Every four years, football fans turn their attention to the biggest international tournament in their, or any other (single) sport. And while we’re nearing the four-year mark since France lifted the Henri Delaunay trophy in Moscow, we actually still have several months more to wait, as this year’s tournament has been moved to the end of the year to deal with the sky-high temperatures in the host nation: Qatar.
The oil-rich Gulf state has next to no footballing pedigree, so it’s not worth using these online betting sites to back them for the title even though they’ve been given a relatively gentle qualifying group with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands. It is, however, a good idea to look at some of the other betting decisions you might be able to make before the tournament gets underway in November.
France to defy “the curse” and win again?
Since the South Africa World Cup of 2010, an odd pattern has emerged. Defending champions Italy were eliminated in the first round that year and watched as Spain collected the trophy. When 2014 came around, Spain were reigning European and World titleholders but were still home from Brazil before their postcards, and Germany won the trophy. Four years ago, Germany were eliminated in the group stage and France took over.
So if you believe in fate, you might think les Bleus to be doomed to an early exit. Their group in 2022 contains Denmark, Tunisia and one of Peru, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. That’s a gentle group for a team that’s probably better than it was four years ago. It’s hard to call a definite winner at any World Cup, but France should at least get past the first round.
Canada to eliminate a contender?
France’s impressive finishing act in 2018 saw them eliminate Belgium in the semi-finals before knocking off Croatia 4-1 in the final. Belgium and Croatia find themselves paired in Group F this time around along with Morocco and Canada. Canada last qualified for a World Cup in 1986, and none of their current squad can find inspiration in memories of that tournament because none of them was born then. However, they easily topped CONCACAF qualification ahead of the USA and Mexico and have a squad littered with emerging and current stars. While they have an uphill climb to escape the group, they’re worth backing to do so, probably at the expense of an ageing Croatian squad.
England to stop “years of hurt” counter at 56?
Gareth Southgate’s side came as close to big-tournament glory in 2021 as any England squad since the 1966 World Cup-winning side. Their eventual defeat on penalties came in the final against Italy, and one piece of good news for the Three Lions is that Roberto Mancini’s side hasn’t made it to this tournament.
Another positive detail is that their pool looks light on competition. They’ll face the USA and Iran, neither of whom are fancied to go far, and who may both be overly focused on their own geopolitically-charged meeting. The other inhabitant of Group B will be Ukraine, Scotland or Wales. Even a slow start shouldn’t stop England from escaping the group, and their path to the latter stages of the tournament is forgiving. With an improving squad, this could be their year.