Group A of the 2022 World Cup includes three-time losing runners-up Netherlands, defending AFCON winners Senegal and Qatar, alongside South American qualifiers Ecuador.
We take a look at the predictor numbers to assess who will emerge from the group stage and qualify for the last 16.
The Netherlands are heading to their 2022 World Cup opener with Senegal on a 15-game unbeaten streak (W11 D4), with their last defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic at Euro 2022 in their last 16 meeting in June 2021.
The Dutch have never failed to qualify for the World Cup group stage in 10 previous attempts, but will play their first World Cup in eight years after failing to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia .
As three-time losing runners-up, the Netherlands have appeared in the most World Cup finals without winning one, but their group stage record is exceptional – remaining unbeaten in their group in their last four appearances at the World Cup (1998, 2006, 2010, 2014). They haven’t lost a World Cup group stage game since a 1994 loss to Belgium in Orlando – but despite that, they still won their group that year.
As the eighth-best FIFA-ranked team in the world and having won their qualifying group with 23 points out of a possible 30 – losing only once, away to Turkey – our predictor strongly favors progress for the Countries- Down to the Round of 16 at Qatar 2022, with an 83.02% chance of qualifying and a 59.27% chance of finishing top to qualify for the last 16.
Senegal travel to Qatar as defending African Cup of Nations champions, following their success at AFCON 2021 earlier this year, beating Egypt on penalties in the final after a 0-0 draw.
They got off to a slow start in this tournament, winning one and drawing two of their group games and scoring only once – a 97th-minute penalty from Sadio Mané in their opener against Zimbabwe .
They came alive in the round of 16, scoring eight goals in the last 16, quarter-final and semi-final combined, but their lethargy in the group stage may worry some into thinking it could happen again in this tournament.
Their brilliant defensive record saved them in Cameroon in January, conceding just two goals in 660 minutes of tournament football on their way to glory, but they will face tougher tests at the World Cup.
Their 48.97% chance of qualifying for the Round of 16 is the best behind the Dutch, but only slightly higher than Ecuador (42.13%) and hosts Qatar (25.89% ).
Hosts Qatar will try to avoid becoming the second host country to be eliminated in the first round of a World Cup tournament, after South Africa in 2010.
The Qataris are the current holders of the AFC Asian Cup after beating Japan in the 2019 final (3-1), scoring 19 goals and conceding just one in the entire tournament – however, that victory was almost four years before their opening match against Ecuador in this tournament, so it is unlikely to be an accurate indicator of their good position to participate in this World Cup.
Arguably, their opening match against Ecuador is their easiest challenge – on paper, at least.
The South American nation are in decent form heading into the tournament, with just one loss in 14 matches (they are due to face Iraq in a pre-tournament friendly on November 11), but eight of them were void. Their last five matches have seen just two goals scored – both by Ecuador – suggesting they won’t be the star performers at the 2022 World Cup. That said, they have scored 27 goals in the qualifiers of CONMEBOL, which was their highest total in a single edition, but they have no altitude on their side in this tournament.
My Opta Million Prediction
I think Qatar will fall at the first hurdle – Senegal and the Netherlands will be too strong for them, and I would even go so far as to predict that they will finish last in Group A.
The former World Cup hosts have reached the second round of the competition in 20 of the previous 21 editions, with the exception of South Africa in 2010, but I believe Qatar will join them in this shortlist at two teams.
Ecuador will enjoy a victory in the opening match against the Qataris but will lose their next two matches against the Netherlands and Senegal. The Dutch will win their opener against Senegal – their toughest game in the group – and eventually progress with nine points from nine, while defending AFCON champions Senegal finish second with six points after wins against Qatar and Ecuador.
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