World Cup hype may be starting later than usual, but once our brains fully process the concept of a winter World Cup, the nation will be whipped into a pre-Christmas frenzy.

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Reigning champions France arrive in Qatar among the favourites, Brazil are much-fancied to end their 20-year drought, while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo jet to Qatar for their final World Cup appearances – and each with a point to prove.

England and Wales are the only home nations involved with varying ambitions between the two, while the usual stable of dark horses are ready to burst onto the stage in the coming weeks.

RadioTimes.com brings you our top predictions ahead of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, including who we think will lift the trophy and who will win the Golden Boot.

For more World Cup features check out: World Cup 2022 TV schedule | World Cup 2022 kits ranked | World Cup 2022 stadiums | Best players at the World Cup | Best teams at the World Cup

World Cup predictions

World Cup winners

Argentina

You can't just throw 11 V8 engines into a car and expect it to run smoothly. Sure, you've got enough horsepower to send the vehicle to the actual moon, but you need more than sheer power to make a vehicle work smoothly. Argentina are all too aware of this feeling,

In years gone by, Argentina have rolled into tournaments with a bundle of flashy individuals and tried their very hardest to shoehorn them into a fluid system. It hasn't worked.

In 2022, they arrive looking streamlined and highly functional. Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi are the only three players in the squad with more than 50 caps to their name, and the relatively new recruits added to the squad in recent years have melded together into a cohesive unit.

Argentina won the Copa America last year, and Messi – contrary to nonsensical chatter throughout his career – has continued to punch in superb performances for the national team. He's now racked up 90 goals in 164 games for his country and is hardly slowing down. The 36-year-old played 16 times for his nation in 2021, more than any other year, with nine goals to show for his efforts. This year he's racked up 10 goals in just six matches.

More like this

There's a lot of chat around Brazil and their army of Premier League stars, but only 11 men can line up on the pitch at once, and Argentina finally appear to have cracked the code to play like a complete team unit able to go all the way.

Read more - Who will win the World Cup? Every team ranked

World Cup dark horses

Croatia

It's hard to describe the 2018 runners-up as a hidden force, but it's fair to say that with Croatia's creaking core running far beyond their 'best before date', you'd be forgiven for thinking they're all done and ready for cocoa and blankets in a Zagreb retirement home. But you'd be wrong.

Croatia enter the World Cup arguably with the best form chart of all, given the strength of their recent opposition. They drew with France at home before defeating them in Paris, they did the double over Denmark and topped it off with victory over Austria for good measure in the Nations League.

40,000-year-old Luka Modric continues to shift like liquid through midfield, Ivan Perisic remains lethal for his country, and across the team, experienced veterans continue to churn out big results against big teams. Write off Croatia as has-beens at your peril.

Uruguay

A song of ice and fire: Uruguay enter this tournament with a combustible squad brimming with intensity at both ends of the field. Their strikeforce of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Darwin Nunez combines the right formula of frosty composure in front of goal and scorching determination to win.

Expect at least one of that trio to be sent off during this tournament as Uruguay look set to fight tooth and nail to claim victory in Group H over a lukewarm Portugal.

The forward line may capture plenty of attention, but there is quality right through the team. Tottenham sensation Rodrigo Bentancur has proven to be an outstanding force in midfield, while Real Madrid star Federico Valverde and veteran Atletico centre-back Diego Godin are also included. It's all about winning the group though as the runners-up are likely to face Brazil in the Round of 16.

World Cup disappointment

Belgium

The golden age came and appears to have gone with Belgium failing to lift a trophy. Of course, it's incredibly hard to win a World Cup or European Championship, but given the talent filling their coffers over recent years, you get the feeling they should have gone all the way once. Or at least to a final.

Roberto Martinez is under pressure to extract the last drops of juice from veteran defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who both feel like footballers from a different era. Eden Hazard continues to make the squad despite his obvious lack of game time – or enthusiasm to receive more game time. Players are fading and not being replaced by instantly championed stars.

Romelu Lukaku is an obvious contender for the Golden Boot based on talent, but he is a fitness doubt going into the tournament, and that leaves Kevin De Bruyne as the last truly outstanding piece of quality in this Belgian squad. Even then, KDB has failed to drag his team kicking and screaming through major showdowns on the international scene, at least not with any regularity. The show is almost over for the brightest period of Belgian football history.

How will England do at the World Cup?

Prediction: England to reach quarter-finals

Expectations feel measured going into this tournament compared to prior ones, which feels bizarre considering England reached the final of a major international tournament just over 15 months ago.

The Nations League proved to be a chastening return to Earth for the Three Lions as they were relegated from the top flight with barely a whimper. However, you can expect to see a very different England emerge in the intense crucible of a major tournament finals.

The team feels settled this time around – the starting XI virtually picks itself. Harry Kane will be among the top scorers once again, Raheem Sterling will hope to shelve his Chelsea stagnation and continue to dazzle for England, while Jude Bellingham is set to inject huge quality into the midfield.

England can beat any team in the tournament on their day. Anyone. They have the quality to win it. However, an ominous meeting with France awaits in the quarter-finals and, on paper, you have to say that may be too tall an order for Gareth Southgate's men.

How will Wales do at the World Cup?

Prediction: Wales crash out at group stage

Wales enter this one clinging to relics of the Euro 2016 squad that took them further than their wildest dreams. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey remain the two box office names, despite neither particularly impressing in recent years, while Jonny Williams and Chris Gunter make the squad despite plying their trade down in League Two.

This tournament is a huge opportunity for the likes of Brennan Johnson to prove their worth for the national team. He is a hugely talented forward yet to make a big impression for Wales. Harry Wilson and Dan James are also under the microscope when it comes to searching for goals in this Wales team.

Rob Page will see rays of light in the fact that Group B is not a forgone conclusion. England are expected to power through in top spot, Iran are expected to flop out, but Wales will see themselves as very much in the mix against USA for the runners-up spot. USA boast a host of rising stars, but nothing is set in stone. Wales may just fall short, but anything is possible.

World Cup top scorer

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi Getty Images

If Argentina go all the way, there's one main man who will guide them there. Astoundingly, Messi has never scored a goal in the knockout rounds of a World Cup, but as we've already mentioned, this is a new Argentina. (FYI, Cristiano Ronaldo has also never found the net beyond the group stages of a World Cup.)

Messi has a strong chance to rack up some goals against the likes of Saudi Arabia in the group stages before moving on to fry bigger fish. Simply put, if Messi plays the maximum number of games in this tournament, are you really going to bet against him?

Other reasonable candidates for Golden Boot include Kane – winner of the World Cup 2018 top scorer gong – as well as French duo Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, Neymar or perhaps even a real outside bet such as Memphis Depay, who tore up the qualification process with the Netherlands.

Breakout superstar

Gavi (Spain)

Move over Xavi and Iniesta. The fatherly steward figure of Sergio Busquets sits deep for Spain, allowing the kids, Gavi and Pedri, to roam free ahead of him.

Pedri was named Euro 2020 Young Player of the Tournament, making him a relatively known quantity as he enters this tournament at the age of 19. This tournament is time for Gavi to shine.

The 18-year-old – who only celebrated his birthday in August – is already a first-team regular for Barcelona with 12 Spain caps under his belt. He has garnered quite the reputation in his home country already and bears a striking resemblance, in terms of style, to the great Iniesta. It's time for the world to see what he's got.

Check out our World Cup hub for all the latest from Qatar 2022, including match previews, predictions and analysis.

If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide or visit our Sport hub.

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