Rating the World Cup 2022 favourites: Brazil, Argentina and France

Rating the World Cup 2022 favourites: Brazil, Argentina and France

A World Cup like no other is now just days away as the best players from across the globe descend on the smallest nation to ever host, in Qatar.

The tournament has moved from summer to winter, but there remains the prospect of a familiarity with the winner.

It’s been 20 years since Brazil last lifted the trophy, and remain the top pick, while South American rivals Argentina head to the Gulf full of confidence. And how about reigning champions France?

We run the rule over England’s biggest rivals for the World Cup crown...

Final chance for magical Messi to rule the world

At the age of 35, the legend that is Lionel Messi has admitted that the World Cup in Qatar will “surely” be his last.

After Argentina lost in the 2014 final and crashed out at the last-16 stage in 2018, it looked as though his dreams of emulating Diego Maradona and becoming a world champion were over.

But former West Ham defender Lionel Scaloni has turned Argentinian fortunes around — and has Messi dreaming of glory in Qatar.

Scaloni, who played for West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup during a six-month loan spell at Upton Park, has been an unlikely saviour for the nation.

Under the 44-year-old, La Albiceleste beat Brazil to win the Copa America in Brazil last year and they go into this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten streak stretching all the way back to 2019.

Going into his fifth World Cup, Messi has had a weight of international failure lifted off his shoulders with that Copa America triumph and now has a strong team around him.

Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria form a fearsome front three, while Tottenham’s Cristian Romero is at the heart of a solid backline that will take no prisoners and has conceded just four goals in 19 games.

Spurs midfielder Giovani Lo Celso has been ruled out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury and his absence is a blow. Lo Celso has never showed his best at Spurs, but he has been a key player for Argentina in their recent success.

Can Messi finally do it? He comes into the tournament in sparkling form and with a nation believing.

Neymar trains in Doha. (AFP via Getty Images)
Neymar trains in Doha. (AFP via Getty Images)

Attacking threat gives the Selecao proper six appeal

Will trophy end up in hands of a favourite? Like at every World Cup, expectation on Brazil will be huge.

There was a time when their success depended on Neymar, but they have evolved as a team since suffering a disappointing quarter-final exit at the hands of Belgium in Russia in 2018.

Neymar is still the undisputed star of the team, but a wealth of attacking talent will help take some of the weight off his shoulders.

Tottenham’s Richarlison, who has seven goals in his last six games for his country, will lead the line and is usually flanked by Raphinha and Vinicius Junior. Neymar and West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta operate behind that front three in a team that essentially plays with five attackers.

That leaves a lot of responsibility on midfield anchor Casemiro to shield an experienced defence led by 38-year-old Chelsea centre-back Thiago Silva, who could become the oldest outfield player to feature for Brazil at a World Cup.

Since the last tournament, head coach Tite has guided Brazil to back-to-back Copa America finals, winning one against Peru in 2019 and losing the other to Argentina last year.

But, ultimately, his time in charge of the Selecao will be judged on what happens over the next few weeks in Qatar.

Brazil have arguably the best squad. They have not won the World Cup since 2002, but the five-time winners go into the tournament as favourites and, if Tite gets it right, they could make it six.

France captain Hugo Lloris lifting the trophy in Moscow, four years ago. (AFP via Getty Images)
France captain Hugo Lloris lifting the trophy in Moscow, four years ago. (AFP via Getty Images)

Don’t rule out Les Bleus, despite their tricky tournament build-up

France have incredible talent at their disposal, but their preparations for Qatar have not been smooth.

A troubled build-up has seen Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante ruled out by injury, allegations that Pogba paid a witch doctor to put a curse on star player Kylian Mbappe and a row between players and the French Football Federation over image rights.

France won the Nations League last year after a disappointing last-16 exit at Euro 2020, but they remain work in progress under coach Didier Deschamps, whose future is uncertain.

Despite all that, if the defending champions get it right, then they will take some stopping.

In Mbappe and Karim Benzema, they have two of the best attackers in the world. It is not clear if Deschamps knows how to get the best out of the pair, but get that combination right and France could blow any team away.

Mbappe is arguably the best player in the world. He electrified the last World Cup as a teenager (left) and his pace will strike fear into opposition defences.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris captains the team. Should France reach the last 16 (when they could meet England), the 35-year-old should become their record appearance holder.

Raphael Varane has been deemed fit enough to be named in the squad, despite a hamstring injury. But if he is not ready for their opener against Australia on Tuesday, then Arsenal centre-back William Saliba could start, following his brilliant start to the season with the Gunners.