[News] Breaking down the chances for all 32 teams

There’s never been a World Cup like this.

For the first time in the competition’s history, the 2022 World Cup will be played in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months, due to host nation Qatar’s soaring temperatures when the tournament is normally held in the summer. As such, domestic leagues are forced to take a 6 ¹/₂-week pause as the World Cup plays out. Previously, the World Cup occurred in the offseasons of most major domestic leagues.

That means the national teams and their players have less preparation and warm-up time than usual before games begin. Midseason injuries have knocked stars out of the tournament, and managers have opted to select players in better form at the moment over struggling mainstays with most impressive résumés. It’s all thrown a massive twist into conventional wisdom surrounding the World Cup field.

Here’s a look at the favorites, the sleepers and the rest of the teams competing in the 2022 World Cup:

(All odds via BetMGM)

Favorites

Traditional powerhouses headline the top contenders, including recent winners and familiar powers obsessed with breaking recent droughts.

Brazil (7/2)

The winningest nation in the competition with five titles, Brazil has not finished top three in four tournaments since winning the 2002 World Cup, a trend that certainly weighs heavily on the team. One of the more experienced groups in the field — particularly along the spine of the team in defense and midfield — the Seleção is elevated by a collection of scintillating young talents in attack around superstar Neymar. Brazil’s health, particularly Neymar’s, has plagued the team in recent editions, but should have the depth this year to weather adversity. On paper, there is no better all-around squad.

Lionel Messi during an international friendly for Argentina.
Getty Images

France (7/1)

The defending champions enter their title defense notably without key contributors N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Presnel Kimpembe, but their absences have paved the way for some of the next generation of Les Bleus. France is led by phenom Kylian Mbappe (whose reception by French fans will be worth monitoring after bombshell reports in recent months about his interest in leaving the country’s biggest club, Paris Saint-Germain, and the ageless Karim Benzema, while new faces such as William Saliba, Aurelien Tchouameni and Youssouf Fofana will have massive shoes to fill. How quickly they can jell with their veteran teammates could decide France’s fate.

Spain (8/1)

It’s a new era for Spain. No more Gerard Pique-Sergio Ramos partnership in the back. No more Xavi, Iniesta and Isco in midfield. No more David De Gea in net and Diego Costa up top. No more Fernando Hierro as manager. It resulted in the selection of one of the tournament’s youngest rosters under manager Luis Enrique, highlighted by the debuts of Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati. Outside of its 2010 triumph, Spain has historically come up short in the World Cup, only finishing in the top three one other time (1982). Does a new era bring new results?

Argentina (5/1)

With the 2021 Copa America title his only trophy with Argentina, international glory is the one missing accolade in Lionel Messi’s famed career. He retired from international duty and stepped away from the national team multiple times amid disappointment and ridicule, never able to match Diego Maradona’s iconic triumph for the country — most notably finishing as World Cup runner-up in 2014. That can all change with one magical run, and there is a strong possibility this will be his final chance to attain what’s most eluded him. He returns with a strong supporting cast, led by Lautaro Martinez, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria.


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England (8/1)

The most infamous underachievers in the competition’s history, England has not won the World Cup since 1966. Fans have chanted “It’s coming home” for years waiting for the title to actually, you know, come back home to the birthplace of the sport. Following their heartbreaking runner-up finish in the 2020 Euros (played in 2021), the Three Lions take one of their most competitive squads in years to the tournament. Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling lead what will be one of the most-watched teams of the tournament, consisting almost entirely of Premier League players. Manager Gareth Southgate’s lineup decisions figure to be heavily scrutinized.

Germany (10/1)

Hansi Flick takes over for his first World Cup, replacing Joachim Löw and hoping to inject fresh life into a German team that didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2018. Do veteran stars Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer, who helped the team to the 2014 World Cup title, have another run in them? Leroy Sane and Kai Havertz have provided a new spark to the team this go-around. Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan will likely see even bigger roles in midfield for a team that is now without longtime fixtures Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil.

Sleepers

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo
REUTERS

Boasting top-level players, but perhaps not the depth required to be a favorite, these sleepers can be much more if things break right.

Portugal (16/1)

This team is so much more than just Cristiano Ronaldo, who is entering the tournament having gone scorched earth on his club team Manchester United. Will that affect his chemistry with co-star and Manchester United teammate Bruno Fernandes? Despite missing Diogo Jota due to injury, Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva round out an attack that should scare any defense. Rafael Leão is a name to watch as a possible breakout candidate.

Netherlands (28/1)

Loaded with talent, the Netherlands return to the World Cup after embarrassingly failing to qualify in 2018. Stars Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt look to deliver in their first World Cup, while veterans Virgil van Dijk and Memphis Depay provide a veteran presence. Xavi Simons, 19, can announce himself on an international stage.

Belgium (16/1)

Belgium’s “golden generation” has evolved from dark horses to favorites to disappointments, reaching as high as third place in the 2018 World Cup. Led by midfield maestro Kevin de Bruyne, aging stars Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel enter their last opportunity to make a major international splash together.

Croatia (40/1)

He might now be 37, but as long as Croatia has Luka Modric, it will be in the conversation. The Real Madrid star carried the Vatreni to the final in 2018, and returns for likely his last World Cup. The Croatians’ ruggedness always makes them a difficult opponent to play against.

United States (100/1)

Christian Pulisic
Christian Pulisic
Getty Images

The youngest team at the World Cup, the USMNT roster has gone through a dramatic overhaul from the group that failed to qualify in 2018. Gregg Berhalter’s new core — featuring younger talents playing at the highest levels of club soccer in Europe — won the Gold Cup and Nations League CONCACAF regional tournaments in 2021, and generally cruised in World Cup qualifying. The hype is real around star Christian Pulisic and a supporting cast that includes Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Giovanni Reyna and Brendan Aaronson.

Uruguay (40/1)

Luis Suarez, who has made both illustrious and infamous (bite) marks on the World Cup throughout his career, will be the centerpiece again, and Edinson Cavani returns for one last go. But young stars Federico Valverde and Darwin Nuñez provide enough punch to carry a significant run.

Serbia (80/1)

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s resurgent season in the Premier League has given Serbia a legitimate chance. He’ll be joined in attack by Dusan Vlahovic and Dusan Tadic, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has emerged as one of Europe’s top central midfielders.

Canada (250/1)

Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David power an upstart team playing in Canada’s second-ever World Cup — and first since 1986. After showcasing their danger during qualifying, the Canadians could become the tournament’s upstart darlings.

Denmark (28/1)

After collapsing on the field due to cardiac arrest during last summer’s Euros, Christian Eriksen’s return to the national team and international stage is inspiring. Currently a beacon of consistency on an otherwise turbulent Manchester United team, Eriksen will now be accompanied by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Joakim Maehle. That nucleus alone is enough to give anyone trouble.

Rest of the field

Gareth Bale (left) and Wales prepares for the World Cup
Gareth Bale (left) and Wales prepare for the World Cup.
AFP via Getty Images

Entering the tournament largely overlooked, these teams look to play spoilers to teams ready to make a run. Is there a Cinderella hiding somewhere?

Mexico (100/1)

With fan favorite Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez left at home, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano leads a young Mexican side carrying uneven form into the tournament.

Wales (150/1)

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have carried Wales in recent years, and that figures to continue. Will be a tough battle with the United States to make it out of Group B.

Switzerland (80/1)

Granit Xhaka — in the midst of a renaissance season with Arsenal — and Xherdan Shaqiri lead a veteran group that has breakout candidates in youngsters Breel Embolo and Denis Zakaria.

Senegal (80/1)

Sadio Mane was ruled out of the World Cup at the last minute due to a leg injury. His absence will loom large for the Senegalese.

Betting on the World Cup?

Poland (100/1)

Robert Lewandowski, arguably the world’s best striker at the moment, is able to take over any game single-handedly.

Ghana (250/1)

Thomas Partey anchors a young squad with a chance to make it out of Group H.

South Korea (250/1)

If Son Heung-min is able to play through a facial fracture, he leads a fun squad in a wide-open Group H.

Ecuador (150/1)

Hoping to carry the feistiness showed in South American qualifying into the World Cup.

Morocco (100/1)

Can Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech do enough to make this team relevant?

Cameroon (250/1)

Has made it out of the group stage just once in team history.

Japan (250/1)

Takehiro Tomiyasu powers a defensively strong group that could be tough to break down.

Costa Rica (600/1)

All-world goalkeeper Keylor Navas keeping the team in low-scoring games provides the best hope.

Australia (400/1)

One of the oldest teams at the tournament enters after a rough qualifying campaign went down to a penalty shootout.

Iran (500/1)

Has never advanced past the group stage.

Tunisia (400/1)

Consistently rise above the country’s financial and infrastructure limitations to qualify.

Saudi Arabia (600/1)

Will be lucky to get a point.

Qatar (250/1)

Only included because it’s the host nation.

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