Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
With the 2022 World Cup group stage now drawn, the path to the final is now a lot clearer. While the tournament doesn’t start for another seven months, we’re taking an early look at each group.
Below you can see our group-by-group predictions, while we’re also looking at the outright winner odds and a potential route to the final for Gareth Southgate’s England.
Don’t forget you can also check out our team-by-team guide to all 37 teams who featured in the draw.
World Cup group stage accumulator
World Cup winner odds
The draw has resulted in a shift in the outright odds, with Brazil’s price being cut following what is seen as a favourable draw. England have moved into second-favourites after their group was revealed, while Spain and Germany landing each other has seen them drift to 8/1 and 11/1 respectively.
World Cup group predictions
Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
This is the group which everyone outside the first seeds wanted, with Qatar the top-seeded side in this pool. That works out well for Netherlands, who get to avoid the favourites and they are now firm favourites to win this group.
It’s also not the worst draw for the hosts, who will kick off the tournament against Ecuador. However, it’s tough to see them getting out of this group ahead of African champions Senegal.
Group winners: Netherlands
England, Iran, USA, Wales, Scotland or Ukraine
There are plenty of interesting subplots to this group, which is the first of three groups which is going to be finalised in June. Both Wales and Scotland will be aiming to meet their old rivals, while Ukraine’s Euro 2020 display suggests any of those three could push the Three Lions.
In landing the USA England have avoided some big names, meeting a side who struggled to get over the line in Concacaf qualifying. Iran round off the group and they troubled both Portugal and Spain in 2018, but they’re more likely to trouble the US than England this time around.
Group winners: England
Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
This lineup feels like a peak World Cup group. Argentina rarely seem to get tested in the first round of the competition while Saudi Arabia are consistent qualifiers but rarely manage more than that. Mexico always find a way to their customary last 16 exit and Poland consistently underperform at major tournaments.
This looks like a straight fight for second behind Argentina, with Mexico the side I’d back to pip Poland to the last 16.
Group winners: Argentina
France, UAE, Australia or Peru, Denmark, Tunisia
It’s hard to see Tunisia or any of the three sides from the first intercontinental playoff matching the top two in this group. While four of the last five World Cup winners have gone out at the group stage, it is tough to see that curse continuing.
That leaves France battling Denmark for top spot, with the French my choice to claim first place.
Group winners: France
Spain, New Zealand or Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
Japan ran Belgium close in 2018 and they should be tricky opponents for both Spain and Germany in Group E. However, it’s hard to ignore the battle between the 2010 and 2014 winners, who are both looking to recover from underwhelming showings four years ago.
While Spain were seeded and are the favourites to top the group, Germany’s rebuild looks really impressive and I’d side with them to shut down a Spanish side who lack a proven goalscorer.
Group winners: Germany
Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
This is Belgium’s final crack at the World Cup with their golden generation, so landing 2018 finalists Croatia isn’t exactly ideal. However, Croatia’s golden generation is even further along than the Red Devils, so this could be the tournament where their creaking side falls short.
This is actually a good group for a Canada side who have made great strides in recent years. The Canadians had the best record in North American qualifying and they look like a great outside bet for the last 16.
Group winners: Belgium
Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
This is the closest we get to a heavyweight group, but tournament favourites Brazil look to be a cut above. The dramatic fashion in which Cameroon qualified caught a lot of attention, but they may not be able to match Brazil or two talented European sides.
Serbia and Switzerland are the sides responsible for Portugal and Italy ending up in the playoffs, so they should be taken seriously. Given the attacking talent they can call upon, back Serbia to edge out the Swiss and join Brazil in the last 16.
Group winners: Brazil
Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Uruguay are a side in transition, which could allow both Ghana and South Korea the chance to pip them into the knockout round. However, the South Americans have happy memories of Portugal having beaten them in the last 16 in 2018.
Despite that, none of these three sides are likely to stop Portugal making the last 16.
Group winners: Portugal
Second-place: South Korea
86/1 World Cup to qualify accumulator
Having picked our 16 sides to make the knockout round, we’ve also put together an 86/1 acca backing Senegal, USA, Mexico, Denmark, Canada and Serbia to make it out of their group.
England’s potential route to the final
England know their group stage opponents, while they have a better idea of their potential opponents in the knockout rounds. They will fancy their chances of winning Group B, which would pit them against the Group A runners-up. You’d imagine that’d be Senegal.
After that, things could be tricky. If the favourites all pull through, the Three Lions could have France, Germany, Belgium and Portugal on their side of the draw. Things could change when actual football starts being played, but it’s hard to see them getting the kind of run which they had in 2018.
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