World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: Argentina climb, England fall after group-stage draw

Lionel Messi Argentina 2022
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With the groups-stage draw having taken place, GOAL ranks the sides most likely to challenge for the trophy in Qatar...

Given its timing and its setting, the 2022 World Cup promises to be one like no other, and is now just under eight months away from kicking-off.

Teams from around the globe have been busy putting together their qualifying campaigns, with 29 sides now guaranteed to be taking part in Qatar.

The group-stage draw has, however, taken place, but who are the favourites to lift the trophy, who will be the surprise packages and who are most likely to be also-rans?

GOAL ranks the confirmed the participants ahead of Friday's group-stage draw...

  1. Saudi Arabia (Last time: 29th)
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    #29 Saudi Arabia (Last time: 29th)

    Saudi Arabia are back at their sixth World Cup since first qualifying in 1994, but they will have to go some to match their debut performance of reaching the last 16.

    Though they topped their final qualifying group, they struggled for goals throughout, netting just 12 times in 10 matches.

    They will likely need goals, too, given they will be coming up against Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski in the group stages.

  2. Tunisia (Last time: 25th)
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    #28 Tunisia (Last time: 25th)

    If Peru come through their intercontintal play-off, then there is an argument to suggest that Tunisia have been handed the toughest draw of any side in the competition.

    The lowest-ranked Pot Three side will certainly face defending champions France and a buoyant Denmark, and given their lack of goals, the African side might do well to even pick up a point before heading home.

  3. Qatar (Last time: 28th)
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    #27 Qatar (Last time: 28th)

    Qatar were the Pot One side that every other team wanted to draw, but the hosts will be satisfied with how Group A panned out.

    Finishing in the top two while facing the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador will be far from easy, but the 2019 Asian Cup winners do seem to be able to raise their game when tournaments come around.

    Host nations have been written off before, only to produce some shock results, so do not rule out Qatar's team too quickly.

  4. Iran (Last time: 27th)
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    #26 Iran (Last time: 27th)

    Iran have only missed two World Cups since 1998, and will be there again this time after topping their group in the third round of Asian qualifying.

    They won eight of their 10 games, and conceded just four goals as they made relatively light work of claiming a spot in Qatar.

    A tournament opener against England, however, is likely to be a far more difficult test, and given the UEFA play-off winner is set to be one of the strongest Pot Four sides, regardless of who makes it through, Iran look set for an early trip home.

  5. Japan (Last time: 24th)
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    #25 Japan (Last time: 24th)

    For the seventh straight World Cup, Japan have secured a place at the tournament, finishing second in their final group in Asian qualifying.

    Their reward, if you can call it that, was being placed in Group E alongside Germany and Spain, as well as either Costa Rica or New Zealand.

    As such, there does not seem much of a path for them to reach the knockout stages, at least for now.

  6. Canada (Last time: 22nd)
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    #24 Canada (Last time: 22nd)

    Aside from Italy's failure to reach the tournament, Canada were the story of World Cup qualification, topping the CONCACAF table to reach their first global tournament for 36 years.

    As co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup, that is the competition that they are truly eyeing as one where they can make a splash, but they will not be in Qatar as merely tourists either.

    Alphonso Davies is a player that Belgium, Croatia and Morocco will have to prepare thoroughly for, and a first ever win at the World Cup should not be beyond them if the Bayern Munich star is back firing on all cylinders come November.

  7. Ecuador (Last time: 26th)
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    #23 Ecuador (Last time: 26th)

    The youngest team in CONMEBOL qualifying, Ecuador are regarded as being a side on the up in South America, and proved it by qualifying in fourth position.

    Their best years are undoubtedly ahead of them, but they will get the chance to announced themselves on the global stage when they take on Qatar in the tournament's opener on November 21.

    From there, things get more difficult against the Netherlands and Senegal, but a win on opening day could yet set them up for a shock win or two further down the line.

  8. Ghana (Last time: 23rd)
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    #22 Ghana (Last time: 23rd)

    After their embarrassing group-stage exit at the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana managed to pick themselves back up and edge out great rivals Nigeria in their World Cup play-off.

    Now they can prepare to face another team that they would love to beat more than most in Uruguay, following the heartbreaking way that they were knocked out of the 2010 quarter-finals.

    Their group is the closest to a 'Group of Death' in the tournament, and so making it through is not beyond the Black Stars.

  9. Cameroon (Last time: 21st)
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    #21 Cameroon (Last time: 21st)

    Cameroon backed up their third-placed finish at the Africa Cup of Nations with a stunning, last-gasp win over Algeria in their World Cup play-off to secure a spot in Qatar.

    Though they are not the star-studded team of previous generations, manager Rigobert Song seems to have found a winning formula in the early months of 2022.

    They will be pretty happy with their group, too, as they prepare for a three-way tussle alongside Switzerland and Serbia to likely qualify for the knockouts alongside Brazil.

  10. Morocco (Last time: 19th)
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    #20 Morocco (Last time: 19th)

    Morocco might not be every fan's first choice to sit down and watch during the World Cup, but they have the potential to be a surprise package in Qatar.

    Only twice in their final six qualifying matches did they fail to score three goals, and they were unlucky to lose to Egypt in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

    In Achraf Hakimi, they also arguably possess the most exciting young player in African football, and a group containing Belgium, Croatia and Canada is not as daunting as it might have been.

    Mark Morocco down as GOAL World Cup Power Rankings' dark horses for a place in the last 16...

  11. South Korea (Last time: 20th)
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    #19 South Korea (Last time: 20th)

    Without doubt the biggest star of the Asian game, Son Heung-min will be asked to lead from the front for South Korea as they aim to reach the knockout rounds of the World Cup for just the third time.

    The Tottenham forward was the joint-top scorer in the third and final round of Asian qualifying, as his team remained unbeaten until after their qualification for Qatar 2022 was sealed.

    They will now take on Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana in Qatar, and though they may well end up being the least fancied of those sides when the tournament kicks-off, do not be surprised if they pull off a shock result or two.

  12. Mexico (Last time: 17th)
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    #18 Mexico (Last time: 17th)

    Mexico play Argentina perhaps more than any other side outside of CONCACAF, and it rarely goes well for El Tri, so a second-placed finish in their group is likely the best they can hope for.

    To secure that, they will have to stop Robert Lewandowski and Poland, while finding a way to score themselves after a qualification campaign that was short of goals.

    Raul Jimenez must rediscover his best form in the coming months, or Tata Martino's side could be in for an early exit.

  13. Serbia (Last time: 18th)
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    #17 Serbia (Last time: 18th)

    Serbia stunned world football when they nipped ahead of Portugal right in the final seconds of UEFA qualifying to book an automatic spot in Qatar, and they will be out to do the same later this year.

    In terms of the group stages, beating Brazil would be a greater achievement than even taking down Portugal, and in Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, they have the weapons to at least test the Selecao.

    In reality, though, they will be aiming to beat out Switzerland and Cameroon for second place in what looks a fairly open group below the top seeds.

  14. Uruguay (Last time: 15th)
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    #16 Uruguay (Last time: 15th)

    In what looks to be the most open group of the eight, Uruguay could as easily top Group H as they could finish bottom of it.

    They will certainly be tested by a Ghana side that will be out for revenge after Luis Suarez's antics back in 2010, while Portugal and South Korea both have iconic forwards leading the way.

    Uruguay, of course, have that too with Suarez, and so will pose a threat to anyone they come up against.

  15. United States (Last time: 16th)
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    #15 United States (Last time: 16th)

    Black Friday will take on a whole new meaning for the United States if their men's national team are humbled by England in Qatar, but Gregg Berhalter's side will not need much encouragement heading into that clash.

    The rest of the group looks manageable if not straightforward, with their hopes of progression likely to come down to whether they are able to beat the UEFA play-off winner, be that Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

    Failure to do so, or beat Iran, would be a major disappointment for the 2026 co-hosts on their return to the tournament.

  16. Switzerland (Last time: 12th)
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    #14 Switzerland (Last time: 12th)

    Perennial qualifiers for major tournaments, Switzerland have done it again, and this time pipped Italy to an automatic place in Qatar after topping their UEFA group.

    Their reward is a repeat meeting with Brazil having faced them in the 2018 group stages, as well as clashes with Serbia and Cameroon in one of the tournament's more open groups.

    The Swiss' experience of reaching the knockout stages in major tournaments will make them the favourites to join Brazil in the last 16, but progression is unlikely to be straightforward.

  17. Croatia (Last time: 11th)
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    #13 Croatia (Last time: 11th)

    Beaten finalists in 2018, expectations for Croatia in Qatar will be much lower, though they will still head into the tournament expecting to be competitive and potentially win at least one knockout game.

    Luka Modric continues to perform at a very high level as he begins his preparations for a fourth World Cup, and the Real Madrid man will lead a squad that is transitioning slowly away from the golden generation that brought them so much success through the 2010s.

    They have been drawn into a manageable group containing Belgium, Morocco and Canada, though a probable meeting with Spain or Germany is likely to be on the horizon if they make it through.

  18. Poland (Last time: 14th)
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    #12 Poland (Last time: 14th)

    Arguably the best player in the world over the past three years, it would have felt wrong for Robert Lewandowski not to have the chance to mark that with a World Cup outing.

    That he will now come up against Lionel Messi in the group stages creates a nice narrative, and the Bayern Munich star will be keen to cause a shock when Poland face Argentina.

    Their hopes of making it out of the group will, however, likely rely on taking care of Mexico, with Saudi Arabia their other opponents.

  19. Senegal (Last time: 13th)
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    #11 Senegal (Last time: 13th)

    The champions of Africa may have been in Pot Three for the draw, but they will be the second-favourites to win their group after being placed alongside Qatar, the Netherlands and Ecuador.

    Though none of those games will be a formality, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly as individuals are far better than any players Qatar or Ecuador can call upon.

    Rigobert Song's side have a real shot of topping Group A if they can avoid defeat against the Netherlands in their opening game, meaning a repeat of their run to the quarter-finals in 2002 cannot be ruled out.

  20. Denmark (Last time: 8th)
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    #10 Denmark (Last time: 8th)

    Euro 2020's surprise package could have done without having to take on defending world champions France in the group stages, but Kasper Hjulmand's side will certainly approach the game with confidence given their recent form.

    Their mood has been buoyed even more by Christian Eriksen's triumphant return to international football, and they should have enough to overcome Tunisia and either Peru, Australia or the UAE to make it into the knockout rounds.

  21. Belgium (Last time: 7th)
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    #9 Belgium (Last time: 7th)

    While Belgium's group consisting of Croatia, Morocco and Canada is far from daunting, the Red Devils will be acutely of aware of what is likely to be waiting for them in the last 16.

    Roberto Martinez will be praying that one of either Spain or Germany slips up in the group stages, or they will be his side's opponents in the first knockout round.

    An early exit could, then, be what awaits Belgium's golden generation in what is the final World Cup for a number of star names.

  22. Portugal (Last time: 9th)
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    #8 Portugal (Last time: 9th)

    Portugal rarely do things the easy way, and a group containing Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana certainly has the potential to provide some banana skins.

    Cristiano Ronaldo is desperate, however, to win the World Cup in what is likely to be his final appearance at the tournament, so expect him to be leading from the front in Qatar.

    That said, if things do go to plan for the Euro 2016 winners, a quarter-final meeting with Belgium, Spain or Germany is likely to be on the cards.

  23. Netherlands (Last time: 10th)
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    #7 Netherlands (Last time: 10th)

    It is no secret that every team in the draw wanted to face Qatar from Pot One, and so the Netherlands will be thrilled to find themselves in Group A.

    Though Senegal look their biggest rivals in terms of topping the group, the Oranje should be confident of progressing as the winners.

    With Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, they potentially have the best central defensive duo in the competition, and coach Louis van Gaal has overseen deep runs in this competition before.

  24. Germany (Last time: 5th)
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    #6 Germany (Last time: 5th)

    After being seeded in Pot Two, Germany knew they were potentially in for a tough draw, and so being forced to take on Spain in the group-stages will not phase Hansi Flick.

    Japan, as well as either Costa Rica or New Zealand, should be games that Die Mannschaft will win, even if they are not the most straightforward, meaning that the match against Spain will take on great importance in terms of whether they finish the group as winners or not.

    Failure to do so could set up a last-16 tie against Belgium.

  25. Spain (Last time: 4th)
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    #5 Spain (Last time: 4th)

    Spain were the unlucky top seed who were drawn alongside Germany from Pot Two, setting up a titanic battle between two of the favourites for the tournament in the opening round.

    La Roja should still make it through, but coming against Hansi Flick's side increases the possibility of them doing so as runners-up, which in turn could lead to a more difficult last-16 tie.

    For now, Luis Enrique will just be focused on his key players, such as teenage talents Pedri, Ansu Fati and Gavi, being fit for kick-off in November.

  26. England (Last time: 2nd)
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    #4 England (Last time: 2nd)

    Though England are undoubtedly the strongest side in their group, they could have done without having to face opponents who will be more driven than most to beat them at such an early stage.

    The United States would love to again upset England on the biggest stage, while Scotland or Wales, should either of them beat Ukraine, would be even more determined to take down Gareth Southgate's side.

    The Three Lions winning their group could also lead to them facing France in the quarter-finals, so while they have one of the most talented squads at the tournament, they are unlikely to face an easy time of it at any stage.

  27. Argentina (Last time: 6th)
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    #3 Argentina (Last time: 6th)

    Lionel Messi and Co. will have been pretty happy with how the draw panned out, as they are slated to face Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia in the groups.

    Having Nicolas Otamendi to deal with Robert Lewandowski might give Lionel Scaloni a few sleepless nights between now and November, but on the whole the Copa America champions look well placed to make a deep run.

    Based on FIFA rankings, their quarter-final opponents would be the Netherlands, which they absolutely would have taken ahead of the draw.

    Suddenly, Messi's elusive World Cup trophy has moved a whole lot closer.

  28. Brazil (Last time: 3rd)
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    #2 Brazil (Last time: 3rd)

    Brazil are familiar with their three of their group-stage opponents, having been drawn against all of Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon across the last two World Cups.

    The Selecao should have little issue in navigating themselves through that group, allowing Neymar and Co. to pick up some momentum heading into the latter stages.

    Tougher tests will surely come in the knockout rounds, but Tite's side were certainly one of the winners from Friday's event.

  29. France (Last time: 1st)
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    #1 France (Last time: 1st)

    France certainly could have found themselves in an easier group, with Denmark and a potential meeting with Peru on the horizion for the defending champions.

    The good news is that they played both those teams in their group in 2018, and they went on to lift the trophy in Russia.

    Victory over Tunisia in their final group game should be a formality, and Les Bleus find themselves on a collision course for a quarter-final clash with England if all goes to plan for both sides.