Our writers’ predictions for the 2022 World Cup

    England's Harry Maguire and Harry Kane celebrate their side's victory as they pose for a photo following the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final between England and Denmark - Our writers' predictions for the 2022 World Cup - Eddie Keogh /Getty Images

England’s Harry Maguire and Harry Kane celebrate their side’s victory as they pose for a photo following the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final between England and Denmark – Our writers’ predictions for the 2022 World Cup – Eddie Keogh /Getty Images

winners

Jason Bert: Last time there was no South American team in the semi-finals and no one has triumphed since 2002, but Brazil, followed by Argentina, are the likely winners. Both have very strong squads – their main challengers remain France – and should end Europe’s dominance.

Matt Law: Argentina. They arrive at the World Cup after an unbeaten run of 35 games (W24 D11), the longest in their history. Their latest defeat was to Brazil, a 2-0 defeat in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa América and this must surely be Lionel Messi’s last chance.

Mike Macgrath: Argentina. Lionel Messi, probably in his last World Cup, gets one last chance and has an excellent team around him.

Chris Bascombe: Brazil. Apart from Argentina, I can’t make a convincing argument for any other country… although it could be argued that Qatar has already won.

Sam Dean: Argentina. The world’s in-form squad hasn’t lost since 2019. The team is packed with speed, skill and defensive determination.

Luke Edwards: Argentina. The romantic in me thinks a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina will finally take home the ultimate trophy and give the little wizard a World Cup befitting the legendary Maradona.

Jim White: Brazil. Hardly a pick on left field, but no other side has the offensive prowess to match them, not to mention the brilliant goalkeepers and best defensive midfielder in the world (and no, I don’t mean Fred).

Jeremy Wilson: England. The huge tournament progress under Gareth Southgate is evident and should be a better guide to England’s chances than the Nations League.

James Ducker: Argentina. Undefeated in 35 games, Lionel Scaloni has put an end to disharmony to unify the side and create an organized, hard-working team set up to maximize Lionel Messi’s rarefied talents.

John Percy: Brazil. A very good team, with the experience of big tournaments and the sweltering temperatures, this will be their year.

Star player

Jason Bart: Since I believe Brazil will win it, Neymar is the most likely star. He’s in excellent shape.

Matt Law: Lionel Messi. If Argentina is going to do it, Messi will have to star and this could prove to be the ultimate last dance.

Mike MacGrath: Jude Bellingham is at home in the Champions League and adapts to every step up.

Chris Bascombe:James Madison. If picked (a big if) he will give England the ‘X factor’ they’ve been missing and dominate the group stage against overcrowded defences.

Sam Dean: Lionel Messi. Messi has 11 goals and 14 assists in 18 appearances for PSG this season. His last shot at the biggest prize of all.

Luke Edwards: Jude Bellingham. It’s always dangerous to expect too much from young England players, but Jude Bellingham could leave Qatar as the most coveted player in the world.

Jim White: Jude Bellingham. The player who has everything. Not least the temperament to let his talent flourish on the greatest of all stages.

Jeremy Wilson: Lionel Messi. While Kylian Mbappé should be even better than at Russia 2018, Messi is in great form and a glorious swan song looks achievable.

James Ducker: Lionel Messi. Now 35, the Paris Saint-Germain striker’s fifth and possibly final World Cup could be the World Cup where it all comes together.

John Percy: Neymar. Has yet to really announce himself on the biggest stage of all, but this is his big chance.

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates his goal during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica - Our writers' predictions for the 2022 World Cup - Andres Kudacki/Getty Images

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates his goal during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica – Our writers’ predictions for the 2022 World Cup – Andres Kudacki/Getty Images

Golden Boot

Jason Bart: I tipped him to be the star, so it must be Neymar. It feels like he’s been working towards this game his entire career. It may be now or never for the 30-year-old who remains Brazil’s leading man.

Matt law: Harry Kane. Antonio Conte has warned his rivals in England that Kane is ready to take the World Cup by storm and that he is keen to get off to a fast start in the group stages against Iran, the US and Wales.

Mike MacGrath: Harry Kane. Player for the big stage and has his sights set on England’s all-time record.

Chris Bascombe: Lautaro Martinez. Any striker with Lionel Messi as his supply line must be the most likely golden boot winner.

Sam Dean: Harry Kane. The England captain is in excellent goalscoring form at club level and should, in theory at least, dominate the group stage.

Luke Edwards: Kylian Mbappe. This is always hard to predict as so much depends on the goals scored in the group stage and who progresses to the final rounds, but Mbappé is as good as anyone.

Jim White: Harry Kane. Opportunities aplenty for group stage goals, and as he is England’s spearhead there is every chance that all odds will fall on him.

Jeremy Wilson: Harry Kane. Should benefit from England’s relatively easy group, penalty-taking and the fact that other potential winners are less clearly identified as their team’s main striker.

James Ducker: Lionel Messi. If Argentina clicks, Messi should thrive – and that always means goals.

John Percy: Harry Kane. The England captain is in good form and will take pole position for the Boot after the group stage.

England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal - Our writers' predictions for the 2022 World Cup - Alberto Lingria/Reuters

England’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal – Our writers’ predictions for the 2022 World Cup – Alberto Lingria/Reuters

Dark horses

Jason Bert: Not so much dark horses but dangerous opponents – Denmark. They are arguably the form team of Europe. The Netherlands, which is so strong defensively, cannot be ruled out either.

Matt law: The Netherlands. The Netherlands are undefeated since the European Championship and have a defense and midfield that can rival anyone in the tournament. However, they can fall short in attack.

Mike Macgrath: The Netherlands. They have quality front to back and have a group they should be winning comfortably.

Chris Bascombe: Belgium. They’ve made the full 360 degree turn from dark horses to favorites back to dark horses. Everything is possible at De Bruyne.

Sam Dean: Uruguay. A new generation is emerging, led by the sensational Federico Valverde, while Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani remain a threat.

Luke Edwards: England. England are not one of the favorites and have looked like a side on the decline for the past 15 months, but if you’ve reached a semi-final and a final in the last two tournaments, they could surprise us all again.

Jim White: Senegal. Sadly stripped of their talisman Sadio Mane (at least for a few games), Senegal, with Premier League stalwarts like Eduaord Mendy. Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gana Gueye still have a great talent to surprise. Plus, they have a group that shouldn’t really be an obstacle.

Jeremy Wilson: Denmark, who are really too highly regarded to deserve this title. Qatar is better than most think, but Ghana is the best ‘outside’ bet for a long stay if they have to navigate a tough bunch.

James Ducker:Uruguay. Lots of experience and know-how, interesting young talent and the formidable Federico Valverde.

John Percy: Belgium. Too talented not to go deep into the competition – although this reporter supported Turkey at Euro 2020!

Sadio Mane runs with the ball during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Final between Senegal and Egypt - Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images

Sadio Mane runs with the ball during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Final between Senegal and Egypt – Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images

How far will England go?

Jason Bert: In theory, England have a tough path with a group that will be physical and some potentially tough knockout matches… but they can reach the final.

Matt law: Quarterfinals. Gareth Southgate’s team should have no problem winning the group. A possible last-16 meeting with Senegal could be tricky, but winnable. France may be as far as they go in the quarter-finals.

Mike Macgrath: Semi-finals. Quality to get into the final stages and key players returning from injury at the right time.

Chris Bascombe: If England win their group, they will go far and lose to Brazil or Argentina in the final.

Sam Dean: Quarterfinals. It won’t be as bad as many seem to fear, but England will once again struggle in midfield with first-class opposition.

Luke Edwards: Will either be humiliated in a tough group or reach the semifinals again.

Jim White: Semifinalist – Lost to France on penalties. No more needs to be said.

Jeremy Wilson: See above for a prediction based on the belief that sooner or later a country with such passion, resources and talent will surely triumph again.

James Ducker: Quarterfinals. The performances of the last two tournaments will give them confidence, but they tend to run into problems when they meet the top countries and the potential path to the final looks treacherous.

John Percy: Quarterfinals. Will fall short in the quarter-final and signal Southgate’s departure after a largely impressive tenure.

Do you agree with our writers’ predictions? What are yours? Join the conversation in the comments below

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