Before you know it, the European football season will end, the summer will fly by, the new campaign will begin and then, very quickly, the talk will turn to Qatar 2022.
Here, we’re already thinking ahead to football’s greatest competition as we look at the teams that could fly under the radar for a charge at the Jules Rimet trophy; these are the dark horses for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Who are amongst the favourites to win the World Cup?
Before we delve into the dark horses of Qatar 2022, we thought we’d have a quick run-through of the more fancied sides so you know they’ve been discounted from our thoughts on those grounds. There are five teams that we are immediately ruling out of our analysis with odds short of 10/1 (11.00); they are France, England, Spain, Argentina and Brazil.
Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Portugal are next in the bookies’ lists around the 12/1 (13.00) mark before the odds really start to lengthen. It’s from this point onwards that we would consider a team making the latter stages a dark horse.
Let’s look at the dark horses of Qatar 2022
Right, we’re going right in with a big outsider to win the World Cup with Senegal but, at around 80/1 (81.00) in Bovada we believe they represent some serious betting value. No African side has ever lifted the World Cup but Senegal arrive with plenty of positives behind them.
Firstly, they’ve got recent experience of winning things having lifted the AFCON back in February. On top of that, the qualification for the World Cup in Africa is probably the toughest route to the showpiece with the way the confederation sets the pools; that means the team is used to tough matches within a competitive environment – the same can’t be said for European teams with many of them going into matches against minnows like San Marino.
It’s not all about the team being well practised though. There is some serious quality in the Senegal camp. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is the standout name but they’ve got plenty of players with solid Champions League experience. Edouard Mendy is their goalkeeper; in front of him you’ve got Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been courted by some huge clubs, whilst Abdou Diallo and Idrissa Gueye pulls on the colours of PSG on the domestic scene. We could go on.
Finally, you have to consider their route at Qatar. They find themselves in Group A along with Netherlands, Qatar and Ecuador. The strongest of those teams in the eyes of the bookmakers is Netherlands but Senegal will fancy their chances against all of those teams and the minimum of a second place finish is highly realistic. That would see them take on a side from Group B, which is made up of England, Iran, USA and one of Ukraine, Scotland and Wales. Avoid England and you’re laughing. That gives them half a chance of going deep.
A Group H Dark Horse
We’ll be honest, Senegal are our standout dark horse but Group H intrigues us massively too. Portugal are the big favourites in the group but they’re not as much as a banker as everyone makes out with the fact they needed the playoffs to make the Finals. That said, they’re still the most likely team to top the group. The team that goes through with them though falls into the category of being a long shot but also will have a few qualities that mean they could progress deeper in the tournament.
South Korea, who we’re writing off as contenders, Uruguay and Ghana compete in group H. It’s the latter two that will really fancy their chances of upsetting the odds. Ghana, which made the quarter-final in South Africa in 2010, and is priced at a massive 250/1 (251.00) have a side that is greater than the sum of its parts with Thomas Partey the imposing figure within the spine of the team. Aside from the Arsenal man, there are plenty of household names on the Ghana side including the Ayew brothers – Jordan and Andre – and Felix Afena-Gyan of Roma.
The other team, who we expect to be the most likely to join Portugal in the knockout stages is 50/1 (51/00) shot Uruguay. They have come through a tough qualification in South America where they’ve had to face both Argentina and Brazil but, from a playing staff point of view, they’ve got a real platform from which to build.
Jose Gimenez and Ronald Araujo are capable centre backs, Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira and Fede Valverde provide energy in the middle of the park whilst up top the experienced duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will complement the hot prospect that is Darwin Nunez.