The road to Qatar is well and truly underway. With the greatest showdown in world football hardly a few months away, it is imperative to note which handful of national teams have concretely etched themselves as probable contenders for the gold-laden trophy. The FIFA World Cup 2022 is bound to be a one-of-a-kind event, given that it’s the first winter edition of the competition – to be held not in May, June or July as always, but in November and December.
All but 17 places at the World Cup have been grabbed and there are twice as many national teams vying for a spot in the play-off rounds. However, few of the likely dark horses have already qualified for the tournament. The highlight event is fast approaching and these are the few who might just pop up a surprise heading into the knockout stages of the tournament.
FIFA Ranking: 9
Arguably one of the most impressive teams during the UEFA qualification phases, the Danes booked their place with eight wins from eight, scoring 27 goals and conceding nil in the process. After having qualified without dropping a point or conceding a goal, coach Kasper Hjulmand said that his team are ‘happy to be World Cup dark horses’. And unsurprisingly so, given Denmark’s fiery run to the semi-finals of the EURO 2020 last year amid the unsettling events with which they opened the tournament.
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Christian Eriksen’s return to the playing field is a source of motivation and so is the presence of game changers such as Mikkel Damsgaard and Kasper Schmeichel, but bettering their quarter-final finish at France 1998 will undoubtedly be a bountiful task. They will face a much tougher run than the one they encountered last summer against the European elite. Nonetheless, the Danish dynamite possess all the makings of a dark horse capable of smoking their opponents to the ground.
United States of America
FIFA Ranking: 13
USA’s reputation as a leader in sports – from basketball and ice hockey to baseball and athletics – is undisputed. However, it is ‘soccer’ that has so far eluded the Americans on the big stage. USA have appeared at 10 World Cups, but have failed to cut above their 3rd place finish at the inaugural tournament in 1930. Counting their luck, USMNT is now blessed with talented players in arguably every position, and the European experience gained by many of them could prove to go a long way in their chances of progressing at the FIFA World Cup.
Giovanni Reyna, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Serginho Dest are few young guns who have already displayed their potential at the highest level, but they are still in their early 20’s. With having passed almost a century behind the scenes, this year could prove to end differently for the Stars and Stripes and much of it will depend on coach Gregg Berhalter’s ability to churn the most out of his skillful players. If not 2022, the USMNT has a golden generation heading towards the 2026 World Cup, at home!
FIFA Ranking: 25
Striker Aleksander Mitrovic headed home a dramatic at-the-death winner against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to march through a not-so-easy Group A as leaders, clinching an automatic berth in the 2022 World Cup. They have failed to go past the semi-final round since their run in Chile 1962 and have not played in the quarter-final since Italy 1990.
Despite their group stage shortcomings in the past three World Cups, the Eagles are a team high of caliber, who seem poised to overturn their recent fortunes with the talent in their arsenal. The quality of players in the Serb ranks are of the highest level to write them off. Dusan Vlahovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic, Nikola Milenkovic, and the list of talented ‘ic’s go on.
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By bettering their team play and understanding, Serbia possesses all the potential to emerge as underdogs and upset the odds.
According to stats provided by the best sports betting sites associated with asiabet.org, the top two heavyweights touted to bag football’s most prestigious accolade this year are Brazil and France, with England, Spain and Germany trailing behind, according to bookmakers. The big guns are always favored, but the excitement and thrill of the greatest sporting show in the world is only fueled with the presence of the ‘minnows’, few of whom manage to punch above their weight when needed.
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There are little over eight months left for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – the 22nd edition of the competition since its beginning in 1930. The fever has already kicked in and although many teams are yet to qualify, there are several dark horses to take note of, apart from the trio mentioned above. Other honorable mentions include Switzerland, Senegal, Egypt, Poland, Japan and South Korea.