Ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, several countries are thriving. One of these teams might lift the coveted World Cup. We shall cover those teams in this article. With Fewer than 50 days left, teams have very few opportunities to fine-tune their line-ups, recover injured players, and pray to all the gods that no mishaps happen at their respective clubs. The tournament will kick off on November 20 2022, with the match between host Qatar and Ecuador.
And when it comes to friendly matches, there are known fears that national teams face in these games of little consequence: first, the danger of putting players at risk (the so-called FIFA Virus) in exchange for little returns. Another fear is the poor impression a national team could make if results do not favor them. If they are playing against a low-ranking opponent, it can be worse.
Poor results could affect the morale of the squad and the coaching staff. Further, it can create a less hostile atmosphere within the press and amongst the fans at home. And finally, it is worth mentioning that if the opponent is not competitive, what is the point of the match? Can players truly be tested if the “test” is not demanding?
In 2018 UEFA took an enormous step towards remedying the problems generated by these friendly matches. With the creation of the Nations League, European teams no longer play for marbles. Instead, they are competing in one of four tiers with varied objectives. That is to promote, avoid relegation, or stay put.
UEFA placed all countries in groups at a similar level. The method shall encourage teams to play their best players in every match. Thus, one could say that European teams like France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and a few others are preparing far better than their South American counterparts. Let us look at the numbers.
Please note that the FIFA ranking appears in parentheses.
France (4) played its last qualifying match on November 16, 2021. Since that date, they have faced Ivory Coast (52), and South Africa (68), and had home and away matches with Denmark (10), Austria (33), and Croatia (15) in their Nations League group. The average FIFA ranking of France’s opponents was 29.
Belgium (2) participated in 8 matches since the last World Cup qualifier. Their opponents were Ireland (47), Burkina Faso (55), and twice with their Nations League group rivals Netherlands (8), Poland (26), and Wales (19). The average FIFA ranking of Belgium’s opponents was 26.
Four-time world champions Germany (11) completed their participation in the European qualifiers by defeating Armenia on November 14, 2021. In the Jules Rimet Trophy, Germany faced the most challenging set of opponents: Israel (76), the Netherlands (8), and twice Italy (7), England (5), and Hungary (37). The average FIFA ranking of Germany’s opponents was 18.
Spain (6), the 2010 South Africa champions, faced Albania (66) and Iceland (63), in addition to Nations League home and away matches against Portugal (9), Czech Republic (32), and Switzerland (16). The average FIFA ranking of Spain’s opponents was 29.
And finally, there is England (5). A team not often counted among the favorites to win the World Cup, but one that has made remarkable progress in recent years, as evidenced by their runners-up finish at the Euro 2020. They have consistently ranked high in the FIFA rankings since 2018. In addition, England competed in a tough group in the Nations League, like Germany. Since the end of the European qualifiers, England faced Switzerland (16), Ivory Coast (52), and twice Hungary (37), Germany (11), and Italy (7). The average FIFA ranking of England’s opponents was 22.
South American Giants
Let us go to South America to see how Brazil and Argentina have prepared for Qatar. The five-time world champions have been traveling the world. Amongst all the opponents at their disposal, they settled on South Korea (28), Japan (24), Ghana (60), and Tunisia (30). The average FIFA ranking of Brazil’s opponents was 35.
Argentina, on the other hand, played against Italy (7), Estonia (110), Honduras (80), and Jamaica (62). Notwithstanding the finalissima game against Italy, Argentina’s opponents have generally been poor. The average FIFA ranking of Argentina’s opponents was 64 (and 84 without Italy).
What Countries Are Thriving Ahead of Qatar 2022?
Many factors will affect the outcomes of the matches in Qatar 2022 but if one analyzes the friendly games alone, it would be evident that European countries are mostly thriving ahead of Qatar World Cup 2022.