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Mondial 2022: where are the favorites, 6 months from kick-off?

Updated

The World Cup begins on November 21 in Qatar. Germany, England, Belgium, France, Spain and Brazil will be the contenders for the title. But in what form are they?

The matches will be played in stadiums equipped with controversial air conditioning.

AFP

Who will succeed the France team? Winner 4 years ago in Russia, the Blues will once again be among the favorites for the 2022 World Cup, from November 21 to December 18. But they are not the only ones. A quick look back at the different dynamics of the title contenders, 6 months before the start of the competition.

Germany: under reconstruction

Sent home from the pools in 2018, Germany are undefeated in nine matches since the arrival of Hansi Flick after the Euro. The former Bayern coach is counting on the Munich framework (Neuer, Kimmich, Goretzka, Müller, Sané, Gnabry) to find the heights.

The defense is more unstable, with a still fragile Nico Schlotterbeck-Antonio Rüdiger pair, and the identity of the centre-forward is undefined, Flick having tried the two Chelsea compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

England: lack of landmarks

The finalists of the last Euro lack benchmarks. The laborious victory in a friendly against Switzerland (2-1) did not bring many lessons, that against Côte d’Ivoire (3-0), quickly reduced to 10, a few days later, even less.

Harry Kane had scored the decisive goal from the penalty spot against the Nati on March 26.

Harry Kane had scored the decisive goal from the penalty spot against the Nati on March 26.

Action Images via Reuters

Harry Maguire’s disappointing season at club level, the physical glitches of John Stones and Kyle Walker or the absence, all season, of Ben Chilwell, still make defense the probable Achilles’ heel of Gareth Southgate’s team, who will mainly rely on his attack with Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Mason Mount or Jack Grealish, who seems to have finally digested his transfer to City.

Argentina: good weather

After elimination in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup (3-4 against France) experienced as a disaster, the Albiceleste gradually rebuilt a group, a game identity and morale under the leadership of the unexpected Lionel Scaloni, who had never led a professional team.

With indisputable new players, such as goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), defender Cristian Romero (Tottenham), or striker Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan) alongside Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi, Argentina has put end a 28-year wait by winning the Copa America in 2021 against Brazil.

All the lights are green and the public enthusiasm is palpable, even if the physique of Messi, 35 years old in June, is a question mark.

Belgium: falling ambitions

Quarter-finalist in the last four international competitions (Euro and World Cup), Belgium knows that its chances of snagging a first major trophy are fraying.

On paper, the Red Devils will be less impressive than in recent years.

On paper, the Red Devils will be less impressive than in recent years.

REUTERS

Like Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, struggling at Real Madrid and Chelsea, his golden generation is looking for a second wind. Some executives (Kompany, Vermaelen, Fellaini) have jumped ship, others, like Vertonghen, Alderweired, Witsel or Mertens, have cheerfully crossed the threshold of their thirties.

The Red Devils will have to rely on their two pillars in world form, Thibaut Courtois (Real) and Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), while hoping that the next generation (Tielemans, Saelemaeckers, Trossard, Castagne, Doku, Theate, etc.) transcends.

Brazil: good momentum

The five-time world champions are in great form, staying on three 4-0 wins. Neymar remains the essential headliner of the team: author of 71 goals in selection, he is six goals from King Pelé’s record.

Marquinhos and Thiago Silva hold the house in central defense (5 goals conceded in 17 qualifying matches), as does Casemiro in the middle. But the hierarchy is shaken up in attack by young people like Paqueta, Vinicius, Antony or Raphinha, to the detriment of Firmino or Gabriel Jesus.

A downside: since the defeat against Belgium in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup, the Brazilians have played only one friendly against a European selection, a 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic, in 2019.

Spain: confident youth

The good course of his young generation at the Euro until the defeat in the semi-final against the future Italian winners on penalties (1-1, 4-2 pens), just like the final in the League of Nations (lost against France, 2-1) reassured the men of Federator Luis Enrique, who is among the contenders for the title in Qatar.

Exit Sergio Ramos and other Gerard Pique: the stars of “Roja” are not twenty years old, and are called Pedri, Gavi or Ansu Fati. Remain of the cauliers, like Alvaro Morata, Aymeric Laporte or Sergio Busquets, but none is unstoppable.

France: promising duo

The attacking duo of the Blues is likely to do very badly.

The attacking duo of the Blues is likely to do very badly.

REUTERS

Fallen from above at the Euro (elimination in the 8th), the Blues regained a certain flamboyance in the fall by winning the “Final-Four” of the League of Nations against two formidable rivals, Belgium in the half (3-2 ) and Spain in the final (2-1).

Each time, the French overthrew a badly started party. And each time, the light came from their doublet of attackers Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé. Their association, perfectible at the European Championship, has since proved to be sparkling.

And they will rely on a base of experience (Hugo Lloris, Raphaël Varane, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann …), embellished with new nuggets (Theo Hernandez, Aurélien Tchouaméni …).

Portugal: fragile and messy

After a disappointing qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup (qualification in the play-offs), the selection of Cristiano Ronaldo displays a rather poor game.

Despite a pool of talent, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix or the essential CR7, the Seleçao suffers from a lack of collective strength and a clear game plan, is fragile behind and messy in front. Victim of these uncertainties, Ronaldo has not scored with Portugal since October 2021.

(AFP)

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