Italy and Portugal in trouble in World Cup Qualifying
Brazil (+500) remain the favorites for World Cup 2022 in Qatar and they have already stamped their plane ticket, having picked up 11 wins and a draw from their 12 qualifying games in South America.
As the European qualifiers draw to a close, we look at who on the continent could be their main contenders for the trophy, and who is in trouble of not making it at all.
World Cup 2022 Odds
No Ronaldo, No Party
Could one of the greatest players in the world fail to even show up in Qatar? Cristiano Ronaldo is in real danger of missing out on what could be his last World Cup, as Portugal finished second in Group A. A last-minute goal from Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Serbia a 2-1 win in Lisbon in the final group game and meant that Serbia qualify automatically, while CR7 and his Portuguese teammates have to go into a play-off.
12 teams go into the play-off draw and only three will make it to Qatar. It's not an easy process.
It has been 24 years since Portugal failed to appear at a major tournament, and it would be a huge shock if Ronaldo wasn’t there to take center stage at the World Cup.
European Champions in danger
Portugal aren’t the only team in trouble, as joining them in the play-offs are reigning European Champions Italy. The Italians failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after ending up in the play-offs and losing 1-0 to Sweden, so this is an all too familiar nightmare for their fans – despite their successful summer.
Roberto Mancini’s men went unbeaten in qualifying but dropped points to Switzerland home and away, at home to Bulgaria, and then crucially in the final game away to Northern Ireland. That 0-0 draw in Belfast coupled with Switzerland’s 4-0 win in Bulgaria meant that the Swiss topped the group and sent Italy into the perils of a play-off.
A week earlier Jorginho put a last minute penalty over the bar against Switzerland which, if it had gone in, would have reversed the placings.
Could the Three Lions roar?
England lost a dramatic penalty shoot-out to Italy in the final of Euro 2020, but could they go one better in Qatar? They eased through Group I winning eight and drawing 10 of their games, scoring more goals than any other side in qualifying (39).
Six of their 10 games were won by four goals or more, with Gareth Southgate’s team ending the campaign with a 10-0 hammering of San Marino. Captain Harry Kane scored 12 goals in qualifying – the joint highest with Memphis Depay.
Germans have been remarkably efficient
The lazy stereotype about the Germans is that they are incredibly efficient, and that’s a good enough way to sum up how they qualified. No other team picked up as many points as Germany, who won nine of their 10 qualifying games. The only blip on their record came in a shock 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia in Duisburg – a result Hansi Flick’s side made up for in October when they beat them 4-0.
Serge Gnabry, Ilkay Gundogan, and Timo Werner all scored five goals each during the campaign while Leroy Sane got four, which shows you just how much firepower this team has.
Reigning Champs through
Current World Cup holders France are safely through after going undefeated in Group D, while Belgium also went undefeated as they topped Group E. France are likely to be Brazil’s biggest threat in Qatar as Paul Pogba and Co. attempt to continue their dominance on the big stage.
A Samuel Umtiti goal was enough to put France into that World Cup Final at Belgium’s expense, and although The Red Devils went on to finish third, they’ll be desperate to avenge that loss in Qatar.
Elsewhere, Spain and Denmark avoided any hiccups as they cruised into the hat for Qatar. The Danes won nine of their 10 games and conceded just three times as they dominated Group F, while Spain surprisingly lost 2-1 to Sweden in Group B, but were still comfortably group winners.
The Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after finishing third in their group, but had no such problems his time as Depay shot them to the top of Group G. Finalists in 2018, Croatia also punched their ticket to the World Cup but left it late as an 81st minute own goal from Fyodor Kudryashov of Russia in the final game saw Croatia top the group as the Russians have to settle for a play-off.
Qualified Teams (Europe)
Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands
In the play-offs (Europe)
Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales, Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria, Czech Republic