UNITED STATES—The 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally among us and is set to be one of the most exciting iterations of the tournament in recent history. Now taking place in the winter due to the extreme weather conditions in Qatar in the summer, this unprecedented event will soon be lighting up our screens as we sit in anticipation as fans.
One of the most exciting things about each World Cup tournament is the prospect of shocks and upsets. Many have been provided in each edition with minnows progressing past giants and many Davids beating Goliaths. In 2002, South Korea made it all the way to the Semi-Finals defeating Italy and Spain on the way. In 2018, Germany finished bottom of what should have been a straightforward group losing to Mexico and South Korea, who they had beaten in the 2002 Semi-Final.
These kinds of stories are what makes the World Cup great and there are a few more prospects this year who could upset the odds. Whilst World Cup Odds currently have the likes of Brazil, Argentina and France as favorites, let’s take a look at the best underdog teams at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Wales goes into the tournament entering just their second ever World Cup finals. Their rise up the FIFA rankings over the last few years has been incredible and they have slowly started to become a footballing nation. Ranked as low as 37th in 2015, they rose all the way up to 9th that year on their quest to qualify for the European Championships. They appeared in their first ever Euros tournament that year and shocked everyone to reach the Semi-Final.
Although they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, they would qualify for Euro 2020 and then secured their first appearance in a World Cup tournament in 64 years when they beat Ukraine in the playoff final 1-0. They have the always electric Gareth Bale carrying their front line and he will be integral to their success. Brennan Johnson and Dan James provide some exciting attacking outlets alongside Bale and their solid defensive shape is sure to frustrate even the best of sides. Their biggest fixture in the group stage is undoubtably their match with historic rivals England, who they lost to via a last-minute Daniel Sturridge goal in the group stages of Euro 2016. They have already proved they can provide shocks and are not to be underestimated in Qatar.
Another of the exciting underdog teams are Wales’ groupmates the United States. Their rise to prominence has been somewhat similar to Wales’, currently ranked 16th in the world compared to 33rd in 2015. They now have a golden generation of talent compared to previous squads with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest all playing at some of the biggest clubs in world football. They finished third in their qualifying group behind Canada and Mexico, though just three points behind them. With fellow underdogs Wales and minnows Iran in their World Cup group, they have a great chance at reaching the knockout rounds this year and with a wealth of talent from Europe’s top leagues in their ranks, they can give any side a run for their money this year.
Senegal comes into this tournament fresh off of winning the African Cup of Nations in 2021 and have quietly assembled a team full of world class talent. Champions League winners Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly who is one of the best centre backs in the world are the pick of the talent in their squad. They also boast young talent such as Pape Matar Sarr, Ismaila Sarr and Nicolas Jackson who will provide some flair to the squad. The Lions of Teranga beat Egypt 3-1 on penalties to qualify for the tournament and have been drawn against the Netherlands, Qatar and Ecuador in the group stages. The latter two seem to be winnable for Aliou Cisse’s team on paper and Senegal have a great chance at progressing to the round of 16 and beyond if players like Mane and Koulibaly play to their best.
Denmark had a great showing in last year’s European Championships before bowing out in the Semi-Final at the hands of England. They topped their qualifying group, losing just once in 10 games on their path to the 2022 World Cup group stages. They have fresh young talent coming through their ranks like Mikkel Damsgaard, Jesper Lindstrom and Alexander Bah as well as established stars like Christian Eriksen, Pierre Hojberg and Andreas Christensen. De Rød-Hvide will no doubt be looking to build on their impressive showing at the Euros and with Tunisia and Australia rounding out their group with France, they have an excellent chance at doing just that.