It’s only taken three years – at last, from an initial list of 206 hopefuls, we now know the 32 teams who will be fighting it out for the biggest prize in football at Qatar 2022 World Cup. We also know that the usual suspects will probably be fighting it out for a place in the final – Brazil, France and England are the top three according to the bookmakers and all have benefited from relatively friendly draws in their respective groups.
However, for the more casual observer, the real fun of a tournament like this is the dark horse. There are always one or two teams that surprise by playing out of their skin and making it to the knockout stages – and once there, anything is possible, as Croatia so eloquently demonstrated last time out. Here, we have picked three teams that are capable of springing some surprises and are well worth a small wager, just for fun.
Canada’s big chance
Speaking of Croatia, they have been drawn alongside Belgium in Group F and suddenly the expectation will be on them to qualify. However, Canada has made the final stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and the team topped the CONCACAF table, coming through its 11 qualifying matches undefeated. Led by Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David of Lille, expect to become acquainted with a couple more Canadian stars by the time the group matches are done. There’s a passion for online sports betting in Canada, and plenty of fans are liking the +450 odds on offer for Canada to make it to the knockout stages.
Serbia – the best kept secret in the Balkans
Anyone who has been paying close attention to football in Eastern Europe over the past year will know that Croatia is probably yesterday’s news. For this year’s surprise Balkan package, look to Group G. Any nation can feel unlucky to be drawn alongside Brazil, but Serbia will fancy their chances against Cameroon and perennial under achievers Switzerland. Like Canada, they cruised through the qualifiers without losing a game – no mean achievement in a group that also featured Portugal and the Republic of Ireland. The team is led by Ajax skipper Dusan Tadic, and also look out for Luka Jović. The 24 year old already has a Real Madrid contract in his back pocket and is a superstar in the making.
Poland with a point to prove
Back in the 1970s and 80s, Poland were one of the football powerhouses of Europe. That seems a long time ago, and having missed out in 2010 and 2014, there will have been sighs of relief all round when they made it through an edgy encounter with Sweden to scrape through. Now they have done so, they can relax and enjoy the experience. If they play to their full potential, they will overpower Mexico and Saudi Arabia, opening the door to their first appearance in the knockout stages since Mexico 1986.