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Predicting every World Cup match and eventual winner

To predict the outcome of any competitive fixture that doesn’t involve a David Moyes side playing away at a top-six club is a fool’s errand. To try and nail 64 games, and subsequently the entire course of a tournament, borders on insanity.

Please note however, that it only borders the ridiculous. Using logic, as well as assessing past results and current form, we are still just about in the region of the sane.

So, armed with – hopefully – sound judgement and relying on a bit of good fortune, let’s commit to a sentence that will very likely look spectacularly daft come Christmas time. That sentence is, let’s see how this year’s World Cup is going to play out….

Group Stages

Group A

Qatar are dismissed right off the bat but Ecuador have the capacity to produce an upset, with midfielder Moises Caicedo really impressing at Brighton and former West Ham man Enner Valencia up front. It’s hard to look past reigning AFCON champions Senegal – even without Sadio Mane – for the second spot though, with Holland emerging top.

Group B

Iran will conjure up a moment or two, but are destined to finish last, while England will probably finish first, for all that their neighbourly dispute with Wales offers up bags of intrigue.

Really then, the narrative of this grouping focuses on Wales and the USA, which makes their opening game a potentially defining one.

It is USMNT who boast the better recent form and results while Wales are just too reliant on individual magic from an ageing, injury-prone Gareth Bale.

Group C

 A Messi-inspired Argentina are strongly fancied to finish top while the sum of Saudi Arabia’s ambitions is to match their achievements in Russia and pull off a singular upset.

That leaves Mexico, who are ranked ninth in the world but are not in a great place right now, and Poland, led by the ever-prolific Robert Lewandowski. Let’s go with the latter.

Group D

The toughest group to call because both Australia and Tunisia are capable of punching up while Denmark have enough quality and team spirit to top reigning world champions France. Indeed, the Danes beat Mbappe and co 2-0 last month.

Let’s take a punt on history repeating itself and for perennial slow starters France to just scrape through.

Group E 

The nearest this tournament has to a ‘group of death’ because Costa Rica aren’t mugs while Japan have lost just twice in 2022.

Can either of them get the better however of Germany or Spain across three games apiece?

Spain trounced the Germans 6-0 two years back so let’s back La Roja to ultimately prevail.

Group F

Croatia may be a fading force but they still possess many of the players who reached a World Cup final four years ago. Belgium meanwhile, simply have too much quality throughout their squad not to progress. Here, they’re being backed to top Group F.

Morocco and Canada to miss out to the surprise of hardly anyone.

Group G 

It would take a brave man to go against Brazil especially as last time out in Russia three-quarters of this group was the same and A Selecao emerged victorious, with Switzerland second and a solid but unremarkable Serbia third.

On that occasion, Costa Rica finished fourth. This time that honour may await Serbia with a Cameroon side that largely impressed at last year’s AFCON coming close.

It’s going to be a Brazil, Swiss, one, two though.

Group H 

Uruguay may have lost to Iran recently in a friendly but that blip aside La Celeste have a superb and balanced side. They should be fancied to top Portugal, South Korea and a Ghana team that disappointed at AFCON.

Of those three, Portugal will likely reach the last 16 for the fifth time in their history but even blessed with a plethora of world-class talent expect them to make a meal of it.

Last 16

Holland v USA – The evergreen Louis Van Gaal has built a decent side around a spine of Virgil Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay. If the latter gets fit in time, the Dutch have every chance of comfortably progressing.

Argentina v France – Oof, this is what World Cups were invented for. With N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba both probable absentees, France have a midfield that can be bossed by elite fare. That includes Argentina.

Denmark v Poland – Lewandowski aside, this is a Polish side that errs too much on industry and endeavour. The Danes have a greater number of difference-makers and that will prove the difference.

England v Senegal – These two teams have never met before and while the prospect of Ismaila Sarr tormenting Harry Maguire fills English hearts with dread, it’s the Three Lions who are tipped to come out on top. It will be tight though and it definitely will be tense.

Spain v Croatia – As stated above, this is not a vintage Croatia side that is showing distinct signs of wear and tear. Spain have the firepower to progress.

Brazil v Portugal – The result of this largely depends on which Portugal shows up but in recent years in this tournament that is typically been their underwhelming persona. Back Brazil to reach the quarter-finals for the seventh time running.

Belgium v Germany – Even with a ‘golden generation’ the Belgians have long struggled to overcome the might – and sheer inherent belief – of Germany. Indeed, they last tasted victory way, way back in 1954 and that was a friendly.

All of which suggests that it’s about time they put an end to their curse.

Uruguay v Switzerland – The Swiss are only ranked one place lower than the South Americans but any hope of them replicating their heroics at Euro 2020 will surely be dashed by Uruguayan ruthlessness.

Quarter-finals

Spain v Brazil – A momentous tussle that promises all manner of extravagance and incident will eventually be settled by the more experienced squad of Brazil. The Barcelona wunderkinds Fati, Gavi and Pedro will truly shine four years hence.

Holland v Argentina – Memories of ’98 spring to mind, with Dennis Bergkamp scoring a last-gasp winner for the ages. On this occasion however, it’s the Argentines who prevail. Let’s say on pens.

Belgium v Uruguay – The Red Devils under Roberto Martinez have made a habit of exiting competitions in the latter stages, of being nearly men. If Romelu Lukaku is fit and firing, and Kevin De Bruyne is fit and scheming back them to reach a consecutive World Cup semi-final this winter.

Let’s also predict some wonderful trademark sh**housery incidentally from the Uruguayans in defeat. 

England v Denmark – A re-run of last year’s Euro semi-final and it wouldn’t amaze to see another nip-and-tuck affair, decided in extra-time. Gareth Southgate’s conservative ways have to come unstuck at some point so why not at this juncture? The Danes just about take it.

Semi-finals

Brazil v Argentina – Brazil haven’t bested their South American counterparts since 2019 but when it really matters, they do so in Lusail. A potentially classic encounter regrettably collapses into a succession of fouls but amidst all of the dark arts, Vinicius Jr and Neymar are the cutting edge that decides it.

Belgium v Denmark – Both teams have recent history when it comes to semi-final heartbreak and alas it’s the Danes who endure it again.

Final

Brazil v Belgium – Having finally made it to a major final, Belgium are undone by a heavily Premier League-influenced Brazil outfit, who turn on the style and samba their way to a sixth World Cup crown. In true Brazilian tradition, Neymar is injured from their bruising clash with Argentina, prompting much pre-match consternation surrounding his absence. Ultimately however, it matters not.

Read – Remembering when a 21-year-old Ronaldo Nazario won the Ballon d’Or

Read Also – Iconic Performances: Prime R9 dismantles Valencia with a hat-trick for the ages

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