World Cup Power Rankings 2022: Top Teams Heading Into The Tournament
With the World Cup right around the corner, it is time to check up on the World Cup Power Rankings heading into the tournament.
World Cup Power Rankings 2022
For the first time in over four years, we can finally say it’s a World Cup month! As we get closer and closer to the tournament, the squads are starting to take form, and we can really start to get an idea of who’s going to shine on the biggest stage in sports. Let’s take a look at the top band of contenders, and a few underdogs who have a chance to leave their mark on football history this fall in Qatar. Find more information throughout the tournament here.
They’re the most successful team in history with 5 World Cups, the odds-on favorites to win the event, and the #1 team in FIFA’s men’s national team rankings. It’s not hard to justify Brazil’s spot atop our World Cup power rankings, but in seemingly every World Cup since 2002, Brazil has been highly regarded but failed to even make a single final; why should we believe that this year is any different?
There’s plenty of intrinsic reasons, such as the growth they’ve shown during recent Copa America campaigns, where they came just a goal short of perhaps back-to-back wins in the competition, their relative health coming into the tournament, their experienced core including the likes of Dani Alves and Neymar, and the excellent depth they show at almost every position, save for maybe outside back. But perhaps the biggest thing Brazil have going for them is the lack of a true juggernaut in world football at this moment.
We’ll get to some of the other teams later but as far as I can tell, this field is wide open and the Seleção Canarinho are best poised to take advantage. If there’s one Achilles Heel I’d keep an eye on, it’s the goalkeeper position, at which Brazil are almost too blessed; uncertainty regarding the starting spot surrounded the position at the last Copa America, and you could see that it took a toll on Premier League rivals Alisson and Ederson.
This is quite a risky pick at #2; I could easily see this team failing to come together and exiting early, like they did in Euro 2020 where they lost a round of 16 match to Switzerland. There are so many talented players on this squad, and I don’t want to diminish any of their contributions to the World Cup run in 2018. That being said, the cogs that really made that clock glide like a Rolex were Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, the profoundly effective do-it-all midfield duo. These two allowed France to utterly control the game in all aspects, but they’ll be out this season. Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni are incredibly talented youngsters and France are extremely fortunate to have them stepping into those roles, but the experience and chemistry that Pogba and Kanté have developed over the year is not replaceable in the short term. Still, France have incredible amounts of talent from top to bottom.
Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé have the potential to be the most terrifying goalscoring duo in the international arena right now, and Olivier Giroud is no slouch himself. We’ve already touched on the midfield, and the back line figures to be essentially the same group as in 2018 except older, and with Theo Hernández, now by far the best fullback in world football, joining the effort. Goalkeeper will be interesting to watch for the French as well; Hugo Lloris, the keeper from the champion squad, is still around but he’s 35; Mike Maignan is 27 and one of the best in the business, but his injury situation is quite uncertain headed into the tournament.
Led as always by Leo Messi, La Selección are in their best form in many years, if not the whole modern era. They’ve finally captured that elusive Copa América, and at 35 games unbeaten (24 wins, 11 draws) they’re closing in on Italy’s international record 37-game run. While the narratives will surely center around Messi, and rightly so, there are a lot of other highly talented players who will be looking to leave their mark for their country this fall. Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria join the legend up front to form a high-powered and well-matched attacking group, even with Paulo Dybala likely unavailable for the tournament.
The midfield is the least star-studded portion of the side, but there are steady presences such as Rodrigo De Paul and Giovanni Lo Celso. In what has rarely been a given amongst Messi’s Argentine sides, there’s plenty to be excited about on the back line as well, with the likes of Lisandro Martínez and Nicolas Otamendi ready to provide the last line of defense ahead of superstar keeper Emiliano Martínez. This team certainly has its shortcomings roster-wise, namely in the midfield and at outside back, but with the form they’re in and Messi gunning for true GOAT status, it’s hard to bet against them.
Since 1966, England’s fans have been waiting for more international glory and since 1996, they’ve sang each tournament summer that football is “coming home.” However, it’s never once been true; that world title in ‘66 remains their only international trophy, and the Euro final last summer is their only other appearance in the last match of an international event. Truth be told, they’ve never appeared in an international final in a tournament held anywhere other than their own home turf! They’ll look to right that wrong this fall in Qatar however, as they enter the World Cup with perhaps the deepest and most complete roster of any nation.
They’ve got veteran leaders from the top to bottom starting with captain and superstar striker Harry Kane, there’s young talent like Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham, and you can’t forget the scrappy, high-energy, and potentially evil Jordan Pickford back in the net, always keeping the Three Lions in a tight game. England’s concerns are rather high-level; it’s the management and the general international ghosts that haunt them that could hold this squad from success. In terms of more tangible, on-field issues, their deepest position, right-back, has seen some injuries ahead of the tournament; we’ll have to see how that plays out in the coming weeks.
It wasn’t so long ago that Die Mannschaft were on top of world football- in fact, Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer were in the lineup on that fateful day in Brazil. Now the veteran leaders, they’re playing alongside a team composed of much younger and extremely promising teammates. It’s worth noting that without the injured Timo Werner they lack a true target man, but there’s enough attacking talent that it shouldn’t be an enormous issue; Müller will likely play his patented Raumdeuter position, a variation off of the false 9, and have no problem scoring or creating goals with some combination of Leroy Sané, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry at his side. The midfield is also excellent, anchored by incredibly versatile superstar Joshua Kimmich.
He could be joined by his Bayern teammates Leon Goretzka and wonderkid Jamal Musiala, or other stalwarts such as Ilkay Gündoğan or Julian Draxler. The defense ahead of a questionably-healthy Neuer is possibly the team’s only weakness, but Antonio Rüdiger and some combination of other veteran defenders should get the job done. Under the management of new-ish boss Hansi Flick, this team will be one of the most fun to watch in the tournament, and don’t be shocked if they put the cherry on top and win the whole thing.
This is where we start to get into a tier of teams I’d be pretty surprised to see holding the trophy when all is said and done on December 18. Spain certainly have a solid squad and have the ability to take out anybody- just look how close they came to knocking off eventual champions Italy in Euro 2020. But their stars might be a bit too young to stay consistent on the biggest stage and put together a sustained tournament run. Midfielders Pedri and Gavi, as well as forward Ansu Fati are all incredibly talented to be sure.
That being said, a core of teenagers is bodes relatively poorly for immediate success, although Spain (and Barçelona, the club that employs all three of these youngsters) should feel excellent about what they’re building. I wouldn’t want to gloss over the fact that there is certainly some experience on this squad such as Premier League veterans Thiago, Rodri, and Aymeric Laporte, not to mention Jordi Alba sticking around for his nation. In the end, there are just too many big questions in big spots, such as keeper and striker, for me to declare Spain a true frontrunner for the greatest title in sports.
Not dissimilar to Spain, I see the Netherlands as a squad who have enough strengths to contend with basically anyone for a game, but also enough holes to keep them from getting all the way to the top. Unfortunately for the Oranje, I see their flaws to be a bit more glaring than those exhibited by any of the teams above them. This would mostly come down to attacking football, from both the top end of the midfield and the forwards. Memphis Depay, a longtime fixture at striker, is an injury concern and could miss time or at least be limited in Qatar. If he’s out, the Dutch are looking to Steven Bergwijn, Donyell Malen, Steven Berghuis and a few others for goals; there’s talent in that group to be sure, but not a lot of international experience and consistency, and not really a focal point.
The midfield also should have been a strength, but Frenkie de Jong, a young superstar in his own right, will be without the assistance of Georginio Wijnaldum or former Ajax teammate Donny van de Beek, both of whom are injured. The biggest strength for this side, aside from de Jong himself, is the defense. The core of this group is of course the centre-back pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, but those two have experienced various lapses of health and/or form over the past year or so.
Stefan de Vrij and Nathan Ake are a couple of other talents in defense for the Dutch, but they’ll be frustrated to only get a handful of their best players on the pitch, as so many of them fit into similar positions. This team has a lot of great players, but I’m not sure I see how as a group, they precipitate a great tournament run.
Over the past decade or so, if it’s felt like the Belgians have been the kings of oh-so-close, it’s because they have been. Despite failing to secure a trophy over that span, or ever really, they maintained the top spot in FIFA’s ranking for over three years! This has been due to a high-powered attacking style, and some really close results against the very best teams in the world.
They lost a hard-fought 2-1 match to Italy en route to the Azzurri’s Euro 2020 title, they fell 1-0 in the 2018 World Cup semifinal after an essential deadlock against eventual champions France in a match many considered to be a “final before the final”, and they fell 1-0 to runners-up Argentina in the 2014 Cup. They’ve been right there, but this year may be the very last chance for a “golden generation” that has achieved new heights for their nation, like that third-place finish in 2018, but hasn’t actually won a tournament. Thibaut Courtois might be the best goalkeeper in the world, which is a good thing because the defense in front of him is experienced, but maybe a bit too experienced- Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Thomas Meunier are 35, 33, and 31 years old, respectively.
The Belgians also have probably the best player alive in mega-star attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, but the midfield behind him is a bit of an enigma; there’s a couple of solid but not elite players fighting for playing time. One huge issue for Belgium will be if striker Romelu Lukaku does indeed miss time with an injury; de Bruyne’s passes have to go to someone who can create end product. Divock Origi, Michy Batshuayi, and the Hazard brothers are all candidates, as is youngster Jérémy Doku, who gave Italy absolute fits at the Euro. That being said, it’s not exactly a consistently excellent attacking group; Belgium will dearly hope for their big front man to be ready if they want to make a deep run.
Of course, coverage of this team is going to be highlighted by the fact that this appears for all intents and purposes to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup, and perhaps his last opportunity to represent Portugal at any major international tournament. It’s unwise to ever discount his greatness in the big moments, especially for his country. But with his recent form, there’s reason to discuss other players as the biggest drivers for Portugal’s success in this event.
Younger stars could lead the attack for Portugal, as Serie A Champion and MVP Rafael Leão will be on the pitch, as will the talented, and incredibly experienced for his age, João Félix. Bernardo Silva is one of the most versatile, and quietly truly world-class players on the planet; I couldn’t tell you exactly where on the pitch it’ll be (although based on squad depth, I’d guess midfield), but I can tell you he will have an enormous impact for his nation.
The defense is amazingly still anchored by 39-year old Pepe, but he’ll have plenty of help; João Cancelo is one of the best fullbacks in the business, and his City teammate Rúben Dias will also need to have a big tournament to keep his nation in the mix. Will Ronaldo’s swansong be a moment of glory, will Portugal fall flat, or will it be somewhere in between? With this group, it’s genuinely hard to know.
No team outside of Europe and South America has ever won the World Cup. But don’t tell that to Senegal- actually maybe do tell them, because these Lions specialize in doing things that have never been done before. They captured the AFCON title last winter, a feat their nation had yet to achieve after losing the previous final. This is also their first-ever time qualifying for consecutive World Cups, with their first-ever appearance being just in 2002. And stunningly, national hero Sadio Mané was the runner-up in this year’s Ballon D’Or voting, the first player from his country to ever finish so high in that contest.
The best part is, Mané is hardly alone when it comes to the talent this squad is putting out on the field. Captain Kalidou Koulibaly is one of the most respected centre-backs in international football, and while he may have lost a step or two from his incredible peak form, he’s still a force to be reckoned with in defense, as he showed at AFCON and in World Cup qualifiers. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is also a one-man wrecking crew, as he has seemingly willed his team to clean sheet after clean sheet in international play.
Idrissa Gueye will hold down the midfield, as a player who has played against the best in Europe’s top leagues. Abdou Diallo and Ismalia Sarr are a couple more names you may not know now, but there’s a good chance you will after this tournament. Not many people are giving Senegal a chance to get deep into this tournament. But for them, that’s far from uncharted territory.
World Cup Power Rankings Honorable Mentions
Denmark were the darlings of Euro 2020, as they showed incredible heart as well as genuine footballing ability on their run to the semifinal after the horrific on-field cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen. It’s incredibly fortunate that Eriksen is alive and healthy, but nothing short of miraculous that he will be on the pitch and ready to compete in this year’s World Cup, as a key contributor to the Danish effort. Captain Simon Kjaer is banged up, but should also be back and fighting hard for his nation. There’s a whole other host of Vikings we could get into, but as we learned last summer, every single one of them will be playing incredibly hard and will be extremely worth watching on the pitch in Qatar.
We also can’t forget Croatia, runners-up of the last World Cup back in 2018. The story for this team has not changed much; it starts with legendary midfielder Luka Modric, who won the Ballon D’Or after his performance in the last edition of this tournament and is still playing at an extremely high level at the age of 37. It ends with questions about who is going to create goals out of Modric’s midfield mastery, as the team lacks a true frontman right now. This team thrives on possession football, with the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic serving as major veteran presences alongside Modric, and will be an interesting watch in fascinating group F.
Switzerland and Serbia are extremely interesting sides, relative minnows who qualified ahead of giants Italy and Portugal for this tournament. Both sides have a surprising amount of talent, especially Serbia- not many think of them as an attacking powerhouse, but they employ Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. That’s an explosive bunch! These two European sides are both in the same group, along with Brazil and Cameroon, so their match will go a long way towards determining qualification for the knockout stages.
World Cup Odds 2022
Updated World Cup odds for the 2022 tournament.