Monday, September 26, 2022

FIFA World Cup 2022 predictions, picking every game: Argentina win it all, USMNT crash out at the group stages

The World Cup is fast approaching and that can only mean one thing, it’s time to start scribbling in your wall charts (in pencil), predicting who will make it all the way to the final and which big names might fall short. Here’s our second attempt at predicting how things will shake up in Qatar (you can read the first here):

Group A predictions

1

Netherlands

2

1

4

7

2

Senegal

2

1

3

6

3

Ecuador

2

1

-1

2

4

Qatar

1

2

-5

1

Matchday 1 picks

Qatar 1, Ecuador 1

Senegal 1, Netherlands 2

Matchday 2 picks

Qatar 0, Senegal 2

Netherlands 1, Ecuador 1

Matchday 3 picks

Ecuador 1, Senegal 2

Netherlands 3, Qatar 0

Several months ago the outlook for Senegal was altogether more bullish but several of their most important players, most notably Chelsea duo Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly, have struggled to hit the heights of last season in the new campaign. Top spot in this group is decided on matchday one as the Netherlands edge past Senegal. Though the African champions hold out for second place they are given quite the difficulties in their final match by an Ecuador side that wins plenty of admirers but precious few points in Qatar. Sadio Mane strikes at the death to take the Lions of Teranga into the last 16.

Group B predictions

1

England

2

1

6

7

2

Wales

1

2

1

4

3

USA

1

1

1

-2

3

4

Iran

3

-5

Matchday 1 picks

England 2, Iran 0

United States 1, Wales 1

Matchday 2 picks

Wales 1, Iran 0

USA 0, England 4

Matchday 3 picks

Wales 1, England 1

USA 2, Iran 0

England might have struggled in 2022 but they are simply a much better team than anyone else in their group and should show as much over the games, including a thumping of USA as they finally cut loose at a major tournament. This will really come down to a battle between Gregg Berhalter’s side and Wales; the former might have the better players across the squad but they don’t have consistent game changers on the international stage such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Those two combine for the two decisive goals to earn 1-1 draws against the USMNT and England, firing Rob Page’s side to the knockout stages.

Group C predictions

1

Argentina

3

6

9

2

Poland

2

1

1

6

3

Mexico

1

2

-2

1

4

Saudi Arabia

1

2

-5

1

Matchday 1 picks

Argentina 3, Saudi Arabia 0

Mexico 0, Poland 1

Matchday 2 picks

Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0

Argentina 2, Mexico 1

Matchday 3 picks

Poland 0, Argentina 2

Saudi Arabia 2, Mexico 2

Isn’t this just the most “Argentina at the World Cup group” you could imagine? They breeze their way to the last 16 as they usually do whilst Poland and Mexico duke it out for second place in Doha, Robert Lewandowski’s late goal firing The Eagles to victory. They have wrapped this up by matchday two, making Saudi Arabia’s clash with Mexico a thrilling dead rubber in which Hirving Lozano nets a brace.

Group D predictions

1

France

2

1

2

7

2

Denmark

2

1

4

6

3

Tunisia

2

1

-2

2

4

Australia

1

2

-3

1

Matchday 1 picks

Denmark 2, Tunisia 0

France 1, Australia 0

Matchday 2 picks

Tunisia 1, Australia 1

France 2, Denmark 1

Matchday 3 picks

Australia 1, Denmark 3

Tunisia 1, France 1

The holders rather stagger out of the blocks in Group D but in the match that matters most, against dark horses Denmark, they get the job done. Kasper Hjulmand’s side look better in that game and indeed across the course of the opening three but are undone by Kylian Mbappe’s late strike, giving them a mouth-watering round of 16 tie with Argentina.

Group E predictions

1

Spain

2

1

4

7

2

Germany

2

1

3

6

3

Japan

1

2

-3

3

4

Costa Rica

1

2

-4

1

Matchday 1 picks

Germany 2, Japan 0

Spain 0, Costa Rica 0

Matchday 2 picks

Japan 1, Costa Rica 0

Spain 4, Germany 2

Matchday 3 picks

Japan 0, Spain 2

Costa Rica 0, Germany 3

Spain start the tournament with one of those performances they contrive to inflict on themselves every once in a while, their forwards seemingly unable to hit a barn door with a banjo as Keylor Navas denies them in Doha. From then on they deliver some of the most dreamy football of the group stages, putting an otherwise very impressive Germany to the sword before easing past Japan to secure top spot. Hansi Flick’s side, however, will be the runners-up no-one wants to draw.

Group F predictions

1

Croatia

1

2

2

5

2

Morocco

1

1

1

2

4

3

Belgium

1

1

1

1

4

4

Canada

1

2

-3

3

Matchday 1 picks

Morocco 2, Croatia 2

Belgium 0, Canada 1

Matchday 2 picks

Belgium 1, Morocco 0

Croatia 2, Canada 0

Matchday 3 picks

Croatia 1, Belgium 1

Morocco 3, Canada 1

Every tournament has a shock result that sends one of the big names towards an early exit door; on this occasion it is Belgium, whose Golden Generation see another chance slip away from the moment Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David combine to earn Canada a stunning victory, the first time they have avoided defeat in the World Cup. Ultimately it will be Morocco who are the chief beneficiaries of that result, their point against Croatia and a convincing win over Canada earning the Atlas Lions second place behind an impressive Croatian side.

Group G predictions

1

Brazil

3

6

9

2

Serbia

2

1

6

3

Cameroon

1

2

-1

3

4

Switzerland

3

-5

Matchday 1 picks

Switzerland 1, Cameroon 2

Brazil 2, Serbia 0

Matchday 2 picks

Cameroon 0, Serbia 1

Brazil 3, Switzerland 0

Matchday 3 picks

Serbia 2, Switzerland 1

Cameroon 0, Brazil 1

As Brazil cruise through this group it is Serbia that deliver the drama, Aleksandar Mitrovic striking late to earn victory over a cautious Cameroon side before they overturn an early deficit to deny Switzerland, who are hoping to escape from Group G on goal difference in the final round of games. 

Group H

1

Uruguay

2

1

3

7

2

Portugal

1

1

1

-1

4

3

Ghana

3

3

4

South Korea

1

2

-2

1

Matchday 1 picks

Uruguay 1, South Korea 0

Portugal 1, Ghana 1

Matchday 2 picks

South Korea 2, Ghana 2

Portugal 0, Uruguay 2

Matchday 3 picks

Ghana 1, Uruguay 1

South Korea 0, Portugal 1

Cristiano Ronaldo and company advance but boy do they underwhelm in the process, lucky to draw against an impressive Ghana side and comfortably beaten by Uruguay they leave it late before Rafael Leao strikes to earn them a victory against Ghana that takes them ahead of the Black Stars, who at the same time see their hopes ruined when Luis Suarez, of all people, scores to equalize for table-topping Uruguay.

Round of 16

Netherlands 3, Wales 1

Argentina 1, Denmark 0 (a.e.t)

Spain 2, Morocco 0

Brazil 3, Portugal 1

England 1, Senegal 0

France 2, Poland 1

Croatia 0, Germany 0 (Germany win on penalties)

Uruguay 2, Serbia 1

Every single one of the favorites advances as the round of 16 separates the cream of the crop in the world’s game, though some of these teams are made to work extremely hard for it. Denmark hold Argentina at bay until the 112th minute when Lautaro Martinez delivers an exceptional winners while there are grumbles of frustration across England at the heavy weather they made of their clash with Senegal, won by Harry Kane from the penalty spot.

The mid tier of European nations give out a few bloody noses but Uruguay do just enough to overcome Serbia in perhaps the most high quality of the ties. Most underwhelming of all are Portugal, sent home early on by Neymar and company as Brazil shape up to be the team to beat in Qatar.

Quarterfinals

Netherlands 0, Argentina 2

Spain 3, Brazil 2 (a.e.t.)

England 3, France 1

Germany 2, Uruguay 0

The tournament bursts into life with one of the great World Cup matches in Al Rayyan, Pedri delivering the performance of a lifetime as Spain stun the favorites in a match riven through with quality. As if that was not thrilling enough, England finally click against a top nation, their wingbacks running riot in wide areas as the holders are sent crashing out. Is football really about to come home for the men’s side? Meanwhile Argentina’s victory over the Netherlands is not quite so easy on the eye, but their defense looks like being a tournament winner.

Semifinals

Argentina 2, Spain 1

England 1, Germany 1 (Germany win on penalties)

Spain finally manage to breach the Argentine defense, the first team to do so since Mexico in the second group stage game, but they can only do so once and up at the other end Lionel Messi is rolling back the years with that one missing piece of history in his sight. Argentina advance to the finals where they will face Germany, who did what they do to England. As was the case in the Euro 2020 final, Gareth Southgate’s side fritter away an early advantage with conservative play and find themselves undone in the second half by Kai Havertz, one of five Germans who score their penalties as the Three Lions fall just short again.

Third place playoff

Spain 2, England 0

Final

Argentina 2, Germany 1

Messi gets his revenge for 2014 and writes himself into Argentina’s history books alongside Diego Maradona. In truth the veteran was something of a fading force on this final but for once the supporting cast carried the burden, Lautaro Martinez netting the winner to send his nation into raptures. This was better than Germany might have expected before the tournament had begun but second best was a bitter blow for Die Mannschaft, though their young side under Hansi Flick will surely be back in the future.

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