Argentina. Brazil. England. France. Germany. Italy. Spain. Uruguay. These are the eight teams that have won a FIFA World Cup in the 88-year history of the competition. Across 21 tournaments, these are the names that have etched themselves into football immortality. Of those teams, two have only won it once, while Brazil have five titles to their name. And among the favourites for the tournament on whom you can now bet here, the first six are all on that list. Italy would probably be among the favoured teams too, had they qualified.
If a new name is going to appear on that trophy, they’re going to need to do it the hard way. Brazil start as favourites; whether this is based on anything more than them being Brazil, we will only know when they start playing in the finals. They’ve played few European sides since 2018, and in their most recent Copa America they lost in the final to Argentina. However, the best-priced teams among those who’ve never before won a FIFA World Cup are more than twice as long as Seleccao. Below, we’ll evaluate some of the teams aiming to win for the first time, and see if they have a realistic shot at glory.
In terms of preparation for a FIFA World Cup, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal hasn’t had the ideal run-up: in early 2022 he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer. Mercifully, the treatment was a success and he’s going to be with the national team in Qatar. It would be a great thing for him to round off the year with a World Cup win, but are the Netherlands a realistic contender? How long will they regret not winning in 1974 when they were evidently the best team in the world?
Their status as underdogs is realistic, as their squad depth is markedly inferior to Brazil, England or Germany, but they do have some incredible talent; Ryan Gravenberch, Cody Gakpo and Tyrell Malacia the latest names to join Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and co. They’d be a shock winner, but a hugely popular one with the colour and noise their fans bring.
There’s a more than decent chance that we will witness the close of Cristiano Ronaldo’s international playing career in December. Will it involve him hoisting a large gold statuette skywards? What we will say is that it would be weird to see a FIFA World Cup won by a side with so many Wolverhampton Wanderers players in it (four). Further, we’d have to say that this isn’t the best Portuguese squad of recent years – and the more argumentative among us would also say that accommodating an increasingly workshy Ronaldo is part of the reason for that.
If they make it out of what is a very tough group, they’re set to face Brazil, Serbia or Switzerland, none of whom will make it easy for them. There’s probably at least four more years for Portuguese fans to dream of a first FIFA World Cup win.
We could evaluate Belgium here, but anyone who has watched them recently or listened to their players in interviews will know that Belgium don’t believe they can do it, so why should we? Instead, Denmark – who came close to shocking England and making the final of Euro 2020 – merit a closer look. They’re probably a world-class striker short of being elite, but they’re in a forgiving group: Tunisia, Australia and possible FIFA World Cup curse victims France are sharing Group D with them, and if they can get out of that they’ll probably face Argentina. That’s winnable, though they would be underdogs.
Perhaps the best reason to think this could be their year is the presence of Christian Eriksen. In June of last year, many of us were wondering if he had died on the pitch against Finland in Euro 2020. He hadn’t, mercifully, and his career has recommenced with good news stories at every turn – scoring on his return for Brentford and for Denmark, then winning a move to Manchester United. Finishing that off with a FIFA World Cup would be a fitting end to a good news story.