2022 FIFA World Cup: The Pools

2022 FIFA World Cup: The Pools

The first November/December World Cup is getting closer by the day and now with just 3 places still to be decided, the pools have been drawn. 37 teams (who will be whittled down to 32 in the final couple of qualification matches) were sorted into 8 pools of 4, with the top 2 from each pool proceeding into the knockouts.

As always, the pools were selected by a random draw, with confirmed teams split over 4 bands depending on their spot in the FIFA World Rankings to keep the pools somewhat balanced (though as hosts, Qatar earned a spot in the top band despite being ranked at 51), while nations from he same confederation could not be drawn in the same pool, with the exception of 5 pools having 2 European nations.

So how are the pools looking and who will be making the last 16? I’ve taken a look at each pool to give my thoughts. For each pool, I’ve listed the teams included in the order of the bands they were in (top to bottom), with their current pot in the FIFA World Rankings in [brackets].

Pool A

Teams: Qatar [51], Netherlands [10], Senegal [20], Ecuador [46]

The pool that everyone in Bands B-D would have wanted to end up in due to Qatar taking the Band A spot. The rankings certainly suggest that the Netherlands and Senegal should go through, but could home comforts give Qatar a boost and see them pull off an upset? And further to that, don’t ever rule out Senegal from an upset against a European team in the World Cup—France learned the hard way in 2002.

Pool B

Teams: England [5], USA [15], Iran [21], Euro Playoff Winner (Wales [18]/Scotland [39]/Ukraine [27])

The first pool still awaiting confirmation of their final team, and as such it makes it a little more difficult to predict. That said, this should be England’s pool for the taking with the quality of players they have. While the rankings would suggest that the USA would join them in the last 16, I can’t help but feel that Scotland or Wales could take the second spot should they qualify. But what of Ukraine? Well if they qualify, could they find that the current events going on in their country gives them extra impetus, similar to Denmark in the Euros following the loss of Christian Eriksen.

Pool C

Teams: Argentina [4], Mexico [9], Poland [26], Saudi Arabia [49]

The rankings are certainly a little misleading here in regards to Mexico, as they so rarely play teams who are currently ranked in the top 20. As such, I expect things to be relatively comfortable for Argentina, while the match between Poland and Mexico will be crucial in deciding who joins them. Don’t be shocked if this goes down to goal difference.

Pool D

Teams: France [3], Denmark [11], Tunisia [35], Inter-Confederation Playoff Winner (UAE [68]/Australia [42]/Peru [22])

While there are still 3 possible teams to fill the last spot, I must be honest and admit that I can’t see any of them seriously influencing the outcome here. France will be the obvious favorites to top the group, while I expect Denmark to be too strong for the other nations and secure the runner-up spot.

Pool E

Teams: Spain [7], Germany [12], Japan [23], Inter-Confederation Playoff Winner (Costa Rica [31]/New Zealand [101])

Again no offence to Costa Rica or New Zealand, but I can’t see either of them really troubling the other teams in this pool. A European 1-2 looks the obvious call here with the match between the pair deciding who tops the pool, but if one of them comes in struggling for form, then Japan could become a threat.

Pool F

Teams: Belgium [2], Croatia [16], Morocco [24], Canada [38]

Another pool where a European 1-2 looks the most likely, as the rankings don’t give justice to the difference in strength of squads between Croatia and Morocco. Meanwhile Belgium find themselves with a squad brimming with talent but without the trophies to back it up; could a solid group performance to top the pool set them up for their first appearance in a World Cup final?

Pool G

Teams: Brazil [1], Switzerland [14], Serbia [25], Cameroon [37]

A favourable draw for Brazil, who should be able to rotate and qualify comfortably for the knock-outs. Meanwhile I expect a tight affair behind that, but think that Switzerland have the experience to qualify just ahead of Serbia.

Pool H

Teams: Portugal [8], Uruguay [13], Republic of Korea [29], Ghana [60]

Oh how Ghana would love to get some revenge in Qatar for Uruguay controversially knocking them out of the 2010 World Cup on penalties, but I can’t see it happening here. Portugal v Uruguay will likely decide the pool winner as the pair qualify comfortably. I will however predict Uruguay getting the top spot in this pool.

How do you see these pools finishing?

RWC2019: Pool Stage Predictions

RWC2019: Pool Stage Predictions

We are just weeks away from the beginning of the World Cup. 20 teams vying to become Champions and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. To date, only 4 nations (New Zealand x3, Australia x2, South Africa x2 and England) have won the tournament… Will we be seeing a 5th nation added to the list this year?

That is what I have set out to predict over the next 2 articles, as I continue my “Journey to RWC2019” series with a look at the tournament itself in an attempt to predict how the tournament will go. To make this more fun, I have also invited back 2 friends to also predict the tournament: Phil, who joined me for the England squad prediction, and Gez, who was involved in predicting the Wales squad.

Today we will be looking at the pool stages, and the knockout stages will follow in a few days. In the interests of fairness, I want to make clear that I asked Phil and Gez for their picks ahead of many nations finalising their squads, which could potentially have impacted some of their selections.

Journey to RWC2019 series:

How do you see the pool stages going?

rugby RWC2019 pools

Pool A

Ireland had a very disappointing Six Nations campaign as so many of their stars failed to hit form, but I think that they will be comfortable in qualifying for the knockouts even if they must grow into the tournament. Likewise, I think that Scotland have created a deep enough squad to comfortably qualify along with Ireland (despite a short turnaround before facing Japan), with their match deciding who tops the pool. Of the remaining 3, Samoa have been going through a bad period off the field, which is also impacting them on the field, while Russia do not get to play opposition of this quality often enough and have had some poor results in their warm-ups. As such, I think Japan will get third, while Russia and Samoa will be looking to avoid finishing bottom.

My prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Phil’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Gez’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Pool B

Let’s be honest… barring the mother off shocks, New Zealand and South Africa are guaranteed to qualify and their match (the opener for both of them) will decide who tops the group. South Africa have been one of the few teams to cause the All Blacks some real issues in recent seasons, and I think that they will start the tournament the stronger team and get the win here, especially with Brodie Retallick unlikely to feature in the pools. Beyond that, Canada are not as competitive as they used to be and Namibia again struggle to play regularly against other nations of this quality, so I see these 2 teams fighting for 4th while Italy take 3rd place and the final automatic qualifying spot for RWC2023.

My prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Phil’s prediction: 1st New Zealand, 2nd South Africa, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Gez’s prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Pool C

Boy do I feel sorry for the USA here. They are a team clearly on the up with the successes of the MLR and USA 7s team, while more players have been making themselves regulars in the top European leagues. Unfortunately, I can’t see how they are going to pull off a result against any of England, Argentina and France, while they have a short turnaround against Tonga in what will likely decide the bottom 2 positions. Moving to the top 3, Argentina have so much potential if they can get it together in the moment but are on a poor run of form and have left out some of their biggest stars due to a reluctance to pick players based outside of Argentina. France have a habit of getting things together in the World Cup despite being dismal ahead of time and England are in a place where one week they look like world beaters and the next look awful, you feel that they could (and should) be so much better if Eddie Jones picked the players that were on form. I think that England’s consistency (compared to the other 2) gives them the advantage over their rivals here, while some questionable omissions from Mario Ledesma and the time France have had together since their squad was announced gives France the advantage in the race for 2nd.

My prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Phil’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Gez’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd Argentina, 3rd France, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Pool D

Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam gives them the top spot here by a wide margin. Australia are well off their best and could be at risk in their opening match against Fiji, however I think their win over New Zealand showed enough to suggest they can come out on top in this fixture. Following on from that game, I think that a 3-day turnaround before facing Uruguay is doable for Fiji, who then have 7 days before taking on Georgia, giving them a good chance of putting 3 wins on the board before facing Wales in the final round. Assuming Australia beat Fiji, I see them having enough to make the top 2, but if they do lose to Fiji, I can’t see them beating Wales and the lack of momentum may see them struggle to put enough points on against Uruguay and Georgia (who will come in with an extra 2 days rest and less travelling) to take advantage if Fiji were to slip up against someone. As for Georgia, the short turnaround before playing Fiji probably kills their chances of finishing in the top 3 unless Australia completely fall apart, which leaves Uruguay likely to finish winless. Basically, the Wallabies could finish anywhere from 2nd to 4th!

My prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Georgia, 5th Uruguay

Phil’s prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Uruguay, 5th Georgia

Gez’s prediction: 1st Australia, 2nd Wales, 3rd Georgia, 4th Fiji, 5th Uruguay


As we get close to RWC2019, I will be running a fantasy rugby league on the rugby magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6