Sunday, November 21, 2021: if the Qatar World Cup started today, England and Argentina could have the intact illusion of being champions and no one would dare to say no to them or ask them why. The reason for England may be in their game and in their guaranteed classification, but it is also in their goals: they have scored 21 goals in the last 4 games. Why Argentina is in the Copa América obtained, in having achieved qualification for the World Cup without losing a single game, in the safety of Draw Martínez, in DT Scaloni, and of course, in having the best player in the world: its captain Leo Messi.
If Argentina and England met at the World Cup in Qatar tomorrow, it would be one of the most attractive and fought games of all. It would be what in any country they call: a par-ti-da-zo. Without the Azteca stadium as a setting, without Diego, without the goal of the century, but with a Messi and perhaps, why not, with another goal of a new century. The ten Rosario and Harry Kane would be the great candidates for figure and best players of that match and of the tournament.
Other favorite teams could be Brazil and France. Neymar’s Brazil and Mbappé’s France. The Brazil that qualified comfortably and march first in the South American Qualifiers and the France that led from Group D of the European Qualifiers. Tite’s Brazil, Deschamps’s France. A Brazil runner-up in the Copa América and a France defending the World Cup title. A Brazil that arrives with Neymar and Vinicius at a high level and a France that has a Mbappé in his best moment and a very sharp Benzema. Vinicius is not only quality and goals, but also courage: on Thursday against Argentina he threw a perfect bike against Molina in the middle of the rival area. Vinicius and Neymar could dribble all of Qatar if it started today. And Mbappé would have to enlarge his World Cup room by the number of balls he could take after a game if he continues with the same aim.
Other teams that are candidates to win the World Cup if it starts today? Italy. Yes, Italy. Although they must play the playoffs to qualify for Qatar, Azzurra is on that list for being the last Euro champion, for having one of the best goalkeepers in the world -Donnarumma-, for having Roberto Mancini on the bench, because He would recover Leandro Spinazzola, one of the best in the Euro, and because he also has another candidate for best player on his roster: the eternal Immobile, current scorer in Serie A.
Memphis Depay, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Mo Salah, Erling Haaland and Luis Díaz would fight today to be candidates for the best player in the Qatar World Cup. It is true that Haaland is injured, but he does not need more minutes to say that if the cup started today, he would be under the watchful eye of any football fan … and under the magnifying glass of any rival for fear of conceding several goals. Unfortunately for Haaland and football fans, the Norwegian will not be in Qatar as his team was eliminated. Cristiano Ronaldo does not need a letter of introduction either, nor does a Lewandowski who every time he wears the Bayern or Poland shirt, sends it away.
If it were up to Memphis Depay, I would definitely want the World Cup to start today. Despite the low level of Barcelona, he shows his hierarchy with goals in the Spanish league and then transfers his good moment at the club to the national team: he is the scorer of the European Qualifiers with 12 goals and also the one who gave the most assists, with 6. In the last six games for A Clockwork Orange, he has scored 10 goals. Yes, 10 goals in 6 games … and he even had the pleasure of missing a penalty!
And Mo Salah and Luis Díaz? They earn a place for their present. Mo Salah is an undisputed figure in the Premier League with Liverpool and the great illusion of Egypt. Luis Díaz is more and more protagonist with Porto, not only in the Portuguese league but also in the Champions League. It is true that Colombia is not going through its best moment, but if the World Cup started right now and the Colombian team were classified, Luis Díaz would be a candidate for best player.
A lot of top player candidates and a lot of top team candidates, what about the revelations? One of the most beautiful things about the World Cups are those teams that nobody bets on and that suddenly raise their hands and say: hey, here we are, we go straight to the final. If the World Cup started today, the candidates for revelation would be Ecuador, Canada, Egypt and Qatar. Alfaro’s Ecuador is one of the best teams in the South American Qualifiers and has a squad that goes out of its way to play a World Cup again after not qualifying for Russia 2018. They are getting closer and closer. Only 4 points away from taking the direct ticket.
Canada is the great and pleasant surprise of CONCACAF. After 8 dates, he is the leader with 16 points and the United States with 15 and Mexico with 14. He has a young generation led by Alphonso Davies and a scorer like Cyle Larin who reached 11 goals in this Qualifying Round and is the first Canadian player to score that many goals in the same World Cup Qualifying. The last time Canada participated in a World Cup was in 1986: Qatar 2022 awaits you not only to welcome you again, but to elevate you as a candidate for revelation.
Egypt has a Mo Salah in his prime and that is already valid as a flag to transform him into a candidate. Can a player take over the team? We will have to see it. Lastly, Qatar. Qatar not only has an acceptable team, but it is the last Asian champion and will have a wild card in its favor: the weight of the home team, the encouragement of its fans.
On December 18, 2022, the Lusail Stadium will host the World Cup final. If instead of 2022, it was December 18 of this year, one could imagine an Argentina vs. France there, or an England vs. Italy, or an Ecuador vs. Germany, or why not, a Qatar vs. Canada. The good thing about the World Cups is that anything can happen, the only bad thing – for some – is that it doesn’t start now.