The first round of the 2022 World Cup group stage is in the books. There were some incredible upsets, impressive performances from the top nations, and plenty of cagey matches. Here’s how the top ten teams rank after the first round of games:
10 | Denmark: Considered by many as dark horses, the Danes could only muster a 0-0 draw against Tunisia. The North African nation had considerably more support in the stadium, which certainly helped, and Kasper Hjulmand’s men will want to improve going into matches against Australia and France.
9 | Germany: One of two teams on this list to lose their opening game, Germany inexplicably threw away their lead against Japan on Wednesday. Takuma Asano’s goal seven minutes from time completed the unthinkable as the Germans lost their World Cup opener for the second time running. They are now under serious pressure as a loss to Spain could see their tournament come to an end.
8 | Belgium: The common cliché ‘a win is a win’ certainly applies to Belgium. Michy Batshuayi was the hero as the Red Devils narrowly defeated Canada 1-0. While a win was always expected, the performance was far from convincing from Roberto Martinez’s men and it was their opponents who applied the pressure for most of the match. Belgium may have triumphed but performance levels will need to improve, particularly against stronger opposition.
7 | Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty midway through the second half sent the Portuguese on their way to a 3-2 success over Ghana. They didn’t have it all their way but they managed to get the job done. Surely their performances will only get better from, here. If so, they could go far.
6 | Netherlands: Another side who won their opening fixture but not without concern. Late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen saw off AFCON winners Senegal. Coach Louis van Gaal claimed that this Dutch team is better than in 2014. Time will tell but, for now, they can be happy with their position.
5 | Argentina: One of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. Saudi Arabia to hit back after Lionel Messi’s opening penalty with two quick second-half goals to shock the Copa America holders. It leaves Lionel Scaloni’s men at the foot of Group C and defeat to Mexico on Saturday would mean elimination. Surely this talented Argentinian team won’t crack under the pressure?
4 | England: The Three Lions humbled Iran to kick off Group B. Five players got on the scoresheet as they were rarely troubled by the Iranians. Harry Kane is fit to start their next match against the United States on Friday, where a win will send them through. Keeping this goal-scoring form up will set them up to go far.
3 | Spain: It was a stunning performance from La Roja as they hit a poor Costa Rica side for seven as all seven of their shots on target resulted in goals. They might have faced the worst team in the tournament but the result sent shockwaves throughout Qatar. Germany should be worried heading into their next game because, if that same Spanish team shows up, we could see a repeat of the 6-0 thrashing seen in the teams’ Nations League encounter.
2 | France: Many feared that this French team would crash and burn. Yet, they roared back from 1-0 down to Australia with four goals but it came at a cost. Lucas Hernandez will miss the remainder of the competition following injury, adding to an already-alarming list of absentees. Tunisia and Denmark are to come for the defending champions but, if the opening games are anything to go by, both should fear France.
1 | Brazil: The pre-tournament favourites sparkled in the second half against Serbia. Richarlison’s acrobatic effort ensured a deserving victory for the Seleçao. They still have to take on Switzerland and Cameroon, but they remain the most likely team to lift the trophy a week before Christmas, 20 years after the last world title for Brazil.
David Parkes | GWFN