The World Cup is edging ever closer, with the tournament in Qatar being the first ever during the winter months, meaning there are a lot of unknowns with domestic seasons being disrupted for the tournament.
France head to the Middle East as defending champions, with Kylian Mbappe and co surely confident of retaining their title given their firepower, however it won’t be straight forward.
In what is likely to be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup, could he finally taste victory on the biggest international stage of all? Or will his glittering career end with that huge Argentina win eluding him?
Group A kicks off the major shocks, with the Netherlands finishing bottom, behind host nation Qatar who were also knocked out. Senegal topped the group with Ecuador squeezing through on goal difference.
When it came to Group B, Gareth Southgate is one lucky man! England topped their ‘easy’ group as expected, but only survived on goal difference, with runners up USA and Iran all ending on six points, with the Welsh unable to register a single point.
Group C saw the Messi fairytale continue, with the little magician bagging his fair share of goals as joint top scorer after three games played as his side topped their group thanks to his four goals, with Mexico joining them in the last 16. Robert Lewandowski and Poland were knocked out along with Saudi Arabia.HARRISON, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 27: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina celebrates his goal in the second half against Jamaica at Red Bull Arena on September 27, 2022 in Harrison, New Jersey. Argentina defeated Jamaica 3-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
It’s safe to say that Group D offered no shocks, with the defending champions through as group winners followed by Tunisia, with both Denmark and Australia crashing out of the World Cup.
Looking at Group E, that really went according to script, with Germany and Spain powering through, leaving Costa Rica and Japan floundering in third and fourth respectively.
Canada’s return to a World Cup for a second time ended in disaster, with no points accumulated leaving them dead last in Group F. Morocco also missed out, with Croatia following Belgium through to the round of 16.Soccer Football - World Cup - CONCACAF Qualifiers - Mexico v Canada - Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico - October 7, 2021 Canada's Alphonso Davies in action REUTERS/Henry Romero
Brazil’s Group G campaign was far from ideal, but the five-time winners advanced as runners up to Serbia, leaving both Switzerland and Cameroon waiting at the terminal for a flight home.
Group H looks like a tough one to call, with all four nations having a serious chance of progressing to the next round, however Uruguay flopped finishing bottom, with Ghana topping the group undefeated. That left Portugal and South Korea to battle it out for the final spot, with Euro 2016 champions advancing as runners up.
The knockout stages got underway, with Senegal sinking to a 1-0 defeat thanks to Borussia Dortmund ace Giovanni Reyna who was the USA hero. Argentina were in action in the other opening knockout fixture, but disaster struck as Messi’s World Cup curtain came down with a defeat on penalties to Tunisia…MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 24: Giovanni Reyna of United States fights for the ball with Carlos Rodríguez of Mexico during a match between Mexico and United States as part of Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at Azteca Stadium on March 24, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Defending champions France survived a scare against 10-man Mexico thanks to a 2-1 win, whilst England made the most of their scare in the group stage with a 1-0 win over Ecuador to advance to the last eight.
Their nemesis in major tournaments, Germany, suffered defeat in the last 16, with Ivan Perisic sending the 10 men of Croatia into the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win. Cristiano Ronaldo suffered the same fate as his old foe Messi, losing in the round of 16 with Serbia 2-0 victors thanks to a Dusan Vlahovic brace.
Another day, another 10 men victory, with Spain overcoming a, you guessed it, Sergio Ramos red card to battle past Belgium 2-1, with Brazil also advancing thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win over Ghana.MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 10: Sergio Ramos of Spain celebrates scoring during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group F match between Spain and Sweden at Bernabeu on June 10, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
The top half of the draw has really opened up, with USA, Tunisia, Croatia or Serbia destined to make the final of the 2022 World Cup. After knocking out Argentina, the big question is do Tunisia have anything left in the tank? The answer was a resounding yes as they battled past USA 2-1 to book their place in the final four. Another penalty shootout saw another upset, with the 2018 runners up Croatia knocked out by the Serbians.
Elsewhere, the bottom half of the draw is ridiculously stacked, with two incredible quarter-finals. The defending champions were knocked out thanks to a Phil Foden brace as the English deployed a different style of play, opting for a 4-3-3 system with the creative Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield to secure the 2-1 win, something to consider, Gareth?! In the final tie of the round, Brazil and Spain went head-to-head, with the two heavyweights going to penalties after a 1-1 draw, with the South Americans victorious.COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - SEPTEMBER 08: Gareth Southgate, Manager of England speaks with Trent Alexander-Arnold of England following the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Denmark and England at Parken Stadium on September 08, 2020 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
The big showdown between Serbia and Tunisia didn’t disappoint, with the remarkable fairytale not over yet as the Tunisians made it to the final thanks to a 1-0 win, no one could have seen this one coming!
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Brazil and England for a place in the final, with the winner set to be an overwhelming favourite. Alisson Becker was the man of the moment through the 120 minutes of goalless football, with numerous one-on-ones seeing the Liverpool shot-stopper come out on top, although that’s where his heroics ended, with a nerve-racking 5-4 victory for Southgate’s men.RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 07: Alisson Becker of Brazil bites his champion medal after winning the Copa America Brazil 2019 Final match between Brazil and Peru at Maracana Stadium on July 07, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Brazil’s penalty woes continued, with Serbia taking the bronze medal via the lottery of penalties following a 2-2 draw, with another two goals for the prolific Dusan Vlahovic.
Surely England won’t get a better chance to bring football home again than this, the plucky underdogs of Tunisia in the final of a World Cup, looking for one more scalp to etch their names into the history books for all eternity.
It wasn’t to be though, as football came home thanks to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tunisia with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka making amends for their penalties at Euro 2020 final to write this England team into the history books with the heroes of 1966, all that’s missing is Peter Drury on commentary! Oh, and for this to be reality!MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 23: Bukayo Saka of England in action during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between Italy and England at San Siro on September 23, 2022 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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