World Cup 2022

World Cup 2022 group stage preview: Predicting who will qualify from every group

Below is a group-by-group preview, ahead of the World Cup’s big kick off on Sunday, predicting who will reach the knockout stages.

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Tip of the tournament

Netherlands, England, Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Croatia, Brazil & Uruguay to all win their groups- 282/1!

Netherlands, England, Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Croatia, Brazil & Uruguay to finish first in their groups- 282/1!

Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal & Netherlands

Group A features hosts Qatar, who will play their first-ever World Cup match against Ecuador on Sunday.

The Maroons are desperate to avoid becoming just the second host nation to crash out in the group stages, after South Africa in 2010.

Félix Sánchez Bas’ side are reigning Asian champions, and have competed in a Copa América, European qualifiers, the Gold Cup and FIFA Arab Cup since then.

If Qatar are going to get out of this group, one feels their opener against Ecuador is simply must win.

As for La Tri, they’re seeking to reach the knockout stages for just the second time, matching 2006.

Gustavo Alfaro’s team haven’t conceded in over 606 minutes of play, so will certainly be a tough nut to crack.

The two heavyweights of this section begin their respective campaigns against each-other on Monday afternoon.

Excluding shootouts, Netherlands are unbeaten in 32 competitive matches under Louis van Gaal, dating back to 2001, reaching the semi-finals with him at the helm in Brazil.

Oranje have never been eliminated in a World Cup group stage, and that isn’t likely to change here.

Last, but by no means least, Senegal arrive having won their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title back in February.

The Lions of Teranga were eliminated on disciplinary record four years ago, so Aliou Cissé's side are doubly determined to get through this time.

It would be a major surprise if Holland and Senegal, probably in that order, aren’t the two teams advancing.

Prediction: 1st: Netherlands. 2nd: Senegal. 3rd: Qatar. 4th: Ecuador.

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Netherlands & Senegal to reach the knockout stages- 6/4!

Netherlands & Senegal to reach the knockout stages- 6/4!

Group B: England, IR Iran, United States & Wales

Historic rivalries resume in Group B, featuring familiar faces and one team who are about to end an extremely long World Cup exile.

That would be Wales who, after beating Austria and Ukraine in play-offs, will feature at the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Back then, the Dragons drew all three group games, then beat Hungary, before falling to a Pelé goal for Brazil in the quarter-finals.

This generation of Welsh players do have tournament expirence though, getting all the way to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and the knockout stages of the most-recent Euros too.

If Rob Page’s team are going to get through this group too, one feels their opener against USA will be crucial.

The United States are back at this competition having missed out on Russia, their first failure to qualify since 1986.

Last summer, Gregg Berhalter’s team won both the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, so are now ready to test themselves on a world stage.

The U.S. are currently unbeaten at World Cups against England, winning in 1950 and drawing in 2010, a record they’re desperate to maintain on Black Friday.

As for the Three Lions, having reached the 2018 semis and the Euro 2020 Final, they have to be amongst the favourites.

However, given that they’re in poor form, Gareth Southgate’s side cannot take anyone in this group lightly.

IR Iran meantime are certainly not just here to make up the numbers.

They’ve only ever won two World Cup matches, the first of which came against the U.S. at France ‘98, before beating Morocco four years ago.

However, under the returning Carlos Queiroz, Iran will be defensively solid, and are more than capable of picking up points.

Prediction: 1st: England. 2nd: Wales. 3rd: United States. 4th: IR Iran.

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Tip of the tournament

England & Wales to reach the knockout stages- 13/8!

England & Wales to reach the knockout stages- 13/8!

Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico & Poland

Many are tipping Argentina for World Cup glory this year, so how will they look in this group?

La Albiceleste are currently unbeaten in 36 internationals, one short of the world-record held by Italy.

Last summer, they ended their 28-year trophy draught, beating Brazil in the Copa América Final, before hammering Italy to lift the Finalísima back in June.

The two-times World Champions have only gone out in the group stages once since 1962, and that fact isn’t likely to change.

The fight for second spot is set to be between Poland and Mexico, who meet in their respective openers on Tuesday.

El Tri have gone out in the round of 16 at the last seven World Cups, no earlier and no later, never achieving the illusive ‘quinto partido’ on foreign soil.

Poland, in contrast, haven’t reached the knockout stages since Spain ‘82, finishing third back then.

The Eagles actually finished bottom of their group in 2018 but, with Robert Lewandowski leading the line, are confident of beating anything.

Saudi Arabia have won just one of their last 13 World Cup outings, and that ratio is only set to worsen.

The Green Falcons were impressive in qualifying, have played ten warm-up friendlies since the summer and are led by the experienced Hervé Renard.

However, Saudi Arabia are likely to finish rock bottom of Group C, and any point they do pick up will be an achievement.

Prediction: 1st: Argentina. 2nd: Mexico. 3rd: Poland. 4th: Saudi Arabia.

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Argentina & Mexico to reach the knockout stages- 13/10!

Argentina & Mexico to reach the knockout stages- 13/10!

Group D: France, Australia, Denmark & Tunisia

Group C from 2018 and this year’s Group D can best be summed up by that Spiderman meme.

Four years ago, France, Denmark and Australia were all in a group together, with Tunisia subbing in for Peru this time round.

Back then, it was the two European nations who advanced, and it’s likely to be a similar story again.

Coincidentally, Australia actually beat the aforementioned Peru on penalties in June’s inter-confederation play-off to qualify for this tournament.

The Socceroos will feature at a fifth successive World Cup, but haven’t reached the knockout stages since 2006.

The other outsiders are Tunisia, who defeated Mali 1-0 on aggregate in the African play-offs earlier this year.

This epitomised the Eagles of Carthage, who are all about defensive resilience, seeking to get out of the group for the very first time.

France meanwhile are looking to avoid the World Champions curse, a fate that was bestowed upon les Bleus themselves two decades ago in South Korea.

Didier Deschamps’ side are amongst the favourites to win the whole competition, so should face little difficulties getting through.

Denmark though will seriously challenge France for top spot, having already beaten them home and away in the UEFA Nations League this year.

De Rød-Hvide reached the semi-finals of the most recent Euros, and have lost just 8 of their last 53 competitive fixtures.

France and Denmark’s clash on Saturday afternoon is one of the group games not to be missed, with those two likely to ease through.

Prediction: 1st: Denmark. 2nd: France. 3rd: Tunisia. 4th: Australia.

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Denmark & France to reach the knockout stages- 1/3!

Denmark & France to reach the knockout stages- 1/3!

Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany & Japan.

Group E contains two European heavyweights, with 12 tournament triumphs between them, and two outsiders hoping to upset the odds.

Germany, as defending champions, crashed out in the group stages four years ago, their earliest exit since 1938.

Now though, under Hansi Flick, die Mannschaft have rediscovered their top form, and head to Qatar full of confidence.

Spain meanwhile have consistently been there or thereabouts under Luis Enrique, reaching the Euro semi-finals and Nations League Final in 2021.

La Roja love to dominate possession, something they’ll defiantly do in their group opener, but can often lack that cutting edge.

Their opponents on Wednesday afternoon will be Costa Rica, who will feature at a sixth World Cup, after edging past New Zealand in the inter-confederation play-offs.

Los Ticos cause a major upset in 2014, topping a group that featured Uruguay, Italy and England, and will need to pull off something equally remarkable to get through this section.

A far more likely candidate to disrupt the establishment are Japan.

The Samurai Blue have reached the knockout stages three times this century, including in 2018 when they were ousted by Belgium.

Hajime Moriyasu’s team are a high-quality outfit, but are just extremely unfortunate to find themsleves alongside two juggernauts.

Nevertheless, Japan will believe they can cause an upset against Germany on Wednesday, or when they take on Spain eight days later.

Prediction: 1st: Germany. 2nd: Spain. 3rd: Japan. 4th: Costa Rica.

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Germany & Spain to reach the knockout stages- 1/5!

Germany & Spain to reach the knockout stages- 1/5!

Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco & Croatia

Canada are back at the World Cup after 36 years away, chasing yet more history.

The Canucks played 20 matches in qualifying, the joint-most of any side, topping the table in CONCACAF’s Octagonal round.

Les Rouges’ only previous appearance came at Mexico 86, where they lost all three games and didn’t score a single goal.

Bettering those two records is well within John Herdman’s team’s capabilities.

Morocco meanwhile are also harking back to 1986, because that’s the last time they got beyond the group stages.

Since then, the Atlas Lions have won just once at World Cups, beating Scotland at France ‘98, finishing bottom of their group in Russia.

These two sides are the underdogs to advance, with the two European nations both widely expected to go through.

Croatia were World Cup Finalists in 2018, becoming the second-smallest nation, by population, to achieve this.

Earlier this year, Zlatko Dalić's team qualified for the UEFA Nations League semi-finals, showing, despite an aging squad, they’re still a competitive outfit.

Belgium meanwhile are dreaming of taking that final step, having been quarter-finalists in 2014 and semi-finals four years later.

The Red Devils have won their last seven World Cup group games, dating back two decades.

So, only a catastrophe would see Roberto Martínez’s men eliminated, even if this is a challenging group.

Prediction: 1st: Croatia. 2nd: Belgium. 3rd: Morocco. 4th: Canada.

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Croatia & Belgium to reach the knockout stages- 8/13!

Croatia & Belgium to reach the knockout stages- 8/13!

Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland & Cameroon

Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland all meet again, just as they did in 2018, with Cameroon completing the quartet this time.

A Seleção are many people’s favourites to win the tournament this winter, first and foremost seeking to avoid a first group phase exit since 1966.

Since last winning the trophy in 2002, Brazil have gone out in the quarter-finals at all three tournaments played on foreign soil.

However, with an outrageous array of attacking talent to choose from, Tite’s team should be too strong for the rest in Group G..

The fight for second spot is likely to be between the two European sides, with Switzerland winning that battle in 2018, thanks to a comeback 2-1 victory in Kaliningrad.

Since then, the Swiss have reached the Euros quarter-finals for the first time ever, and enjoyed Nations League wins over Portugal and Spain in recent months.

Serbia meantime are aiming to reach the knockout stages for the first time since the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The Eagles have won 11 of their last 19 competitive games, losing just one, so head to Qatar with high-hopes.

Cameroon meantime are preparing for their eighth World Cup, the most of any CAF nation, and are back after missing out on Russia.

Since historically reaching the quarter-finals in 1990, les Lions Indomptables have never got out of their group.

In fact, their only victory in 15 attempts since then came against Saudi Arabia two decades ago.

Rigobert Song’s side upset the odds to qualify, but are likely to finish rock bottom of this group.

The matchday three clash between Serbia and Switzerland on 2 December could be a straight shootout for second.

Prediction: 1st: Brazil. 2nd: Serbia. 3rd: Switzerland. 4th: Cameroon.

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Tip of the tournament

Brazil & Serbia to reach the knockout stages- 11/8!

Brazil & Serbia to reach the knockout stages- 11/8!

Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay & Korea Republic

Could Group H be where a traditional heavyweight crashes out in the group stages?

Uruguay lifted this trophy in 1930 and 1950, and haven’t exited in the group stages for two decades.

La Celeste ended qualification with four successive victories and, with a younger generation breaking through, Diego Alonso’s side are confident of a deep run.

Portugal meanwhile, despite being Euro 2016 champions, have only ever won three World Cup knockout games, all of which occurred in 1966 or 2006.

Since the latter, A Seleção’s only wins at this tournament have come over Korea DPR, Ghana and Iran, which is surprising given their pedigree.

Fernando Santos’ side had to come through the play-offs just to be here, so, despite an array of talent, could they be set for an early exit?

Korea Republic will hope so, as they aim for a first top two finish in 12 years.

All seven of the Taegeuk Warriors’ World Cup wins have come over African or European opposition, a fact they’ll hope to change against Uruguay on Thursday.

Lastly, Ghana are back after defeating local rivals Nigeria in March’s play-offs on away goals.

The Black Stars were robbed a semi-final place by Luis Suárez and Uruguay in 2010, so their clash on 2 December is a grudge match not to be missed.

Of the two, South Korea are more likely to spring a surprise in Group H, but it’s still a bit of a long-shot.

Prediction: 1st: Uruguay. 2nd: Portugal. 3rd: Korea Republic. 4th: Ghana.

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Tip of the tournament

Uruguay & Portugal to reach the knockout stages- 4/7!

Uruguay & Portugal to reach the knockout stages- 4/7!

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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