The group stage said many things about each confederation under the FIFA umbrella. Some saw embarrassment as only one team from the area advanced. Others set records for the quantity of teams to reach the round of 16.
The 2022 World Cup group stage was wild. Within minutes a pair of teams was safe to advance. Then, they were out of the World Cup. As a result, Germany, Uruguay, Denmark, Mexico and Belgium are all out of the World Cup. Looking back at the experts’ predictions, all but one person had Denmark, Germany and Belgium advancing.
Those three teams all hail from UEFA, which is generally understood as the strongest and deepest confederation for FIFA. To be fair, each of those nations had another strong European team in their group. Denmark had the defending World Cup champions, Germany drew with Spain in matchday two, and Belgium did the same with Croatia in the final group stage game.
For reference, this is the first World Cup since 1994 that no team won all three of its group stage games. Therefore, parity is rife throughout the table. On one hand, teams welcome the wild nature of the tournament. On the other hand, some teams lost their security blanket of consistency in reaching the knockout stage.
So, how does a ‘confederation table’ look after all 32 teams wrapped up their group stage fixtures at the World Cup? Well, Asia looks strong, fittingly so as it is an Asian World Cup.
Breaking down each confederation after the World Cup group stage
|England – Q||2||1||0||7||+7|
|Netherlands – Q||2||1||0||7||+4|
|France – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
|Portugal – Q||2||0||1||6||+2|
|Switzerland – Q||2||0||1||6||+1|
|Croatia – Q||1||2||0||5||+3|
|Spain – Q||1||1||1||4||+6|
|Poland – Q||1||1||1||4||0|
OVERALL RECORD: 15-11-13 (56 points, +16)
Half of the teams in the last 16 hail from UEFA. That is not overly surprising. On top of the quality coming out of the continent, UEFA provided more teams than any other at the World Cup.
That being said, this tournament does have considerable disappointment as a continent. As stated, Denmark, Belgium and Germany all should have qualified out of their respective groups. Certainly, a portion of that credit goes to teams like Australia, Morocco and Japan, which took those spots.
Germany and Belgium, both eliminated from the competition, drew with the European counterparts in their group, Spain and Croatia. Asian teams, as would prove the case for a number of opponents, proved difficult. Spain and Germany both lost to Japan. South Korea defeated Portugal and drew with Uruguay. Iran defeated Wales in dramatic fashion. These are games these teams expected to win. However, they proved crucial in elimination.
|Argentina – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
|Brazil – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
OVERALL RECORD: 6-3-3 (21 points, +7)
There was a good chance entering the final matchday of the group stage that all CONMEBOL teams could have advanced. Brazil already clinched a spot, Argentina and Ecuador just needed to not lose, and Uruguay needed a win over Ghana and a South Korea draw or loss. Only Argentina delivered. Both Ecuador and Uruguay suffered heartbreaking results to exit the competition early.
The South American teams did make a case for themselves. Uruguay was the only team to lose to a European opponent, a 2-0 defeat against Portugal. Argentina defeated Poland, Brazil knocked off both its European foes and Ecuador pulled off a strong result to get a draw against the Netherlands.
In fairness, Brazil deserved to finish top. With its fate just about secured as group winners, Brazil massively changed its lineup against Cameroon. That was Brazil’s only loss in the group stage.
|Morocco – Q||2||1||0||7||+3|
|Senegal – Q||2||0||1||6||+1|
OVERALL RECORD: 7-3-5 (24 points, +2)
This is a great showing from Africa. The highlight of that is certainly Morocco, which topped a volatile group with Belgium, Croatia and Canada. In both those games, Morocco looked strong. In fact, it severely outplayed Belgium in its 2-0 win over the third-place team from 2018.
Senegal also looked like a team up for the challenge of a World Cup. Keeping in mind that Senegal is without Sadio Mané, and its only loss was to the Netherlands with two late goals, Senegal is a deserved second-place team.
Ghana, the lowest ranked team by FIFA at the World Cup, still competed fairly well. Sure, the two losses do not help. But two close games against South Korea and Portugal, which both advanced, is decent. In the end, the talent on the other sides was simply too much to handle.
Also, respect to Cameroon, which defeated Brazil to leave the tournament with heads held high, even if it failed to advance from the group.
|United States – Q||1||2||0||5||+1|
OVERALL RECORD: 3-3-6 (12 points, -13)
This is a dismal showing from North America. The three victories were not overly surprising. The United States defeated Iran, Mexico knocked off Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica defeated South Korea. Perhaps the latter is the biggest surprise. If anything, CONCACAF was the only confederation to figure out Asian teams at the World Cup group stage.
Few could have expected Costa Rica to get out of its group with Spain, Germany and Costa Rica. Therefore, three points is not altogether bad. The goal differential is, however. As Alexi Lalas vehemently noted, the 7-0 defeat to Spain in the group stage opener is a bad look for North American soccer as a whole.
Canada still awaits its first point in World Cup play. In just its second World Cup appearance, the Canadians have never done better than a loss in their six fixtures.
The United States is now the confederation’s only hope for success, and it goes up against a Netherlands side yet to lose at this tournament.
|Japan – Q||2||0||1||6||+1|
|Australia – Q||2||0||1||6||-1|
|South Korea – Q||1||1||1||4||0|
OVERALL RECORD: 5-1-10 (22 points, -11)
Teams from the Asian confederation had a mixed bag in the group stage. There is the good, three teams from Asia qualifying for the last 16. This is the first time that many teams from AFC qualified.
There is also the bad. Qatar is the first host nation to not pick up a point. It is just the second to not make it out of the group stage. The other is South Africa in 2010, and even that team had four points including a win over France. Undoubtedly, Qatar is the worst performing host in the history of the competition.
Even Iran and Saudi Arabia, which also did not advance had strong moments. Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina and Lionel Messi. However, it lost its next two games. Iran had a legitimate shot to reach the round of 16. Christian Pulisic’s goal in matchday three broke Iranian players’ hearts.
Still, the major talking point for Asian teams is the performance of Australia, South Korea and Japan. These teams were all in tough groups. Yet, each found a way out. South Korea picked up a massive win over Portugal in the third matchday to clinch a spot. It also drew against Uruguay. Australia stunned Denmark to jump the European side in the group table.
The best performer, though, is Japan. Yes, Japan lost to Costa Rica. However, that does not take away from stunning and historic wins over Germany and Spain. Therefore, there are three Asian teams competing in the knockout stages of another Asia-hosted World Cup.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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