The 2022 World Cup is now only a year away.
Thirteen teams have now booked their place at the international showpiece out in Qatar, with 19 spots left to play for.
Eight of the 10 favourites to win the tournament have secured their place, with only Italy and Portugal facing the unenviable task of battling it out in the dreaded play-offs.
So with the World Cup fresh in the mind after November’s international break, we’ve decided to have a go at ranking the 10 favourites by what we feel are their best starting XIs.
Some bold calls have been made and if either Italy or Portugal don’t end up qualifying in March, we can only apologise for jumping the gun a tad early here.
We may have ranked Holland 10th, but that doesn’t mean their XI is poor – far from it. In the form of Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay, the Dutch possess some serious players. Nevertheless, you feel there’s not quite enough there yet for the nation to challenge for World Cup glory.
In Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal have arguably the greatest international player in history and they also possess an array of Premier League stars. But the midfield isn’t exactly the strongest and the defence is still heavily reliant on 38-year-old warhorse Pepe, which isn’t exactly ideal.
Belgium are still the number one ranked team in the world, however, their XI isn’t as scary-looking on paper as it was back at the 2018 World Cup. The back-line is noticeably weaker, while Eden Hazard‘s decline doesn’t help matters either. The only reason the Red Devils sit ahead of Portugal is the dynamic duo of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
After a woeful showing at the 2018 World Cup, Argentina are back as Copa America champions and for the first time in years, they have a well-balanced team that’s both brilliant and suits talisman Lionel Messi perfectly. Sure, it’s not an XI with a superstar in every position, but La Albiceleste are a very good side right now and haven’t lost in 27 matches.
Germany struggled for a bit under Joachim Low, but the team was always magnificent on paper and now that Hansi Flick appears to have got Die Mannschaft firing again, they will be a formidable prospect once again out in Qatar. That forward line really is spectacular.
Italy’s team is great, of that there’s no doubt, but we can see them struggling to replicate their Euro 2020 success out in Qatar (if they qualify). They’re perhaps a tad too reliant on the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, although when you’ve the likes of Nicolo Barella, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, anything is possible.
Perhaps the most controversial ranking. However, Luis Enrique’s Spain side are continually improving and in our opinion, their team just looks slightly superior to those above. An exciting, young and – above all – fluid forward line ahead of arguably international football’s finest midfield trio? Now that’s a recipe for success.
Brazil cruised through 2022 World Cup qualifying and their team is sublime. There isn’t the plethora of attack-minded superstars from yesteryear, but the South American nation’s side ticks all the boxes necessary and they’ll be incredibly tough to stop out in Qatar – especially if Neymar is fit and firing.
On paper, there’s not much to dislike about England‘s XI – if anything at all. It’s a team that couples youth and experience perfectly, with the likes of Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham primed to take international football by storm. For the first time in decades, the Three Lions really are a force to be reckoned with.
An absolutely ridiculous team. France have world-class quality in virtually every single position and a front three of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema is obscenely good. Only a fool would bet against Les Bleus retaining their World Cup title in 2022.