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As the most watched sporting tournament comes ever closer, now is the time for us to take a closer look at some of the more interesting predictions. Who will crash out at the group stage, who could be the surprise dark horses, who will come out on top with the Golden Boot and who will run out as ultimate winners? Let’s look at all this and more…

European Heavyweights Belgium Fail to Reach Knockout Phase

Favoured by many to win the group and go deep in the tournament, Belgium are our first contenders for an unexpected upset. Despite a squad packed with talent and global superstars; including the household names of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, the Red Devils have a habit of falling flat when it comes to major tournaments. Drawn in Group F alongside Croatia, Morocco, and Canada this could be tougher than it seems on paper. Croatia has a habit of turning up on the big stage and reached the final in 2018. Returning after a 36-year absence, Canada come full of confidence having topped the CONCACAF qualification and lastly, Morocco, a team that put in a strong performance in the recent African Cup of Nations. All of this points to a potential upset – as Belgium’s golden generation bid to make history.

USA Reach the Knockout Phase

After the USA missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the sport took a hit. However, since that low, their Coach Gregg Berhalter has quietly been working to reinvigorate the squad – and it’s been working. Beating Mexico in the final of the CONCACAF National League, the Stars and Stripes have a team packed with talent with the likes of Weston-McKennie, Gio Reyna and Yunus Misah all plying their trade for high profile European clubs. So, what does the USA need in order to proceed to the knockout phase in a group that should see England hit top spot? Four points is possibly all – meaning at least one win and a draw. Assuming form goes to plan, and we see a loss to England that means the points need to come from matches against Wales and Iran. Iran enters the tournament with one of the most inexperienced squads at the tournament and despite some strong performances on the international stage of late, Wales had to come through playoff qualification to make it to Qatar. It won’t be easy, but this is a talented team who will be ready to give their all on the global stage.

Messi Misses Out on Golden Boot Award

In Group C alongside Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, many are understandably predicting Messi’s Argentina to sail through the group and go deep into the tournament. With Messi, 35, this is likely to be his last chance to cap an incredible career with World Cup glory. In the midst of a remarkable run of form with an unbeaten run dating back to 2019, the Albiceleste are in a much better position than they were four years ago. However, South American rivals, Brazil enter the tournament as favourites and it’s Argentina’s questionable record against European teams that puts the Golden Boot Award in question. To see Messi, walk away with Golden Boot would be a fitting climax to a glittering career but there is a high chance it could end up with one of his archrivals.

Senegal Become the Surprise Package

The reigning champions of Africa have a habit of exceeding expectations and are well placed to cause an upset at this year’s tournament. A squad packed with the household names of Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Ismaila Sarr (Watford) and Chikou Kouyate (Nottingham Forest) means they enter the tournament with both experience and more importantly talent. Their coach since 2015, Aliou Cisse, has them well prepared. With the highest World Cup win percentage of the African nations at the tournament and with star striker Mane in a rich vein of form, Senegal could be one of this year’s dark horses.

Denmark Reach the Finals

Seen by many as an outsider to walk away with the trophy in what would be their first major success since winning the Euros in 1992. Spearheaded by the comeback of Christina Eriksen and high on confidence after excelling in qualifying; only letting in three goals – their coach Kasper Hjulmand will be hoping his talented squad can write a new chapter in their history books.

England End 56 Year Wait to Become World Cup Champions

Heartache and football tournaments go hand in hand for England, as the Three Lions continue their quest for glory and a first major football tournament since 1966. 32 countries will complete for the ultimate prize in football and Gareth Southgate’s side head into the tournament as one of the front-runners to reign supreme - along with the usual suspects of Brazil, France and Argentina. Sitting in Group B with Iran, Wales and USA, experts are widely confident of their progression to the knockout phase. Should they be successful they would then face one of Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador or hosts Qatar in the last 16. Could this be their year?

Young Player of the Tournament

In 1958, Pele scored in the world cup final. In 1998 Michael Owen exploded onto the world stage with one of the most unforgettable goals in history and in 2018 at age of just 19 Kylian Mbappé made his mark. So, who should we look out for in Qatar to steal the limelight and write their name into the history books. Here are a few rising stars to look out for:

Jamal Musiala, Germany – Having decided to play for Germany rather than England, the 19 year old is packed with talent and creativity. A cut above his peers he loves to surprise. Expect tantalising runs and turning defenders inside out.

Alphonso Davies, Canada – At just 21, Davies is seen by many as one of the best fullbacks around. With lightning pace and mesmerizing dribbling skills he’s seen as the full package. Since signing for Bayern Munich in 2019 he’s won every trophy available, while adding a World Cup to that cabinet may be a step to far with Canada, he is certainly on target to set the global stage alight.

Phil Foden, England – Described by his manager, Pep Guardiola as one of the ‘most talented players’ he has seen, Foden is certainly one to which. He is a player that will give England something special and could make a real difference with a moment of magic. 

The Tournament Awaits

Kicking off on Sunday November the 20th with Qatar facing Ecuador, now is the time to put down a few early wagers. Maybe one of the above takes your fancy or perhaps you still prefer to take some time to study those form guides and await the final squads to be announced. Either way, the anticipation is ramping up as the world’s greatest football tournament draws ever closer.

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