The 5 Most Underwhelming Nations of the 2022 FIFA World Cup originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
You know the chaos thing? It’s right.
One of The Joker’s many true quotes from ‘The Dark Knight’ rings true in Qatar.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup continues to deliver multiple miraculous upsets and surprising storylines, but the drama will only escalate as the Round of 16 approaches.
While some nations have basked in the glory of ruling as underdogs, the other side of the spectrum has countries baffled as to what has gone wrong, particularly for some international powers who are headed to airports in early Qatar.
Ahead of the knockout matches, let’s take a look at the five teams that have disappointed the most at this World Cup:
Back to back. No, he’s not referring to Drake’s single in 2015: it’s the second time in a row that Germany have been eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage. In 2018, Germany finished bottom of a group that included Sweden, Mexico and South Korea. In 2022, they finished third behind Japan and Spain and ahead of Costa Rica.
Manager Hansi Flick’s tactics on both sides of the ball should have seen DFB overcome the hurdle 2018 turned out to be, but ultimately, the combination of his lineups, substitutes and the overall calamity that the World Cup he can summon in a split second he saw his side come out. Germany’s lack of an elite No. 9 and losing defenders also factored in, but it’s a team that should have – at the very least – made it to the quarter-finals.
FIFA’s international rankings have come under scrutiny in recent years and Belgium has become the latest example to further prove that they don’t tell the whole story. The Red Devils entered Qatar second in the world but exited third in Group F and should have been fourth had Canada converted their chances in their opening fixture.
Kevin De Bruyne didn’t dictate matches as he often does with Manchester City in England, Romelu Lukaku’s mistakes will haunt fans for years to come and the decision to rely on aged centre-backs in a three-man back system ultimately has seen Roberto Martínez leave his role as manager immediately after the final against Croatia.
Belgium, on paper, had the quality to reach at least the round of 16 – there was no way the team could replicate their third-place finish in 2018 this year – but now is the time for the federation to rebuild with its youngsters talent deserving of more repetitions and minutes.
If you don’t score, you don’t win games. The cliché saying reached more teams in the group stage to emerge later, while some nations (the United States) have thus far escaped that fate. Denmark, however, did not, as the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-finalists exited Qatar in their most recent Group D final.
On paper, Denmark should have challenged France for first place. The head-to-head encounter showed Denmark’s Dynamite could stick with the elite, but ultimately they didn’t have the explosive outlets at the top to find the back of the net. A strong goalkeeper, solid defense and varied midfield proved to be strong pillars, but it all came crashing down as soon as they entered the final third, just like the nation at the World Cup.
One might think a forward line of Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Darwin Núñez with midfielders like Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur would be lively in front of goal, but Diego Alonso’s setup and tactics were absolutely shocking. It took Uruguayan fans a long time to get used to Alonso penalizing his strikers during qualifying rounds and international friendlies, but he changed nothing in Qatar and now his team is out.
Uruguay went into matchday three with zero goals to their name, and although they eventually scored two against Ghana, South Korea relegated the team to third place in Group H and out of Qatar – guess what? bit’?! – goals scored (difference of four to two).
Gerardo “Tata” Martino knew his time was up as soon as the final whistle blew against Saudi Arabia. This is the perfect summary of Mexico’s time in Qatar and Martino’s time as manager of El Tri.
Similar to Uruguay, Mexico also looked like a shell unto themselves in World Cup qualifying, with Martino’s call-ups and starting line-ups looking baffling. Once again, his decision to drop Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Santiago Giménez and Diego Lainez cost his side their ability to consistently create chances and score once they reach the last quarter.
Like Uruguay, Mexico also entered the Group C final against Saudi Arabia without scoring. Once again, despite getting two goals and all three points, Poland remained second ahead of Mexico thanks to – guess what?! – goal difference (from zero to minus one). El Tri will also have to tear everything down and rebuild with fresh legs and more young talent on the way, as he will be one of the three hosts in 2026.