Even though the main focus of any soccer fan is surely their club side, since they play so regularly, this doesn’t remove the excitement we experience when we follow our country. It is a strange concept, suddenly someone who supports your club’s biggest rival, is now your ally. You can discuss your team’s tactics together, its bizarre really! The major tournaments only come around every 2 years, with the World Cup only coming every 4! So it really isn’t that often that we see the top nations from each continent battle each other. The pandemic disrupted everyone’s schedules, if that’s not too much of an understatement; but it meant that Euro 2020 was delayed a year. That paired with the Copa America, Nations League and the upcoming World Cup, we really have a lot of international football coming our way. Who has the best chance of winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar however?
Italy definitely deserve their spot in the top 5 after their Euro heroics. Italy were labelled underdogs at the start, after an underwhelming ten year period in which they hadn’t even qualified for every tournament. Furthermore, veterans Chiellini and Bonucci are very much still depended on at the back, and it seemed like Italy may have run out of ideas. That being said they clearly have some very talented players, as we discovered at the tournament. Euro 2020 was a breakout tournament for stars such as Nicolo Barella, Manuel Locatelli and Federico Chiesa. Pairing this with established stars like Donnarumma, Jorginho and Insigne; the team had significant potential. Having gone on a long unbeaten streak that was only recently ended by Spain, Italy have become a top, top side.
It was only yesterday that France were confirmed as the winners of the Nations League! Having beaten a lackluster, but improved, Spain in the final. France have an incredible side at their disposal and were rightful winners of the 2018 World Cup. Having been billed as favorites for the Euros too, they were in the end somewhat of a let down. France haven’t let this bother them however, still looking like a top, confident side. The reinstatement of Karim Benzema has done wonders, and the attack that France have is scary to anyone. Kylian Mbappe keeps rising, despite the fact he is already considered a world star. France will definitely be considered one of the favorites in Qatar.
Wow oh wow how England have improved since Gareth Southgate took over. Having lead his team to the World Cup semi final in 2018, this was a great feat for England and the furthest they had gotten in a major tournament for a long time. The progression continued at the Euros where England reached the final, only losing out to Italy on penalties. It would only seem right that the natural progression continues to a win at Qatar 2022? This is the first time that England truly have a squad full of stars, young stars, who actually gel well together! We all remember the disappointment that the ‘Golden’ Age of England received (Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Owen era) and we expect big things from England for the future.
Brazil are another side who have somewhat underachieved in recent years. The team battled on to the final of Copa America 2021, only to lose in the final to Messi’s Argentina. Nevertheless, they still find themselves very high up on the list due to positive results in recent years. Perhaps they could’ve bypassed Belgium at the World Cup, but the next World Cup will surely be an important one for Brazil. We still remember the 7-1 mauling by Germany on Brazilian soil in 2014, and since this is apparently Neymar’s final World Cup, it seems like now or never. Sure the quality isn’t necessarily that of the past, perhaps they will never see another era of Kaka, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo; but they have enough quality to compete at the very top for sure.
Belgium still find themselves at the top of FIFA rankings, despite having not won anything yet. They are truly a top team, and have performed exceptionally under Roberto Martinez. However, they are yet to reach a final of a tournament, never mind actually winning. They seem to have a knack of performing in the games up to the important ones, to ultimately flop. With stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard among a list of top names, the team is certainly dangerous. Having finished 4th at Euro 2020, Belgium need to win something at this point. Why beat all the teams in the run up, only to lose to the bigger side when it matters?