At long last, the World Cup is upon us. If it has felt like a very long time since we’ve last seen the biggest football tournament in the world, it’s because it has been. The 2018 World Cup final match was played on July 15 of that year, and the 2022 World Cup was pushed back to November to avoid host nation Qatar’s extreme summer temperatures.
32 countries will vie for the sport’s most hallowed team honor, and it will be exciting to see great players emerge on the biggest stage. In this article, we will review three contenders that can make a drastic shift and capture the cup:
It’s no secret that the clock is ticking on one of the most brilliant football careers of all time. Cristiano Ronaldo may only have a couple of years left to play, and it seems reasonable to assume that this will be the 37 year-old’s final World Cup.
The closest that Ronaldo has ever come to tasting World Cup glory was in 2006, when Portugal made it all the way to the semi-finals. They would end up falling to a France team led by Zinedine Zidane. It was a changing of the guard, as Portuguese legend Luis Figo played in his last World Cup that year, while the young prodigy competed in his first.
Head coach Fernando Santos is optimistic that Ronaldo will be able to deliver a signature performance despite a slow start to his Premier League club season. He has scored more than 800 goals throughout his career combined, and it would be memorable for him to capture a Ballon D’Or trophy in his late thirties.
If Portugal is going to make a run in this tournament, they will need some of their younger prospects to step up. One of the key players to watch will be Bruno Fernandes, who has the ability to make life easier for Ronaldo and the rest of his teammates. Fernandes’ play in the midfield will orchestrate Portugal’s attack, and he also has the talent to finish at the front of the net.
Given that, Bovada’s World Cup odds give a favorable projection for Portugal, listing it in the top 10 teams that are likely to win the World Cup. With the help of younger prospects and/or Ronaldo’s promising performance, Portugal truly has a chance to surprise the global audience.
While it’s difficult to knock Belgium’s recent resume in major football tournaments, it is also fair to say that they have fallen short of expectations. They’ve consistently featured rosters that resemble All-Star teams on the pitch and have not been able to get over the hump when it has mattered most. At this point, many believe that Belgium’s window to achieve ultimate greatness has closed.
However, sometimes it takes teams several tries before they can win a title. The Belgian squad has a plethora of big game experience and should not be fazed by the bright lights of Qatar. Their talent on the pitch is not the issue; their mindset and confidence will be the main focus.
This might be the last chance for players like Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Thorgan Hazard to do something special together on the national stage. They were fortunate to be drawn into a group that does not have much firepower, which means Belgium should advance without trouble.
Courtois is coming off a masterful Champions League performance for Real Madrid and may use some of that momentum to deliver a memorable performance in the World Cup.
There are a few different narratives that lead teams to World Cup glory. Sometimes it’s the striker who does all the damage, weaving his way around the defense to become an unstoppable force for his opponents. Other times it can be virtuoso midfield play, which expertly delivers passes all across the field to set teammates up in space with easy attempts at the goal.
Another common storyline of successful teams is the hot goaltender, who seemingly gets his hands or legs on every shot sent his way. If longshot Costa Rica is going to do anything in the 2022 World Cup, it will be thanks to the elevated player of goalie Keylor Navas.
He’s one of the most popular Costa Rican players, as well as one of the most accomplished. Navas had a remarkable performance in the 2014 World Cup, stopping powerhouses Italy and England dead in their tracks in the group stage that year. He’s had a great career playing in Europe, and the 35-year-old will be determined to lead his country to an unexpected run in this year’s tournament as well.
Costa Rica finds itself in Group E along with Spain, Germany and Japan. It’ll be a tough test for them, but Germany will be without one of its top strikers, which may help open the door for Navas and Costa Rica to successfully play a conservative style of football.