The football World Cup in Qatar is almost upon us. Where are the big teams? Who is one of the absolute top favorites for the title and who is still looking for their World Cup form?
It’s less than two months before the ball rolls at the World Cup in Qatar. The controversial FIFA tournament begins on November 20 with the game between the hosts and Ecuador – if the South Americans are not excluded from the tournament after all. Many national teams have already played their last international matches before the World Cup. Time to look at the current form of the top teams and the ranking of the favorites.
Brazil have an impressive run to defend. Because Neymar and Co. haven’t lost against a team for three years – except Argentina. But even if the defeat in the final of the Copá América last summer hurt, the current form is clearly pointing in the direction of the “Canarios”. In the eight international matches this year, the team scored a whopping 26 times, most recently there were convincing performances in the 3-0 win against Ghana and the 5-1 win over Tunisia. According to Neymar, Coach Tite’s team even acted as a “real team”. The five-time world champion has not reached a World Cup final since winning the title in 2002. It could work again in Qatar.
This World Cup should be the last chance for a title in the outstanding Messi era. The Copá victory at least took a lot of pressure off the shoulders of the little playmaker, whose only shortcoming before that was missing the title with the “Albiceleste”. Perhaps the team can play more freely now. Most recently, Messi showed enthusiasm for the game. After beating Honduras 3-0, he came off the bench in the game against Jamaica and scored two goals to make it 3-0. The Argentinians haven’t lost at all this year, clearly defeating European champions Italy, among others. So they are the most dangerous competitor for Brazil.
The Iberians recently had a small stumble that raised concern in the Spanish media about their World Cup form. Luis Enrique’s team was anything but competitive in the 4-1 draw against Switzerland. However, the following appearance in the Nations League should have calmed them down. There, thanks to Morata’s winning goal, they defeated Ronaldo’s Portuguese and secured participation in the Final Four tournament. As group opponents, the Spaniards will also be the first endurance test for the DFB team.
A few months ago, Louis van Gaal’s side wouldn’t necessarily have been the favourites. But the 71-year-old trainer fox has created a functioning collective around star striker Memphis Depay from a desolate “Elftal”. They have been unbeaten under van Gaal for 15 games and after missing two tournaments they suddenly became something of the secret favourite. In the Nations League, they defeated Belgium twice, and at the World Cup there are also rather simple group opponents waiting to warm up. With defense chief Virgil van Dijk and Bundesliga keeper Mark Flekken in strong form, there is not much in the way of a coup.
Bayern striker Sadio Mané’s team is the strongest African team at the World Cup. In 2002, the West Africans made it to the quarter-finals, but that was followed by three tournaments without qualifying and a quiet end in the preliminary round in 2018. But now the team is traveling to Qatar as the reigning Africa Cup of Nations winners. However, the last games against Bolivia (2-0) and Iran were not a real indicator of the team’s form. One thing is certain, in order to have a chance of an upset, the charismatic coach Aliou Cissé needs a Mané in top form, which the 30-year-old is currently still looking for.
The optimism in the German camp should have dampened quite a bit in view of the last appearances. First, the Flick squad lost their chances of winning the group in the Nations League in the 0-1 draw against Hungary. Then followed a wild 3:3 against England, in which the DFB team gambled away a 2:0 lead within a few minutes. So many questions remained unanswered, not least about a missing target player and about the right first eleven. Above all, the crisis of the Bayern professionals was also felt in the DFB team and a lot in Qatar will also depend on whether this has been resolved by then.
With the reigning world champion, the next European team is about to come in the wrong form. Of course, Didier Deschamps’ team is still one of the favorites on paper. You actually have to play for the title with the squad around Kylian Mbappé. But worries about injuries and a crunching in the gearbox cause unrest. Clearly visible in the 0:2 against Denmark. Deschamps can only hope that with Kante, Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman and Lucas Hernandez, five top performers will be fit and ready in time. For Paul Pogba, on the other hand, it should be pretty close after his knee injury until the World Cup.
With the convincing victory against France, Denmark has also played into the extended circle of favourites. Because the Danes have not only proven through their appearances at the European Championships that “Danish Dynamite” can be more than just a flash in the pan. Now that Christian Eriksen is back in the team with a defibrillator and has strengthened the offensive with his goals, Kasper Hjulmand’s team can do a lot in Qatar as well. However, the narrow 1:2 defeat against Croatia, the surprise team of the last World Cup, showed that the road to success will not be easy.
The 3:3 against Germany should have left the English supporters just as perplexed as the DFB fans. But with coach Gareth Southgate, the signs are even more upbeat than their European competitors. The “Three Lions” haven’t won in six games. Far too little for a semi-finalist of the European Championship and also for their own demands. The criticism of Southgate and especially defense chief Harry Maguire is getting louder. The young team was regarded as the new golden generation. In order to live up to this reputation, the team still has to pull itself together quite a bit until November.
The Belgians are in a similar situation, only this has been the case there for years. Again and again Kevin De Bruyne and his teammates go into the tournaments as the secret favourites, three times it was over in the quarterfinals, only at the World Cup in Russia did they reach the semifinals and finally third place. After all, Roberto Martínez’s team showed a lot of improvement in the 1-0 defeat against the Netherlands compared to the 4-1 defeat in the first leg of the Nations League. In Group F with Canada, Morocco and Croatia, Belgium didn’t catch a top-class player, but they did have to overcome three difficult hurdles before they made it into the knockout phase.