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16th Nov 2022

FootballJOE’s World Cup predictions: Winners, flops, dark horses, golden boot and breakout star

Callum Boyle

World Cup predictions

‘Tis the season for World Cup football

Right then, it’s actually happening. Years of building up to it has finally come down to this: The FIFA World Cup 2022.

For the first (and hopefully last) time the tournament will be held during the European winter months after FIFA made the ludicrous decision to award the World Cup to a country smaller than Yorkshire.

Anyway, enough of that, as we can’t change the past, and lets get onto the main bit you’ve all been waiting for… Our predictions.

Each one of us at FootballJOE has put ourselves on the line to give our predictions for the World Cup. Some you will agree with, some you won’t and others will just make you angry, but that’s what makes football football.

World Cup Winners: 

Si Lloyd: Argentina. Just makes sense, doesn’t it? They’re balanced, stacked with good players (keep your eye on that Messi guy. He’s quite good.) and have had the experience of recent success in a major tournament to fall back on. Oh, and the tournament isn’t in Europe, either. More often than not, that works out well for the South American lads.

Callum Boyle: Argentina. It’s written in the stars isn’t it? It’s Lionel Messi’s last chance at winning the World Cup which means they are going to go all out. This year it also seems like they have a well balanced squad. In previous tournaments they have been very top heavy with a strong attack and weak defence but look well-rounded across the pitch these days.

Rob Redmond: Argentina have the greatest footballer ever in their team and haven’t lost in 35 games. They were a shambles four years ago in Russia and still pushed eventual winners France all the way in their last-16 match. This time, with a more balanced side, and Messi back to his best, Argentina should reach the semi-finals at least Gonzalo Higuain has also retired, so he can’t waste the chances Messi creates, as he did in the 2014 World Cup final and the 2015 Copa America final.

Reuben Pinder: Argentina. Under Lionel Scaloni, the angels with dirty faces finally look like a proper, coherent team. Gone are the days of a stacked attack being let down by a calamitous defence. With a spine comprising Cristian Romero, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez complemented by the greatest player to ever kick a ball, they boast a combination of solidity and flair most dreams could only dream of. Their Copa America celebrations last summer demonstrated their unity as a group, who are all desperate to finally win this trophy for Messi, having come so close in 2014. It’s going to happen.

Wayne Farry: A child who believes in a peaceful world. Joking. Yoko Ono knows fuck all about football. I actually believe that the winners of the tournament will be the top ranked nation in the world. That is Brazil. All you have to do is look at their squad. If Neymar doesn’t turn up, Vinicius is there. If Vinicius doesn’t turn up, Gabriel Jesus is there. I could go on.Brazil are really good and have – aside from the best forward line – the most balanced squad at the tournament. They also have the two best goalkeepers in the world. They are very good. So they should probably win.

Lee Costello: For so long they, and Messi, had been yearning for an international trophy, and when they finally did it Copa America, you get the feeling that the hoodoo over them is broken a lil. It coud be a case of once they start winning they don’t not know how to stop.

Pat McCarry: Argentina. Emi Martinez – that under-your-skin, loveable rogue bastard – has made a big difference to these lads. They are niggly, battle-hardened and have genuine stardust, and a top striker in the mix. Can always rely on these lads to play amazingly and win 4-0 in one game and be complete shit-houses for a 1-0 win, when playing cack, in another.

World Cup flops:

Si Lloyd: It’s too easy to say England, so I’ll go France. No team has retained a World Cup in yonks and I don’t expect it to be this lot. Injuries, patchy form and history – they rarely get out of the group stages in consecutive World Cups – means this has all the makings of an underwhelming couple of weeks, culminating in Didier Deschamps leaving and Zinedine Zidane being confirmed as his replacement soon after.

Callum Boyle: England. Sorry everyone. I just think after the highs of the last two tournaments this is the first time that Southgate has gone into a major competition where anything less than winning the whole thing is considered not good enough. The squad is brimming with talent but has looked disjointed in the last few international games.

Rob Redmond: France arguably have the most talented pool of players available to any country at the tournament, but they play in a rigid style with little ambition and will only do the bare minimum to win games. This worked for them when they won the 2018 World Cup, but their reactive approach could be exposed in Qatar. France manager Didier Deschamps should have moved on after Euro 2020. They are on the softer side of the draw, but won’t be the same team without the injured N’Golo Kanté.

Reuben Pinder: Portugal. Despite the abundance of attacking talent in the squad, Fernando Santos has struggled to find a combination that clicks in his front four, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix often having to play out of position. Their reliance on a declining 37-year-old striker in the midst of severe controversy could also prove to cause more problems than it solves, as seen at Old Trafford. In a tough group, I can see them finishing second and going out to Brazil in the second round.

Wayne Farry: England. I’m just not feeling it for the Three Lions this time around. 2018 was their ‘dark horses’ moment, while last summer showed how they can compete with a large degree of expectation. All of that is encouraging from an English point of view. Generally, though, the vibe around England seems a lot less wavy than it did last time around. Not to dig into everyone’s favourite proverbial punch bag, but the inclusion of Harry Maguire gives me the heeby-jeebies. ‘Cheerleaders’ or ‘good lads’ are always needed in the dressing room – France in 2018 proved that – but not when they’re being selected over your country’s best centre-back. England feel at the tail end of whatever started in 2018, and I think they will crash and burn in Qatar. Southgate has run out of ideas.

Lee Costello: Going to go for France, they have a history of peaking and then imploding. They won the ’98 World Cup, and 2000 Euros, then crashed out of the group stages in 2002 WC. The reached the Euros final in ’16 and won the WC in ’18 and I just think that team is starting to decline, especially with the known injury problems that they have, and I’ve always thought that Lloris is good for at least one blunder. – Mbappé will 100% make headlines for the wrong reasons as well in this tournament, I just don’t know why yet, gut instinct.

Pat McCarry: Was edging towards Wales, but they may escape their group. A team that will have ambitions of reaching the knock-out stages but who, I suspect, will do sweet F.A is Serbia.

World Cup dark horses:

Si Lloyd: Turkey. Only joking. I was, in an admission that renders all of what I say here completely pointless, one of those who forecast Turkey to do well at the Euros. I was wrong. This time, however, I am not. Denmark are the dark horses. They made the semis at the Euros without their best player and have a side that breezed through qualifying and is made for tournament football. Decent defensively, with enough technically gifted players to come good in the decisive moments. Beat France recently, who are in the same group.

Callum Boyle: Serbia (watch these now become the new Turkey). They’ve got three in-form strikers at their disposal and a young, energetic squad blended with the experience of someone such as Dušan Tadić. They also beat Portugal to qualify ahead of them for the tournament automatically and while they may have one of the favourites Brazil in their group, are more than capable of going far.

Rob Redmond: The Netherlands haven’t lost a game since Louis van Gaal returned for his third stint as manager last year. He had his critics at Man United, but Van Gaal is one of the most tactically astute coaches at the tournament. He guided the Netherlands to third place at the 2014 World Cup, and the Dutch have a clear path to the quarter finals in Qatar. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go far at the tournament.

Reuben Pinder: Denmark. Last summer demonstrated the power of their team spirit and their tactical flexibility. With Christian Eriksen back and in good form, playing in front of a solid back three, they have every chance of beating France (who are also big contenders for flops of the tournament) and avoiding Argentina in the second round.

Wayne Farry: Uruguay are very good and almost always perform greater than the sum of their pretty good parts. Darwin Nunez will lead the line, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani ably stepping in when needed, and while their defence have plenty of ‘how the fuck are they still playing?’Guys like Caceres and Godin, they also have talent in Ronald Araujo and Jose Jimenez. Further up they have potentially the world’s best midfielder right now in the form of Fede Valverde, as well as one of the Premier League’s in-form midfielders, Rodrigo Bentancur. I think they are good and will do well.

Lee Costello: Belgium are still capable of beating any team in front of them, and although they don’t quite have the same golden generation that they had a few tournaments ago, an inspired Hazard, Lukaku and Kevin De Bryne is enough to topple just about any team. Sometimes when club form is struggling you find your form with your country, so Belgium could pull off a decent run here

Pat McCarry: Was gung-ho for The Netherlands until I worked out they are likely to face Argentina in the quarter finals. So, going to fall back on a team that should be good fun to watch, as they so often prove in World Cups – Uruguay. If they can get one over Portugal in the group stages, they should avoid Brazil in the Last 16, and anything can happen then.

Golden Boot Winner:

Si Lloyd: Erling Haaland. The man shovels in goals in his sleep. Does it matter that he is, in fact, Norwegian and so won’t actually be playing in Qatar? No. Not one bit. bit. Somehow, he will find a way.

Callum Boyle: Lionel Messi. The man will be licking his lips at the prospect of bagging a hat-trick in Argentina’s first game against Saudi Arabia. Do that and you’re well on your way to winning this accolade. Argentina are expected to go far (as I’ve told you previously) and therefore by playing more games, he has more chance to score goals. Messi always produces on the big stage and they don’t get much bigger than this.

Rob Redmond: Lautaro Martínez should fill his boots against Saudi Arabia in the group stages and will have Messi teeing him up. The Inter Milan striker has scored 21 goals in 40 games for Argentina, and has 10 in his last 19 games at international level.

Reuben Pinder: Raheem Sterling. He’s not had the best start to the season at Chelsea, but who has? Sterling’s relationship with Kane in an England shirt has been the basis of Gareth Southgate’s attack over the past few years, and if last summer is anything to go, there’s no reason why he won’t turn it on again in Qatar.

Wayne Farry: Romelu Lukaku. Belgium’s golden generation have reached the other end of the hill, and are now probably a little closer to Swarowski than any valuable and precious metal. Saying that, they could and will expect to score goals against Canada and Morocco, and an even more ageing Croatia team could be there for the taking.

Lee Costello: Vinicus Junior. Although I don’t think Brazil will win it, they should get pretty far, and he could really rake up a few in the group stages. I don’t think he’s been known to be a main starter for Brazil, but he’s been brilliant for Real Madrid, I think they will look to him a lot this tournament. Wouldn’t be surprised if Messi nicks it though, going by my prediction that they would at least be in the final, he takes the free kicks and the penalties, and sometimes five goals is enough to win a Golden Boot, and you imagine he would get at least one from open play.

Pat McCarry: Shooting for the moon here and sticking with my Argentina-to-win vibe. My pick – to win it with six, nay seven, goals – is Lautaro Martínez. Harry Kane will get four in the group stages but run dry, soon after.

Breakout star:

Si Lloyd: Riyadh Sharahili. Make no mistake about it, this is Sharahili’s year. The Saudi Arabia midfielder has an eye for a pass and has six goals in just 53 appearances for Abha. A World Cup in Qatar will be his chance to shine. Expect a big move to one of Europe’s elite to follow soon after. Did I just lift a lot of this from Wikipedia and make the rest up? Yes. Everyone else was going to say Cody Gakpo.

Callum Boyle: Jamal Musiala. Before all you footballing experts jump on my back, I know he’s a regular at Bayern Munich, but a World Cup is different. It’s occasions like this where you can really establish yourself and I think Musiala has what it takes to do so. Every time he gets the ball you always feel like something is going to happen and with this Germany side still in a transition period of some sorts, he may be the difference maker that gets them over the line in some games. Also a reminder that he could have played for England but chose to play for Germany instead. Sad times.

Rob Redmond: Youssoufa Moukoko. The Borussia Dortmund striker turns 18 on the opening day of the tournament, and has yet to make an appearance for the Germany team. But if the most recent version of Football Manager is anything to go by, Moukoko will become one of the world’s best centre-forwards.

Reuben Pinder: Yeremy Pino. I honestly have no real idea who to choose for this category, with everyone knowing virtually every player thanks to the marvel of the internet. But Pino has almost impressed me while playing for Villarreal and could be a huge asset to a Spanish attack without much natural pace. Or he just won’t play and I’ll be made to look very silly.

Wayne Farry: It’s hard to select a breakout star in a world where every footballer worth their salt is identified by either FM players or scouts by the age of 15. Ironically, I’m going to choose someone who has been well-known well before they ever played professional football: Xavi Simons of the Netherlands. Simons’ move to PSV from PSG was considered something of a shock when it went through during the summer, but he has been phenomenal in a strong PSV side, working beautifully in tandem with another young Dutch star; Cody Gakpo. That partnership could see Simons get plenty of minutes under Louis van Gaal. If that happens, I think he’ll impress a lot of people. And most importantly, prove me right.

Lee Costello: Gavi – The 18-year-old is basically the reason that Thiago isn’t in the squad, obviously not as experienced as the Liverpool man, but not as injury prone, and a very clever midfielder who finds space in tight areas. The ideal Spanish midfielder, and with so many of the old heads not in the Spain squad for the first time in so long, such as Ramos etc, this might be the perfect opportunity for the new blood to thrive and strut their stuff.

Pat McCarry: My pick to be the guy we’re all raving about a little more, come the end of this tournament, and year, is Pedri, from that provincial, wee Europa League club called Barcelona. Made his international debut last year, has already amassed 14 appearances and is a real piece of work. Just to hedge my bets, I’d love to see Phil Foden start all of England’s group games and see if he can take yet another step up (as he’s near top the ladder now, as it is).

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