Who are the favourites for the 2022 World Cup? Croatia antics send France top

Cristiano Ronaldo reacts Credit: Alamy
Cristiano Ronaldo reacts Credit: Alamy

There’s a new favourite for the first time since the books opened, thanks to Croatia.

Here’s how the seven teams left in Qatar’s chances are rated, according to the best odds currently available at oddschecker.com

 

1) France
The first change at the top comes with France assuming favouritism thanks to Croatia going magnificently, absurdly Full Croatia to dump long-time jollies Brazil out of the tournament. Cheers Neymar’s crying. Nice one.

After briefly looking like they might be about to go a little bit France by falling behind to an Australia side seemingly made up entirely of Scottish Premiership and former Scottish Premiership players, Kylian Mbappe then happened and Didier Deschamps’ side absolutely sauntered to a 4-1 win. Then Mbappe turned it on again to down Denmark.

We’re still not sure France are a side we’d want to be backing when they’re particularly well fancied, and while the half-arsed defeat to Tunisia in the final group game was barely a wrinkle in the grand scheme, it did rather threaten our own previously stated claim that France’s second team would have a good crack at winning this whole thing. And it saw them slip from second to third-favourites with the bookies. But then back up again when they sauntered past Poland at the last-16 stage thanks to the wondrous Mbappe. Have we mentioned that Mbappe is quite good?

 

2) Argentina
Messi’s Last Chance at the Big Dance. Argentina have a formidable squad that blends youth and experience perfectly, and hadn’t lost a game since the 2019 Copa America before they came a cropper against Saudi Arabia. Mercifully for La Albiceleste, they bounced back to beat Mexico, even if it was all a bit frantic and then dominated a Poland side more interested in avoiding bookings than scoring goals.

The upshot is that without ever being thoroughly convincing Argentina safely went through and importantly in the Group C winners’ section of the draw. It matters. Instead of a last-16 clash with France they faced a brave but ultimately limited Australia, and with a quarter-final against a nondescript Netherlands to come, they once again look well placed for the last four at the very least. And now it’s not Brazil who wait for Argentina or the Dutch..

 

3) Portugal
An almighty leap from sixth favourites on Monday night to third favourites by Tuesday evening, but then landing a shock quarter-final opponent before a 6-1 last-16 win over the usually obdurate Swiss will do that. It was the first time Portugal have convinced all tournament and, definitely by pure coincidence, the first time Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t start a knockout game for his country since the Euro 2000 semi-final.

They might well look at a quarter-final against Morocco and deduce that they have landed themselves the kindest draw possible, but then Spain probably thought that before proving they had absolutely not completed Luis Enrique’s homework to take 1,000 penalties ahead of the tournament. It will be interesting to see if this newly irresistible attacking force fares better against that apparently immovable object.

 

4) England
There is a strange sort of powerful ‘Southgate’s England’ about the fact a result that almost certainly put them into the last 16 of the World Cup – they would have to have been absolutely battered by Wales to miss out – came from a performance that sapped all the energy and excitement from that giddy 6-2 thrashing of Iran a whole *checks notes* four days earlier.

But now England are back…after a 3-0 win over Wales that was all the things that game against the USA was not. And then a last-16 clash with Senegal was faced and conquered with the minimum of fuss. They are the tournament’s joint top scorers, which feels a bit weird. So why are they only fourth favourites? Because France are next.

5) Croatia
The team that made it into the last 16 on account of Romelu Lukaku’s repeated failure to hit a massive great cow’s arse with a banjo beat Japan in the first knockout round by virtue of their goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saving what were for 24 hours at least some of the tamest penalties in World Cup history.

Croatia may have shown they do, indeed, still got it against Canada, but what they don’t got is many players who can run around a lot.

Luka Modric et al. looked out on their collective arses for quite a lot of the penalty shootout win over Japan and again against Brazil but it has long since ceased being worthwhile to try and understand Croatia by conventional methods. Croatia are inevitable. And also still underrated – the only team actually in the semi-finals are still only fifth favourites.

 

6) Netherlands
That Netherlands v Argentina clash could be a stone-cold Friday night classic, albeit not quite of the standard of Dennis Bergkamp in 1998 or Mario Kempes 20 years prior; there is delicious heritage in that quarter-final.

With probably the kindest run to the last eight, Netherlands might have flown a little under the radar. They sauntered through the gentlest of groups and then overpowered a game USA. Cody Gakpo was the undeniable breakout star of the tournament until some other stuff happened. They have a solid defensive record. Louis van Gaal is yet to lose a World Cup game in normal or extra-time, having managed 11 matches at the finals.

But they are, by their very essence, Dutch. And that does seem to count against them when it comes down to it in this competition.

 

7) Morocco
Yet to concede a goal scored by an opposition player at this World Cup, which is a neat party trick, and guaranteed to climb to sixth at least in this list. The fourth African quarter-finalists at a World Cup. The other three – Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 – all took their ties to extra-time at least. That does not feel like a feat beyond Walid Regragui and the lads, particularly after their heroics against Spain. But a hell of a lot needs to go perfectly for Morocco to fulfil Samuel Eto’o’s pre-tournament prediction of them as finalists. And on recent evidence we would absolutely not like to disagree with Samuel Eto’o.

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