The 2022 FIFA World Cup is now right around the corner. With the new football season in Europe’s top leagues now well and truly underway, anticipation for the showdown in Qatar couldn’t be any higher. Oddschecker, which compares odds from online bookmakers and provides free offers on the World Cup, has made Brazil, England, and France the early favorites for glory. But could we have a shock winner this year?
Four years ago, no one would have predicted that any one of Croatia, England, Russia or Sweden would be World Cup finalists. But thanks to the early exits of powerhouses such as Germany and Spain, that was the prospect we were faced with at the quarter-final stage. Of course, it was Croatia who went on to seal their spot in the Moscow showpiece, defeating England in extra time thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s 116th-minute winner.
But this year, could we have a first ever winner from Africa?
The Lions of Teranga
Senegal have been firing on all cylinders in recent months. They lifted the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon back in February – with then Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah facing off in the final. Of course, it was Mane – now at Bayern Munich following his £30m move this summer – who would come out on top, with Salah missing the decisive spot kick, leaving he and his Egyptian teammates distraught.
The Lions of Teranga have impressed before on the world stage. 20 years ago, a team consisting of the likes of El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Papa Bouba Diop reached the quarter-finals in Japan and South Korea. They would lose out to Turkey in extra time in Osaka, but not before they had stunned the world by defeating defending champions France in the opening game of the tournament.
This year, they are managed by the captain from 20 years ago, Aliou Cisse, and he will be licking his lips at their group in the World Cup. Senegal have been drawn alongside the Netherlands, Ecuador, and tournament host Qatar, with progression to the last 16 looking like a very real possibility. They may come up against Gareth Southgate’s England in the second round, should they finish second rather than topping their group. But if they do, Senegal could have a straight shot to the last eight, and who knows where beyond there?
It’s still an outside bet, and an unusual proposition, but Senegal could well progress much further than anyone would expect in Qatar.