Who will win the FIFA World Cup?

The competition is so intense that we have already seen shocking upsets

Dr Baqar Hasnain November 26, 2022
The writer takes interest in humanism and futurology. He has an MS from Houston and DDS from Nashville, Tennessee. He can be reached at [email protected]

On April 18, 1986, Javed Miandad smashed a Herculean six off the last ball of the match sending Pakistani cricket fans into a rapturous frenzy as they won the Austral-Asia Cup in Sharjah. On the other hand, the Indian fans were disquieted by the glorious shot. Their eyes brimmed with tears. Such is the nature of the beast we call sports. The thrill. The drama. The adrenaline-rush. The joy of victory. The agony of defeat. The 2022 FIFA World Cup, a month-long odyssey, will take us on a similar emotional rollercoaster of triumph and despair, of exultation and heartbreak.

Four years ago, the sport’s biggest spectacle was hosted by Russia — the land of the Tsars, and vodka and caviar. France clinched the trophy back then. Today, it’s Qatar — a desert once inhabited by Bedouin nomads, now one of the ten richest countries in the world where conservatism blends with modernity as shopping malls feature all the luxury brands available in Europe. Not too far from the Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar, 32 nations are competing for pride, a gold trophy, and a whopping 42-million-dollar prize money for the winner.

But why watch football? Why the obsession? Because it’s a beautiful game. And it’s magical. I can never forget watching David Copperfield perform his magic tricks at the MGM Casino in Las Vegas when my wife, sitting next to me, kept bumping my shoulder, muttering: how did he do that? We have all watched Pelé or Maradona or Zidane do their own magic on the football field. Our jaws drop when we catch Messi dribble the ball and quickly change directions leaving the defender helpless. Or Ronaldo’s famous ‘Ronaldo chop’ at high speed as he deceives his tackler by jumping into the ball and using the heel of his foot to glide the ball behind the other leg. Sadly, there is also the macabre, the grisly antics. The headbutts (remember Zidane in 2006 World Cup final?). The reckless tackles. The altercations. The yellow cards.

Like cricket, football is a team sport. So, who will win this year’s FIFA World Cup? The competition is so intense that we have already seen shocking upsets. Saudi Arabia beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Japan overpowered Germany. It is these unexpected twists in the unfolding drama, catching us off guard, that make betting odds even more intriguing. Even though, the proof is in the pudding, I’m sure you have your own favourites. Brazil? France? England? Spain? Argentina? Portugal? Germany?

France, nicknamed the Blues, are the defending world champions. With key injuries including Karim Benzema, a still confident French squad is led by Mbappe and Griezmann. Neymar spearheads Brazil that also includes the young and extremely talented Vinicius (Vini) Junior. England, the Three Lions, have the experience of Harry Kane who will be flanked by Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford. Spain boasts Barcelona forward Ferran Torress as well as fullback Jordi Alba. Other players to watch include Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Luka Modric (Croatia).

Ladies and gentlemen. Order your pizza. Get your chips and dip ready. Or mirch pakoras with chutney. We have gladly moved from the question, “who will be Pakistan’s next Army Chief” to the question, “who will win the FIFA World Cup” and that is a reason enough to smile. Enjoy the games!

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2022.

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