The World Cup is here, and the extravaganza returns Sunday

Since 1930, the quadrennial event has taken place filled with excitement and bringing the globe together to see who is the World Cup champion as countries battle for supremacy. Uruguay had the privilege of hosting the first event and was crowned the winner after defeating Argentina 4-2 (fifa.com).

In 2018, the last World Cup, France lifted the trophy in celebration after beating Croatia 4-2. Kylian Mbappe made history as the first teen to score in a World Cup. He is now 23 years old and looking to continue his impact, as they defend their throne in 2022.

The World Cup returns Sunday, and is hosted by Qatar who will face Ecuador. This will be the first time the event is held in the middle east (topendsports.com). Let’s look at other fun facts and storylines beginning with which continent has the most teams/titles.

The Bracket Breakdown

Beginning with Europe has 11 titles and leads the tournament with 13 countries. A few include Wales, England, Poland, Denmark, and Serbia. South America has nine titles and boasts four teams this year. Those being Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and Uruguay. Asia and Africa both have five, with South Korea and Senegal at the top of their domains. North America has all three countries, while Oceania and Central America offer one in Australia and Costa Rica.

The odds-on favorite to win is Brazil, with Costa Rica being the underdog (vegasinsider.com). With that being said, what are the odds of Qatar winning as hosts?

Qatar’s Fate as Hosts

For Qatar to win the World Cup as hosts they’d have to be the first ones to do so since 1998, when France won it in their home country. Only six hosts have won it since its inception, those being Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978), and France (1998). Home-field advantage does have an impact on a team’s performance, and only three hosts were unable to get past the Group of 16. South Africa 2010 finished third in a group of Uruguay, Mexico, and France. Japan (2002) and the United States (1994) were eliminated in the round of 16 after advancing out of the group stage (bettingoffers.org.uk). The fate of Qatar lies in how they fare against the Group, which brings us to the Netherlands.

Holland’s Redemption Tour

Looking at the group competition, the Netherlands is the odds-on favorite to advance out of the group, while Ecuador and Senegal are wild cards. The Netherlands has never tasted gold on the World Stage but has gotten to the finals three times in 1974, 1978, and 2010 (holland.com). They lost against West Germany, Argentina, and Spain. Holland also didn’t qualify for the World Cup in 2018, making 2022 a potential redemption tour.

Could this be the year Holland wins the World Cup? In their way is Ecuador, which is making its fourth appearance on the grand stage (reuters.com). Ecuador hasn’t made it past the knockout stages, and this could be the year they mark their pitch. Senegal is another wild card that could spoil the Netherlands’ chances, as they are emerging to be at the top of the food chain in Africa. While Group play will be one to look at, what other spotlights are there in the World Cup?

Will Ghana and the United States turn back the clock?

Both teams arrive in Qatar with the youngest rosters at 24.7 and 25.7. Ghana joins Ecuador with four appearances in the World Cup and hasn’t been a part of the event since 2014 (knelnow.com/football). The United States, led by Christian Pulisic, hasn’t made it to the finals. Instead, they’ve gone as far as the quarterfinals in 2002 (nbcsports.com). These two teams have a fountain of youth, but will they experience a drought in the World Cup?

Iran and Mexico bring to the table a full tank

Meanwhile, Iran and Mexico are the oldest teams in the tournament at 28.9 and 28.5. Iran is in the same group as the United States, which is an intriguing matchup. Mexico faces Argentina, the third oldest team at 27.9, putting experience to the test early on. Can these three teams manage to use their breadth to get far in the tournament, or will they be cut short by a young and hungry team? From teams to individuals, there are plenty of players who could be signing off after this World Cup.

Legendary careers coming to an end, and the end of the Big 3?

This World Cup might be the last chance for some of the greatest players to showcase their skills. Dani Alves, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi are among the high-profile athletes who aim to make their last tournament end with a celebration. Alves is 39 years old and a part of the Brazilian dynasty when it comes to the World Cup. Brazil has won five times, with 2002 being the most recent, and 2022 could be their last year to make a statement. Thiago Silva is 37 and Neymar is 30, meaning when 2026 arrives two players will be over 40. Will 2022 be Brazil’s year, not if Portugal and Argentina have something to say? While Portugal hasn’t seen the podium, Ronaldo has voiced his concerns and might go on a rampage. Ronaldo is the highest-profile player to never win a World Cup, despite scoring in every World Cup fixture he’s been in with seven goals in 17 matches (olympics.com). At 37, this might be his last chance to win the big one. Similar to the Portuguese star, Lionel Messi has also never won a World Cup with Argentina. Messi is 35 and considered the greatest soccer player of his generation. Will Brazil, Portugal, or Argentina be lifting the trophy and be granted an early Christmas present? Even if that’s not the case, the legacies of these players shouldn’t overshadow their accomplishments. Whether or not they become champions, one country is looking to make it a repeat.

What are France’s odds of repeating?

Last but not least, the champions. France has a reputation to uphold, and if it wants to repeat history isn’t on its side. Only two teams have been able to do it, and both happened before 1965. It’s not impossible, but the odds are on in their favor. Whether or not they reach third place or advance to the knockouts will be one to look out for.

2022 will be filled with plenty of phenomenal football in the World Cup. Who wins, who becomes will be the Cinderella story, and what players will cement themselves on the global stage. Tune in this week for the World Cup.

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