The Big Picture for Every Group in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

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It’s weird to be writing about a World Cup in November but here we are. The 2022 Qatar World Cup commences in just three days and will include a record-breaking 36 MLS players.

There are 32 total teams participating so keeping track of all of them is near impossible but there are some storylines within each group that you should definitely keep an eye on.

Group A – Lack of World Cup Experience

Qatar | Ecuador | Senegal | Netherlands

Sorta aside from the Netherlands (we’ll get to them in a bit), this is a group that is lacking significant World Cup experience.

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup, so this will be their first experience. Ecuador has made two of the last four, however, their roster consists of mostly young players who will be making their World Cup debuts. Senegal only qualified for one of the last four World Cups but that one was in 2018 when the current generation got their first taste of the competition.

As for the Netherlands, they hold the record for most World Cup finals without every winning with three finals appearances in 1974, 1978, and most recently 2010. However, none of that means much when the current generation didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Despite being loaded with talent, this will be the first World Cup for a vast majority of the Dutch players.

Netherlands is the clear favorite to top the group, but Senegal’s roster has the most World Cup experience of any team in this group. It will be interesting to see how all the inexperience shakes up the group.

Knockout Stage Prediction: Netherlands and Senegal

Group B – Most Talented USMNT World Cup Roster

United States | England | Iran | Wales

In 2017 disaster struck for the United States Men’s National Team. They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 27 years. Since then, a new generation rose up from the ashes and became the youngest US group to qualify for a World Cup.

Many, including myself, would argue that this is the most talented World Cup roster the United States has assembled ever. While talent is important, it takes a whole more than that to have a successful World Cup campaign.

Experience also plays a part and only one player on the roster, Deandre Yedlin, has played in a World Cup. That experience also applies to coaching, and it will be Gregg Berhalter's coaching debut in the tournament. He does have playing experience in it as he started the last two games of the 2002 campaign which included the legendary dos a cero win against Mexico in the Round of 16.

But how will Berhalter line up his team? How will they handle the rigid, stubborn sides of England, Wales, and Iran? Who will score the goals? We know the talent this team has but how will this new generation of players perform on the biggest stage in the world??

We'll begin to get answers when the USMNT open their World Cup account against Wales on November 21st at 2 pm. If you’re looking to watch it alongside other USMNT fans make sure to come out to Charlotte FC’s World Cup Watch Party (shameless plug).

Knockout Stage Prediction: United States and England

Group C – Battle for Second

Argentina | Poland | Mexico | Saudi Arabia

The obvious storyline coming out of this group is will Lionel Messi have a fairytale ending to his international career? That’s overdone and boring, I’m more interested in the other teams in this group.

Argentina is pretty much a lock to win the group but it’s that 2nd place spot in the group that intrigues me the most. You have Poland, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia all vying for it and any of them has a chance.

Poland has had a history of underperforming in major tournaments but for most of the roster, this will be the last chance for making waves at such a tournament. For Charlotte FC fans, can Karol Świderski be the difference maker for Poland?

Saudi Arabia is back in the tournament after qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and it’s mostly the same group. There is chemistry between the players and they will be looking to improve on their last showing where they earned one win and lost twice.

As for Mexico, I won’t sugarcoat it, it’s looking rough. I haven’t seen a weaker Mexico team in my lifetime, but they’ve always been a resilient team that finds a way. This battle for 2nd place could be one of the more exciting bouts in the tournament.

Knockout Stage Prediction: Argentina and Poland

Group D – Overrated Favorite and Underrated Dark Horse

France | Australia | Denmark | Tunisia

Out of all the European teams, France is still considered one of the favorites despite missing key players N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba and having a disappointing Euro... and I can totally see why. France is still one of the deepest squads in the tournament and they even though entered the 2018 World Cup in bad form they ended up winning the whole thing.

History, however, has not been favorable to France or most other reigning world champions. France has a history of self-destructing on the international stage on top of the fact that four of the last five World Cup winners have crashed out of the group stage. Will France be next?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the team that’s going under the radar entering the tournament – Denmark. This is a team that won nine of their 10 World Cup Qualification matches, made it to the Euro 2020 semifinal, and every single starter plays in a top five league.

Much of the same core of their 2018 World Cup squad will be back with the addition of some exciting youngsters. Their biggest strength is their balance. Being so well-rounded allows Denmark to defend in a low block or press and attack in a variety of different ways. Denmark could very well be this year’s 2018 Croatia and shock the world with a deep tournament run.

Knockout Stage Prediction: France and Denmark

Group E – Return of the Giants

Spain | Costa Rica | Germany | Japan

This is a scary group. Two soccer giants in Spain and Germany, a World Cup regular in Japan, and Costa Rica who proved they shouldn’t be underestimated in the 2014 World Cup where they won a group that consisted of England, Uruguay, and Italy.

Specifically going to focus on Spain and Germany because the former lost to Russia in the Round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup and the latter didn’t even make it out of the group stage. They’ve turned it around since by hiring new coaches, Luis Enrique and Hansi Flick, both inheriting a new generation of players.

There is a lot of youth on both sides, with veterans sprinkled in. Both had strong World Cup Qualifying campaigns and are set to make deep runs in the tournament like they have in the past (sorry Costa Rica and Japan, I’m rooting for y’all but it will be a huge uphill battle).

Knockout Stage Prediction: Germany and Spain

Group F - Belgium’s Last Dance

Belgium | Canada | Morocco | Croatia

Belgium’s golden generation will have one more shot at earning some silverware in their ultimately disappointing time together. Never has Belgium been blessed with as much talent as they have had in the past 8 years but winning a trophy has eluded them.

Much of the core that has played together for almost a decade remains but a few of them are beyond their prime. Still, they have more than enough talent and experience to make this tournament memorable. In addition to that, they have arguably the best midfielder of the past four seasons, Kevin De Bruyne, pulling the strings and capable of bailing them out with a wondergoal if needed (I still have nightmares of that USA vs Belgium game in the 2014 World Cup).

This is it for Belgium though, their last dance, their last shot to take advantage of their golden generation. It’s now or never.

Knockout Stage Prediction: Belgium and Croatia

Group G - Brazil’s World Cup to Lose

Brazil | Serbia | Switzerland | Cameroon

The 2006 Brazilian National Team was the last time we could confidently say Brazil had a top three roster in the world – until now. Brazil had arguably their worst generation of players (relative to Brazil!) for the past ten years but this 2022 squad is special.

They breezed through qualifiers going unbeaten through 17 matches and winning 14 of them. They are brimming with talent, have plenty of World Cup experience, and have no clear weakness. There’s a reason they are the number one ranked team heading into the tournament.

Brazil’s plethora of attacking talent has helped alleviate some of the reliance on their talisman Neymar but he will still be the deciding factor that determines how far Brazil goes in the competition. Lucky for Brazil, Neymar is more motivated than ever. He’s been in spectacular form at the club level and is only three goals away from breaking Pele’s national team goal-scoring record.

As for the rest of the group, it will likely be a tight race for second place as all teams are pretty evenly matched. I give the edge to Serbia, however, because it's a balanced squad that for the most part is in it's prime.

Knockout Stage Prediction: Brazil and Serbia

Group H - South American Sleeper

Portugal | Ghana | Uruguay | South Korea

All eyes are on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in this group when their eyes should be on Uruguay. Don’t get me wrong, Portugal is stupid talented but didn’t look inspiring in the 2020 Euros and throughout World Cup Qualifying.

There is a very real chance that Uruguay ends up winning the group. They have a good mix of youth and experience, have probably the most in-form midfield duo in Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde and Tottenham’s Rodrigo Bentancur, and are deep in every position.

Where Uruguay finishes in the group could determine how far they go in the tournament. If they finish d they’d likely have to get past Brazil in the Round of 16 which is a lot to ask. On the flip side, if they win the group, they will have an easier Round of 16 draw against Serbia, Switzerland, or Cameroon. European dominance in the World Cup could come to an end with the strong South American contingent heading to Qatar, including Uruguay.

Knockout Stage Prediction: Uruguay and Portugal

While there are clear favorites to win, I have a feeling this World Cup has plenty of surprises in store for us. If you don’t like my World Cup predictions feel free to fill out your own bracket and send it to me on Twitter.