The 2022 World Cup is over so let’s start talking about 2026 and all the problems of hosting the tournament in North America.
Now watch some domestic football and send us mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking towards 2026
Well Qatar is over (What a tournament) and before the mailbox gets filled with Carabao and Premiership thoughts I’d like to preview 2026.
I’m not to enamoured with the format chosen 16 groups of 3. Personally I would recommend 12 groups of 4 and use a variant of the Europa League format (with a play-off ) to whittle from 24 to 16.
My mail however is to assess how ready is anyone to win the next one its only 31/2 years away. Let’s assess it per continent.
Oceania 2 teams max I guaranteed
Kiwis will become World Cup regulars, Solomon Island will probably lose 427 -0 in the continental playoffs neither really has a chance of winning the tournament. Will be happy to win game.
North and Central America 6 or 8
Well the usual two suspects (Mexico and US) will be the hosts along with Canada, US had a young team that will be a bit more mature in four years, Mexico in contrast look like they will need to rebuild they had players in their late 30’s and a 40 year old, Canada like the US had an inexperienced squad, they will be better for this experience and will probably have more professionals by the next one phasing out guys who had heart, but not enough quality this time around most of these 3 should go deep into the tournament like last 16.
The interesting part will be watching the rest of Concacaf trying to qualify without the aforementioned big guns. It will probably be Costa Rica + 2 others who will be happy to be at the World Cup.
Asia 8 or 9
Usual Suspects (Skorea, Japan, Australia, Iran, S Arabia) will qualify easily probably a full year before the actual tournament, Japan will probably go this year’s squad with a few additions. South Korea’s Main aim will be replacing Son, the rest will replace who they need to most will be happy with getting out of the group if they qualify, the 3-4 guaranteed spots will give a chance for other countries to experience the World Cup, opening up what has been a closed shop.
Africa 9 or 10
Africa had a decent tournament (including its first semi-finalist), The additional four spots will probably benefit some of the continental powers who missed out ,,,less likely to be a situation where Salah and Mane have a playoff to decide whose country qualifies.
Both of those talismen will probably go as grizzled veterans, their best years behind them in 2026…
I think the Ayews might retire and there could be a lot of upheaval in the Ghanaian team, I expect the Nigerians to qualify and do well. Morocco should also make it back in 4 years along with much of the North African contingent. I expect a team or 2 to get to the quarters, the bar has been raised, reaching the last 16 wont be seen as a big achievement anymore .
Conmebol 6 to 7
A major gripe I have with 2026 is that some of the qualifying procedures, (I’m looking at South America and Asia) have not been simplified is there really a reason to still have the 18-team slug fest that will start next March no less just to eliminate only three teams?
Brazil and Argentina will be there. Brazil should be contenders, Neymar will likely not make the team. If Thiago Silva and Alves are still part of the team we may need to check if they have an aversion to garlic and wooden stakes, Argentina wont win the next one , they did well this time based primarily on the will to win it for Messi, there are some major rebuilds that need to take place for some of the second tier. Uruguay, Colombia and Chile who really shouldn’t be depending on the likes of Cavani, Godin Muslera, Falcao, James Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Sanchez or Vidal?
Is it to early to suspect that Bolivia and Venezuela will be two of the three who will watch from home.
Europe 16 teams
The Elite 7 are at various levels of preparedness France and Portugal already look like contenders in terms of squad strength. Many questions for Portugal will be what the style and team dynamic with Santos and CR7 likely to have left.
England will probably have to restructure their defence and replace their record goalscorer, Germany need a new spine, Italy need to start taking World Cups seriously again.
The Dutch will probably have to change a few players at the back post Euro 2024 (Van Dijk, Blind and De Vrij will all be late 30’s Wijnaldjum will probably be phased out as well. They do have the a great production line from PSV and Ajax.
A few teams are at the end of major cycles particularly Belgium and Wales I have to commend Croatia for finishing third again and the emergence of Gvardiol amongst others but the real issue come after Modric and Perisic leave.
Overall the Europeanelite should as usual be competitive, the interesting thing will be seeing how the teams adapt to having to play teams from other continents more often as there will be fewer group games between teams from the same continent.
Timi, Super Eagles fan
…Attention on USA, Mexico and Canada.
Now the Qatar world cup is over can we all turn are attention to the next World Cup.
I’ve been shocked by the west’s coverage of all the various ‘issues’ with the Qatar World Cup but that’s in the past now and they must now focus on the next World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA.
My first question is, how on earth is it good for the environment to have a World Cup played across the whole of North and Central America. Teams, fans and the media are going to have a massive carbon footprint in order to travel the thousands of miles across the continent.
For all the talk of Qatar being a winter World Cup, the west seemed to have forgot 2 points 1) for half the world this was not the winter, how nice was it see people in Argentina being able to celebrate in the summer as opposed to every other World Cup that has been played in the winter, 2) the weather in Qatar looked amazing for football and fans 23-28 degrees and nearly all kick offs after sun set.
Can we start to look at the potential weather in Mexico, USA and Canada especially if kick off times are going to be around midday or early afternoon to ensure they are not too late for the European and African audiences. My understanding is temperatures in July and August will be unbearable (potentially 35-40 degrees in the direct sun) could the tournament be moved to say May/June or September? Despite the fake controversy about moving the Qatar World Cup, I believe the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea was also moved forward to avoid the worst of the weather there.
Finally now we have all decided that hosting a World Cup means we need to forensically investigate immigration and LGBTQ stances in the host countries can we start looking at the state-level bills that curtail the rights of LGBTQ people in the USA and the 1.5million refugees and migrants that are getting unlawfully pushed back to the USA-Mexico border as well as the 7698 cases alone of missing or disappeared persons in Mexico in 2021. I understand this has nothing to do with those countries hosting the World Cup however in my opinion this was the same as Qatar where a tiny proportion of the migrant issues was related to the World Cup yet this took centre stage.
The likes of the BBC and Guardian must report this instead of say the World Cup opening ceremony, and while the tournament is on they must start every question to officials that have worked on the World Cup about these issues.
If they do not, they are at best hypocrites and at worst racists.
Paul K, London
…The question of hosting the World Cup in Qatar has been subject to considerable conversation and rightly so. Well perhaps it’s a little early to rain on everyone’s parade but, I just want to point out that in four years, the next World Cup will be held in a country where:
– In 2021 there were 5 times as many gun-related deaths than people killed so far in Ukraine
– One population demographic that represents 13% of the population represent over 38% of all prisoner incarcerated
– Over 10% of the population have no healthcare
– No one under 21 will be able to drink
If that isn’t enough, we are going to be subjected to four years of trying to convince the World the game is called ‘soccer’ because they have a game called ‘Football’ which is played by catching, throwing and running with an oblong shaped ball IN THEIR HANDS, ‘cleats’, and getting the shot ‘on frame’ (whatever the heck that means!).
And if all that doesn’t fill you with enough dread, if Trump gets re-elected, watch him turn the World’s largest sporting event into being all about him.
(The Half-Time show will be brought to you by a host of companies hoping you will stupid enough to suddenly buy their products because their name is now associated with Football).
Credit for the Americans please
I don’t think a full-on, balls-out, p***-spewing rant would be an inappropriate response your World Cup Awards piece awarding a “player-of” gong to every confederation but CONCACAF. You deserve it, and you know it, so I’ll take it as read and try to do your job for you.
CONCACAF didn’t cover itself in glory at this World Cup, but the USA was surely the best of the bunch despite some really attractive performances from Canada. And I don’t think many players at this World Cup elevated their status further than the USA’s Tyler Adams. I mean of course I’m a *whole lot more interested now in Newcastle pinching Julian Alvarez from Man City, but we already suspected he was as good as Pep thought.
For the USA Pulisic, Dest and McKennie were relatively known quantities, from an international perspective. But before Qatar, Tyler Adams was seen as nothing but a tryer who was really buying into Jesse Marsch’s Ted Lasso act at Leeds. He was responsible for a lot of the USA’s resilience and flexibility at this World Cup, and I would think a lot of scouts are looking at the 23-year-old very thoughtfully right now. Yunus Musah might be a close second, here; Inter are evidently sniffing at him now, so maybe I’m wrong about Adams being CONCACAF’s biggest revelation.
As galling as it was to have such a fantastic World Cup hosted by a nation with such a civil rights record, I hope that final will live in our memories long past the point when Qatar affords all its residents full human rights. Here in the US, the response was a little astonishing. Perhaps Ted Lasso softened up a lot of people who previously dismissed soccer as irrelevant, but I saw countless social media reactions from people I could hardly believe were watching at all. It was just lovely. The first person I heard call it the greatest event in sports history was an American; the hyperbole may be characteristic of the US, but the acknowledgment of football’s magic is pretty new.
Chris C, Toon Army DC
The Greatest? Of all time? Behave
There is no greatest of all time. There you go, end of the argument.
Pele played when the referee was pushed to give a free kick for thigh-high tackles, when he was kicked out of a tournament, and hacked continuously throughout every match.
Maradona was flitting around at a time when Italy had a great team, the Germans were top dogs and Brazil were, well, Brazil.
Greatest at what? Heading, tackling, goalkeeping, passing, running? All are important to enable the showstoppers to get the ball and then do their bits of magic.
Messi is absolutely magnificent, and is the best attacking player of his generation, but of all time?
A great but also terrible final
It was wonderful, but it was also shite. Does that matter? Not particularly, unless you’re more interested in debating the meaning of the word greatest than you are in just enjoying something for once in your life without having to overthink it, you fool. It’s too late for me. But you’re young. You’ve got time. Go. Don’t look back.
France were awful (no shots or touches in the box in the 53 minute long first half awful) and it wasn’t so much a case of them forcing their way back into it as it was Argentina suddenly looking knackered and nervous. I don’t think a great final has to involve mostly, or even largely, great football. But this went further than that. France played as if they didn’t have any energy. As if they were recovering from serious illness, in fact.
It was a great final. But I’d like the lists of Ten Reasons Why… to include one, fairly important, reason why it wasn’t.
Paris did not deserve world champions
When we broke mid-season for this unprecedented ‘winter’ World Cup I somehow found myself feeling less than enthused but then wow… after a mere few days of group stage matches and the prem was well and truly in my rearview and I had fully climbed aboard in Qatar.
And how incredible it was once it shifted thru the gears and layers peeled back and the cream rose and all that. Now the tourney is over and I feel less than enthused for the league to pick back up, and also feel mild misplaced apathy for Thursday’s City-Liverpool cup meeting which seemed a barnstormer just wks ago. The same thing will likely happen; I’ll quickly forget this spectacular WC and mire myself in Darwin’s evolution and the steep climb upwards for European places etc. It’s the modern mindset, what have you done for me lately, I have the attention span of a gnat.
Anyway, my real reason for writing in (and at the risk of alienating every French reader on the site) is this: so when we succumbed 1-0 to Madrid in last year’s Champs League final, the loss stung on a multitude of levels. 1, on paper (though it’s never won on paper is it) it was surely a match we should win, if not a match we would win 7 out of 10x played; 2, it just had to be a blinder from Courtois that day and a TAA blindspot, almost too simple the narrative of Trent being exposed at the back post for someone to glide in… a cut to the jugular that had me cursing Trent’s name the entire summer; and 3, the fact that the Paris goons (by way of UEFA) who worked the various entry and ticketing points that day getting off so lightly for treating our support like bovine, thereby dredging up decades of angst and injustice against a fanbase that probably carries the burden of one of the biggest human loss tragedies of modern sport. Though it could have happened to any club “lucky enough” to reach that final in Paris, it was sickeningly ironic that it happened to Liverpool, truly an insult to the injury of losing that match.
So as I watched the late drama of the World Cup final unfolding I initially thought this was a contest clearly worthy of two winners, so much on the line, ratcheted up with the strikes and counterstrikes, imagining the crushing sadness that would soon befall one of Buenos Aires or Paris at the end of the spectacle. You already know what I’m going to say next.
My thoughts quickly turned to the Paris I remembered just a few months prior, the kid LFC fans getting the pepper spray to the face, that perhaps a small karmic justice was about to be paid. I’ve no ill will towards any French person nor their amazing national team, mind you. I love Ibrahima Konate for obvious reasons. Kingsley Coman has been wonderful for Bayern. No secret we wanted to sign Tchouameni. No secret Mbappe would at least consider Anfield if we had some financial enabling not named FSG. That French teamsheet deserve utmost respect for their fight and endeavor, one half of the greatest WC final we’ve ever witnessed.
But in the grander scheme there are greater forces at work, and to my mind there was no way French footballing joy would be taking place this season. On another day the players may have deserved it,, but their city did not.
Eric, Los Angeles CA (probably also a strong shout for PSG to bow out against Bayern in the springtime… if anything, this special little mid-season winter tournament has thrown a great divide between that triumvirate of egos in the Paris dressing room I reckon. Oh it’s all connected you see)
The enablers are the exposers
A quick question to the enablers was posed, here’s a a quick reply….
Prior to this World Cup there was little to no awareness of working practices or the social and political policies of Qatar. Now there is an awareness, a spotlight that has shone ever so brightly this past while.
Will anything change? Hopefully but certainly not quickly, this was a football tournament after all, not a US/British coalition bent on regime change.
However, although FIFA shamed themselves through their moral cowardice and, like the Qataris hoped the football would mask all ills, the sportswashing has failed. The football was brilliant but people haven’t walked away thinking it’s legitimised the medieval thinking of the Qatari government.
This World Cup exposed some very uncomfortable truths about Qatar that the world would otherwise have remained oblivious to. There is an argument that without the tournament the need for stadia would not have led to the deaths of so many workers and this is a valid point. It can also be said that the drive to abolish Kafala, the system under which workers cannot change jobs, could not have begun without the publicity caused by the tournament.
These are employment practices that have been in situ for decades, not merely invented for football grounds, and change on this scale takes time. Equality and human rights abuses have also come under the microscope like never before.
If the Qataris wish to compete in the international labour market as they need to, then they now have to reflect on just how unattractive they are as a destination for so many potential workers.
As for the garment worn by Messi, it is an example of the ignorance a lot of us have regarding Arab culture.
Messi was presented with one of the most honourable items a guest can receive in the Middle East. The item is called ‘Abaya’ and it is worn by people who are considered a strong effective leaders within their communities. It is also strongly embedded into, and an important part of Arab tradition.
A thoughtful and appropriate gift for the on-field leader and talisman of the World Cup winning team.
Eoin (no beer, no hooliganism, coincidence?) Ireland
Theo is the GOAT
I’ve sent this before, but I’ll make no apologies for sending it again, especially as the GOAT has just won the World Cup, it just never gets old.
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