Assessing the European Qualifying Groups for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Latest Odds and Predicted Standings
With qualification for the 2022 World Cup set to get underway in March, now feels like a good time to take a look at the groups on the European side of the draw.
The next edition of soccer’s biggest tournament is still over a year away. But for countries around the world, the journey to the showpiece in Qatar starts soon.
Europe has produced each of the previous four World Cup winners, with Italy, Spain, and Germany getting their hands on the famous Jules Rimet trophy before reigning champions France triumph in Russia back in 2018.
In this post, I cover all ten European qualifying groups for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. After looking at the bookies’ prices and discussing each teams’ chances, I share my final prediction for every group.
Before we get started, it is worth noting that the odds in this post are for winning the group. First place qualifies automatically, while second place enters the playoffs.
Group A – Portugal the Favorites
As reigning European champions, Portugal shouldn’t struggle to finish top of Group A. Fernando Santos’ side beat host nation and favorites France in the Euro 2016 final, clinching their first major honor in the process.
With Cristiano Ronaldo still scoring goals for fun and young stars like Joao Felix, Ruben Dias, and Diogo Jota continuing to develop, Portugal is even stronger now.
We can discount Azerbaijan and Luxembourg right off the bat here, with Serbia and the Republic of Ireland set to fight for the playoff spot. I can see the battle for second place being a tight one.
Ireland hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 2002, while Serbia hasn’t made it out of their group in two attempts since 2010. Both nations seem pretty evenly matched at the moment, but Serbia definitely boasts more talented players.
This is how I see Group A finishing:
- Republic of Ireland
Group B – Easy for Spain?
After back-to-back European Championship wins in 2008 and 2012 and a World Cup triumph in 2010, Spain’s domination of both European and world soccer slipped away towards the end of the decade.
However, recent results suggest that La Roja are back to their best. A 6-0 demolition of Germany in November saw Luis Enrique’s men top their Nations League group, with Manchester City star Ferran Torres netting a memorable hat-trick.
By contrast, Sweden endured a Nations League campaign to forget, finishing bottom of their group with just one win from six games. The Scandinavians have been going downhill in recent years.
I don’t think Georgia stands any chance of upsetting the odds here, although Greece and Kosovo will fancy their chances of challenging the Swedes for second place.
Kosovo picked up wins over Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Montenegro on their way to finishing third in their Euro 2020 qualification group, while Greece only suffered one loss in eight games last year.
Here is my Group B prediction:
Group C – Switzerland to Surprise?
As expected, Italy heads into World Cup, qualifying as the favorite to win their group. But I can see Switzerland pushing Gli Azzurri all the way in Group C.
The Swiss finished ahead of Belgium to reach the Nations League semi-finals in 2019 before going on to hold Germany and Spain to draws in 2020, with Benfica striker Haris Seferovic remaining a constant threat.
Northern Ireland and Bulgaria both ended up rock bottom of their respective Nations League groups, while Lithuania could only manage a third-place finish, behind minnows Albania and Belarus.
Ultimately, I’m expecting this group to pretty much finish as the bookies are predicting. But if you fancy an outside bet, backing Switzerland to finish at the top of the pile wouldn’t be the worst idea.
This is how I think Group C will pan out:
- Northern Ireland
Group D – Are France Locks?
Given that France thrashed Ukraine 7-1 in a friendly back in October, it is no real surprise that Didier Deschamps’ men are expected to cruise to World Cup qualification.
The reigning world champions are arguably stronger now than when they lifted the trophy in 2018, with emerging stars like Eduardo Camavinga, Dayot Upamecano, and Houssem Aouar supplementing the seemingly unstoppable Kylian Mbappe.
Bosnia & Herzegovina failed to win a single game in 2020, recording three draws and five defeats, while Kazakhstan only managed one victory in seven attempts last year.
Finland can take confidence from the fact that they beat 2-0 France in November. The shock result meant that Markku Kanerva’s side won five of their eight matches in 2020, pointing towards a promising qualifying campaign.
I’m backing Finland to finish second in Group D, with Ukraine and Bosnia’s struggles set the continue.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga scores his first goal for France on his first start.— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 7, 2020
The next generation ??✨ pic.twitter.com/M8XoLcregV
Group E – Can Belgium Be Beaten?
Let’s be honest – something would have to go terribly wrong for Belgium not to finish at the summit of Group E.
The Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and it doesn’t look like the nations’ never-ending conveyor belt of world-class players is going to stop producing anytime soon.
Looking at the odds, Belarus and Estonia are already doomed. But as you can see, the race for second place looks set to be fiercely contested between Wales and the Czech Republic.
A 3-0 defeat to England blotted an otherwise successful 2020 for Wales, with five wins and two draws also coming last year. Better still, Gareth Bale is finally playing soccer again.
The Czechs beat Slovakia and Israel in the Nations League, although back-to-back losses to Scotland suggest that they aren’t ready for a return to the glory days just yet.
Here is my final Group E prediction:
- Czech Republic
Group F – A Hard One to Call
In my opinion, this is the toughest group to call.
We all know that Moldova and Faroe Islands will be battling to avoid the bottom place. But Denmark, Austria, and Scotland will all fancy their chances of snatching the top spot.
The Scots secured qualification for their first major tournament since 1998 with a penalty shootout victory over Serbia in November, while Denmark secured impressive wins over England, Sweden, and Iceland last year.
However, I like the look of Austria. Franco Foda’s men only lost one of their eight games in 2020, with six victories and one draw coming along the way.
With young forward Adrian Grbic – who bagged four goals and one assist in five appearances last year – leading the Austrians’ resurgence, I’m expecting Austria to finish ahead of Denmark in Group F.
- Faroe Islands
Group G – Who Gets Second Place?
It’s fair to say that 2020 didn’t go to plan for the Netherlands. Frank de Boer replaced Ronald Koeman in November, but the former Ajax and Barcelona star become the country’s first manager to fail to win any of his first four games in charge of the national side.
Still, Oranje should finish top of Group G without any real issues.
Gibraltar and Latvia won’t cause the frontrunners any problems, that’s for sure. But after gaining promotion to Nations League B, Montenegro will be hoping to back up a productive 12 months with a strong start to 2021.
Montenegro could snatch a playoff spot, but second place is likely to go to either Norway or Turkey. Judging by the recent performances of both teams, Norway should finish as the runner-up.
This is my final Group G prediction:
Group H – A Wide Open Group
In my eyes, Group H is wide open. Granted, Malta and Cyprus don’t really stand a chance. But Croatia, Russia, and Slovakia could all clinch the top spot, while even Slovenia can’t be written off altogether.
Croatia recently finished joint-bottom of a tough Nations League group that included France, Portugal, and Sweden. Given the difficulty of their recent opponents, it is difficult to gauge how Zlatko Dalic’s side will fare in 2021.
After winning their opening two games of 2020, Russia failed to win any of their final six games last year. A 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Serbia underlined the team’s defensive problems.
Meanwhile, Slovenia finished ahead of Greece, Kosovo, and Moldova to earn promotion from Nations League Group C, with Slovakia moving in the opposite direction after ending up rock bottom of their group.
This is a tricky one to call, although I think the bookies have more or less got it right.
Group I – England Should Qualify
England will be expected to dominate Group I, there is no question about that. But defeats to Denmark and Belgium at the end of last year raised question marks over Gareth Southgate’s tactics.
With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho in their ranks, the Three Lions will almost certainly clinch the top spot. However, it may not be as straightforward as the bookmakers are suggesting.
Bayern Munich legend Robert Lewandowski is likely to fire Poland to second, leaving Hungary and Albania to battle for third place. I will be amazed if Andorra and San Marino aren’t occupying the bottom two spots come the end of the campaign.
If everything goes to plan, Group I should end up in line with the bookmakers’ prices.
- San Marino
Group J – Germany to Return to Form?
The Germans only managed to win three of their eight matches in 2020, drawing with Switzerland and Turkey, as well as suffering that 6-0 crushing to Spain.
Despite enduring a below-par 12 months by their own high standards, the German FA has put faith in Joachim Low and backed the long-standing head coach to turn things around in 2021.
Looking at Group J, Low and co. look set to enjoy a much more positive year.
Liechtenstein, Armenia, and North Macedonia shouldn’t get anywhere near the playoff spot here, meaning the battle for second place is likely to be between Romania and Iceland.
Given Iceland’s recent slump and Romania’s slight revival, I’d say the bookies have got this one just right.
- North Macedonia
Is it too early to get excited about the 2022 World Cup? I don’t think so.
The tournament in Qatar may feel like an eternity away. But having been deprived of the European Championship last year, I can’t wait for the next high-profile international competition.
For more build-up to the World Cup and a wide range of other tournaments, head over to our soccer blog.