There are few international tournaments that carry the same hype as the FIFA World Cup. Though the Olympics bring the world’s nations together in a friendly form of competition, and major events in golf and tennis tend to draw in global audiences, the FIFA World Cup tends to surpass both in terms of excitement.
The tournament takes place every four years, which makes it as rare as the Olympics. Additionally, the ebb and flow of powerful teams add an element of unpredictability and possibility to each Group Stage—and even the qualifying rounds.
For many diehard soccer fans, analysis for the next competition starts as soon as the winner lifts the World Cup. In fact, sports betting odds are offered on World Cup qualifiers alongside the official start of the Group Stages. And these odds are available long before a ball is even kicked.
At the moment, sports betting site Betway offers odds on UEFA, CONCACAF, and CONMEBOL Qualifiers in Europe, North America, and South America, respectively. There are even lines on the 2022 World Cup winner, with Brazil listed as the favorite, followed by France and England.
But what about 2022’s most promising underdogs? After all, Brazil, France, and England often appear at the top of World Cup prediction rankings, alongside a few other staples like Spain and Germany. What’s more interesting for fans is to gauge which dark horse teams will advance further in the competition than the big names.
Here are five of the most exciting underdogs to keep a watch on for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off next year on 21 November.
Croatia was one of the biggest underdogs of the last World Cup, finishing as Finalists in 2018. Not only did they knock out that year’s favorite, England, but they also made a solid appearance in the Euro 2020 competition.
Looking ahead, Croatia will have the stalwart Luka Modric to fall back on and the talents of Ivan Rakitic. However, Croatia also has other seasoned vets who will guide play from the middle and the back, including Ivan Perisic and Dejan Lovren.
The USA men’s national team has never quite lived up to expectations (though the nation’s female squad dominates). The men’s team failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. However, 2022 may be the first time the US national team is considered a threat. Not only is the US developing infrastructure to develop domestic talents, but they’re also led by talents like Christian Pulisic, Sergio Dest, and Weston McKennie.
Similar to Croatia, the Mexican national team has been champing at the bit to take home their first World Cup title. Both have seasoned players who will be able to lead the team, as well as new talents that are eager to prove themselves when the stakes are highest.
However, Mexico didn’t easily sweep their CONCACAF competitions as was predicted by sportsbooks. In fact, the team’s odds have lengthened slightly since ceding to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title to the US with a 1-0 loss.
Few national teams are as followed as the Argentinian squad once the FIFA World Cup rolls around. Many would love to see a major win like back in 1986, when Diego Maradona led the team to a win over England in the famous ‘Hand of God’ incident. Others watch to support Messi’s efforts to take the country to a Finals run.
This year, will Lautaro Martinez, Paulo Dybala, and Giovani Lo Celso be able to push the team toward greatness? As Messi nears his final years in football, they’ll be the new guard responsible for leading the team.
Uruguay & Ecuador
So far, pundits have identified Uruguay and Ecuador as underdogs from the CONMEBOL qualifiers. Both teams are tied with sixteen points, though Ecuador’s superior goal defense has earned them a place ahead of Uruguay heading into next year’s competition.
Next year, Uruguay will have Luis Suárez to rely on. Already, he’s shown his propensity as a striker and the CONMEBOL stages haven’t even concluded yet. However, Ecuador has a similarly powerful foot in Michael Estrada, who’s scored more than Suárez in qualifiers.