7 Facts To Know For The 2022 World Cup - Lionel Messi's Last Ride?

7 Facts To Know For The 2022 World Cup - Lionel Messi's Last Ride?

This article is part of our World Cup series.

The World Cup is nearing and despite a busy league schedule, the biggest tournament in the sport looms large on the minds of players and fans alike.

Here are five key facts to keep in mind ahead of the Nov. 20 kickoff between Qatar and Senegal, to begin the 2022 World Cup.

1. For the first time, the World Cup will be played in the winter

Choosing Qatar as host has forced some notable changes on the calendar, as the tournament runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18 in order to avoid the desert heat of the region. In order to prepare, major leagues have elected to pause their season after Nov. 13 until late December (if not longer) rather than lose many of their stars for upwards of six weeks. One major question heading into the World Cup will be how much training some of these teams will have together. If players compete with their clubs up until the break, they may not make it to Qatar until Monday, Nov. 14.

This will be most impactful in England where the Premier League is famed for its busy holiday period, while most others have set winter breaks every year. For the Premier League, they still have a full slate of matches surrounding Boxing Day (Dec. 26). 

2. The last World Cup for Messi and Ronaldo?

The two most important players of the 21st century are climbing in age and Lionel Messi has already announced that Qatar 2022 should be his last World Cup, while Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled to find peace back at Manchester United. Both certainly still crave the chance to stand at the pinnacle but only Messi has come close, narrowly losing the final to Germany at Brazil 2014

Of the pair's national sides, Messi's Argentina is significantly more favored thanks to a lack of major injuries and greater confidence with manager Lionel Scaloni at the helm. This contrasts Ronaldo and Portugal, which will be without Pedro Neto and Diogo Jota, while manager Fernando Santos has taken heavy criticism for wasting the talents of a golden generation. Going further, Portugal needed to beat North Macedonia in a one-match playoff for the right to be here.

3. The best goal scorer in the world will not play in the 2022 World Cup

Despite its triumph at Euro 2020 (played in 2021), the Italian national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, losing to North Macedonia in the semi-final of qualification playoffs. Winning a trophy was important but didn't cover up the deficiencies of an aging Italian squad lacking in key areas needed to maintain consistency and qualify for major tournaments. 

Both the Netherlands and United States found this out after missing Russia 2018, solidifying their returns thanks to greater depth and young stars. Of that list, Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna stand out for the United States, while Virgil van Dijk anchors the Oranje with Frenkie de Jong and Cody Gakpo charging forward. 

Another notable absence from the World Cup will be Norwegian Erling Haaland of Manchester City, who would certainly draw attention even if Norway lost all three matches. Instead, Haaland and the Italians (among others) will get a six-week break to work on conditioning, a scary thought for opponents who have numerous players in the tournament.

4. The Spain and Germany "Group of Death", or is it?

Usually, the first thing that observers determine for any tournament with a group stage is which teams have the toughest road to the final. A favorable draw could put a good team in an easy group but make it harder during the knockout rounds, while others could get battered against the best opponents, putting their chances of making the knockout round in jeopardy.

For Qatar 2022, only Group E with Spain and Germany features two teams that have already won a World Cup, making their opening stages one of the more difficult starts to the tournament. They'll contend with an improving Japan and a Costa Rica side capable of causing problems as long as Keylor Navas is in goal. 

Hosts Qatar in Group A also represent an interesting prospect on the back of their first Asian Cup triumph, as they'll face Senegal as African champions in addition to an improved Netherlands and Ecuador. Another balanced four-pack should be  Group H, where Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea each have their own stars available, as well, as some of their best depth in years.

According to the odds, the technical "Group of Death" goes to either Group F or H, as they're the only two groups where all teams have +300 odds (bet with the Caesars Sportsbook promo code) or better to qualify to the knockout round.

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5. Trouble in France - $150M worth of players to miss World Cup?

A variety of injuries and drama could make it difficult for a talented French team to win a third World Cup. Three key starters from 2018, who total close to $150M worth of market value, are major injury worries in Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane, and N'Golo Kante. In addition, Lucas Hernandez and Lucas Digne will be cutting it close to return in time. This is on top of whatever drama Kylian Mbappe might try to stir up between club and country, though Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema could find their form just in time to paper over the cracks. 

Challenges to their title will come from Brazil, which have incredible attacking depth and will be difficult for anyone to stop if Neymar gets into stride. Additionally, Argentina have kept up their cohesion around Messi thanks to Emiliano Martinez in goal and a team that's finally experienced success following their victory in 2021 Copa America. If Belgium can ever make their "Golden Generation" reach potential, the major competitors are all presenting realistic challenges, making it hard to determine who might come out on top.

6. This is the last World Cup with 32 teams

The 2022 World Cup will be the last one with just 32 teams, as the 2026 tournament is set to have 48 countries participate.

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by North America as a whole, as the United States, Canada, and Mexico will all share hosting duties.

7. The USA has a 1% chance to win the World Cup

Per the oddsmakers, the USA is +15000 to win the 2022 World Cup, which equates to just under a one percent chance to win. Of the 32 teams in the World Cup, only 13 teams have worse odds than the US.

Here are the top 10 countries in terms of World Cup odds, as of publishing.

You can bet on the World Cup, play daily fantasy soccer, and more in the USA. For sports bettors in Ohio, take advantage of the latest Ohio betting promos in order to get your pre-live bonuses to be ready to wager after the World Cup, as Ohio launches sports betting in 2023.

This year for the World Cup, sports bettors in Maryland will be able to wager. You can take advantage of pre-live Maryland betting promos available now to get hundreds of dollars worth of free bets. Once live, our favorite promotion is the BetMGM Maryland bonus code.

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Ben Novack
Ben has been a writer focusing on Soccer since early 2018. He now awaits the day when he can see MLS in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri when St. Louis CITY begins play in 2023.
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