiss as they have proven they can compete with and beat some of the best teams in the world in recent years.
The African Champions, Senegal, are undoubtedly the strongest African team in the tournament and will look to make it out of the group stages for the first time since 2002.
While Senegal does not have a deep squad, they do have a number of immensely talented players that could play a big role in their success at the World Cup. Led by Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mané, they have one of the best forwards in the world.
They also have a strong defence with Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly, AC Milan’s Fodé Ballo-Touré and PSG’s Abdou Diallo along with Chelsea goalkeeper, Édouard Mendy. In the midfield, they have PSG’s Idrissa Gueye and Ismaïla Sarr who was one of the most underrated wingers in the Premier League last season, with Watford.
While they lack a truly exceptional squad, they have many talented players that could make a decent run. While I wouldn’t expect them to win, don’t be surprised to see Senegal make it out of the group stages and give other nations a fight in the knockout rounds.
The defending World Cup Champions, France, are coming into the tournament with high expectations. After crashing out of the Euros against Switzerland, France will be under a lot of pressure to perform in Qatar.
The Blues have one of, if not the best squad in the tournament. The team is led by world-class strikers Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, perhaps the two best strikers in the world currently. Their attack also includes Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Moussa Diaby, and Christopher Nkunku.
As I mentioned, France’s squad is incredibly strong throughout the lineup and this is of course the case with the midfield and defence. The midfield consists of N’Golo Kante, Matteo Guendouzi, Aurelien Tchouameni, and the recently injured Paul Pogba who opted against surgery in hopes of returning in time for the World Cup.
Similarly, another strong point of their team is the defence, consisting of Lucas and Theo Hernandez, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Ibrahima Konate, and Jules Kounde.
France has proven in the past despite their exceptionally talented squad, that they are not invincible. The extreme pressure that will be on France to win back-to-back World Cups will be immense. However, I wouldn’t bet against them as they are likely the most talented team in the tournament.
The current South American Champions, Argentina have not lost an international game since 2019. A traditionally strong team, Argentina has not had World Cup Glory in over 40 years and will be keen to perform as it is likely the last world cup for superstars Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria.
Another offensively gifted team, Argentina has countless attacking options including Paulo Dybala, Julian Alvarez, Lautaro Martinez, Angel Correa, and Joaquín Correa alongside the previously mentioned Messi and Di Maria.
Similar to Brazil, the key to Argentina’s free-flowing style is in the midfield, where they have several key players such as Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso and Guido Rodríguez.
Despite their strong depth in the midfield and attack, Argentina’s defence leaves a bit to be desired. Without any true superstar defenders, Argentina could be exposed to some of the high-powered offences that they will face in the knock-out rounds. However, if goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez can keep up his great form for the national team, there is no question that Argentina has a real chance at winning this World Cup.
Brazil is the most successful national team in the FIFA World Cup having won the competition five times in their history. This year is no exception as the Brazilians are the current bookies' favourites to win the tournament.
Led by Neymar Jr in likely his last world cup, the Brazilians bring a potent attacking threat with players like Vinicius Jr, Raphina, Richarlison, Rodrygo, and Gabriel Jesus. However, the real strength of Brazil lies in their midfield with strong defensive-minded players like Casemiro and Fabinho along with more attacking players like Fred, Lucas Paqueta, and Philippe Coutinho.
They are also incredibly strong in defence with young players Eder Militao and Renan Lodi likely to be included in their first World Cup alongside more experienced players Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.
This balance of attack and defence allows Brazil to play the free-flowing beautiful style that they are known for. Brazil will be a tough proposition for opposition defences and I expect them to be one of the most exciting teams in the tournament. Barring injuries to key players, Brazil does not have any notable weaknesses and is my favourite to win the World Cup.