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When the Republic of Ireland head to Azerbaijan in October, much more than pride will be at stake.
The national team will be seeking its first competitive win since the EURO 2020 qualifier against Gibraltar, back in June 2019. Aside from friendly victories against New Zealand and most recently Andorra, not one single win has been achieved in either the UEFA Nations League or qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers.
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) September 7, 2021
Even if Ireland managed to win all of their three remaining games in Group A, there are still no guarantees of reaching the tournament in Qatar. They would need to finish second and to do that, Serbia would also need to lose all their games and have an inferior goal difference. Not without a small dose of irony, the Irish will host a friendly against Qatar on 12 October in Dublin, at the Aviva Stadium.
The Boys in Green haven’t qualified for a World Cup since Japan and South Korea in 2002, although they did come close twice since then. Nobody will forget the Thierry Henry play-off incident, which robbed the Irish of qualification for the 2010 tournament in South Africa. Then after holding Denmark in Copenhagen in the play-off to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the return leg in Dublin saw Ireland thrashed 5-1 by the Danes.
World Cup Contenders
Fans of Irish football will always cherish fond memories of Italy 1990, when the team led by Jack Charlton reached the quarterfinals, before bowing out against England. Then there was the 1994 World Cup in the USA, when ‘Big Jack’ masterminded a group stage win against eventual finalists Italy, prior to being eliminated in the Round of 16 by the Netherlands. But who are the early favourites to reign supreme at the 2022 World Cup?
Well, according to many of the leading bookmakers, Brazil are fancied to dominate in Qatar, despite having fallen short in their last four World Cup attempts. They reached the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2010, were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted, then defeated by Belgium in the quarter-finals at Russia 2018.
⏪ #OnThisDay in 1990 Cafu made his senior team debut for Brazil ☝️
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) September 12, 2021
As the reigning champions from the 2018 World Cup tournament, France are also being strongly tipped as one of the outright favourites, although they flattered to deceive at EURO 2020 held this year. Despite leading a group that also contained Germany and Portugal, the French were dumped out of the tournament in the Round of 16 by Switzerland. Nevertheless, they are unbeaten in qualification for Qatar 2022, therefore recent form is positive.
Besides the chances of Brazil and France being regarded as the two best contenders, England are also being heavily backed to perform well at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Comfortably top of their qualification group, the Three Lions are as good as there, yet for all the hype surrounding the English, they are prone to falling short at major tournaments. We only need look at the EURO 2020 final defeat against Italy, when they ultimately lost on penalties.
Good Value Outsiders
Any major tournament has the potential for surprises, although the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will present a unique set of circumstances. Rather than being held in the summer months, the tournament will be played through November and December, which could affect participating teams in any number of ways. Temperatures can still top 30ºC during the winter, so heat will be an obvious factor.
Interestingly, despite claiming the EURO 2020 title this year, Italy are cautiously being considered as outsiders for the 2022 World Cup. They are not even priced amongst the top four contenders at most of the best football betting sites, which means there could be plenty of competitive odds available. Before choosing where to bet, always check reviews for trust and reputation, along with information covering which sites offer deposit bonuses and free bets.
Van de Vaart: "Spain are horrible, all they do is pass from one place to another." [NOS]
Koke: "He wants his moment of glory. I remember Van der Vaart very well. We can see him perfectly in a photo of Iniesta's goal in the World Cup final." [COPE]
— Goal (@goal) June 22, 2021
Another team often tipped for success is undoubtedly Spain, due to the continual production line of talented players at their disposal. However, since winning consecutive European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012, either side of triumphing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Spaniards have largely performed poorly at major tournaments. Nevertheless, bookies believe 2022 will be the year they shine once again.
Argentina and Lionel Messi will undoubtedly be targeting the biggest international football prize, after triumphing at the Copa America this year. But never dismiss the possibilities of Portugal, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line. After smashing the international goals record against Ireland, we know all about him, so it’s hard to back against the 36-year-old setting his sights on what could be his last chance to win the World Cup.