2022 World Cup Preview


Tomas Moran, Copy Editor

The FIFA World Cup is back after over four years. There are many different narratives and teams to consider in this edition of the global soccer competition. It will be hosted in Qatar, the first Middle Eastern nation to do so. This article will answer the most important questions heading into the epic global showdown.


What is the FIFA World Cup?

The FIFA World Cup is a global soccer tournament held every four years. It is contested between national teams from the 211 FIFA affiliated associations. The first Men’s World Cup was held in 1930 and the first Women’s World Cup was held in 1991. Qatar 2022 will be the 22nd Men’s World Cup. The World Cup is arguably the most influential sporting event on Earth, it is usually regarded as on par with the Summer Olympics.


How does it work?

The current format consists of 32 teams qualifying from six different regions. Teams (except for the host) must qualify through a process that varies by region. In terms of the tournament itself, the 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four teams. Each team plays three games in what is known as the group stage, one against every other team in their group. The top two teams from each group enter the knockout stage. Starting from the Round of 16, each round is single elimination. This eventually leads to the final, where the world champion is crowned.


What are the controversies?

It is important to recognize the controversies surrounding this year’s World Cup. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has criticized Qatar’s mistreatment of migrant workers, which many individuals and organizations (involved and uninvolved in the sport itself) have deemed as a violation of human rights. The ILO stated that in 2020 alone 50 workers had died, over 500 were injured, and 37,600 had suffered a less serious injury. Furthermore, Qatar’s stringent anti-LGBTQ laws have also been a cause of tension. Some teams, including the United States, have chosen to show support for the LGBTQ community at the tournament. Human Rights Watch condemned Qatar Preventive Security Department forces for abusing LGBTQ people.


Why is it being held in November and December?

The World Cup is typically held in June and July, nevertheless that has changed for this edition. This is due to Qatar’s climate, since matches in the summer would have often reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The schedule change has completely altered the soccer calendar, since European leagues that start in August have had to arrange a month-long break in the middle of the season. Furthermore, various players, such as France’s N’Golo Kanté, have gotten injured at the beginning of the European season and will not be able to play at the World Cup.


Who are the favorites?

Brazil, Argentina, and France are largely seen as the favorites to win it all. Brazil has plenty of talent from the likes of Neymar Jr and Vinícius Jr. La Seleção is still looking to avenge their 7-1 defeat to Germany at home in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup, as well their quarterfinal exit against Belgium in Russia four years ago. They have won the tournament more than anyone else, with a total of five championships. The last time the winner was not a European nation was when Brazil won in 2002 under the leadership of Cafu. Coach Tite certainly believes that his squad, who finished first in the South American qualifiers, can end European domination on the world stage. Moreover, Argentina is perhaps the most popular pick. La Albiceleste has not won since they took home the trophy for the second time in 1986, a triumph that was led by the late Diego Maradona. Now, Argentina has another superstar who would like to immortalize himself in World Cup lore. While already considered as possibly the greatest player ever, Lionel Messi is missing one major championship in his trophy case, and it’s the most important one. Argentina had a seamless qualifying campaign that forged their core team for this cycle. Under the leadership of coach Lionel Scaloni, Argentina will be looking to continue their 36 game unbeaten run, the longest in the world at the moment. Furthermore, the reigning champions France will certainly want a say. Les Bleus went on an incredible run in the 2018 World Cup, which included defeating Argentina in the Round of 16 and beating Croatia in the final, to claim their second world title. However, injuries might derail their aspirations of becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962. France will be missing Kanté, as well as two other players that helped them win in 2018; Paul Pogba and Presnel Kimpembe. Nevertheless, coach Didier Deschamps hopes that the return of recent Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema to the World Cup and the continued excellence of Kylian Mbappé will propel France to victory.


Who are the Dark Horses?

Two-time champions Uruguay went on a four game winning streak at the end of the South American qualifiers to clinch an automatic spot. Uruguay’s mix of seasoned veterans, such as Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, and youthful talents, such as Federico Valverde and Darwin Núñez, could see them make a run. Additionally, Denmark recently defeated France in the UEFA Nations League and will face them again in Group D. Denmark has been impressive since reaching the semifinals of the 2020 European championship (held in 2021), which was the tournament where Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch due to a cardiac arrest. Luckily, Eriksen was stabilized and returned to playing soccer after eight months. He will be looking to lead Denmark into the latter rounds of the competition alongside Simon Kjær and Kasper Schmeichel. Another team that could certainly do damage is Belgium. They finished in third place in 2018 and still have a very talented team. Kevin De Bruyne is still generally considered the best midfielder in the world, Thibaut Courtois recently won the Golden Glove, and Leandro Trossard has been in great form lately. However, doubts regarding Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku remain. Belgium’s golden generation is aging and this is likely their last chance at glory.


What about the United States?

The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) will make their triumphant return to the World Cup after the disastrous 2018 qualifying campaign. The 2018 World Cup was the first time the USMNT did not participate since 1986, an infamous 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on the final matchday sealed the Americans’ fate. Nevertheless, the USMNT has found a new direction with a youthful squad full of talent. This American team has more players competing at the highest levels of club soccer, including the UEFA Champions League, than ever before. Led by Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, and Weston McKennie, the USMNT will be looking to return to World Cup success. In terms of expectations, most believe that the USMNT should get out of the group stage. The Stars and Stripes are in Group B, along with England, Wales, and Iran. Making it beyond the Round of 16 is not out of the question, but it would be overachieving for this very young team. Coach Gregg Berhalter managed the team through the 2022 cycle, including a third place finish in the qualifiers behind Canada and Mexico. This was enough to qualify directly, a 2-0 win against Mexico in Columbus and a 0-0 draw in Mexico City were key. Pulisic led the way with five goals in World Cup qualifying. The most important aspect of this World Cup for the USMNT is to gain experience heading into the 2026 cycle, which will culminate in a World Cup hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada.


Where and when can I watch the World Cup?

In the United States, the 2022 World Cup will be broadcasted on FOX and Telemundo and streamed on Peacock. The tournament will start on Nov. 20 when Qatar faces Ecuador. The USMNT plays against Wales on Nov. 21, England on Nov. 25, and Iran on Nov. 29. All of the USMNT’s group stage matches will start at 1 p.m. Central time. The final will be on Dec. 18.