The 2022 World Cup might still feel a long way away – it’s just over 900 days now – but that’s not a long time in the cycle of international football. If you think about it in terms of games, including friendlies, you are really talking about 20 matches or so to get ready – the equivalent of half a domestic club season. The European Championships, as well as the Copa America, next summer will tell us a lot about who is in the driving seat, but we can also make certain judgements now based on squad strength and form.
The best place to start is with the champions, and the current co-favourites, France. No team has successfully defended the World Cup for since 1962, so it’s obviously a tall order for Didier Deschamps’ men. But the core of the 2018 squad remains, and you could argue that several key young players, including Kylian Mbappé, will benefit from a few more years experience. In short, France had an extraordinarily young squad in Russia, and many will be coming into their prime in Qatar. The odds for the defending champions can differ depending on the sportsbook. In Canada, for example, Bet365 rates Les Bleus as a 7/1 shot, whereas William Hill goes 11/2. A significant difference, so check this site that helps you find the best bookmakers in Canada to ensure you have the top price before betting.
Brazil backed to dazzle
Indeed, many sportsbooks are split as to who the favourite should be, with Brazil over the French favoured with Bet365 (6/1) and Betfair (9/2). Is this a fair assessment, given La Seleçäo performed so poorly in Russia? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, like France in 2018, Brazil has a gifted young generation coming through, with the likes of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo tipped for great success. On the other hand, there is an almost unhealthy obsession with Neymar being the team’s nexus. The PSG man is a great player, but you can make an argument that his beatification comes to the detriment of the rest of the team.
Away from the top two, surely England represents the best value bet to win the World Cup at 11/1 with William Hill? Gareth Southgate’s team head to Euro 2021 as favourites, and rightly so. The team has progressed nicely since losing out in the semis in Russia, and a big performance in Qatar seems like an endgame for Southgate’s project. An embarrassment of riches up front – Kane, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho – coupled with one of the world’s best attacking full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold, are just some of the reasons to quote England as serious contenders.
Germany is an interesting case for this World Cup. It is probably unfair to judge the 2014 winners on the limp 2018 performance – the team is much better than that. However, there are questions over whether the likes of Timo Werner, Julian Draxler and Leroy Sané can step up to replace the leadership of players like Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Die Mannschaft is bulging with talent, but sometimes cool heads count for more. 10/1 (Bet365) seems about the right price for Germany.
Last chance for Messi
Argentina will have some backers at odds of 12/1 (Betway), but it really seems like we are at the tail-end of the generation of Messi, Aguero and Di Maria, all of whom will be in their mid-30s. There does not seem to be a steady influx of new players ready to take over. Sadly, it seems unlikely that the supremely-gifted Messi will not get to lift the World Cup one day. Like Argentina, Belgium is blessed with a golden generation – and many feel that this will be a great chance for the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku. Odds of 12/1 (Bet365) don’t look bad at all, and you could argue that the Belgians have a better shot than the ageing Argentines.
Finally, we must look at Spain. A team in transition, or one with the ability to take home the Jules Rimet Trophy? Parallels can be drawn with Argentina and, perhaps, Germany. There doesn’t yet seem to be a new generation ready to replace the loss of the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and the rest of Spain’s conquistadores from the last decade. Sergio Ramos could be the sole member of the 2010 World Cup-winning side to make it to Qatar, but will he have a great team around him? Most bookmakers settle around the 9/1 mark. But punters should perhaps wait to see if coach Luis Enrique can start to demonstrate a blueprint for success before parting with any money.