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World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter

5:30 PM IST 17/11/21
Harry Kane Kylian Mbappe Cristiano Ronaldo GFX
With almost half of the 32 qualifiers now confirmed, GOAL ranks the sides most likely to challenge in 12 months' time

Given its timing and its setting, the 2022 World Cup promises to be one like no other, and now it just 12 months away from kicking-off.

Teams from around the globe have been busy putting together their qualifying campaigns, with 13 sides now guaranteed to be taking part in Qatar.

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

GOAL ranks the current top 20 contenders...

  • Qatar celebrate 2021

    #20 Qatar

    As one of only 13 teams to currently be guaranteed a place at the 2022 World Cup, it would be unfair to keep Qatar off these rankings, at least for now.

    The hosts have not impressed in their recent friendlies against European opposition, but be warned - they have been known to turn it on when it matters most.

    The 2019 Asian Cup champions also went all the way to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup after being invited into the 2021 edition of the Concacaf competition, and few will want to draw the first-time finalists when the tournament eventually rolls around.

  • Canada celebrate 2021

    #19 Canada

    The surprise leaders in Concacaf qualifying after eight matches, Canada look on course to reach just their second World Cup, and first since 1986.

    Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David have emerged as the young leaders of a squad that is expected to peak when they co-host the tournament in 2026, but signs are that they are ahead of schedule.

    Tuesday's win over Mexico, meanwhile, signalled that they can more than hold their own against sides with more experience of major tournaments, and as such could cause a surprise or two should they secure their place in Qatar.

  • Aleksandar Mitrovic Serbia 2021

    #18 Serbia

    Serbia stunned world football earlier this week when Aleksandar Mitrovic's late header secured their qualification for Qatar 2022 and left Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo facing a trip to the play-offs.

    Mitrovic is just one of a number of star forwards around whom this Serbia squad is built, with Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic, Luka Jovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic all capable of being matchwinners in the final third.

    They did, however, only keep one clean sheet in eight qualifying matches, and will need to tighten up in defence over the next year if they are to continue causing surprises at the World Cup.

  • Mohamed Salah Egypt

    #17 Egypt

    One of the biggest disappointments of the 2018 World Cup, Egypt will be looking to put things right should they qualify for the 2022 edition.

    Their hopes of improving in Qatar will again rest on the shoulders of Mohamed Salah, who they will hope is still playing at his current level in 12 months' time.

    If the Liverpool forward remains the most outstanding performer in world football over that time, then a place in at least the knockout rounds might not be beyond the north African outfit.

  • Raul Jimenez Mexico 2021

    #16 Mexico

    Expected by many to cruise through Concacaf qualifying, two defeats in November have raised some doubts as to whether this Mexico side are quite at the level of previous iterations.

    Leading man Raul Jimenez has struggled for form since returning from his serious head injury, and without him finding the net a team that regularly reaches the knockout stages of World Cups looks a little toothless in attack.

    Despite those losses to the United States and Canada, they should still face few issues in reaching Qatar 2022, but how well they compete once they are there is certainly in doubt.

  • Noah Okafor Switzerland 2021

    #15 Switzerland

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

    A change of coach to Murat Yakin does not seem to have stalled one of the more consistent squads in world football, and it will be the usual suspects of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Yann Sommer who will again be relied upon to lead the way come 2022.

  • Sadio Mane Senegal 2021

    #14 Senegal

    The five African teams that will compete in Qatar will not be decided until March 2022, but right now Senegal look the pick of the bunch.

    Runners-up at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, they continue to lean on the brilliance of captain Sadio Mane for inspiration, though he is far from the only potential game-changer in their ranks.

    In Edouard Mendy they have one of the world's best goalkeepers, Kalidou Koulibaly is dripping in experience of playing at the highest level of European football with Napoli, while it would be a surprise if Ismaila Sarr is still at Watford by the time the World Cup comes around given his attacking ability.

  • Ivan Perisic Croatia 2021

    #13 Croatia

    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 he will again lead a squad that is transitioning slowly away from the golden generation that brought them so much success through the 2010s.

    There are some encouraging signs as youngsters such as RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol have begun to hold down places in the team, but they will need a kind draw to go deep in 2022.

  • USMNT celebrate 2021

    #12 United States

    Having failed to qualify in 2018, the United States are well on their way to putting that right four years on.

    Despite the odd disappointing result in qualifying thus far, Gregg Berhalter's side sit second in Concacaf qualifying just past the halfway point, with three statement wins over great rivals Mexico in 2021 also on their ledger.

    Likely to be one of the youngest squads in Qatar once they qualify, it would probably be asking too much for the USMNT to go deep this time around, but signs are good for the 2026 co-hosts to be among the favourites on home soil next time out.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 2021

    #11 Portugal

    Have you heard the one about the increasingly under-pressure coach who is struggling to live up to expectations, in part because he cannot find a way to fit an ageing Cristiano Ronaldo into a team of highly-talented individuals?

    No, we're not talking about Manchester United, but Portugal, with Fernando Santos finding himself facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-levels of scrutiny on the Iberian peninsula.

    The Euro 2016 winners' failure to qualify automatically from their group means that Ronaldo will need to go through the play-offs to keep his hopes of ending his career with a World Cup alive, though it is difficult to see his team going all the way in Qatar if current trends do not change drastically over the next 12 months.

  • Leonardo Bonucci Italy 2021

    #10 Italy

    From the ecstasy of winning Euro 2020 to the disappointment of failing to qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup, Italy have been on an emotional rollercoaster over the past four months.

    Roberto Mancini's side are still well-fancied to make it through March's play-offs and secure their place in Qatar, but there must now be questions asked as to whether their performances over the summer can be sustained long-term.

    There likely needs to be a changing of the guard in defence, for example, while their lack of a top-quality striker is also hurting them, meaning the Azzurri have plenty to figure out if they are to build on their memorable 2021.

  • Netherlands celebrate 2021

    #9 Netherlands

    After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the Netherlands are back having secured their place with a win over Norway in the final round of UEFA group games.

    Louis van Gaal is back in charge, too, and seems to have got things back on track for the Oranje after they were rocked by Ronald Koeman's departure to take the Barcelona job in 2020.

    Virgil van Dijk's return to the defence has also been a major boost following his year out with injury, and if Memphis Depay can keep up his electric form from qualifying then the Dutch potentially have game-changers at both ends of the field.

  • Denmark celebrate 2021

    #8 Denmark

    Euro 2020's surprise package have maintained the momentum they built up over the summer, and only conceded their first goal in World Cup qualification after their place in Qatar had been confirmed.

    Kasper Hjulmand is emerging as one of the brightest coaches in international football, and though Christian Eriksen's absence is still being felt, the emergence of exciting youngsters Mikkel Damsgaard, Jonas Wind and Mohamed Daramy should give the Danes an X-factor in attack come 2022.

    Combine that with their famously mean defence, and another deep tournament run is not out of the question.

  • Lionel Messi Argentina 2021

    #7 Argentina

    Lionel Messi may have finally broken his international trophy duck by winning the Copa America in 2021, but there are some who believe his legacy will not truly be complete unless he lifts the ultimate international prize before his career ends.

    Qatar 2022, then, presents what will likely be the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's final chance at winning a World Cup, and the signs are pretty positive a year out from the tournament kicking-off.

    Lionel Scaloni has overseen a culture shift since taking over as manager of the Albiceleste, which in turn has revitalised Messi's love for the international game, and though there are question marks over whether their defence can hold up against some of the world's best attacking units, they have the players at the other end of the pitch who can be match-winners themselves.

  • Belgium celebrate 2021

    #6 Belgium

    There is no doubt that the much-vaunted golden generation of Belgian football has likely missed its best chance to win a major trophy, but they should still go into Qatar 2022 believing that they can go all the way.

    Much will rest on Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to lead the way for Roberto Martinez's side, with this likely the last chance either player will have to make a major impact on a World Cup.

    The emergence of youngsters Jeremy Doku and Charles De Ketelaere is also exciting from an attacking point of view, though defensive frailties remain the biggest stumbling block to the Red Devils going all the way.

  • Brazil celebrate 2021

    #5 Brazil

    Having booked their place at Qatar 2022 with six games to spare in Conmebol qualifying, there is no doubt that Brazil have found consistency under Tite in recent years.

    Neymar remains the headline attraction for the Selecao, but he is now surrounded by young attacking talent, such as Vinicius Jr. and Raphinha, who will be expected to ease the burden on the world's most expensive player.

    They also boast a mean defence, marshalled by Marquinhos, and two of the best goalkeepers in the world in Alisson and Ederson, with the only question marks being whether they are merely flat-track bullies or a team that can compete with the world's best on the biggest stage.

  • Alvaro Morata Luis Enrique Spain 2021

    #4 Spain

    Having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and the final of the Nations League, Spain are certainly trending in the right direction under Luis Enrique.

    Though the former Barcelona boss continues to chop and change his team from game to game, there is a sense that he is building a deep pool of players from which he can select the most in-form when the World Cup rolls around.

    By then it is hoped that the likes of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi will have 12 more months experience under their belts, with the Barcelona teenagers having already been marked out as the potential leaders of La Roja for the next decade or so.

  • Thomas Muller Germany 2021

    #3 Germany

    The Joachim Low-era may have ended in disappointment for Germany, but the early signs are that Hansi Flick has them moving back in the right direction.

    The former Bayern Munich boss has won all seven of his matches since taking charge post-Euro 2020, and has seen his side score 31 goals in that time while conceding just twice.

    Die Mannschaft can boast one of the best young forward lines in world football, and that combined with one of the world's best midfielders in Joshua Kimmich and an experienced defence means they once again find themselves back among the favourites for a major tournament.

  • Harry Maguire England 2021

    #2 England

    Though there remain some questions over Gareth Southgate's somewhat defensive approach to tournament football, there is no question that England are continuing to grow under his management.

    The Three Lions went unbeaten through their qualifying group (the only side to do so in a six-team group) and have a number of talented young players who are about to enter their peak years.

    After a semi-final loss in 2018 and defeat in the final of Euro 2020 on penalties, Qatar 2022 could realistically end England's 56-year wait for a major international trophy.

  • Kylian Mbappe France 2021

    #1 France

    Though they came up well short of expectations at Euro 2020, France will still head to Qatar with the strongest squad of any competing nation, and as such are favourites to defend the crown they won in 2018.

    Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema have shown in recent months that they are building a formidable relationship in attack, with the only thing likely to stand in the Nations League winners' way is the conservative nature of their coach, Didier Deschamps.