By Kyle Block
Drama Before Reaching the World’s Biggest Stage
Since June 2019, national teams from each continent have participated in intense competition as part of their journey to World Cup qualification. As soccer fans, we’ve come to expect teams like France, Germany, and Brazil to qualify year in and year out. But, after those few top teams qualify, the rest of the World Cup spots are truely up for grabs. While thirteen teams have qualified already for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, competition for the other nineteen spots is happening right now.
CONCACAF competition may be some of the most surprising results we’ve had so far. Currently, no nations have qualified for the three spots allotted to North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. However, four front runners have emerged from the round robin competition. Canada sits in first place with sixteen points, just barely leading over the USA in second with fifteen points and Panama and Mexico tied in third with fourteen points. While many would argue that all four teams deserve to make it to Qatar. Only three will receive automatic bids. Although I’d love to see Panama qualify over these much larger nations, I project that Panama only wins three out of their next six competitions which come against Canada, the USA, El Salvador, Mexico, and Jamaica, Honduras, causing them to miss out on qualifying. Overall, CONCACAF play should be exciting to watch.
The Asian Football Confederation has been extremely exciting. It’s been difficult to tell which teams are going to come out on top of the conference. Iran and Saudi Arabia are leading the way with sixteen points each. Qatar has also already taken a bid from the AFC. Although Australia and Japan, as of now, are not going to qualify for the World Cup, I think that these two countries will turn their competition around and eventually come out on top of the Asian conference.
The African Competition still has a long way to go before teams qualify for Qatar. But, I have a few projections for the top teams that could win bids to the World Cup. Ghana, Egypt, and Nigeria have all looked very promising. While there is still lots of competition to be played, I think it’s safe to say that these three countries have the best chances to qualify.
South America is by far one of the most superior soccer continents. Through the round robin tournament, Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, and Brasil, led by Neymar, have already qualified for Qatar. Ecuador is next in contention for qualifying with Colombia and Peru close behind. Despite the two best nations already claiming bids, the rest of the competition still has a chance of winning the remaining two spots. Though currently under performing, I wouldn’t count out Uruguay or Chile.
European Competition has been settled for the most part as ten of the thirteen bids have already been won. Belgium, Croatia, England, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland have all qualified. However, Poland, Portugal, and Italy, who all have strong squads, haven’t yet qualified. It will be exciting to see who pulls through in the final competitions.