After what seemed like a whirlwind of a summer involving many of the home nations in the Euros, attention quickly turned to the World Cup which of course is taking place in Qatar in 2022. It’s going to be a very different tournament in the Middle East as it kicks off in November rather than what has been the traditional mid-summer competition, with the final just before Christmas.
Scotland to snare a spot in Qatar?
Steve Clarke’s side have made a solid start to their qualifying campaign for World Cup 2022, chasing current front runners in Group F, Denmark. After a disappointing Euros, with the highlight being a draw against England, the Scots have only lost once. That was to the Danish, since then a home win against Moldova and a terrific win away in Austria have really given the Tartan Army a strong chance of qualification.
Lyndon Dykes is proving to be a real talisman, the Australian born player who qualifies for Scotland through his parents, has scored the winner in his country’s last two games. Clarke has a wealth of experience to call upon with the quality from fullbacks Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney making many an international manager envious. Also, Billy Gilmour of Chelsea is a real talent, the 20-year-old made his mark in the Euros and was arguably the man of the match against England. Should Clarke’s side pick up a maximum six points from their next two qualifiers against Israel and Faroe Islands respectively they have a real chance of featuring in Qatar.
England to go one step further?
Could it be the time when England finally go all the way and emulate the heroes of 1966? It could truly be their time. It was a relatively slow start for Southgate’s side in Group D of the Euros which they finished with two draws and a win before things really ramped up in the Knockout Stage. Resounding victories against Germany and Ukraine without conceding a goal were followed by a solid outing against Denmark in the Semi Final. According to a Bwin Sports infographic on goalscorers Harry Kane has fostered one of the best goalscoring partnerships in domestic football, and it was only a matter of time before he did it at the Euros, too. His link up play with Raheem Sterling was sometimes the difference for England. But that didn’t stop them falling at the last hurdle against Italy on penalties after the game finished 1-1 after extra time.
They have a young squad who are growing in confidence – arguably their biggest opponent could be themselves. Whilst there is a wealth of experience and talent in the squad currently, a few injuries could prove to be pivotal. The Under 21 squad which has been the proving ground for many of the current crop, doesn’t have a lot of experience within it at the top level despite the players being at top clubs. Time will tell, but if they keep the squad together they have a real chance.
Wales to wait and see
Wales are aiming to get to their first World Cup since 1958 but they have a tough hill to climb. Robert Page’s side fell in the round of 16 in the summer against Denmark, who outplayed the Dragons and it’s the Danes who once again could hold the key to their destiny. They still rely heavily on Gareth Bale who still isn’t getting time on the pitch at Real Madrid, but he’s still managing to turn it on internationally with a recent hattrick against Belarus.
Northern Ireland unlikely
Northern Ireland look the most unlikely to feature in Qatar, although they’ve had an upturn of results of late. They sit behind Switzerland and European Champions Italy in their group, and it would be fair to say they will have to beat Switzerland in their next group game to stand any realistic chance of making the qualification playoffs.
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