World Cup Update
It’s November, which means the World Cup is starting soon. With the first match scheduled for the 20th, it won’t be long until the world’s best teams fight it out for the most coveted trophy in all of soccer. Before the world’s largest tournament begins, it’s important to catch up on all the storylines heading into the tournament and who has the best shot at winning it all. This will be a brief rundown of everything you need to know before the first kickoff.
To start off, it’s important to note the controversy surrounding this World Cup, most of which is surrounding the hosts, Qatar. I go into more detail about this in my “in defense of” article, which directly discusses this controversy. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a substantial impact on the qualifying process, which most notably resulted in Russia’s removal from qualification contention by FIFA and UEFA (Europe's soccer governing body). One of Ukraine’s most prominent professional clubs has also called for the removal of Iran on account of its involvement in the conflict, a request which FIFA hasn’t officially responded to. FIFA has also recently sent a letter to Tunisia’s national soccer federation in regards to recent concerns of interference by Tunisia’s government. Under FIFA rules, national federations must remain free of third-party or government interference or risk suspension, something that may shake up the World Cup roster as Tunisia is currently qualified in Group D.
Controversy aside, there are a number of teams with the potential to make a good run in the tournament and even try to win it all. One of the obvious contenders is the defending champion, France. Their recent successes such as the 2018 World Cup title,winning the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League, and going undefeated in their World Cup qualifiers bode well for the team. They also benefit from a star-filled roster that includes some of the most promising players for this year’s World Cup. Despite their past successes, they are still likely to be nervous in the early stages of the tournament due to the fact that every defending champion since 2002 (the year when France was defending their 1998 title) has been eliminated in the group stage of the competition. However, if they can make it past that stage, they may stand a chance to win the title again.
Another obvious contender is the current world #1 Brazil, who is always a threat in the World Cup. They’ll be looking for revenge against the team that knocked them out in the quarterfinals last tournament, current world #2 Belgium, who also have title hopes of their own. Another team aspiring to make it all the way is Argentina, who in 2021 won the South American championship. They’ll be looking to capitalize on what is likely to be their last world cup with their superstar, Messi. Coming off of their first international trophy with him, they’re hoping to add a World Cup to his collection before his retirement.
This World Cup is welcoming some new and old faces to soccer’s biggest stage. The hosts, Qatar, are making their first ever appearance, but may find it difficult to advance out of Group A and into the knockout stage. Canada has made a surprise return for the first time since 1986, and will try to advance out of the group stage for the first time in its history. The last team to clinch their spot to the World Cup, Wales, will be competing for the first time in over 70 years and will be going up against the United States amongst others in Group B. The U.S. has also made it back after an embarrassing absence from the 2018 tournament and will face a tough opening group consisting of Wales, England, and Iran.
As mentioned earlier, the first match is on the 20th of November. The group stage will wrap up on December 2 and the final will take place on December 13. So strap in for just under a month of one of the greatest sporting events in the world and make sure to catch some of the action.