World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France, England and the USMNT fall after final preparations

World Cup power rankings HIC 16:9Getty/GOAL

Given its timing and its setting, the 2022 World Cup promises to be an edition like no other.

Teams from around the globe have been busy putting together their final preparations for the tournament, with some looking in better shape than others ahead of the big kick-off in November.

But, with just seven weeks to go, who are the favourites to lift the trophy, who will be the surprise packages and who are most likely to be also-rans?

GOAL will be ranking all the contenders throughout the build-up and during the tournament, and here's how they are currently shaping up...

(Last updated: April 1 following group-stage draw, when only 29 qualifiers were confirmed.)

  • Saudi Araba Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    32Saudi Arabia

    Last time: 29th

    Saudi Arabia are back at their sixth World Cup since first qualifying in 1994, but they will have to go some to match their debut performance of reaching the last 16.

    Though they topped their final qualifying group with a mean defensive record, they struggled for goals throughout, netting just 12 times in 10 matches.

    They will likely need a forward to catch fire, too, given they will be coming up against Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski in the group stages.

  • Australia Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    31Australia

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    Australia snuck through on penalties against Peru in their intercontinental play-off to reach the World Cup finals for the fifth successive time, though they face an uphill battle to equal their best performance, which came when they reached the last 16 in 2006.

    They will face France and Denmark in the group stages, and given they won just four of 10 games in their qualifying group, it is clear that they are not as strong as they once were.

    As such, little will be expected of them in Qatar.

  • Tunisia Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    30Tunisia

    Last time: 28th

    Tunisia had kept nine straight clean sheets before Brazil put five past them on Tuesday evening, and they will need that defence to step up if they are to make any impact in Qatar.

    France and Denmark will fancy themselves to repeat what Brazil did to the North African outfit when they meet in the groups, with Australia making up the numbers in Group D.

    Tunisia have never reached the knockout rounds in five previous World Cup appearances, and that pattern is unlikely to change in 2022.

  • Qatar Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    29Qatar

    Last time: 27th

    Qatar were the Pot One side that every other team wanted to draw, but overlooking them would be foolish.

    Finishing in the top two while facing the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador will be far from easy, but the 2019 Asian Cup winners do seem to be able to raise their game when tournaments come around.

    Host nations have been written off before, only to produce some shock results, so do not rule out Qatar too quickly.

  • Costa Rica Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    28Costa Rica

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    Having beaten New Zealand in their intercontinental play-off to qualify for the tournament, Costa Rica will be hopeful of repeating their 2014 heroics, where they reached the quarter-finals.

    Back then, they topped a group that included Italy, England and Uruguay, and they will need to similarly upset the odds this time around given they are in a group with Spain, Germany and an improving Japan.

    A last-gasp win over Uzbekistan in their final pre-tournament friendly did not bode well for the future, but they do have enough quality to ask questions of superior sides if they perform well.

  • Canada Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    27Canada

    Last time: 24th

    Aside from European champions Italy's failure to reach the tournament, Canada were the story of World Cup qualification, topping the CONCACAF table to reach their first global tournament for 36 years.

    As co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup, that is the competition they believe they can make a real splash in, but they are not travelling to Qatar as mere tourists either.

    Alphonso Davies is a player that Belgium, Croatia and Morocco will have to prepare thoroughly for, and a first ever win at the World Cup should not be beyond them if the Bayern Munich star is firing on all cylinders.

  • Iran Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    26Iran

    Last time: 26th

    Iran have only missed two World Cups since 1998, and will be there again this time after topping their group in the third round of Asian qualifying.

    They won eight of their 10 games, and conceded just four goals as they made relatively light work of claiming a spot in Qatar.

    They backed that up by beating Uruguay and drawing with Senegal in their final pre-tournament friendlies, and will be a tough nut for England, the United States and Wales to crack.

  • Wales Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    25Wales

    Last time: NEW ENTRY

    Wales secured their first appearance at the World Cup since 1958 with victory over Ukraine back in June, and harbour hopes of reaching the knockout rounds, as they have done at the last two European Championships.

    Gareth Bale has played his best football on the international stage over the past few years, and will be keen to put on a show in what could be his final major tournament appearance.

    A grudge match against England in the group stages has lifted excitement levels even further, even if this current team is not of the level of the 2016 Euros semi-finalists.

  • Ecuador Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    24Ecuador

    Last time: 23rd

    The youngest team in CONMEBOL qualifying, Ecuador are regarded as being a side on the up in South America, and proved it by qualifying in fourth position.

    Their best years are undoubtedly ahead of them, but they will get the chance to announce themselves on the global stage when they take on hosts Qatar in the tournament-opener on November 20.

    From there, things get more difficult against the Netherlands and Senegal, but a win on opening day could yet set them up for a shock win or two further down the line.

  • Cameroon Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    23Cameroon

    Last time: 21st

    Cameroon backed up their third-placed finish at the Africa Cup of Nations with a stunning, last-gasp win over Algeria in their World Cup play-off to secure a spot in Qatar.

    Though they are not the star-studded team of previous generations, manager Rigobert Song seemed to have found a winning formula in the early months of 2022.

    Recent defeats to Uzbekistan and South Korea, however, have cast doubt on whether they can truly challenge Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia for a last-16 spot.

  • Japan Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    22Japan

    Last time: 25th

    For the seventh straight World Cup, Japan have secured a place at the tournament, finishing second in their final Asian qualifying group in Asian qualifying.

    Their reward, if you can call it that, was being placed in Group E alongside Germany and Spain, as well as Costa Rica, but they have the attacking potency to cause a shock.

    Their recent win over the United States perfectly illustrated that point, and while their draw is tough, do not write them off quite yet.

  • Ghana Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    21Ghana

    Last time: 22nd

    After their embarrassing group-stage exit at the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana managed to pick themselves back up and edge out great rivals Nigeria in their World Cup play-off.

    Now, they can prepare to face another team that they would love to beat in Uruguay, given the heartbreaking way in which the Black Stars were knocked out of the 2010 quarter-finals.

    Since qualifying, they have added Inaki Williams and Tariq Lamptey to their ranks, and another run to the knockout stages is not beyond them.

  • Morocco Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    20Morocco

    Last time: 20th

    Morocco might not be every fan's first choice to sit down and watch during the World Cup, but they have the potential to be a surprise package in Qatar.

    Only twice in their final six qualifying matches did they fail to score three goals, and they were unlucky to lose to Egypt in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

    In Achraf Hakimi, they also arguably possess the most exciting young player in African football, and a group containing Belgium, Croatia and Canada is not as daunting as it might have been.

    Mark Morocco down as GOAL World Cup Power Rankings' dark horses for a place in the last 16...

  • Mexico Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    19Mexico

    Last time: 18th

    Mexico play Argentina perhaps more than any other side outside of CONCACAF, and it rarely goes well for El Tri, so a second-placed finish in their group is likely the best they can hope for.

    To secure that, they will likely have to stop Robert Lewandowski and Poland, while finding a way to score themselves after a qualification campaign that was short on goals.

    It is essential, then, that Raul Jimenez is fit to play in Qatar, with the Wolves striker now facing a race against time to be ready for the tournament.

  • USMNT Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    18United States

    Last time: 15th

    Few teams had a more underwhelming final international window than the U.S., as Greg Berhalter's team failed to score against either Japan or Saudi Arabia.

    Returning to the tournament for the first time since 2014 and with a new generation of talented young players, many hoped that Qatar 2022 would provide a springboard for the USMNT to truly challenge on home soil in four years' time.

    Recent results, however, suggest that they may struggle to even make it out of their group.

  • South Korea Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    17South Korea

    Last time: 19th

    Without a doubt the biggest star of the Asian game, Son Heung-min will be asked to lead from the front for South Korea as they aim to reach the knockout rounds of the World Cup for just the third time.

    The Tottenham forward was the joint-top scorer in the third and final round of Asian qualifying, as his team remained unbeaten until after their qualification for Qatar 2022 was sealed.

    They will now take on Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana in Qatar, and though they may well end up being the least fancied of those sides when the tournament kicks-off, they are capable of springing a surprise or two.

  • Uruguay Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    16Uruguay

    Last time: 16th

    In what looks to be the most open group of the eight, Uruguay could as easily top Group H as they could finish bottom of it.

    They will certainly be tested by a Ghana side that will be out for revenge after Luis Suarez's antics back in 2010, while Portugal and South Korea both have iconic forwards leading the way.

    Uruguay, of course, have that too with Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front, while Darwin Nunez has emerged as a serious goal threat over the past year.

    However, the injury suffered by Ronald Araujo in the recent friendly loss to Iran potentially leaves them vulnerable at the back.

  • Serbia Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    15Serbia

    Last time: 17th

    Serbia stunned European football when they nipped ahead of Portugal right in the final seconds of UEFA qualifying to book an automatic spot in Qatar, and they will be confident of generating more shocks in Qatar.

    In terms of the group stages, beating Brazil would be a greater achievement than even taking down Portugal, but in Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, they have the weapons to at least test the Selecao.

    In reality, though, they will be aiming to beat out Switzerland and Cameroon for second place in what looks a fairly open group below the top-seeded Selecao.

  • Switzerland Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    14Switzerland

    Last time: 14th

    Perennial qualifiers for major tournaments, Switzerland have done it again, and this time pipped Italy to an automatic place in Qatar after topping their UEFA group.

    They have backed that up with Nations League wins over Spain and Portugal, which will stand them in good stead for when they face Brazil in Qatar.

    The Swiss' experience of reaching the knockout stages in major tournaments will make them the favourites to join Brazil in the last 16, but progression is unlikely to be straightforward, with Serbia and Cameroon also in their group.

  • Poland Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    13Poland

    Last time: 12th

    Robert Lewandowski has arguably been the best player in the world over the past three years, so it would have felt wrong for him not to have the chance to prove as much on the game's grandest stage.

    He has shown few signs of slowing down since joining Barcelona over the summer, and all eyes will be on Lewandowski as Poland look to put two successive group-stage exits at major tournaments behind them.

    Quite how far he can carry what is otherwise a relatively limited squad, however, remains to be seen.

  • Croatia Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    12Croatia

    Last time: 13th

    Beaten finalists in 2018, expectations for Croatia in Qatar will be much lower, though they will still head into the tournament expecting to be competitive and potentially win at least one knockout game.

    Luka Modric continues to perform at a very high level as he begins his preparations for a fourth World Cup, and the Real Madrid man will lead a squad that is transitioning slowly away from the 'Golden Generation' that brought them so much success through the 2010s.

    A run of four successive wins saw them qualify for the Nations League finals, and they will need to continue that form in Qatar, particularly with Germany or Spain likely to be waiting for them if they reach the last 16.

  • Senegal Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    11Senegal

    Last time: 11th

    The champions of Africa may have been in Pot Three for the draw, but they will be the second-favourites to win their group after being placed alongside Qatar, the Netherlands and Ecuador.

    Though none of those games will be a formality, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly as individuals are far better than any players Qatar or Ecuador can call upon.

    Aliou Cisse's side have a real shot of topping Group A if they can avoid defeat against the Dutch in their opening game, meaning a repeat of their run to the quarter-finals in 2002 cannot be ruled out.

  • Portugal Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    10Portugal

    Last time: 8th

    Portugal rarely do things the easy way, and a group containing Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana certainly has the potential to provide some banana skins.

    Cristiano Ronaldo is desperate, however, to win the World Cup in what is likely to be his final appearance at the tournament, so expect him to be leading from the front in Qatar.

    And while the 2016 European champions have plenty of talent behind their talismanic captain, their form and performances have been underwhelming of late, leaving them vulnerable to an early exit.

  • Denmark Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    9Denmark

    Last time: 10th

    Set to be named as 'dark horses' by pretty much every pundit heading into the tournament, Denmark certainly have what it takes to repeat their Euro 2020 run to the semi-finals.

    Christian Eriksen is back and pulling the strings, while manager Kasper Hjulmand has built a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

    That they have beaten their Group C opponents France twice in recent months will give them even more confidence, and they are a team few will want to face in the latter stages.

  • Belgium Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    8Belgium

    Last time: 9th

    With their 'Golden Generation' either having moved on or entering the closing stages of their careers, Belgium find themselves in a transitional phase as they head to Qatar.

    Kevin De Bruyne remains perhaps the best creative midfielder in the world, but he will need Romelu Lukaku to rediscover his best form if the Red Devils are to provide enough of a threat in attack.

    A prospective last-16 clash with either Spain or Germany looks pretty daunting, too, and so an early exit might be on the cards for Roberto Martinez's team.

  • Netherlands Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    7Netherlands

    Last time: 7th

    Unbeaten in 15 matches since Louis van Gaal returned to the helm in the aftermath of Euro 2020, the Netherlands will enter the World Cup as one of the competition's form teams.

    Their main strength lies in a defence that is so solid that Matthijs de Ligt cannot break into it, but they have attacking firepower too, as highlighted in their 4-1 away win over Belgium in June.

    They should make it out of Group A in Qatar, and could be a dark horse to make a deep run through the knockout stages.

  • England Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    6England

    Last time: 4th

    Though Monday's second-half comeback against Germany restored some hope, there is no doubt that England have gone backwards since reaching the Euro 2020 final just over a year ago.

    Gareth Southgate will lead the most talented Three Lions squad in over a decade in Qatar, but severe questions are now being asked as to whether he is the right manager to get the best out of them.

    Form can go out of the window at major tournaments and England still have the players to go all the way, but more underachievement on the biggest stage now looks a lot more likely than it did at the start of 2022.

  • Germany Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    5Germany

    Last time: 6th

    Germany may have won just two of their eight matches in 2022, but the signs are there that Hansi Flick is building a team to be feared in the coming years.

    Jamal Musiala is blossoming into one of the finest young talents in European football, while they possess plenty of experience in the shape of Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Ilkay Gundogan and Joshua Kimmich.

    Having been placed in the same group as Spain for the World Cup, the only thing holding them back could be a tough draw in the knockout rounds if they cannot secure top spot.

  • Spain Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    4Spain

    Last time: 5th

    Spain were the unlucky top seed who were drawn alongside Germany from Pot Two, setting up a titanic battle between two of the favourites for the tournament in the opening round.

    La Roja should still make it through, but coming against Hansi Flick's side increases the possibility of them doing so as runners-up, which in turn could lead to a more difficult last-16 tie.

    They did win their Nations League group in the build-up to the World Cup, and though there are questions over whether they have the attack to take advantage of their creative talents in midfield, Luis Enrique's side are in decent shape heading to Qatar.

  • Argentina Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    3Argentina

    Last time: 3rd

    Lionel Messi & Co. will have been pretty happy with how April's group-stage draw panned out, as they are slated to face Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

    Having Nicolas Otamendi to deal with Robert Lewandowski might give Lionel Scaloni a few sleepless nights between now and November but, on the whole, the Copa America champions look well placed to make a deep run.

    Messi is back in form for club and country while Scaloni has fostered a togetherness and spirit within his squad that has the potential to carry them all the way.

  • France Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    2France

    Last time: 1st

    It has not been a happy 2022 for the defending champions, as France won just one of their six Nations League matches and narrowly avoided relegation from the competition.

    Perhaps most worryingly, they were beaten twice by Denmark, whom they will meet again in the group-stages in Qatar.

    Factor in injury concerns over the likes of Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Jules Kounde, as well as question marks over Kylian Mbappe's attitude, and not is all well for Didier Deschamps.

    So, while they may have the most talented squad on paper, France certainly look beatable.

  • Brazil Power Rankings GFXGetty/GOAL

    1Brazil

    Last time: 1st

    Want to know how good Brazil's forward line is ahead of the World Cup? There is a genuine chance that Gabriel Jesus won't make it into Tite's squad.

    The Arsenal man missed the Selecao's recent friendly wins over Ghana and Tunisia, but they still managed eight goals as an in-form Neymar led the way.

    Their midfield and defence is also pretty strong, making the five-time winners the undoubted favourites at this stage.