Two hundred thirty-five days separate us from the biggest sports tournament in the world, where legends are made; FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Naturally, a mix of feelings comes with this, for many, sadness because their national teams did not make the World Cup; for others, excitement because they did make it, and for most of us, relief that this international break did not have as many injuries as it usually has. With the end of the international break, national leagues come back, and most importantly, the UEFA Champions League comes back with its “elite eight.” With 29 out of 32 teams qualified for the World Cup, only three matches separate us from knowing all the members of the international elite. An international break with surprises and emotions finished on March 30th.
It all started with the European Champions; the dream of Italy repeating its Euro success getting destroyed by North Macedonia. Italy showed an evident lack of strikers, with 32 shots, five on goal, and only one dangerous shot. Donnarumma, who had been the best player in the Euro last year, had the three worst matches of his career, against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, against Macedonia, in which he conceded in the 92 minutes, and then against Turkey in which he concedes between his legs. So, what could be a World Cup contender got eliminated, letting Portugal, who won without any trouble, and Turkey benefitted with an easy match against North Macedonia. This game would be an easy win, and let soccer watch one last dance with Messi and Ronaldo in the World Cup. Spain showed that it could be a favorite to win the World Cup, with Morata making goals again and new young talents like Pedri, Yeremi Pino, and Gavi; a healthy Spain could make a legendary world Cup run. We can not forget the creators of the beautiful game, as always, England has a young and talented team hungry for glory, after having an almost perfect qualifier they look strong to play the World Cup. This could be the year that football is finally coming home. Finally, UEFA gives soccer a big gift bringing the Netherlands back to a World Cup.
As always, CONMEBOL did not fail the people. Hence, being the most exciting World Cup qualifiers. With Peru getting the spot for the qualifier playoff against the UAE, they have most likely assured their second consecutive World Cup berth. Chile showed again that their golden generation is not enough to go to the World Cup; the lack of character to face big games, and even though they won 2 out of the last 4 Copa America, the team must change. Colombia played two good games against Bolivia and Venezuela, but with Peru winning against Paraguay, those 6 points did nothing. Ecuador showed they could have a good World Cup; with new young and exciting talent, they could make the second round. Brazil won 4-0 against Chile and then scored four again in the most demanding stadium in the Hernando Siles in La Paz, 11,893 feet above sea level; oxygen is scarce in Bolivia. Brazil showed that this team could be the one that transforms them into “hexacampeão,” being the first country to get 6 World Cups. Brazil has the best young team, Vinicius, Raphinha, Anthony, to mention a few. A team led by Neymar that becomes a beast when putting the national shirt on and by Thiago Silva. Having security in the back with the best set of goalkeepers in the world, playing in Liverpool and Manchester City, Allison and Ederson complement a team full of superstars. All of that with the mastermind Tite behind, who has shown to be one of the best managers in the world. Uruguay showed again that Diego Alonso is the manager who can make them a great team.
When talking about Argentina, there is only one question, is this Messi’s last ride? This could be the last World Cup for Messi; they know this is the most significant chance they have to bring the World Cup back. However, the team has been very consistent and has shown that big games do not scare them. This is the best team Argentina has had in a long time; it has all the motivation to win, and everything is possible with Leo Messi.
CONCACAF showed that it is one of the worst conferences in the world. Mexico is getting worse every year; Costa Rica depends totally on Keylor Navas to save them and take away the US and Canada; all the other teams are as bad as possible. The US has a great young team led by Pulisic and had some outstanding games during these qualifiers. Canada had the best qualifiers they have ever had; however, I believe that their level is not comparable to CONMEBOL or UEFA. The African qualifier ended the African way with tons of emotions, tension, and particular situations. Asia looks weaker than ever; however, teams like South Korea and Japan always give a hard time to the big teams.
Qualifiers are almost over, and the World Cup is getting closer. I can see five main favorites to win the tournament: Brazil, Argentina, France, England, and Spain. We are watching some of the best international offensive soccer we have ever seen, with the youngest stars in a long time. Qatar 2022 could be the best World Cup in history; it will also give us the best winter transfer market we have ever seen. Is it coming home? Is it Messi’s World Cup? Mbappe Striking Again? Or will Jogo Bonito and Tiki Taka dominate? It is the FIFA World Cup, and in soccer, nothing is certain.
Contact Jaime at email@example.com