Can Messi win the 2022 World Cup?

6 mins
2022 fifa world cup storylines and news

As we count down to the tournament, we take a look at the biggest World Cup storylines, questions, and concerns everyone is hoping to have answered as the 64 games play out. 

The World Cup in Qatar is the first to be held in winter, but it could be notable for various other reasons as the 32-team competition kicks off on November 20, 2022. Can either defending champions France or five-time winners Brazil solidify their status as the world’s best, or is this the year an underdog like Belgium upstages the rest?

Which players are going to thrill us? And who will disappoint? Read on for all our burning questions going into the World Cup 2022.

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Can Messi finally win the World Cup?

The question of whether Lionel Messi can take La Albiceleste all the way for what will be his final World Cup remains in the hearts of all Argentinians—and football fans, generally. Despite Argentina’s Copa America victory last year, some still feel that Messi needs to win the World Cup to truly stake a claim as being the greatest of all time. After all, it remains the only major trophy he’s not held during his illustrious career to date.

Argentina has not won the World Cup since Diego Maradona led them to victory in 1986—the same tournament that featured his infamous “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals. Drawn alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland in Group C, Argentina should comfortably qualify top, setting up a potential meeting with the Group D runner-up (quite possibly Denmark) in the Round of 16. 

Will England bring the World Cup home? 

“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…” sing David Baddiel, Frank Skinner, and The Lightning Seeds on their 1996 World Cup anthem, Three Lions (It’s Coming Home). Yet, despite having invented the beautiful game, England continues to endure failed attempts to bring the trophy home since its one and only win in 1966. 

As always, expectations remain high among fans. The Three Lions finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and the team remains the favorite to top Group B, potentially setting up a meeting with Senegal if they emerge as Group A runners-up. But can they finally go all the way and recreate the magic of ’66?  

Can France break the champion’s curse?

Amazingly, the past three winners of the World Cup—​​Italy (2010), Spain (2014), and Germany (2018)—all failed to make it past the group stage of the subsequent tournament. Surely a talented France team that includes Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kylian Mbappé (PSG), defensive wunderkind William Saliba (Arsenal), and veteran striker Olivier Giroud (AC Milan) can get the job done against Australia, Denmark, and Tunisia in Group B. However, in-fighting and clashes of egos seem to be a specialty in the French camp…  

How far can the underdogs go?

Four-time World Cup champions Italy shocked the world when it failed to qualify for back-to-back tournaments. But while we won’t be seeing the Azzurri in Qatar, underdogs Wales are celebrating its return to the competition for the first time since 1958 (the longest drought for a World Cup appearance for any European nation). Canada also returns to the competition for the first time since its sole World Cup appearance at the 1986 tournament in Mexico, while host nation Qatar automatically qualified for the finals for their first World Cup appearance.  

Will Ghana get revenge over Uruguay? 

Ghana will not have forgotten—or forgiven—Group H rivals Uruguay for the last meeting between the two teams. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ghana was on the cusp of becoming the first African nation to progress to the semifinals. That is until Uruguay’s Luis Suarez committed a handball to deny Ghana a winning goal in extra time. 

Suarez was given a straight red card and sent off, but the damage had been done. Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty and, once extra time concluded, Uruguay won the penalty shootout to knock out Ghana and progress.

What does Cristiano Ronaldo have left in the tank?

Ronaldo and Portugal pulled off quite the coup winning the 2016 European Championship, but their best finish in the World Cup dates back to their first World Cup appearance in 1966, finishing third. Portugal did manage fourth place in 2006, but can 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo inspire his nation to go all the way in what will surely be his final World Cup? Given his recent outbursts about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and the club, the winter tournament may be a chance to rehabilitate his troubled image (and drum up interest from a new club)…

Which young superstars will step up?

With Messi and Ronaldo approaching the end of their careers, football fans are eagerly scouting around for the next generation of great young players to covet. And what bigger stage than the World Cup to announce your talent? England’s Michael Owen, Germany’s Mario Götze, and France’s Kylian Mbappé have all proved themselves to be superstars with World Cup performances fans still talk about.

In Qatar, we could witness the likes of Jude Bellingham (England/Borussia Dortmund), Pedri (Spain/Barcelona), and Eduardo Camavinga (France/Real Madrid) blossoming into true superstars. Elsewhere, Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands/Bayern Munich), Luka Sučić (Croatia/RB Salzburg), Giovanni Reyna (USA/Borussia Dortmund), and Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal/Tottenham Hotspur) are knocking on the door of global stardom. 

Anyone who’s watched Canada’s 22-year-old Alphonso Davies bomb down the wings for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and the Champions League already knows his threat as a full-throttled winger disguised as a defender.

Which quarterfinals matchups will emerge?

Assuming the big dogs come out on top, we could be served a quarterfinals slate featuring England vs. France, the Netherlands vs. Argentina, Spain vs. Brazil, and Portugal vs. Germany (or Belgium).

That exciting possibility pits many of the top betting favorites against each other early in the competition. Given that Brazil have been eliminated in the quarterfinals in three of the past four tournaments and questions remain about England’s ability to deliver on the international stage, it promises to keep fans guessing. 

How far can Qatar progress in the tournament?

Almoez Ali scored the first goal in a 3-1 victory over four-time champions Japan in the 2019 Asian Cup final to help claim the nation’s first international silverware. Ali was voted Most Valuable Player at that tournament and if the host nation is to emerge from Group A, the 26-year-old striker will need to be in top form to steer his nation past the likes of African Cup of Nations champion Senegal, the Netherlands, and Ecuador.

Only one host nation (South Africa in 2010) has ever failed to advance from the group stage. Yet despite being World Cup newcomers, Qatar enters the tournament off the back of five friendly victories and the home crowd (and Ali’s right boot) could go a long way in seeing them upset the bigger sides. 

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