Twelve elite teams have already secured a place at the 2022 World Cup after flourishing during the qualifying campaign. Ten European teams earned an automatic berth at the tournament after topping their groups, while Brazil and Argentina are also through from the South American group. These are the teams with the best chance of lifting the famous trophy next year:
Brazil are top of the South American World Cup qualifying group after securing 11 wins and two draws from 13 games. They have always been terrific in attack, but they are now a lot more solid at the back. Liverpool’s Alisson and Man City’s Ederson compete for the goalkeeper jersey, while Thiago Silva and Marquinhos have formed a brilliant defensive pairing. Casemiro and Fabinho also offer the defence a great deal of protection.
As such, Brazil have conceded just four goals in 13 qualifiers, and they are the top scorers too, with Neymar, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino leading the charge. Many bookmakers make them the outright favourites to win the World Cup in the fixed odds betting markets, while others have them as joint favourites along with France. However, the last time they came up against elite European opposition, they lost to Belgium at the 2018 World Cup, so the jury is still out on Titê’s men.
Les Bleus are the reigning world champions after beating Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final. That team remains intact, with only Blaise Matuidi and Samuel Umtiti having faded away. Karim Benzema has returned from international exile, making France even more dangerous in attack. He forms a devastating attacking triumvirate alongside KylianMbappé and Antoine Griezmann, while N’GoloKante is a world-class midfielder and Paul Pogba reserves his best performances for the national team.
France flopped at the Euros, but they bounced back by winning the Nations League this autumn. If they play to their full potential, they should win the World Cup. There are question marks over the defence, but going forward, Didier Deschamps’ men are sensational.
England are just behind Brazil and France in the betting at 7/1 after qualifying for the tournament with an unbeaten record. They scored more goals than any other team in qualifying – 39 in just 10 games – and they also had the joint best defensive record. England were semi-finalists in 2018, and they were unlucky to lose to Italy on penalties in the Euros final this summer. If they maintain their upward curve, they could go all the way in Qatar.
Southgate certainly has a phenomenally talented player pool at his disposal. Choosing a right-back out of Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier is difficult enough, but he has a similar conundrum in many positions. For example, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Emile Smith Rowe may all be competing for one place, while forwards such as Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bukayo Saka and Jesse Lingard are all competing to join Harry Kane on the plane to Qatar. If Southgate can maintain the defensive solidity, while also unshackling England’s world-class forwards, it will be hard for anyone to stop them ending 56 years of hurt.
Spain have emerged as the fourth most likely team to win the World Cup next year, according to the bookies. They finished narrowly ahead of Sweden in their qualifying group, while they were unlucky to lose to France in the Nations League final after a controversial goal from Mbappé. They also went to the semi-finals of the Euros this summer, where they lost on penalties to Italy.
Luis Enrique’s men tend to monopolise possession in every game they play. They normally have at least 67% of the ball, but they are very plodding and methodical in their build-up play, so they are not the most entertaining team to watch. The main issue for Spain is a lack of cutting edge in attack. Yet if Mikel Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres are on song at the World Cup, Spain will be a force to be reckoned with.
Germany are fifth in the World Cup futures betting after emerging revitalised under Hansi Flick. He has built the team around the players that starred for him at Bayern Munich, sprinkled with some talented stars from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. They flopped against England at the Euros, but they should be much stronger under Flick’s tutelage.
Argentina are also in the mix after beating Brazil in the Copa America final earlier this year. It was the first international trophy of Lionel Messi’s career, and he is hungry for more. Argentina’s resurgence has also been based upon tightening up defensively, with Christian Romero, Rodrigo de Paul and Emiliano Martinez all playing vital roles.
Belgium’s golden generation is in last-chance saloon. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard could past their best by 2026, while Jan Vertongen, Toby Alderweireld and Axel Witsel will be retired, so there may be a sense of urgency in the camp. Italy are considerable outsiders with the bookmakers after going off the boil this autumn, but you cannot write off a team that just won the Euros. There are dark horses aplenty, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal, so it should be a fiercely competitive tournament.