The World Cup is on the horizon, and whether you’re a die-hard or a casual, a big part of any World Cup is making predictions, and trying to show off your international football knowledge to your friends and family. It may be small and conservative, or it may be big and outlandish, either way, it’s a fun component of any big sporting event to try and predict certain events before they play out.
So before the tournament kicks off, here are five bold claims we’re predicting for the 2022 Qatar World Cup! Feel free to claim these as your own, if you so choose to!
1. This won’t be the last winter World Cup
This is a painful one to start with for more reasons than one. The fact that this World Cup is happening is enough proof to show that FIFA is willing to play tournaments at this time of the year, and I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t do it again should a team with a traditionally very warm (northern hemisphere) summer host the World Cup again.
There is also the climate change elephant in the room. We’ve seen temperatures in the summers rise over the last few years, and the 2026 North America World Cup will have some host stadiums, such as Dallas and Los Angeles, that will not only be very hot, but may quite possibly have forest fires and other extreme weather conditions on their doorstep.
FIFA also loves money, people are more likely to spend time indoors during the winter, and with more people indoors and watching games, it’ll only put a bigger smile on everyone’s favourite shining beacon of sports integrity! Anyway, now that this bleak prediction is out of the way, let’s concentrate on more fun ones.
2. France will break the ‘World Cup holders’ curse
The holders curse comes from France’s capitulation in 2002, and since then, every European team that has won the World Cup has crashed out of the group stage at the following tournament. The hall of shame includes Italy (2010), Spain (2014) and Germany (2018).
To provide some context, Italy was an ageing team in 2010 that had also struggled at the 2008 Euros. Spain suffered a freak result against the Netherlands, and then came up against a golden generation Chile side that went on to win two Copa America titles, which resulted in two defeats. Germany was a team in transition with off-the-field problems. Out of the three, it was probably the most shocking as they lost to Mexico and South Korea – only beating Sweden thanks to a last-minute wonder goal.
France isn’t ageing the same way Italy was in 2010. Their best player, Kylian Mbappé, is only 24, and other stars Paul Pogba (29), N’Golo Kanté (31), and Raphaël Varane (29) are all at their peak ages. Whilst their group is hard, it’s not the forum of death that Spain had in 2014. Denmark might admittedly win the group, but Australia and Tunisia would have to play the games of their lives to beat this France side. I don’t know if this France team can repeat their 2018 showing, but I definitely have no doubt that Didier Deschamps’s men can reach the last sixteen.
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3. Messi will outperform Ronaldo
Very little is guaranteed, but one thing I am almost certain of is that this will be the last World Cup we see both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo play in. Despite coming close – Ronaldo’s Portugal coming fourth in 2006, and Messi finishing as finalists in 2014, neither have, to this point, lifted the golden trophy.
In 2018, Ronaldo stole the headlines early with a stunning hattrick against Spain, and then Messi would go on to put a shambolic Argentina side on his back in a do-or-die game against Nigeria. But despite these flashpoints, both players had relatively disappointing tournaments by their high standards, and both crashed out at the last sixteen.
Four years ago was a long time ago, back then Messi and Ronaldo had won ten consecutive Ballon d’Or awards and were leading the charge at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now, neither are considered the best in the world, and arguably not the best players on the teams they play for. Messi plays alongside Neymar and Mbappé at PSG, and despite scoring twenty-four years last year, is considered to be an past his peak.
Ronaldo is 37, and isn’t the player he used to be. Portugal slogged into the World Cup via the playoffs, and have a tough group that includes Uruguay, South Korea, and Ghana. Meanwhile, Argentina plays a below-par Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Poland, a group I believe will be easier. In 2021, Messi won the Copa America, breaking his international trophy drought and Argentina as a whole has been great lately. They haven’t lost a game since 2019, and have adapted well to playing with an ageing Messi. Expect to see Argentina and Messi advance further than Ronaldo, who will surely be playing in his last World Cup.
4. Belgium’s golden generation sizzles out early
In 2014, Belgium exited the World Cup at the quarter-final stage, and it represented what many thought was the dawning of a golden generation of Belgian players. Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku were all twenty-three and under, and combined with other stars such as Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld, and Dries Mertens – the future was insanely bright. Belgium in a relatively short period of time went from a lower-middle-tier European team, to at times being the number one ranked international team in the world.
Fast forward eight years, and it’s now or never. Belgium did great to finish third at the 2018 World Cup, but coupled with two early European Champion exists, this Belgian team are looking at what is likely their last chance to win a trophy. Hazard, De Bruyne, and Courtois are all in their thirties, and while they are good, their supporting cast isn’t what it once was. Lukaku has dropped off in the past few seasons, and Belgium hasn’t been able to replace key defenders Vincent Kompany, and although they certainly haven’t had bad careers, once young prospects Divock Origi and Adnan Januzaj haven’t quite become the players people thought they would be back in 2014.
Belgium has a tough group alongside Croatia, Canada, and Morocco – and should they go through they’ll have to likely face Spain or Germany. They could win against either of those teams of course, but with the squad not being what it was, I don’t have much faith in Belgium going any further than the last sixteen.
5. A South American team wins the World Cup
Building from the Messi prediction, I think that this will be the World Cup that South America breaks its 20-year World Cup drought. Since Brazil’s win in 2002, Europe has dominated the World Cup with European teams winning four consecutive tournaments, and making up 13 of the last possible 16 semi-final appearances. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay have all had their moments since 2002 – with all three having made the semi-finals at least once, and all three (Argentina and Brazil especially) are considered to be amongst the tournament favourites.
Unlike previous World Cups, there is no clear stand-out team. Italy, the Euro 2021 winners are not at the World Cup, and there is reason to believe that the big teams, such as France, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands can all be beaten.
A team like Uruguay can beat anyone on their day, they are a talented team with the likes of Ronald Araújo, Darwin Núñez, and Rodrigo Bentancur ushering a new generation in Uruguay to compliment seasoned veterans like Edison Cavani, Luis Suárez, and Martín Cáceres. Meanwhile, both Argentina and Brazil have serious World Cup aspirations. Argentina is a much better side than in 2018, and has done a great job accommodating an ageing Messi into the side as we spoke about earlier.
Lastly, Brazil. Blessed with stars like Alisson, Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Casemiro, Fabinho, and Raphinha – this is the best Brazil side in a generation. It’s a team currently ranked number one in the FIFA rankings, and has lost just one game in three years. I’m not guaranteeing a South American victory, but I do (boldly) predict that this will be the tournament where Europe’s dominance of the competition will finally be ended!
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