Every four years, the world’s greatest soccer players compete in the World Cup. This winter, the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off with a game between the host country, Qatar, and Ecuador.
The World Cup is famously known as one of, if not, the largest sporting events in the world. Each tournament, hundreds of thousands of people travel to the host nation to watch and billions more support their favorite teams and players from home.
For almost a month, 32 teams play in 64 highly competitive games to determine a winner. The teams are split into eight groups of four in what is known as the group stage. The top two teams with the most “points” from each group advance to the knockout stage, where each game is a win-or-go-home scenario.
Some of the more successful teams in recent history have been Brazil, France, Spain, and Germany. Those four teams along with Argentina, England, and Portugal have the highest odds to win according to Vegas.
Brazil is favored to win and for good reason, given they are led by Neymar, who has provided Brazil with the second most goals in the nation’s history over his twelve-year career. Demi Adeniran ’23 said, “I think Brazil is going to win because I believe that this is going to be Neymar's year…and his contributions will carry Brazil to victory.
With the amazing form that he was in going into the tournament, I think he will carry that form throughout the group and knockout stages and be the vital force behind Brazil's attack.” Not only does Brazil have an experienced superstar leading their attack, but they also have a very well-rounded team put together this year. Adeniran continued, “Brazil also boasts an insane amount of depth compared to previous years and I believe that this will also be a key contributor to their success.”
Austin Koff ’23 said, “If I had to choose who I thought was going to win right now, I would pick Spain because they have looked the best so far.” Spain dominated in their opening performance against Costa Rica where they won 7-0. Although they are a relatively young team, they have been impressive. While there are many serious contenders for the trophy, one team that Hopkins students especially like is Portugal. Like Brazil, Portugal has one of the best players ever on their team, Cristiano Ronaldo. Qatar 2022 is Ronaldo’s fifth tournament appearance, tied for the most in history. Portugal as a whole is still a very well-rounded team.
Jonathan Leite ‘23 said, “I believe Portugal will win this year’s World Cup not just because of [Ronaldo] but because [of] the way they use their formation to attack effectively at first then also be able to switch to defense with the use of the wing backs. But also just the drive that Portugal has, they haven’t won a World Cup yet and just seeing them prepare for the game you can tell how mentally they are locked in and determined to win.”
One of the great things about the World Cup is its unpredictability. Each tournament, there are a few upsets and shocking results that can make or break a team’s chances. This year, there were several surprising outcomes in the group stage, most notably the game in which Saudi Arabia managed to hold off Argentina 2-1. Despite Argentina’s significantly better squad on paper, partly due to Lionel Messi’s presence on the field, Saudi Arabia managed to do the unthinkable. They are ranked 48 spots lower than the Argentinians, making a victory all the more impressive.
Another impressive result came in favor of Japan when they beat eleventh-ranked Germany 2-1. “I think the upset of Saudi Arabia was a shock to everyone because many people thought Argentina was one of the best squads and they got upset. I also think the Japan game was very entertaining and they showed that they can compete with the greats,” said Moustapha Gassama ’23. Many of the teams this year are equally talented, which makes for an extremely enjoyable tournament. Silas Resch ’24 said it best: “There have been so many unexpected occurrences during this World Cup that I don’t think we can reasonably guess a winner yet!”