FIFA World Cup 2022: The countries tipped to boom or bust in Qatar

Pictured left is Socceroos star Matt Leckie and France striker Kylian Mbappe on the right.
The Socceroos and France will face off in a Group D clash that could make or break their respective World Cup campaigns. Pic: Getty

An event as big as the FIFA World Cup inevitably brings with it even bigger expectations from the fans of the competing nations.

While for some football powerhouses, nothing short of lifting the World Cup trophy will be considered a success, other nations are just happy to be in Qatar dreaming of making it past the group stage.

SOCCEROOS GUIDE: World Cup players, fixtures and how to watch

FIFA WORLD CUP 2022: The good, bad and ugly side of Qatar showpiece

CONTROVERSY: FIFA World Cup host Qatar's response to homosexuality claim

Here’s our list of countries most likely to boom and bust at the 2022 World Cup:

Bust - Biggest potential to disappoint

France - History is stacked against the winners of Russia 2018, with no country having won consecutive World Cups since Brazil did so in 1962. In fact, of the last five World Cups, the Brazil side of 2006 was only defending champion to progress past the group stage of the tournament.

France has also been hit hard by injuries in the lead up to the tournament, with stars Christopher Nkunku, Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba all ruled out. While there’s no shortage of depth in the French squad to cover for their losses, there’s a lot of signs pointing to the possibility of Qatar being a bust for Les Bleus.

Seen here, France's Christopher Nkunku looks on in disappointment after injury himself before the World Cup.
Forward Christopher Nkunku this week became the latest player ruled out of France's World Cup campaign with injury. Pic: Getty

England - This choice is purely down to the fact that anything less than lifting the World Cup at Lusail Iconic Stadium on December 18 will be considered a disappointment by England fans.

After reaching the semi-finals in Russia, and finishing runners-up at Euro 2020, expectations are sky-high for Gareth Southgate’s ‘golden generation’ in Qatar. While on paper they look to have one of the easiest draws in the tournament, the United States and Wales could prove to be potential banana skins for the Three Lions, not to mention the prospect of a tricky Round of 16 matchup with the Netherlands, should they somehow fail to top their group.

Croatia - Lead by Golden Ball winner Luka Modric to the World Cup final in 2018, Croatia could find themselves making a shock exit from Qatar after the group stage. Belgium look to be a class above their Group F counterparts and should finish top.

Croatia will likely then be battling for second place, and Morocco and Canada should not be underestimated. It’s entirely possible the pair will shake things up in the group by taking points off their more highly fancied European opponents, leaving Croatia on the brink of elimination. Even if they do progress, an incredibly tough matchup with either Spain or Germany in the Round of 16 is likely to await them.

Qatar - Host nations have enjoyed some fairytale runs at World Cups (think Russia making the quarterfinals in 2018 and South Korea making the semi-finals in 2002), however, it’s hard to see Qatar replicating this trend.

Qatar are the third lowest ranked team in the tournament according to the FIFA rankings and they’re unlikely to experience the groundswell of home support and goodwill from neutral fans that host nations typically benefit from. Only 11.6 % of Qatars total population are native Qataris and many foreign fans will be hoping for the host nation to fail given the dubious circumstances under which they were awarded the World Cup.

Boom - Biggest potential to overachieve

Canada - Think Socceroos at Germany 2006. Canada has qualified for their first World Cup in 36 years and have assembled their most talented squad in decades, lead by Bayern Munich superstar Alphonso Davies.

They’re riding high on a wave of support from their home country after a dream qualifying campaign which saw them finish top of CONCACAF qualifying ahead of traditional powerhouses Mexico and USA. It would be no surprise to see them take this confidence and momentum into the tournament, cause an upset or two against the likes of Belgium and Croatia, before advancing to the knockout stage, where anything is possible.

Senegal - Africa’s best hope of making a splash in Qatar, Senegal boast some serious talent including the likes of Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye.

Their chances of progressing to the knockout stage will be helped by being drawn in the relatively weak Group A, where they will take on the Netherlands, Ecuador and Qatar.

Seen here, Senegal's Sadio Mane goes down with injury playing for Bayern Munich in the lead-up to the World Cup in Qatar.
Senegal's Sadio Mane picked up an injury for Bayern Munich in the lead-up to the World Cup in Qatar. Pic: Getty

Serbia - Flying under a lot of people’s radars, this Serbia team was near flawless in qualifying, going through undefeated to book their spot in Qatar. Boasting the likes Dušan Tadić (Ajax), Aleksandar Mitrović (Fulham), Filip Kostić (Juventus), and Luka Jović (Fiorentina), and Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), this Serbian team is settled, with excellent chemistry.

Making it out of a Group G that features Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon won’t be easy, but this team is resilient and won’t go down without a fight. Would not be surprised to see them claw their way through to the quarter-final stage of the tournament.

Australia - No one is giving the Socceroos a chance of making it past the group stage, and on paper it’s easy to see why. However, if the Aussies can somehow snag a draw against an injury-plagued French outfit in their opening game, and then take all three points against a beatable Tunisian outfit, they’ll be in the box seat to progress through to the knockout stage. A result against Denmark, who the Socceroos drew 1-1 with in Russia, could even see Australia top the group and avoid Argentina in the next round… we can dream, can’t we?

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.