2022 World Cup winner predictions: Brazil still the team to beat in Qatar
Racing Post Sport experts give their verdicts ahead of the quarter-finals
We asked our top team of writers for their thoughts on how they think the World Cup will end and this is how they answered...
Who will win the World Cup?
Aaron Ashley: I’m finding it increasingly difficult to see how you can stop Brazil. The Samba Stars are renowned for the attacking flair of Neymar and Vinicius Junior but defensively they are as reliable as anyone, while their squad depth is pretty frightening too. Forget the Cameroon hiccup when Tite shuffled his pack, and focus on a team who didn’t allow Serbia or Switzerland a shot on target and were 4-0 up against South Korea inside 36 minutes.
Joe Casey: I’ve backed France outright and I’m keeping the faith. They are yet to really get out of second gear and I think they’ll edge Saturday’s quarter-final against England. Kylian Mbappe is the best player in the world at the moment while Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud are playing fine supporting roles. Didier Deschamps isn’t the best tactician left at the tournament but his outstanding players may get the job done anyway.
Dan Childs: A strong case can be made for six of the remaining eight teams - everyone bar Morocco and Croatia - but Portugal may get their hands on the trophy for the first time. They seemed to click without Cristiano Ronaldo against Switzerland and made a potentially tricky match look ridiculously easy. They should get past Morocco and are capable of rising to the tougher challenges which await them in the semi-final and final.
Liam Flin: Although I still feel there is value in backing Portugal, I'm going to be boring and say Brazil are the team to beat. Against South Korea, they sparkled up top and Richarlison's goal was a thing of beauty. But they also have the defensive resolve to match, denying Serbia and Switzerland a shot on target in their first two games.
Which team will come through the other half to reach the final?
Aaron Ashley: At the prices Portugal, who put six past a Switzerland side usually famed for their defensive discipline. I expect them to come past Morocco while France and England are going to exert plenty of energy working for their semi-final spot. Fernando Santos has match-winners all over the pitch and despite the Cristiano Ronaldo disruption, they are looking cohesive and playing like a team full of swagger.
Joe Casey: I would love Lionel Messi to get a shot at winning the World Cup in what’s likely to be his last ever attempt and I think Argentina have been underrated after their poor performance in the opening game against Saudi Arabia. Brazil have played well but are yet to face a strong challenge and Messi and co can provide that. I’ll take Argentina from that side of the draw.
Dan Childs: I would go for Brazil. Tite's side should have so much left in the tank after cruising through the group and only needing to play for 45 minutes against South Korea. They are too strong for Croatia, who have been pushed to their limit against Belgium and Japan and can cope with the winner of Argentina and Netherlands, which looks a tough match to call.
Liam Flin: I've been keen on Portugal since the start and their 6-1 demolition of Switzerland only made me like them more. Unlike Spain, they have the attacking quality to break down Morocco in the quarter-finals and they have big-game players in Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Cristiano Ronaldo to cope with England or France in the last four.
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Is Kylian Mbappe a good thing to finish as the top scorer?
Aaron Ashley: I wouldn’t say he’s a good thing as there are plenty of players within hailing distance of the French talent and if England beat them and he fails to score then he’s vulnerable with a two-goal lead. As Portugal’s Goncalo Ramos showed against Switzerland, a hat-trick puts you right in the mix so there may be some juice in Brazil’s Richarlison, who I feel has three games left to bolster his tally.
Joe Casey: Six is the magic number in terms of being the World Cup top scorer. Eight of the last 11 winners have finished on exactly that number and Kylian Mbappe is just one shy. It’s hard to see him being overtaken but Goncalo Ramos’s hat-trick against Switzerland has proved that anything can happen. The 25-1 about Olivier Giroud is an interesting alternative for those looking to take on Mbappe.
Dan Childs: I'm not convinced he is home and hosed because I wouldn't be at all surprised if France were beaten by England on Saturday. Mbappe holds a two-goal lead but there are plenty of rival contenders with seven players still in the tournament on three goals. The teams who reach the semis will get another two games and I would take a chance on Portugal's Goncalo Ramos, who must surely keep his place after his hat-trick against Switzerland.
Liam Flin: I think so. Even if France were to get knocked out by England in the quarter-finals, a two-goal lead over the other contenders is pretty healthy at this stage and Mbappe's chances in the Golden Boot market are helped by the fact he has two assists to his name as well. He is their standout threat and could yet add a couple more.
Where is the Golden Ball value?
Aaron Ashley: Making the final tends to strengthen your case so perhaps Neymar is overpriced at 16-1. If anyone can turn on the style in the latter stages of a competition then Neymar is the man to deliver and if Brazil are going to be crowned champions for a sixth time they’ll be relying on their star man to produce the goods.
Joe Casey: If Argentina reach the final I think Lionel Messi is a big price at 9-2 There will be a huge sentimental vote for the greatest player of all time and the sharp contrast between him and Cristiano Ronaldo at this tournament paints him in an even more favourable light. Kylian Mbappe is the obvious contender but he looks short enough.
Dan Childs: Mbappe and Lionel Messi take up most of the market but I'm not sure either will play in the final so is makes sense to look elsewhere. Neymar could go close if he is influential from now on but I reckon one of the younger players could scoop the award and would consider Vinicius Junior and Ramos, who seem to have saved their best efforts for the knockout stages.
Liam Flin: There is still value with Lionel Messi for me. He was the difference in the crucial group win over Mexico and again got the ball rolling against Australia. You could argue no player in Qatar has carried his team in the way Messi has and if they make the last four, he will be a prime contender for the award in his final World Cup.
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