2022 Men's World Cup: Power-Ranking All 32 Teams

Nick AkermanFeatured Columnist IVNovember 19, 2022

2022 Men's World Cup: Power-Ranking All 32 Teams

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    TOPSHOT - Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on September 27, 2022. (Photo by Andres Kudacki / AFP) (Photo by ANDRES KUDACKI/AFP via Getty Images)
    ANDRES KUDACKI/AFP via Getty Images

    The 2022 World Cup⁠—also known as the "I can't believe it's the World Cup already" World Cup⁠—is almost upon us.

    Thirty-two teams have forgotten club football and are in Qatar with hopes of doing their nations proud. As certain as someone using a pet octopus to predict the results, we are here with a power ranking of all the hopefuls.

    Our criteria was simple: We took into account recent form, injuries, general feeling around each camp and whether or not countries can achieve what they realistically set out to do.

    Buckle up!

Nos. 32-29

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    DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 18: Thomas Deng, Garang Kuol and Awer Mabil of Australia pose during the Australia Official Team Photo at  Aspire Training Ground on November 18, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    32. Saudi Arabia

    The Green Falcons have two wins in 10 and have scored more than one goal only once in their last 20 games. Hervé Renard’s side are vastly outmatched in a group that includes Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski.

    31. Qatar

    The host nation’s 2019 Asian Cup win shows they can perform in tournament football. They are unbeaten in five against poor sides such as Guatemala and Honduras. However, they were recently thumped 3-0 by the Croatia under-23 team and aren’t used to top-tier competition. Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands should prove too difficult to overcome.

    30. Cameroon

    With one win in their last five, Rigobert Song’s squad need a quick upturn in form to come through an extremely difficult group of Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland. Even so, they are pepped by Bryan Mbeumo’s switch of allegiance and Nicolas Nkoulou’s return after the centre-back ended his five-year international retirement.

    29. Australia

    Like the other Asian teams, Australia don’t get to play elite opposition often. The Socceroos qualified for Qatar in dramatic fashion with a penalty shootout win over Peru and are actually unbeaten in five matches. You can’t ask for much more ahead of a scary run against France, Tunisia and Denmark.

Nos. 28-25

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    MURCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27: Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States dribbles during a game between Saudi Arabia and USMNT at Estadio Nueva Condomina on September 27, 2022 in Murcia, Spain. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
    Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

    28. Costa Rica

    Costa Rica are not used to losing matches, having suffered just one defeat in their last 13 games, racking up wins against Nigeria, U.S. and Canada. Watch out for 18-year-old winger Jewison Bennette, who is likely to be at the centre of any upsets against Spain, Japan and Germany.

    27. Morocco

    It’s no surprise Morocco is a better side with Hakim Ziyech back in the mix. Returning from exile under new boss Walid Regragui, the star player scored from inside his own half during Thursday’s 3-0 warm-up win over Georgia. Morocco got hammered by the U.S. in June, but four wins in five since then has the camp looking up.

    26. United States

    It feels like it could go either way for the USMNT. On one hand, there’s talent in the squad, propped up by Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson and others. On the other hand, Gregg Berhalter’s tactics are holding the team back, summed up by his decision to leave striker Ricardo Pepi at home.

    With no wins and one goal in three games heading into the tournament, the U.S. face a battle to escape a group with England, Wales and Iran all inside the top 20 of the FIFA men's rankings.

    25. Canada

    Canada have nothing to lose in Qatar. With four wins in their last eight, matches against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco will be a fantastic experience for when they co-host the next tournament in 2026. If Alphonso Davies and Co. can grab three points, it’ll be a satisfying return.

Nos. 24-21

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    South Korea's midfielder Son Heung-min (C) and defender Cho Yu-min (R) take part in a training session at Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha on November 18, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
    JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

    24. Iran

    Severe political issues will deservedly overshadow the Iran football team’s efforts in Qatar. With Carlos Queiroz back in charge and a recent win over Uruguay, they will certainly fancy their chances of challenging England, the U.S. and Wales for a spot in the next round.

    23. Wales

    One man is capable of making all the difference for Wales. Gareth Bale only contributed 371 minutes across 13 appearances in Los Angeles FC’s MLS Cup win, but a trophy and three goals are better than rotting on the bench at Real Madrid.

    He is a big-time tournament player and should be buoyed by facing local rivals England, not to mention an opener with the U.S. Wales are winless in five but have faced Belgium and the Netherlands twice each in that time.

    22. Mexico

    Gerardo Martino’s side is not in a good spot. Talisman Raul Jimenez flew to Qatar despite not featuring for Wolves since August, and winger Jesús Corona will miss the tournament after his serious injury for Sevilla. Losses to Paraguay, Colombia and Sweden in their last five will have El Tri supporters feeling less optimistic than usual heading into the competition.

    21. South Korea

    Heung-min Son’s return to training is vital for South Korea. Granted, the Tottenham forward has struggled for goal-scoring form this season, but he can be the difference between reaching the round of 16 or not. Back-to-back 1-0 wins over Iceland and Cameroon will have group rivals Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana on notice.

Nos. 20-17

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    Japan's Takummi Minamino, left, and Ecuador's Jhegson Mendez challenge for the ball during the international friendly soccer match between Japan and Ecuador as part of the Kirin Challenge Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
    AP Photo/Martin Meissner

    20. Senegal

    Sadio Mané was out of the World Cup, then he was in, then he was out again. Confirmation of the Bayern Munich forward’s absence leaves Aliou Cissé’s side short up top, especially when they struggle to score goals anyway.

    A squad that includes world-renowned stars such as Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gueye should still fancy progressing in second from a group that includes the Netherlands, Ecuador and Qatar.

    19. Ghana

    Ghana is back on the up after a terrible Africa Cup of Nations showing in January. Just one loss in eight games, which came against world No. 1 Brazil, suggests they could add fantastic value to the tournament once more. Inaki Williams’ allegiance switch, combined with the in-form Mohammed Kudus, should make them fun to watch against Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay.

    18. Tunisia

    Tunisia is one of those sides that demand respect and deserve to be as high as they are on this list but are likely to get stomped in Qatar. They were on a run of seven clean sheets in a row before Brazil walloped them 5-1 in September—not a good sign when they have to face France and Denmark. Recent shutouts against Nigeria, Chile and Japan indicate they're a well-drilled team.

    17. Japan

    Japan hadn’t conceded in five games before Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to Canada. The World Cup mainstays have beaten South Korea and the U.S. recently but face the unenviable task of toppling Germany and Spain in Group E. There’s quality and character in this squad, led by Takumi Minamino, but only a miracle will see them into the knockout stages.

Nos. 16-13

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    BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Nicolas De La Cruz celebrates with Federico Valverde of Uruguay after scoring opening goal during the international friendly match between Uruguay and Canada  at Tehelne pole on September 27, 2022 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)
    Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

    16. Ecuador

    Ecuador’s recent stats are incredible, no matter how you look at them. One loss in 15 games is very impressive. Nine draws in that time, including 1-1s with Brazil and Argentina, should also raise eyebrows.

    Now chuck in the fact there has been just one goal in their last five games, with four stalemates in that time. Truly odd stuff. If they kick off the tournament with a win against Qatar, they will be in a great position to reach the next round.

    15. Poland

    Recent 1-0 wins over Wales and Chile ended a difficult period for Poland. June’s 6-1 loss to Belgium kick-started a winless run of four games that included another defeat to Roberto Martinez’s side and one point in two UEFA Nations League games against the Netherlands.

    Robert Lewandowski, Piotr Zielinski and a quality squad should qualify in second from a group of Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. History suggests they will struggle to cut it against the best sides further in, though.

    14. Uruguay

    Uruguay could go far into the tournament. Diego Alonso’s men are prone to strange results, though, and don't have the consistency to be on many people's radars just yet.

    This is a team that went from zero wins in five to five wins in five to two wins in their last four. They recently lost to Iran and beat Canada. It feels like a flip of the coin: Will Federico Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur and Darwin Núñez sink or swim on the big stage?

    13. Switzerland

    It’s Xherdan Shaqiri time once more. Shaq and the Swiss sent Italy on the path of failing to make the tournament by topping their qualification group. They’re an incredibly dangerous side whose three-game winning streak ended on Thursday in a 2-0 loss to Ghana. That streak, though, included wins over Portugal and Spain. A little momentum was lost, but don’t be surprised if they go deep.

Nos. 12-9

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    OEIRAS, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the Portugal Training and Press Conference at Cidade do Futebol FPF on November 15, 2022 in Oeiras, Portugal.  (Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)
    Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

    12. Serbia

    The "dark horse" tag will be thrown at Denmark, Switzerland and Croatia ahead of the tournament. Serbia deserve to be in that category.

    Unbeaten in six and scoring goals for fun, Dragan Stojkovic's unit will pose a problem for most. There's physicality, pace and far more technical astuteness than they are perhaps given credit for. Star men Sergej Milinković-Savić, Filip Kostić, Dusan Vlahović and Luka Jović will do most of the damage if Aleksandar Mitrović is unable to shake off his injury issues.

    Whether or not the Fulham striker returns in good time and health remains to be seen. Serbia will need to fight to make it out of a group with Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon but are more than capable of taking the game to each.

    11. England

    It feels like England under Gareth Southgate hit their ceiling with a Euro 2020 final loss to Italy. Tired tactics have led the Three Lions to zero wins in six Nations League games, with just four goals in that time. Less than ideal prep has seen Reece James and Ben Chilwell miss the tournament through injury, while Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are included despite a lack of fitness.

    England’s group should provide no issues, although don’t underestimate at least one surprise result against Iran, USA and Wales. One of the deepest squads in the tournament is failing to inspire a nation that will put excruciating pressure on them to perform. It feels like it will only end badly.

    10. Portugal

    Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan has completely overshadowed his team’s preparations for the World Cup. The Manchester United icon is unlikely to play for the club again, so a great tournament could land him the move he seemingly desires.

    Limited minutes or not, CR7’s output has been poor this season. He is someone who steps up in big moments, though, so Portugal could well see the best of a player who will be hungrier than ever to prove himself. Fernando Santos’ side is capable of winning the entire thing or exiting in the group stage. There will be headlines no matter what.

    9. France

    Tournaments never seem straightforward for the defending World Cup champions. Injuries to key players, such as N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe and most recently Christopher Nkunku have massively changed the look of Didier Deschamps’ side.

    Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema is also struggling for fitness at the worst time possible for a side that has just a solitary win and three defeats in six games. Two of those came against Denmark, who they will probably need to overcome to win the group.

Nos. 8-5

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    AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 25: Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium Controls the ball during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 4 match between Netherlands and Belgium at Stadium Feijenoord on September 25, 2022 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Michael Bulder/NESImages/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
    Michael Bulder/NESImages/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

    8. Belgium

    The Golden Generation’s time is nearly up. It’s scary to think Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard will both be 35 by the next tournament in 2026.

    Belgium head to Qatar with a couple of alarming results against the Netherlands scattered among wins against lesser sides. The Dutch battered them 4-1 in June and 1-0 in September to instill fears that their potential will never be realised.

    Roberto Martinez is also likely to be without Romelu Lukaku for most of the group stage and will need him firing by the time the relatively light work of Canada, Morocco and Croatia is out of the way.

    7. Denmark

    The Danes have beaten France twice this year and also lost to Croatia twice in that time. Few are as accustomed to competing with this level of opponent as much as the side who made the Euro 2020 semi-finals in unbelievable circumstances after Christian Eriksen’s collapse.

    Eriksen should now play a key role in a squad that is rammed with leaders. Another test against France is exactly what Kasper Hjulmand’s team need to kick their brand of hard-working, incisive football into gear.

    6. Germany

    Hansi Flick’s Germany are box office no matter the result. Few teams have it in them to thrash Italy 5-2 before losing to Hungary 1-0. While the Germans usually save their best form for tournaments, a more inexperienced squad than usual is likely to need more gestation time.

    World Cup debutants such as Jamal Musiala, Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko may well end up being iconic names on this stage. But right now, it feels a step too far to suggest they will lift the trophy. Flick’s side first needs to focus on winning a group that includes Spain to open up an easier path through the knockouts.

    5. Croatia

    One last dance for Luka Modrić arrives with Croatia in banging form. Their unbeaten run of six games includes a win and draw against France as well as two victories over Denmark. It’s a squad that combines guts, match-winning quality and the youthful exuberance of new blood in a way that’s difficult not to get excited about.

    It’s likely the third group match against Belgium will decide who goes through as winners. Croatia historically galvanise on the world stage while Belgium tends to shrink, so there’s a chance Zlatko Dalić’s team earn themselves a favourable draw.

No. 4: Spain

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    BRAGA, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 27: Alvaro Morata of Spain scores their side's first goal during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 2 match between Portugal and Spain at Estadio Municipal de Braga on September 27, 2022 in Braga, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
    Carlos Rodrigues - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

    It’s easy for this Spain era to fly under the radar, but Luis Enrique’s side has lost just one game in their last 11. It might not be Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and David Villa, but they have the capability to go all the way in Qatar.

    Big question marks certainly remain in attack, which is likely to be led by Álvaro Morata. Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres will need to provide plenty of support if La Roja are to put games to bed, something they struggled with at Euro 2020. Mikel Oyarzabal’s absence through injury certainly won't help.

    In a tournament that feels incredibly open, being tough to beat might just edge it. Like Germany, Spain need to win Group E to stand the best chance of avoiding a more taxing run.

No. 3: Netherlands

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    AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 25: Virgil van Dijk of Netherlands celebrates with teammate Cody Gakpo after scoring their team's first goal during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 4 match between Netherlands and Belgium at Johan Cruijff ArenA on September 25, 2022 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Oliver Hardt - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
    Oliver Hardt - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

    Ah, Louis van Gaal. A chaotic, must-watch tournament manager if ever there was one. Equally capable of the brilliant and the ludicrous (just ask Tim Krul).

    Even so, the Netherlands are in a great moment. An unbeaten streak of 15 matches stretches back to the Euros for a country that has beaten Belgium twice and Denmark in that time. It’s not a classic Dutch squad by any means, with Vincent Janssen, Luuk de Jong and Wout Weghorst ranking among the most unstylish picks for years. But they do possess an in-form Cody Gakpo, the wonderful Frenkie de Jong and era-defining centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

    A little ugliness and different routes of getting things done might just be what the Dutch need to finally break their curse of having never won the World Cup. Total Football? Don’t forget to knock it long, lads.

No. 2: Brazil

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    PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 27: Neymar Junior of Brazil celebrates his goal by free kick during the international friendly match between Brazil and Tunisia at Parc des Princes on September 27, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
    Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

    Could this be Neymar’s World Cup? Few will feel as much pressure to deliver. Tite’s Brazil is unbeaten in 15 matches, with their last defeat coming to old rivals Argentina back in the 2021 Copa América final.

    Brazil possess an incredible combination of "been there, seen it all" veterans and exciting young talent. A leadership spine including Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Fabinho and, of course, Dani Alves should be invaluable both on and off the pitch. Tite’s attacking options alongside Neymar are unmatched, with Vinicius Junior and Raphinha likely to support them for the most part.

    The offensive talent just keeps coming when you read the squad list: Gabriel Jesus, Antony, Richarlison, Pedro, Rodrygo, Gabriel Martinelli. It’s almost a surprise not to see Prime Ronaldinho and 2002 Ronaldo included.

    Brazil are the betting favourites at the time of writing, but there’s one team that is in slightly better shape.

No. 1: Argentina

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 01: Angel Di Maria of Argentina celebrates after scoring his team's second goal with Lionel Messi of Argentina during the Finalissima 2022 match between Italy and Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
    Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

    Where to begin with Argentina?

    Firstly, they are unbeaten in 35 games and closing on Italy’s world-record run of 37. They haven’t conceded more than one goal in 23 games. They have scored 19 in their last five, including three against Italy. They have beaten Brazil twice and drawn once in their last three meetings. One of those victories, of course, was for the Copa.

    We’ve gotten this far without mentioning Lionel Messi. The man who is so often compared to Diego Maradona gets his last chance to bring home the trophy that has eluded his iconic career. He can start quickly, too, with group matches against Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland that could feature a couple of big scores.

    Beyond Messi, this is a squad that flaunts Ángel Di Maria, Lautaro Martínez, Paulo Dybala and Rodrigo De Paul ahead of hard men such as Lisandro Martinez and Cristian Romero. It’s a terrific balance, and anything less than reaching the final would be a disappointment.


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