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Sadly for Irish football fans, our national team won’t be participating at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, as our lengthy exile from the biggest platform in the global game continues.
If we’re completely honest with ourselves, The Boys in Green are always underdogs, whether attempting to qualify or actually making it there, which last happened in 2002.
Nevertheless, the lack of Irish participants must not diminish our enthusiasm for the beautiful game. There will be another opportunity for the 2026 World Cup, hosted jointly by the USA, Canada and Mexico, due to FIFA expanding a tournament that will feature 48 teams. But in the meantime, there are some fellow underdogs we can root for at the upcoming World Cup.
The Middle Eastern Trio
For the first time ever, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in the Middle East, as the tiny nation of Qatar enjoys the honour of showcasing the greatest football spectacle on Earth. Adding to the local interest across the region, they will also be joined by two of their neighbours, Iran and Saudi Arabia, with thousands of their fans expected to travel.
Although wagering across this region is typically frowned upon, that won’t prevent eager punters in the Middle East from seeking out the best World Cup Arabic betting site options, looking for trusted online bookies where privacy and security is paramount. Just like the rest of us elsewhere around the globe, they will also search for top offers and promotions.
For the Irish neutrals watching from afar, it’s hard to deny that cheering on Iran will perhaps have added appeal, especially given they face both England and Wales in Group B, along with the United States. The Iranian side is also capable of causing an upset or two, despite being considered as huge underdogs.
Qatar will obviously wish to account well for themselves as hosts, and we can’t write of their chances of progressing from Group A, featuring Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands. But “The Green” we might cheer for most could be Saudi Arabia, regardless of their limited chances in Group C, up against Argentina, Poland, and Mexico.
The American Aces
We have already mentioned one group of particular interest for Irish football fans, and if cheering for Iran doesn’t whet the appetite, we could always root for the United States instead. If any team can genuinely pose a problem for England or Wales in Group B, it could be our cousins from across the pond.
The only time Canada reached the World Cup was back in 1986, when they suffered in the Mexican heat, losing all three group games and without scoring a single goal. Nowadays they boast a much more talented group of players, and they could be a thorn in the side of any Group F rivals, including Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco.
Despite the passion and pride of Mexican fans, their national team never quite matches euphoric expectations, although they have consistently reached the Round of 16 at the last seven consecutive tournaments. The Mexicans will be aiming to break that threshold, providing of course they can get that far, from Group C featuring Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Poland.
But of all four teams from the CONCACAF region, easily the most exciting underdogs will potentially be Costa Rica, who always have the capacity to surprise and entertain. Although their showing in Russia 2018 was disappointing, Los Ticos of Costa Rica dazzled at Brazil 2014, making it all the way to the quarter-finals. They have an almighty task ahead at the 2022 World Cup, drawn alongside Spain, Germany, and Japan in Group E.
The European Exceptions
Given that UEFA makes up the biggest number of World Cup teams, statistically speaking they would seem to have more potential for producing tournament winners, although South Americans will perhaps argue differently. That being said, there are also some tasty European underdog options that might be worth backing.
Croatia reached the2018 final, which could make them a strange choice as underdogs, yet they will always find shaking that moniker difficult. Regardless of their capacity to surprise, they are once again considered huge outsiders by the bookies, although they should comfortably qualify from Group G. From there onwards, it’s hard to guess just how far Croatia will go this time.
Switzerland used to be one of the European whipping boys, however, that certainly isn’t the case these days. On their day, the Swiss can beat anyone via pure grit and determination, making them a tough rival in Group D, featuring reigning World Cup champions France, alongside Denmark and Australia.
And finally, for those who feel the need to support their Celtic brethren from across the Irish Sea, look no further than Wales. They will be desperately eager to beat England in Group B, not to mention qualify for the Round of 16, which could be within their capable reach if The Dragons perform to their potential.