2022 World Cup preview: Teams to look out for


Rowan Witzel and Rithvik Balu

After a long four-year wait, the world-renowned sports tournament is back. This year’s World Cup will kick off in Qatar on Nov. 20, when Equador takes on Qatar in the only game of the day.

The one question soccer fans worldwide are dying to know: Who will come out on top? With new up-and-coming players and many familiar faces, the tournament will prove to be one of the most competitive ones to date.

European powerhouses
The two teams to beat this year are Belgium and France, sitting at number two and four on the FIFA World Rankings. With talent at each level of the field at the helm, it’s going to be hard for the other teams to match their starpower.

On the French side, the reigning title holders are looking to make their mark by becoming the first team to win back to back since the Netherlands squad in 1978. They face a big question mark with the loss of key midfielders N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba from injury, but their danger in the attacking third should make up for the losses. With Ballon d’Or winning striker Karim Benzema and young wingers Kyllian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembele leading the attack, France is poised for at least another deep run in the tournament.

Belgium, on the other hand, has always seemed to come up short in the late rounds. It’s no question that the Belgium squad has both the experience and the talent, but while consistently being one of the best teams on paper, the last time they won an international trophy was the 1972 European Nations Cup. With a starting 11 featuring goalkeeper Thibaut Cortois, forward Eden Hazard, midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, and the elite international goal-scoring ability of Romelu Lukaku up top, this year should be different for the Red Devils.

Dark horse competitor
Every four years, there is a squad that defies all odds and defeats some of the best teams in the world. One team that could easily surprise people this year by holding its own with the favorites is Uruguay, which is flying under the radar despite a star-studded and versatile lineup.

This includes underrated center back Diego Godin, whose intelligence and defensive positioning provides the team with a solid central defense. Forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani also share many years of international experience, combining for 126 goals in their time playing together. However, 23-year-old striker Darwin Núñez’s emergence at Liverpool will force one member of the coveted duo to take a backseat this year and let the young star shine. Another player making up Uruguay’s strong young core is midfielder Federico Valverde, who made an immediate impact when placed in the starting 11 during their World Cup qualifying matches. If they can stay in great form and their more seasoned players use experience to their advantage, this year’s Uruguayan squad can compete with the best of them.

Last dance
This Cup’s high anticipation is matched by unique tension, as this year marks the end of an era, with three of soccer’s biggest names leaving the World Cup scene at the end of it: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar Jr. Ballon D’ors, Champions League trophies, and La Liga titles all lay in the resume of the aging superstars. The one missing piece is the most sought-after trophy in all of sports, which is looking to be won by one of them in their final year under the world’s spotlight.