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Top 10 Storylines Ahead of the 2022 World Cup

The 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar starting on November 21, with the final played on December 18. With soccer being one of the world’s biggest sports, and the World Cup being one of the headline events every four years, the news surrounding it starts early. With every group just about filled, a lot of the key topics are already coming to the forefront. 

10. A New Time of the Year

Usually, the World Cup is held during the summer when club soccer has ended, and players have two months between seasons. Massive country tournaments typically happen during the summer, like COPA America, EURO, or CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Top 10 Storylines Ahead of the 2022 World Cup
KARIM SAHIB / AFP

However, with this year’s matches being held in Qatar, with the summer months averaging from 95 F to 113 F, FIFA elected that the tournament be held later in the calendar year, when it is at least cooler. 

The change has caused some friction between the various entities that will have players in the World Cup. Most players in the World Cup play for teams in either the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, or Ligue 1, which made plans to start earlier than usual and take a break for the World Cup.

The downside is that the players will go through a grueling schedule playing straight from August to June.

9. Italy’s Absence

According to FIFA, Italy, which is ranked as the sixth-best team globally, will not be participating in the 2022 World Cup. The European soccer powerhouse, which won the 2021 EURO tournament, was eliminated by North Macedonia, which scored the only goal in 90+2 minutes. 

After winning the World Cup in 2006, the team has been an utter disappointment, being eliminated in the group stages in 2010 and 2014. Those embarrassments were followed by not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. 

Winning the EURO, the biggest country tournament in Europe, seemed to be a step in the right direction, but this will be the second straight World Cup without the four-time tournament winners. 

8. No Group of Death 

One element that always gets soccer fans excited is a group of death within the group stages of the World Cup. Sadly with the groups decided –  with three teams waiting to qualify – it does not look like there will be a group of death this year. 

There still are some fun groups like Group B, which is headlined by England and the USA, with Iran as the third known team. The fourth sport could be filled by Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine, with all three having the possibility to make the group interesting. 

Other groups like Group E and F pose possibilities to be compelling. E features Spain and Germany, recent winners, and Japan, which always has a quality team. The final team could be either Costa Rica or New Zealand, which can punch above their weight in the tournament’s history. F is led by Belgium, ranked second by FIFA. Canada has the highest point tally in the CONCACAF qualification. Croatia, the last World Cup’s runner-up, and Morocco, a semi-finalist in the Africa Cup of nations. 

Even though this World Cup will not feature a clear-cut group of death, there are still so many great matchups. 

7. Who Will Be the World Cup’s Big Transfer Star

In most World Cups, there is usually a player that works themself into a massive transfer after the tournament. When a player makes a name for themselves within one of these global tournaments, a big club can be open to paying a hefty transfer fee.

Think of James Rodríguez from Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. He would end the tournament with the Golden Boot, scoring six goals and leading the competition. Real Madrid would buy the midfielder for a reported $82.5 million fee. After that, his career would dip, playing in 125 games for Madrid, being sent out on loan in 2017, and then sold in 2020. Now Rodriguez plays for Al-Rayyan looking to make a return to Europe’s top leagues. 

It’s hard to tell what player will be the big transfer target when the tournament finishes, but there is usually at least one that catches fans’ and team’s eyes. 

James Rodriguez | YURI CORTEZ / AFP

6. Will the Next World Cup Hosts make a Splash?

The 2026 World Cup is set to be played host to by by America, Canada, and Mexico, which will be the first time that the tournament will have more than one host nation. With all three teams playing in this World Cup, will one of them set the foundations to win it all next time around?

In the last seven World Cups, Mexico has made it out of the group stage but never past the Round of 16. The team is always consistent, and in a group with Argentina, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, it should make it to the Round of 16 again. 

Canada has proven to be an exciting team going into the World Cup, qualifying for the first time since 1986. The Canadians are filled with young talent in Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies However, they have not faced off against any elite teams, so their actual measuring stick will come against Belgium in their first game.

After not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, America has been on a mission to get back. The team has grown a lot around Champions League Winner Christan Pulisic, getting younger and gaining experience in Europe’s top leagues. America has a chance to make a splash in this World Cup but will see this as a test run to win it all at home in 2026. 

5. Will Belgium make some noise?

In 2014, Belgium was the sneaky pick to win it all, as it had slowly rebuilt the team over the last few years. They missed the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, which forced the country to revamp their team, now becoming a favorite to win it all.

Despite being one of the top-ranked teams in FIFA since 2014 and coming in third place in the 2018 World Cup, Belgium always falls short in a national competition. In the last two EUROs, Belgium was eliminated in the quarter-finals, despite a roster with talented players playing on high-profile club teams. 

This could be the season that a team led by one of the world’s best midfielders in, Kevin De Bruyne, makes it to the World Cup Finals. 

Belgium | CBS News

4. Will England Flip the Switch? 

After being knocked out of the 2014 World Cup in the group stages, England has been trying to rebuild the team back to its former glory. The country and team have seen a massive youth movement within the roster, which has led to recent success.

In the 2018 World Cup, they lost to Belgium in the third-place match. Then in the 2020 EUROs, they made it to the Finals, losing to Italy. 

The team can still be volatile, and the fans always hold the three lions in high regard. Making it to the finals in the EURO’s started the team’s rise back to glory, but a deep run in the World Cup would end all doubts. 

3. Will France repeat?

In 2018, France became world champs, defeating Croatia 4-2, winning the country’s second World Cup. This was almost set up by being the runner-up in the 2016 EUROs and put them on the scene as one of the world’s best teams. 

However, the defending champs came into the World Cup losing some of what made them champions in 2018. Even though the roster is still roughly the same, an exit in the Round of 16 in the 2020 EUROs has put a damper on what the expectations on France are. 

This year’s World Cup roster could see some changes, but with FIFA still ranking the team as the third-best team globally, they will look to change the narrative set in 2020. 

2. Brazil Is the Clear Favorite

Brazil is royalty winning five trophies in the World Cup, most by any nation, last in 2002. With Brazil heading into the tournament as FIFA’s number one ranked team, they will look to grab a sixth. 

In World Cup Qualification, Brazil was one of the first teams to qualify, winning 14 games, drawing three, and losing zero. Brazil scored 40 goals and only allowed 5, finishing with 45 points. 

The team is rolling into the World Cup and hasn’t lost a game since July 10th, 2021, to Argentina in the COPA America Final. Brazil is the obvious favorite to win it all, and already holding the most World Cup trophies by any country, they will look to expand that lead.

Bruno Guimaraes | JORGE BERNAL / AFP

1. The last World Cup for the GOATs?

It doesn’t matter who you think is better between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. They are two of the best players to play this beautiful game. Sadly, the 2022 World Cup could be the last time we see the greats play. 

Messi, at 34, will be 38 by the time the 2026 World Cup comes round, and Ronaldo, at 37, will be 41. Given how great the two are still playing, they could still appear in the 2026 World Cup, but this might be the last World Cup at the height of their powers. 

Messi was the closest to winning it all in 2014, losing in extra time to Germany in the World Cup Final. Argentina is still ranked the fourth-best team in the world and could still have a shot, but with their heavy reliance on Messi, at his age, it might be tough to win it all this year.

Portugal did come in fourth place in the 2006 World Cup, but since then has not made it out of the Round of 16, squandering the peak of Ronaldo’s greatness. It comes into the World Cup ranked eighth and could look to surprise people with a deep run.

However, no matter their success in the 2022 World Cup, if the GOATs of this generation are playing, make sure to turn the TV on if it is the last time they play on the world’s biggest stage.

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