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FIFA World Cup 2022 | Qatar tournament favourites, bookmakers odds, players to watch

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup having kicked off, we’re analysing the top countries with the best chance of lifting the iconic trophy this summer.

While politics and timing overshadowed the usual exciting build-up to a World Cup, it remains difficult to deny that very special feeling that bubbles inside once every four years. World Cup fever has officially taken over, and football lovers around the globe are starting to make their predictions.

The title of ‘world champions’ hangs in the balance, and every nation will be fighting to hold those bragging rights until 2026.

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So, who are the favourites to go all the way?

1. Brazil

Manager: Adenor Leonardo Bacchi (Tite)

Player to watch: Neymar

At the summit, the bookies are predicting a first World Cup win for Brazil since 2002 – bringing the title back home to o País do Futebol (the country of football).

It’s hard to argue against the Brazilians, given the overwhelming strength of their squad. Everywhere across the pitch, from defence to attack, the Seleção screams talent. From the measured Marquinhos in defence, a colossal Casemiro in the midfield, and a vibrant Vinicius Junior on the flank; every nation in the tournament would be smart to stay wary.

Granted, many of these players may not have much experience in such a high-level international tournament, but there are certain figures head coach Tite can rely on, including superstar Neymar, shot-stopper Alisson, and seasoned veteran Thiago Silva.

Brazil’s samba-like style at its best is unstoppable, and even from afar, the passion of a whole nation can be felt as it courses through the players on the pitch.

Will football finally return to South America?

Brazil has the best odds at $4.33.

2. Argentina

Manager: Lionel Scaloni

Player to watch: Lionel Messi

The end of an era is nigh. Arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game is likely to be representing his country at a FIFA World Cup for the very last time. It would be the perfect ending to a perfect script – Lionel Messi lifting the trophy that embodies his entire career to date. The best in the world winning the greatest honour in football.

This Argentina side may not be as strong on paper as it was four years back, but the South American giants have been playing with exactly the sort of swagger needed to take a World Cup by storm.

And fresh off a Copa America victory against favourites Brazil, Argentina will be hunting for another international title to add to their impressive collection.

Everyone will be all eyes on Messi, for good reason, but there is a lot more about this side to be excited for. Can Messi claim the ultimate prize?

Argentina is second favourite to lift the Cup at odds of $6.50.

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3. France

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Player to watch: Kylian Mbappé

Not far behind, of course, are the reigning champions, France. Being the previous winners of the World Cup, it’s only natural that they are part of the conversation. However, many will be thinking twice when placing their bets on France given the nature of the ‘World Cup curse’.

The folklore curse in question says that winners of the previous tournament suffer in the next. This rang true for France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014, and Germany in 2018; who were all knocked out in the group stages.

And after a subpar performance at the Euro 2020 tournament, manager Didier Deschamps’ Le Bleus will be itching to set the record straight on the world’s biggest stage – a task that will have to be undertaken without the likes of injured Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, and now Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema.

Rather than leaning on experience, Deschamps will need to look to the youth to help the nation earn its third star, and crucially, will rely on the same attack that was victorious in 2018.

Luckily, France has been blessed with talent across the board, and this year is no different. With the ability to flick the switch in a matter of seconds, an attack involving Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Demble can strike fear into the eyes of any defender in world football.

Can France break the curse and defend its title, or will injuries prove too costly? The bookies place them at $9.

4. England

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Player to watch: Harry Kane

England’s golden boy, Harry Kane, had a fantastic tournament at the Euros last time around, finishing with four goals – just one behind Cristiano Ronaldo. In the end, though, his goals were not enough to push England over the line, losing in another penalty shoot-out, this time at the hands of the Italians.

Manager Gareth Southgate just can’t seem to escape them. But Euro 2020 would have served as an invaluable experience for many in the squad, who will feel they’re more versed in competing in a tournament of this level.

So, why not one better this time around? If Southgate doesn’t overthink his tactical stance, there’s a great chance, with the level of experience and talent that this side has, that they go very far into the knockout rounds.

Is football finally coming home? The bookies have them level pegging with France at $9 to win.

5. Spain

Manger – Luis Enrique

Player to watch: Pedri (Pedro Gonzalez)

Ever since 2010, the Spanish national team has struggled to recapture its glory days. The turnover of talent has been particularly tough on Spain, and they’re yet to find their feet in a big tournament.

Despite having a squad teeming with talent, it seems as though every other side in world football has tiki-taka all figured out. But there are signs of change.

For starters, leaving Sergio Ramos and David de Gea out of the squad is a massive statement of intent from Enrique, stamping his foot down on Spain’s new era. In place, he’s opted for fresh faces like Eric Garcia, Hugo Guillamon, Pablo Martín Páez Gavira (Gavi) and Pedri to inject life and help demonstrate a modern take on the Spanish style of playing football.

Enrique’s vision was clear at Euro 2020. They were playing with more fluidity and freedom, and crucially, they were scoring goals. Goals had been an area of concern for that squad and with only one out-and-out forward in Alvaro Morata, it still might be.

Can Spain touch glory again as they did 12 years ago? The bookies have them alongside France and England as $9 chances to win it all.

* All odds courtesy of Sportsbet are correct at time of publishing and are subject to change

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