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The 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup in Qatar is 234 days away and a major step was taken toward the biggest sporting event on the planet with the draw taking place Friday.
Looking at the full results of the drawthere isn’t necessarily a glaring Group of Death, but a number of tasty matchups are coming our way this November and December.
For the United States men’s national team and head coach Gregg Berhalter, they’ll face old foes England in Group B. France, the reigning World Cup winners, has a relatively manageable Group D, with Denmark as its main opposition there. Newly crowned as the top-ranked team in the world, Brazil will like its chances in Group G with Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon.
The main heavyweight matchup we have in the group stage will be that of Spain and Germany in Group E, which includes Japan and the winner of the second intercontinental playoff.
Let’s look a bit more closely at some of the winners and losers of Friday’s draw, starting with the USMNT, which returns to the tournament after missing out four years ago.
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Prepare the flashbacks to the 2010 World Cup when the USA came out on top of its group with Algeria, England and Slovenia thanks to a last-gasp goal from Landon Donovan against Algeria. The 91st-minute strike sent the USA into the knockout stage and remains one of the most notable goals in US soccer history.
Fast forwarding to today, the huge relief for the US was just to qualify, so that certainly counts as a win, but this group is a good one for Berhalter and co. Euro 2020 finalists England will be a tough ask, but Iran and either Wales, Scotland or Ukraine are all winnable matches for the Americans and should be treated as such. (Ukraine’s qualifier against Scotland was postponed to June after Russia invaded Ukraine; the winner faces Wales.)
Qualifying ended somewhat anticlimactically with a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica, but the USMNT has some electrifying young talent in Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Tyler Adams, so going into the tournament, the feeling should be a positive one after missing out in 2018.
Either way, Gregg vs. Gareth (as in Southgate, the England manager) on Black Friday (Nov. 25) will be a fun one to behold. With no more World Cup qualifying until the 2030 tournament (the US is automatically in the 2026 field since it is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico), the mood feels right for this crop of American talent to excel on the biggest stage.
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It’s been a bit of a tough year for Spanish football.
First, La Liga’s biggest star, Lionel Messi, left his beloved Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, sending shockwaves through the football world. Now, the national team, which lost to Russia on penalty kicks in the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup, was drawn into a group with perennial world power Germany.
Sure, you’d expect the two nations to finish one-two in a group that features Japan and the winner of the second intercontinental playoff between Costa Rica and New Zealand, but it’s rarely ever that easy. Starting against Costa Rica/New Zealand helps La Furia Roja’s chances, but any slip-up there and they go into Matchday 2 against Germany absolutely needing a result.
Head coach Luis Enrique, who took over in 2019, led his nation to the semifinals of last summer’s Euro 2020, where it lost to eventual champions Italy. Few expected a run of that length given the turnover in the squad and some emerging names working their way into the ranks. At the top of that list was current Barca star Pedri, the new No. 10 who will have a lot on his shoulders this fall in Qatar.
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Newly named as the top team in the world, according to FIFA’s rankings, Brazil will go into Qatar 2022 full of confidence and expecting to make a deep run. It is the only nation to appear at every single men’s World Cup.
Grouped with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G, Neymar Jr. and the Selecao are clear favorites to top the group. DraftKings Sportsbook lists Brazil as the betting favorite at +450 (bet $100 to win $450).
This team is deep and shouldn’t have much of an issue filling holes where necessary. The emergence of Vinicius Jr. as a world-class player at Real Madrid, Philippe Coutinho’s revival at Aston Villa and the ageless presence of Thiago Silva and Dani Alves create a squad that is both balanced and full of experience.
The pressure will be on head coach Tite to deliver a successful tournament to the football-crazed South American country that holds the record for most World Cup wins with five…though none have come since 2002.
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The USMNT maybe got what it wanted from the draw, including a mouthwatering matchup against England. The other three CONCACAF participants? Not so much.
Mexico, which is in one of the tougher groups of the draw in Group C, will have not just Messi and Argentina to contest with, but there is the always difficult prospect of Poland and two-time reigning Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award winner Robert Lewandowski.
Canada, on the other hand, was placed in Pot 4 within the draw and will face Belgium, Morocco and 2018 finalists Croatia in Group F. It’s the country’s second trip to the big dance and first since 1986. Advancing will be no easy task.
Finally, Costa Rica. If the Ticos are able to beat New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff on June 14, they will be welcomed by Spain, Germany and Japan—a group they’d be expected to take very little from, if anything.
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The defending champions will like their chances for another extended stay on the world’s biggest stage after the draw for Group D was completed.
DenmarkTunisia and either the United Arab Emirates, Australia or Peru will give Les Bleus reason for pause in some areas, but none will be able to field anywhere near the talent that head coach Didier Deschamps has at his disposal.
Kylian Mbappe is the main man up front, but the list of world-class names goes on and on after that. N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele, Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema give the holders the undoubted edge in this group and should see them comfortably advance to the knockout stage.
Losing to Switzerland on penalties in the knockout stage of Euro 2020 will leave a bitter taste for the French, but the results of this draw will help to ease the stress of a potential similar early-tournament exit.
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