With the group stages revealed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, it did not take long for analysts across the global landscape to dissect each group with mouth-watering anticipation given the many storylines that could be set to unfold in Doha, Lusail, Al-Rayyan, Al-Khor, and Al-Wakrah.
Will France be the first (and only the third overall) repeat champions in 60-years or will Brazil finally lift their sixth World Cup?
There are countless stories that have the potential to unfold, but first, successfully negotiating the group stage stands in the way of achievement.
Here is 101 Great Goals' ranking of each group at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
(1= Group of Death, 8 = weakest group)
Group A | Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Group A World Ranking Qatar 51 Ecuador 46 Senegal 20 Netherlands 10
Average FIFA ranking: 32
Combined World Cup wins: 0
Stars of the Group: Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mané, Enner Valencia, Hassan Al-Haydos
Strength ranking: 8
Louis van Gaal's reaction during the group stage draw in Doha perhaps summed up feelings surrounding Group A; a potential breeze. That is never meant to be said with any amount of disrespect, of course, but the reality on paper is that both the Netherlands and Senegal are both a considerable distance ahead of Ecuador and host-nation Qatar. Though the Asian champions will be buoyed by the home support, anything other than a combination of a Dutch and Senegalese one-two in the table would go down as a huge surprise given the genuine amount of star power and attacking options both sides can call upon.
Group B | England, IR Iran, United States, (Wales/Scotland/Ukraine)
Group B World Ranking England 5 Iran 21 United States 15 Wales or Scotland/Ukraine 18 or 39/27
Average FIFA ranking: 21
Combined World Cup wins: 1 (England; 1966)
Stars of the Group: Harry Kane, Christian Pulisic, Sardar Azmoun, (TBD)
Strength ranking: 6
This group was a little tricky to gauge partly given some of the rivalries that may come to the fore, and also because, well, if you pay attention to the news or politics...what? This was somehow not rigged? In any event, England are one of the real tournament heavyweights and really should see this out comfortably. The United States, for all their budding young talent, can be called into question on a tactical level and could find it difficult to tackle any of the potential nations from the European playoff, while Iran's attacking options offer a very credible monkey-wrench. Any side could finish second here, but the certainty around England puts this lower in the rankings.
Group C | Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Group C World Ranking Argentina 4 Saudi Arabia 49 Mexico 9 Poland 26
Average FIFA ranking: 22
Combined World Cup wins: 2 (Argentina; 1986, 1978)
Stars of the Group: Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Raúl Jiménez, Salem Al-Dawsari
Strength ranking: 4
Group C is deceptively tricky despite appearances. Argentina (ranked fourth in the world at the time of writing) are the clear favourites and their success at the latest Copa America proved that perhaps they are no longer overly reliant on Lionel Messi. But a swathe of questions exist on the state of their backline under Lionel Scaloni, which offers the likes of Poland and Mexico space to have influence. Mexico have already been giant killer four years ago when they helped eliminate Germany in the group stage, while Poland boast arguably the best centre-forward in the world in Robert Lewandowski. There is a real chance Argentina could flop, which is why this is placed where it is.
Group D | France, (Australia/UAE/Peru), Denmark, Tunisia
Group D World Ranking France 3 Peru or Australia/UAE 22 or 42/68 Denmark 11 Tunisia 35
Average FIFA ranking: 30
Combined World Cup wins: 2 (France; 2018, 1998)
Stars of the Group: Kylian Mbappé, Christian Eriksen, Wahbi Khazri, (TBD)
Strength ranking: 7
Surveying this group found a pretty similar overall assessment to that of Group A. France, as the current World Cup holders, really should be navigating Group D to the tune of three wins in three, or, at the very least, seven points come the end of group play if Denmark turn up in a manner similar to their Euro 2020 performances. But with that said, anything other than those two finishing one-two would be as shocking as proceedings in Group A given the potential fourth nation to be added. Tunisia are one of the better African sides there is no doubt, but by comparison, come up well short of the pair of European representatives. This should be straightforward.....
Group E | Spain, (Costa Rica/New Zealand), Germany, Japan
Group E World Ranking Spain 7 Costa Rica or New Zealand 31 or 101 Germany 12 Japan 22
Average FIFA ranking: 35
Combined World Cup wins: 5 (Germany; 2014, 1990, 1974, 1954 | Spain; 2010)
Stars of the Group: Ferran Torres, Joshua Kimmich, Takumi Minamino, (TBD)
Strength ranking: 5
Any group with Spain and a rampantly resurgent Germany headlining it certainly deserved a bit of attention, and that is exacerbated when a side like Japan is added into the mix after their 2018 performance that saw them emerge from a group that also included Poland and Senegal. But Group E loses a bit of staying power in the conversation on the back of its potential fourth contestant, though Costa Rica have been in good form of late in their region. One would have to expect that Spain and Germany will find six points from six against their other opponents but Japan will unquestionably prove a tricky customer capable of stealing a decent result or two. It's not one of the strongest groups, but you can keep an eye on this one.
Group F | Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Group F World Ranking Belgium 2 Canada 38 Morocco 24 Croatia 16
Average FIFA ranking: 20
Combined World Cup wins: 0
Stars of the Group: Kevin De Bruyne, Luka Modrić, Alphonso Davies, Achraf Hakimi
Strength ranking: 2
There is a sense that with a group that contains Belgium and Croatia, the other nations just won't matter; this is not the case in Group F. Canada have taken CONCACAF by storm and offers up a very good forward line that will threaten during the entire group stage, while Morocco will be motivated by feeling hard done by at a series of events back in 2018. With the core of Croatia's brilliant national pool all aging, and Belgium yet to make good on their "golden generation", a big upset could unfold here. The average FIFA ranking of all four nations is a testament to its strength.
Group G | Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Group G World Ranking Brazil 1 Serbia 25 Switzerland 14 Cameroon 37
Average FIFA ranking: 19
Combined World Cup wins: 5 (Brazil; 2002, 1994, 1970, 1962, 1958)
Stars of the Group: Neymar, Dušan Tadić, Xherdan Shaqiri, Vincent Aboubakar
Strength ranking: 1 - The Group of Death
The initial reaction to this group being confirmed in Doha was 'wow', and that opinion has not changed since the realization that three of these nations were in the same group at Russia 2018. Brazil are one of the tournament favourites and have the weight of expectations on them but have hardly been gifted an easy run to the knockout stage in Group G. Switzerland have a real habit of being one of those sides that collectively find results, and that was proved at Euro 2020. Serbia are brimming with talent (especially in attack and midfield) in an underrated side from back to front, while Cameroon are certainly a capable outfit that can catch anyone unawares if they do not come to ball. Anything can happen here, and it's what the World Cup is all about.
Group H | Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, Korea Republic
Group H World Ranking Portugal 8 Ghana 60 Uruguay 13 South Korea 29
Average FIFA ranking: 28
Combined World Cup wins: 2 (Uruguay; 1950, 1930)
Stars of the Group: Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Suárez, Son Heung-min, Thomas Partey
Strength ranking: 3
Much like Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo headlines a Portugal outfit that is finally more a ‘sum of its parts’ than the one-man show that they had been for years and they will bring a very good pool of players to Qatar. But the likes of Uruguay, Ghana, and Korea Republic are all sides that have proven themselves at the World Cup in recent years and could all prove frustrating opponents on any given day beyond the qualities they possess. Uruguay’s vaunted attacking duo is always a potential ace in the hole, while Korea showed in 2018 they can topple the big boys when they beat Germany, and Ghana’s record of being the only African side to ever reach the quarterfinals gives them a leg-up when it comes to tournament knowhow.