The Qatar World Cup is fast approaching and predictions are coming in thick and fast
In a football season like no other, fans are geared up to enjoy their regular supply of domestic football action but perhaps equally excited for the arrival of a mid-season 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The first ever winter edition of what is normally the summer showpiece is set to be unprecedented in more ways than one. The players will have to cope with playing in extreme conditions as, even during November and December, temperatures in the Middle Eastern country are set to be very high. Coaches will also have to find a way to manage fatigue and injuries as they welcome players into camp half way through their regular domestic seasons. This won't be the case for all players but with the majority of international footballers at the tournament plying their trade in the elite European leagues, it will affect most. These factors and more will make this World Cup more unpredictable than ever before.
The best online sports betting sites are trying desperately to get to grips with these issues and come up with potential winners, but it's an unenviable job, as most fans and analysts alike struggle to take into account all of the variables at play and accurately predict how this World Cup is going to play out.
Nonetheless, the bookies already have early odds out for who they think could lift that famous trophy. Here are the current four favourites to win the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
*all odds from Oddschecker*
Brazil (9/2 Favourites)
Coach Tite has overseen a decent period for the Brazil national team. After the disappointment of going out to Belgium in the quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he guided his country to 2019 Copa America glory, and almost made it two in a row when they finished runners-up to Argentina last year. Tite will hope that, with the embarrassment of riches available to him, he can bring home a first World Cup trophy since 2002 for the nation with the most victories ever (5).
Brazil certainly tick all the boxes on paper. They have a squad bursting with talent and experience. Tite will be able to call on such superstar players as Neymar, Casemiro, Vinicius Jr, Ederson, Marquinhos and Gabriel Jesus to name a few. It's easy to see why the bookies are confident of Brazil making a big comeback in this winter World Cup. Another advantage for their players will be that they are likely to deal with the intense heat better than their northern and western European opponents.
Reigning world champions France are second favourites to make it back-to-back triumphs. Favourites Brazil were the last country to pull off this feat when they won the 1958 and 1962 editions. As one of only three men to lift the most prestigious trophy in world football as both a player and a manager, France coach Didier Deschamps knows what it takes to win, but his' side will certainly need to improve on their performance at Euro 2022 when they slumped out of the tournament in the second round on penalties against Switzerland.
With a very experienced and capable coach at the helm and a raft of outstanding players, it's little wonder France are near the top of most people's list to challenge for the Qatar World Cup. The two time world champions can rely on the likes of global superstar striker Kylian Mbappe, Champions League winning forward Karim Benzema and the outstanding Antoine Griezmann, among many more. The French will surely be confident of their abilities going into the tournament but must also know how difficult it is to win two World Cups on the bounce.
After two very promising tournaments in a row, England manager Gareth Southgate will rightly be full of belief that he and his organisation's long term planning can finally reap the ultimate rewards at the Qatar World Cup. A semi final defeat to Croatia at the 2018 World Cup and a losing effort on penalties against Italy at Wembley in last summer’s Euro 2022 final may have been agonising for England players and fans, but those achievements should also demonstrate the success of the English FA's vision and Gareth Southgate's stewardship.
More than a decade ago, the FA set out to change the way English players emerged and developed, and looking at the list of names available to the manager now, it is clear to see that the hard work and patience of all involved has paid off. Outstanding youngsters like Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka are flourishing at their clubs and for their country, while mainstays Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Kyle Walker, to name a few, are now fully fledged leaders, many of them boasting multiple elite trophies and years of experience at the top of the game.
There have been question marks over manager Gareth Southgate's perceived lack of tactical agility, but with the firepower at his disposal and recent tournament finishes, England must be considered one of the favourites to win the Qatar World Cup, and end what is now “56 years of hurt” since the Three Lions lifted their one and only trophy in 1966.
Fourth in line for the throne in the eyes of the bookmakers are Argentina.
Since being promoted from assistant to take over from Jorge Sampaoli as the head coach of the Argentine national team, Lionel Scaloni has wasted no time making an impact on the side. He's led them to Copa America glory, beating Brazil in the final, and won the returning super cup “Finalissima” against European champions Italy. Scaloni will hope to make it the trifecta with inarguably the most important prize of all - the FIFA World Cup. Argentina have lifted the trophy twice - in 1978 and 1986 - and came very close to a third just eight years ago when they suffered the heartbreak of losing the 2014 World Cup final 1-0 in extra-time against Germany.
With many seeing this as probably the great Lionel Messi's last chance to grab that elusive World Cup crown, the pressure is on this Argentina side more than ever. Luckily they have arguably the best player of all time, a tonne of other outstanding players around him, and a very capable coach. To make it three World Cup wins, Argentina will need their magician at his peak, and the likes of Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and Giovani Lo Celso firing on all cylinders around him, if they are to provide Lionel Messi with a fitting send off in what may be his last international tournament, and almost certainly his last World Cup.
Further down the list, countries like Spain, Germany and Portugal are also expected to go far in the tournament but as of yet the trophy is looking most likely to go to Brazil, France, England or Argentina, according to the bookies. It is of course early days and this is likely to change depending on how club football progresses in the coming months. Serious injuries to key players, form and other factors could easily influence the chances of these countries and affect their odds with the bookmakers.