The countdown to the 2022 FIFA World Cup is just over 40 days and as usual, excitement fills the air as discussions are rife over which nations are likely to impress.
There will always be huge favorites, underperforming giants and new dawns, but who could shock the world in Qatar?
After evaluating the 2022 World Cup winning odds, we will bring you some of the European Dark Horses of the tournament including the likes of Denmark, Serbia and Portugal.
The Danish Dynamites are a decent footballing side with fleeting excellence in international football. Indeed, they are ranked 10th in the FIFA world rankings and could explode on the world stage in Qatar.
Having won nine of their ten qualifiers, scoring 30 goals and conceding only three, Denmark will be confident of getting past any side on their day.
The cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen during their opening game of EURO 2020 proved a uniting factor in Kasper Hjulmand’s squad as they reached the semi-final despite finishing the group stage with only one win.
Denmark have tournament experience and momentum having defeated France twice in the Nations League this year including in their most recent game at Parken stadium. They reached the knockout stages in four of their five World Cup campaigns and will look to better their quarterfinal finish from France 1998.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) has announced plans to minimize their activities in Qatar as part of protests against the country’s human rights record. Thus, they have released muted jersey designs for the tournament and would travel to the Gulf nation without any family members accompanying them.
Could that laser focus translate to success on the pitch?
Brazil are Group G favorites but Serbia will fancy their chances of beating Switzerland and Cameroon to that all-important second spot.
After failing to qualify for EURO 2020, Serbia topped their World Cup qualifying group and shocked Portugal on the final matchday to seal an automatic spot in Qatar.
Nevertheless, Serbia are not new to being regarded as World Cup dark horses (unsuccessfully) and they will need to keep their feet firmly on the ground. The Eagles look like a very different proposition this time around and they will have to continue that ruthless streak at the tournament.
Rich in quality with the likes of captain Dušan Tadić, Filip Kostić, Aleksandar Mitrović, Luka Jović, Dušan Vlahović, Marko Dmitrović and Sergej Milinković-Savić. Coach Dragan Stojković must harness this golden generation of players who are unbeaten in their last five games leading up to the World Cup.
Since their independence, they have failed to progress past the World Cup group stage in 2006, 2010 and 2018 and reaching Serbia’s first FIFA World Cup knockout stages will be truly remarkable for this group.
Most of their key players are leading lights across Europe’s top clubs and they will be adequately prepared for the rigours of top-level football that will be in play in Qatar.
Will they do it? The quality and ability is without question.
The world’s number nine side are attending their eighth FIFA World Cup and sixth straight finals. However, they are yet to reach the heights of 2006 when they finished fourth.
Portugal are expected to get past Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H as the focus will be on how coach Fernando Santos utilizes the host of attacking options at his disposal.
Indeed, a Seleção have scored 49 goals in their World Cup history and will look to increase this tally beyond a half-century of goals. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo has played the most World Cup games (17) for Portugal and the all-time leading international goalscorer with 117 strikes will be looking to end his fifth and final FIFA World Cup with a bang.
Despite the urge to see many goals, there are questions over whether Portugal have the balance needed to beat the world’s best national teams.
There is certainly enough quality and winning mentality to equal their best-ever results at the World Cup. Perhaps they need to show the grit that upset the odds and won them EURO 2016, on the other hand, that betrays the incredible firepower available.
Portugal will have to dig deep for their true identity at the 2022 World Cup.