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It is finally here. On Sunday, Nov. 20, the most contentious, controversial World Cup in history gets underway with Qatar facing Ecuador. Twenty-nine days later, it will all reach its dramatic conclusion at the Lusail Stadium. Here, in our third attempt to sketch out how the tournament will go, we predict every single match in Qatar. 

For our previous attempt, click here. We also have you covered with the complete , , and .

A warning for USMNT supporters, you're not going to enjoy this ...

Group A predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Qatar 1, Ecuador 2
Senegal 1, Netherlands 2

Matchday 2 picks
Qatar 0, Senegal 1
Netherlands 3, Ecuador 1

Matchday 3 picks
Ecuador 1, Senegal 1
Netherlands 3, Qatar 0

Back in the heady days of the summer, Senegal were the thinking man's pick to win the group, the Dutch firmly in the mix for the big name that might crash out in the group stages. But Sadio Mane's injury before the tournament leaves him hampered at one end whilst the struggles of Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy at Chelsea transfer over to the international stage. Ultimately they scrape through at the expense of a vibrant Ecuador side thanks to a late strike by Ismaila Sarr. The Dutch, meanwhile, make an imperious start to the tournament with Cody Gakpo threatening to be its breakout star.

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Group B predictions

Matchday 1 picks
England 1, Iran 0
United States 1, Wales 2

Matchday 2 picks
Wales 0, Iran 2
England 3, United States 0

Matchday 3 picks
Wales 1, England 1
Iran 1, United States 1

Eight years of waiting and this ends up being the dampest of squibs for a USMNT squad that does not really wake up until the tournament has passed them by. Iran and Wales manage to eliminate them inside four days though Gregg Berhalter's side do go down fighting with a draw against Carlos Quieroz's side, who combine obdurate defense typical of their manager with dangerous attacking thrust from Serdar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi. England, meanwhile, rather stagger out of the blocks in the opening game but Harry Kane ends the group stage with three goals (including a penalty against the USA) as they secure top spot.

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Group C predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Argentina 2, Saudi Arabia 0
Mexico 3, Poland 2

Matchday 2 picks
Poland 1, Saudi Arabia 1
Argentina 3, Mexico 1

Matchday 3 picks
Poland 0, Argentina 2
Saudi Arabia 1, Mexico 2

The first outright thriller of the World Cup comes in Group C as Mexico and Poland duke it out in a match both teams seem to understand will be a battle for second place behind the defensive force of Argentina. Hirving Lozano strikes at the death to win it for El Tri and a demoralised Poland limp to a draw against a competitive Saudi Arabia, all but extinguishing their hopes.

Group D predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Denmark 2, Tunisia 0
France 3, Australia 1

Matchday 2 picks
Tunisia 1, Australia 0
France 0, Denmark 1

Matchday 3 picks
Australia 0, Denmark 2
Tunisia 0, France 1

Addled by injuries to their midfield, France wheeze their way out of the group, lucky to only lose 1-0 to a Danish side that control the game from the outset, winning it when Joachim Andersen rises to meet Christian Eriksen's free kick. Only an Olivier Giroud goal against Tunisia guarantees that the holders escape the group stage ahead of their obdurate opponents. Australia, meanwhile, do precious little to make an impact on this tournament.

Group E predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Germany 3, Japan 1
Spain 3, Costa Rica 1

Matchday 2 picks
Japan 1, Costa Rica 0
Spain 2, Germany 1

Matchday 3 picks
Japan 2, Spain 1
Costa Rica 0, Germany 2

If anyone can feel harshly done by in the group stage draw it is Japan, who shine brightly in their final group game but cannot do quite enough to haul in the big two. When Spain are on song they have the look of potential champions but loose finishing costs them in both of the first two games. Germany are another who wax and wane, seemingly a team with one eye on coming good in 2026.

Group F predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Morocco 1, Croatia 1
Belgium 1, Canada 2

Matchday 2 picks
Belgium 1, Morocco 1
Croatia 2, Canada 0

Matchday 3 picks
Croatia 1, Belgium 2
Canada 0, Morocco 1

This column's continual conclusion that Group F is to be the one that lives for the drama is emphatically vindicated from the outset, Canada marking their return to international football's biggest stage with a stunning 2-1 win over Belgium where Jonathan David nets both goals. That's as good as it gets for John Herdman's side but the pain continues for the Golden Generation, who depart the global stage with a whimper after leaving themselves too much to do in the last game. As is their wont, Croatia begin slowly but scrape through behind an impressive Morocco side who look like being the best African representative.

Group G predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Switzerland 2, Cameroon 0
Brazil 3, Serbia 0

Matchday 2 picks
Cameroon 2, Serbia 2
Brazil 1, Switzerland 0

Matchday 3 picks
Serbia 0, Switzerland 1
Cameroon 1, Brazil 3

Every tournament has to have one, a promised dark horse who fall flat on their faces after a tough opening game. In 2022 Serbia fulfil the role that was Turkey's at Euro 2020, never quite recovering from a thrashing at Brazil's hands in the opening game. Perhaps Switzerland should have been the dark horses anyway, an experienced tournament outfit that are hard to break down and have quality at the other end, including bright young thing Noah Okafor. Second place behind the tournament favorites is no less than they deserve.

Group H predictions

Matchday 1 picks
Uruguay 0, South Korea 0
Portugal 3, Ghana 0

Matchday 2 picks
South Korea 2, Ghana 1
Portugal 0, Uruguay 2

Matchday 3 picks
Ghana 1, Uruguay 1
South Korea 0, Portugal 1

A group rife with "hmmm, I don't know about these" teams proves to be dramatic and unpredictable to the last. Portugal start brightly but nearly collapse at the final hurdle, labouring against South Korea before finding a late winner in a match they could easily have lost. Uruguay also wax and wane; at their best in victory over Portugal their frontline looks devastating and the old defensive instincts click into gear too. They promise to be real threats in this tournament.

Round of 16 predictions

Netherlands 2, Iran 1 (a.e.t.)
Argentina 1, France 0
England 3, Senegal 1
Denmark 2, Mexico 1
Germany 1, Croatia 1 (Germany win on penalties)
Brazil 3, Uruguay 2
Morocco 0, Spain 1
Portugal 2, Switzerland 2 (Portugal win on penalties)

France pay the heaviest of prices for their defeat to Denmark, Lionel Messi ending their reign as world champions in a nervy clash at the Ahmad bin-Ali Stadium. For the most part this round separates the wheat from the chaff, a reminder perhaps of why underdog winners are so much more infrequent at the World Cup than they are at, for instance, the European Championships.

The game of the round comes in the all-South American clash between Brazil and Uruguay, Neymar's crowning moment so far on the World Cup stage as he strikes twice to fire the Selecao onwards. Another cracker comes at the bottom of the bracket, Portugal labouring their way past a dogged Swiss opponent, one who proved at Euro 2020 they are more than capable if contests go to a shootout. Still Cristiano Ronaldo and company are faultless against Yann Sommer, setting up a battle of the Iberian peninsula in perhaps the most mouthwatering of the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal predictions

Netherlands 1, Argentina 2
Germany 0, Brazil 3
England 1, Denmark 2
Spain 1, Portugal 2 (a.e.t.)

After the humiliation of 2014, Brazil are intent on revenge and crush Germany in emphatic fashion. Argentina haven't really cut loose in this tournament in the same way their South American rivals have but they once more get the job done impressively to set up the game that the whole world has been waiting for.

Brazil aren't the only team with a point to prove, this time it's Denmark who emerge victorious in a rerun of the Euro 2020 semifinal, dominating midfield through Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Harry Maguire's tournament had been better than many had feared but he is the one who makes the decisive error, a cruel blow for a center back who has excelled in an England shirt over the years. The other European representatives in the final four are Portugal, who emerge victorious after a goalless first 90 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo, who else, provides the winner at the death.

Semifinal predictions

Argentina 1, Brazil 2
Denmark 0, Portugal 1

It's at this stage of the tournament where the nerves really kick in, not least in the first World Cup meeting between the superpowers of South America for 32 years. Lionel Messi excels and the defense behind him look unlikely to buckle but the tired legs of this tournament tell at the end as Brazil's depth of quality in attack wins the day. The same is true in the all-European tie, where Fernando Santos empties his bench late on and Rafael Leao nets the winner for Portugal, who reach the final for the first time in their history.

Third-place match

Denmark 2, Argentina 0

Final prediction

Brazil 2, Portugal 0

The 20 year wait comes to an impressive end for Brazil, first half goals from Neymar and Marquinhos crushing any early Portuguese resistance before the midfield grinds Santos' side down for a sixth world championship. The scorer of the opener finally gets his moment at the summit of the world game, winning the Golden Ball for the competition's outstanding player. Surely another one -- perhaps named the Ballon d'Or -- will follow. 

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