To a majority of the world, the FIFA World Cup is as big as it gets for football (or fútbol), and it only happens every four years. In the United States, the biggest football event happens every year in February: the Super Bowl.
[Hey Yank! It’s football, not soccer. Or is it?]
As the home of both the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl LVII, we here at FOX Sports asked NFL reporter David Helman to work alongside soccer writer Doug McIntyre to come up with NFL comparisons for the 32 teams that will compete in Qatar.
United States: New York Jets
United States’ profile: The U.S. usually qualifies for the World Cup (their 2018 miss is the only one in the last 36 years) and the Americans have advanced in four of the seven tournaments they’ve played in since 1990. The youngest team in Qatar and the most talented in U.S. history, they should reach the second round this time. But they aren’t legit trophy contenders just yet and likely won’t be for (at least) four more years.
Why the Jets? The U.S. has a lot of exciting young talent and some intriguing potential, but let’s be honest: It’s fair to say the hype often outpaces the product, given the amount of people that want this team to finally take the next step. It sounds a lot like the New York Jets — young and exciting, but perhaps not ready for prime time.
Argentina: Miami Dolphins
Argentina’s profile: Led by the greatest player ever in Lionel Messi, the two-time World Cup winners are ocean-deep and nails-tough. The Albiceleste are also one of the favorites in Qatar after winning the South American championship last year. They’ll be hoping to send Messi, who is appearing in his fifth final tournament this year, off with one of the few major titles he hasn’t won. — McIntyre
Why the Dolphins? The Miami Dolphins can probably relate to Argentina, as their two championships feel like ancient history, and their passionate fanbase is desperate to experience that success again. Of course, the Dolphins don’t employ an icon like Lionel Messi, but they’ve got a deep roster and a loaded offense. Messi might be facing more pressure, but Tua Tagovailoa can surely relate. — Helman
Australia: Tennessee Titans
Australia’s profile: The Socceroos were so dominant in their former region — Oceania — that they moved to Asia’s confederation in 2006. They’re still a reliable World Cup qualifier, having participated in the last five editions including 2022. But Australia has only reached the second round once, and they’ve fallen in the group stage at each of the last three tourneys.
Why the Titans? When I think about a dominant group from a weak region, my mind can’t help but go to the Tennessee Titans. Much like Australia, they’re talented enough and consistent enough to reliably get to this point. But can you count on them to make noise beyond that?
Gregg Berhalter, Alexi Lalas compared NFL players to World Cup stars alongside “FOX NFL Sunday” crew
Gregg Berhalter and Alexi Lalas join the “Fox NFL Sunday” crew to preview the USMNT’s World Cup Hopes and compare NFL stars and teams such as Tom Brady and the Dallas Cowboys to players in the World Cup.
Belgium: Buffalo Bills
Belgium’s profile: One of the deepest and most talented teams in the field, Belgium spent much of the last four years as FIFA’s top ranked nation. They’ve never won it all, though, and the title window might have already closed on their star-studded but aging roster.
Why the Bills? It’s not that the Bills’ title window has closed, but things are going to get much harder from here on out. Josh Allen’s cap hit is going to get bigger, and other key pieces are going to be harder to afford. The Bills are one of the best teams in the NFL right now, but if they can’t bring home a championship in 2022, it’s not going to get any easier going forward.
Brazil: San Francisco 49ers
Brazil’s profile: Not just the best team right now (they’re FIFA’s No. 1-ranked squad) and most successful in history (with five World Cup titles), Brazil’s physical dominance, on-the-ball skill and all-out attacking style strikes fear into even elite foes. It makes them the most fun squad to watch, too.
Why the 49ers? Don’t let the record fool you. The San Francisco 49ers have as much, if not more talent than anyone in the league. They’ve got five championships, not to mention a boatload of postseason experience. Much like their Brazilian counterparts, though, the last few trips to the postseason haven’t gone as they’d prefer. Maybe this is the year to change that — for both teams.
Cameroon: Detroit Lions
Cameroon’s profile: The wonderfully nicknamed Indomitable Lions are back after a one-tournament absence. Qatar marks Cameroon’s seventh World Cup appearance since 1990, but they’ve yet to duplicate the runaway success they enjoyed that year, when Cameroon became the first African team to reach the quarterfinals. They haven’t survived group play since.
Why the Lions? A team named the Lions, which hasn’t made a run since 1990 and also shares a group with a couple of consistent powers. Yup, Cameroon is the Detroit Lions. That feels harsh, especially since the Indomitable Lions have been more successful than the regular Lions just by virtue of qualifying for the World Cup. Still, it’s equally unlikely that either team comes away with any hardware.
Canada: Atlanta Falcons
Canada’s profile: Led by bona fide young stars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, the long-dormant Reds returned to the biggest stage for the first time since 1986 in grand style, finishing atop their regional World Cup qualifying tournament ahead of perennial tournament participants Mexico and the United States. It will still be difficult for the Canadians to survive a group that includes European heavyweights Belgium and Croatia.
Why the Falcons? Everyone doubted Canada, only to see them top their qualifying group over the U.S. and Mexico. Everyone doubted Atlanta, only to see the Falcons fighting for the division lead at the midpoint of the season. Unfortunately for both teams, there’s probably not enough talent on hand to make any real noise, but you’ve got to respect the fight.
Costa Rica: New Orleans Saints
Costa Rica profile: The Ticos hail from a country of just five million, yet have been reliable qualifiers for the World Cup, having reached the big stage in six of their last eight tries. Costa Rica has participated in the last three events, losing on penalties (to the Netherlands) in the 2014 quarterfinals.
Why the Saints? There are only four World Cup countries with a smaller population than Costa Rica, similar to New Orleans being one of the smallest markets in the NFL. Despite that, both the Ticos and the Saints have managed to find consistent success in this competition — though it doesn’t look like either team will be making much noise this year.
Croatia: Seattle Seahawks
Croatia’s profile: Always a low-key title threat even if this year’s squad isn’t as good as the one that finished runner-up to France four years ago. Highly skilled and battle-tested, Croatia is led by the ageless Luka Modrić (actually he’s 37), whose mastery of the ball allows him to dictate the game’s pace from his central midfield spot.
Why the Seahawks? A low-key threat? How about the Seattle Seahawks, who positively no one saw coming. Granted, Geno Smith’s trophy case can’t hold a candle to Luka Modrić’s, but it’s still amazing to see the way the 32-year-old quarterback’s mastery of the ball has turned Seattle into a team worth fearing.
Denmark: Denver Broncos
Denmark’s profile: A trendy pick to make a deep run at this World Cup, Denmark’s squad is populated by a golden generation of players led by Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen and Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen. They have a balanced roster and are well-coached. Organized, disciplined and opportunistic, the Danes can beat any team in the field when playing their best.
Why the Broncos? Keying in on the phrase “when playing their best,” because the Denver Broncos absolutely have the talent to beat any opponent. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case in 2022, but the pressure is on for Russell Wilson to fix that. The Broncos paid him to lead a golden generation in Denver.
Ecuador: Jacksonville Jaguars
Ecuador’s profile: Finished behind only Argentina and Brazil in South American World Cup qualifying, which is impressive. Ecuador still doesn’t have a history of success at the main event, which they’re competing in for just the third time in 2022. They’ve advanced just once and, grouped with the Netherlands, Senegal and host Qatar, aren’t expected to survive the first round this year, either.
Why the Jaguars? The Jacksonville Jaguars spend a lot of time looking up in the division at their two much more successful counterparts, Indianapolis and Tennessee. The Jags don’t have a history of success at the main event, either, and unless something drastic happens that’s not expected to change in 2022.
England: Dallas Cowboys
England’s profile: Their popularity-to-success ratio is larger than any other participants. While England is one of the world’s most fanatically supported teams, the Three Lions have won just one World Cup title — and that was all the way back in 1966. They’ve gotten closer in recent years, reaching the semis in 2018 and the final of last year’s European Championship. England’s window might now have closed, though. They head to Qatar riding a six-match winless streak.
Why the Cowboys? An incredibly popular team, filled with incredibly talented players, backed by an enormous fan base that’s desperate for them to re-capture their former glory. To be fair to the Dallas Cowboys, they have won five Super Bowls compared to England’s lone World Cup title. But the similarities are too fun to ignore. Another championship has been a long time coming, and nothing short of that will suffice.
France: Los Angeles Rams
France’s profile: Les Bleus have among the deepest, most talented squads in the World Cup, but that alone doesn’t ensure that they’ll make a deep run. If history is any guide, the defending champs are as likely to implode and flame out in the first round.
Why the Rams? If last year’s Rams season was the good version of Les Bleus, then this year might be the bad version. The roster is still stocked with Pro Bowl talent, but the Rams haven’t been able to reclaim the magic that helped them lift the trophy last year. Hopefully that’s not a bad omen for their soccer counterparts, as they look to follow up a championship with another good showing.
Germany: Kansas City Chiefs
Germany’s profile: With four titles, Die Mannschaft are the second most successful World Cup team (along with Italy) ever. What their stacked squad lacks in style and flair, they more than make up for with stout defending, big-game pedigree and ruthless efficiency in the attack. Germany is always a title contender.
Why the Chiefs? Every year we talk ourselves into some newer, sexier team. And yet, over the course of the last 10 World Cups, Germany has finished first, second or third on seven occasions. They’re always in the mix. You can say similar things about the Kansas City Chiefs, who have appeared in four-straight AFC Championship Games. Bet against them at your own peril.
Ghana: Chicago Bears
Ghana’s profile: The Black Stars return to the biggest stage after missing out in 2018. They’re capable of advancing — Ghana reached the round of 16 in 2006 and the quarterfinals in 2010, when they were a missed penalty kick away from becoming the first African team to make the semis — if they perform to their potential.
Why the Bears? Ghana has been out of the spotlight for a few years, and now they’re back with a solid base of young talent. They’re going to be up against it, given that they share a group with Portugal and Uruguay, but they are exciting. Feels like a solid description of Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears, who suddenly look a lot more promising than they did a month ago.
Iran: Washington Commanders
Iran’s profile: At No. 20, Iran is the lowest FIFA-ranked team in a group that contains England, the United States and Wales. Don’t sleep on Team Melli, though. This year’s version, considered a golden generation by their fans, can punish any team in transition with their lightning-quick counterattacks.
Why the Commanders? Ranked last in a tough division. Bringing up the rear doesn’t necessarily mean Iran is bad — just as Washington has proven its worth by winning three of its last four games. Are the Commanders capable of a run? Probably not. They’re still a better team than casual observers will want to give them credit for.
Japan: New England Patriots
Japan’s profile: Defensively organized and difficult to dispossess once they get the ball, the Blue Samurai are always tricky to beat. They’ve qualified for each of the last six World Cups and advanced to the knockout stage in three of them, including 2018.
Why the Patriots? It’s still tricky to adjust expectations for the post-Tom Brady Patriots. New England isn’t likely to make a deep run this year, but they’re definitely defensively organized, and that can make them tough to beat on any given afternoon.
Mexico: Green Bay Packers
Mexico’s profile: Like England, Mexico has an enormous and passionate fan base who have sky-high and often unrealistic expectations for a national team that never actually wins anything. El Tri does always qualify for the World Cup, though, and they do always advance, having reached the knockout stage seven straight times. They also always lose immediately when they get to the round of 16. Mexico, which will field its weakest squad in recent memory in Qatar, has never reached the quarterfinal of a World Cup they didn’t host.
Why the Packers? A massive, passionate fan base with high expectations and a tendency to wear green. Obviously, the Green Bay Packers have a rich history of winning championships. But here in the past decade, they’re pretty great at reaching the knockout round and failing to advance, and this is their weakest team in quite some time. Sounds a lot like El Tri.
Morocco: Indianapolis Colts
Morocco’s profile: Headed to their six World Cup this month, Morocco has gotten out of the first round just once, in 1986. It will be hard to advance from a group that also contains Belgium, Canada and Croatia, but they do boast three players who are regulars at top European clubs: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich) and Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea).
Why the Colts? Morocco has some talent, though there has been drama within the team about how best to utilize it — to the point that it got the head coach fired. That already sounds a lot like the Indianapolis Colts. When you add in the fact that both teams are unlikely to make the knockout round, it sounds just about perfect.
Netherlands: Cincinnati Bengals
Netherlands’ profile: The most powerful soccer nation never to lift the World Cup, the Oranje’s talent is unquestioned. The Dutch just can’t seem to get out of their own way, though, losing in the final on three separate occasions (1974, 1978 and 2010). They didn’t even qualify for 2018 four years after finishing third.
Why the Bengals? A team known for high-flying offense, that wears orange, that has been to the Big Game three times and come out 0-3? The Netherlands feel awfully Bengals-ish to me. Hopefully for the Dutch, they’re on the cusp of finding their next generation of stars, as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have Cincinnati more focused on the future than the past.
Poland: Baltimore Ravens
Poland’s profile: Hardworking and disciplined, the Poles’ wild card is their elite striker. Robert Lewandowski is one of the most feared and efficient goal-getters in the global game. With scoring opportunities hard to come by at the World Cup, Lewandowski is capable of winning a match for his country all by himself.
Why the Ravens? Much like Lewandowski, Lamar Jackson is one of the most talented and accomplished players at his position in the game today. Much like Poland, I’m not convinced the supporting cast in Baltimore is strong enough to get the Ravens where they want to go. No pressure, but it all comes down to the talismanic MVP at the front.
Portugal: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Portugal’s profile: Their roster is populated with genuine all-world players, a list that might not even still include 37-year-old captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Can the legend, who helped Portugal finish fourth at his first World Cup in 2006 and win a European Championship title a decade later, turn back the clock in Qatar and lead his country on another deep run?
[Which Cristiano Ronaldo will show up for Portugal at World Cup 2022?]
Why the Buccaneers? The aging legend gets all the publicity, but there are half a dozen other players that are crucial to the team’s success. Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo remind me a lot of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both teams will need their GOAT to achieve their goals, but the Bucs are going to need more from the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Devin White and Lavonte David if they’re going to turn their season around.
Qatar: Arizona Cardinals
Qatar’s profile: Home field advantage is no joke: every previous World Cup host, with the exception of South Africa in 2010, has reached the knockout stage. Adept and carving foes open with their blistering counterattack, Qatar will look to follow suit this fall. It won’t be easy, as the hosts were drawn into a group that also included the Netherlands, Ecuador and African champions Senegal.
Why the Cardinals? They wear red, they’re based in a desert, they’re playing host to the championship this year, they’re in a group with at least two better teams and no one is giving them a chance to accomplish much. The Arizona Cardinals are a perfect match for Qatar.
Saudi Arabia: Pittsburgh Steelers
Saudi Arabi’s profile: Back on the global stage for a second consecutive World Cup, the Saudis finished 26th out of the 32 entrants in 2018. That was an improvement over all but one of their previous four appearances. While little is expected of them this year, they’ll have plenty of support in the stands in Qatar. As of last month, Saudi fans had bought the third-most tickets to the tournament, after those in the United States and the host nation.
Why the Steelers? Let’s see. A middling team that we can comfortably rule out of the championship conversation, but is still bound to enjoy enthusiastic fan support from a large fan base. Sounds like a fitting description for this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers, who have a much more storied history than Saudi Arabia, but just aren’t ready to compete this year.
Senegal: Minnesota Vikings
Senegal’s profile: In the span of a few months earlier this year, Senegal won the African Cup of Nations and then qualified for the World Cup, beating a good Egyptian team each time. They also came within a whisker of reaching the second round four years ago. With more experience and a spine of top-shelf players such as keeper Édouard Mendy, central defender and captain Kalidou Koulibaly and star forward Sadio Mane, they should survive the group stage — at a minimum — in Qatar.
Why the Vikings? There’s a lot of talent on hand, and Senegal has been gifted a group that doesn’t look too hard to win. That sounds like an apt description for the Minnesota Vikings, who definitely have a good team — but who definitely benefit from a weak division. Granted, the Netherlands doesn’t look remotely as down as Green Bay. But the point remains: this is a unique chance for the Vikings to make some noise.
South Korea: Cleveland Browns
South Korea’s profile: Competing at their 10th straight World Cup in 2022, the Taegeuk Warriors are hoping to survive the group stage for the first time since 2010. That goal will be significantly harder to achieve if they don’t have Son Heung-min, their captain and best player, available in Qatar. Son suffered a serious facial injury Nov. 1, but is expected to play.
Why the Browns? We’re all hoping Song Heung-min can manage to play, or else we’ll be robbed of watching one of this World Cup’s best players. If he’s not available, this feels like a team that’s not capable of advancing, largely because of the absence of its best player. While the circumstances are wildly different, it sounds a lot like the Cleveland Browns.
Serbia: Carolina Panthers
Serbia’s profile: The 2022 event in Qatar marks the fourth World Cup trip for Serbia since 2006. A regular Top 10 finisher when they competed as Yugoslavia, they haven’t enjoyed the same sort of success under the Serbian flag, failing to advance in three tries. They do boast two top strikers in Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahović and arrive in Qatar on a 4W-0L-1T run.
Why the Panthers? Everyone at this level has talent, even Carolina. The Panthers have two of the best young players at their position in the league in Brian Burns and D.J. Moore. That’s not good enough to help Carolina to a winning record, just like it’s hard to imagine Serbia getting past the likes of Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon.
Spain: Philadelphia Eagles
Spain’s profile: With all-planet players at almost every position, Spain is a dark horse to win it all in Qatar. The almost entirely rebuilt La Roja, which claimed their lone World Cup title in 2010, have better odds (per FOXBet) than all but four teams this fall. They’ve also lost just once in 10 matches over the last calendar year.
Why the Eagles? A powerhouse that fell apart just a few short years ago, but it hasn’t taken them long to rebuild as one the deepest teams in the field. And while some legendary names have long since moved on, a talented new group has seamlessly taken their place. Am I describing the Spanish national team, or the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles? You be the judge.
Switzerland: New York Giants
Switzerland’s profile: The Swiss have gotten accustomed to advancing, having reached the round of 16 in both 2014 and ’18. (While they didn’t progress in 2010, they did stun eventual champ Spain in the first round). Although they’re in a group with Brazil this year, Switzerland should outlast Cameroon and Serbia to make it three in a row.
Why the Giants? Overshadowed by teams in their own group — but plenty dangerous in their own right. Switzerland gets lost in the shuffle behind Brazil much like the Giants are unappreciated sitting behind the Eagles and Cowboys. They’ve still done plenty to prove that they’re worth taking seriously. Switzerland has beaten Spain and Portugal in the last few months, just as the Giants boast impressive wins against the Titans and Ravens.
Tunisia: Houston Texans
Tunisia’s profile: Competing in their sixth World Cup and second in a row, the northern African nation has never made it out of the group stage. They’ve finished no higher than 24th in their last four trips, with their best showing (ninth overall) back in 1978.
Why the Texans? Someone’s bound to bring up the rear, mainly because of a lack of star power. Tunisia is the Houston Texans — although at least the Texans have the luxury of playing in a lousy division, whereas Tunisia has the unenviable task of playing Australia, Denmark and France.
Uruguay: Las Vegas Raiders
Uruguay’s profile: Despite never reaching the heights of their glory days — Uruguay won the inaugural 1930 World Cup on home soil, then repeated the feat in Brazil 20 years later — La Celeste is still formidable if not among the favorites. They’ve qualified for three of the last four World Cups, finishing fourth in 2010 and advancing to the quarterfinals in 2018 before losing to eventual champion France. Tough in the tackle and led by elite scorers Edinson Cavani and Darwin Núñez up top, Uruguay will be a tough out for anyone.
Why the Raiders? The fitting parallel here feels like the Las Vegas Raiders — a talented team with a proud history that hasn’t managed to replicate the success of decades past. The difference is that this year’s Raiders, built around Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Darren Waller, have been one of the biggest disappointments of the NFL season. Hopefully, Uruguay doesn’t follow suit.
Wales: Los Angeles Chargers
Wales’ profile: It has been 64 years since the Welsh last competed at a World Cup, but their stay at the 2022 event could be a short one. Wales has lost five of their last seven matches heading into the tournament. Their lone victory, in June against Ukraine, qualified them for Qatar but wouldn’t have happened without keeper Wayne Hennessey standing on his head. And Gareth Bale, Wales’ most decorated and important player, hasn’t been healthy enough to play regularly for LAFC in MLS. Add it all up and a group stage exit seems probable.
[USMNT can’t afford to overlook Gareth Bales and Wales]
Why the Chargers? With all the terrible injuries this season, it sometimes feels like Justin Herbert is being asked to do everything himself. And just like Gareth Bale, he hasn’t even been fully healthy in his own right. It’s too soon to rule the Chargers out, but the vibes aren’t good moving into the second half of the season.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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