LIFTING THE LID: Ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup kicking off this Sunday, we had a conversation with former Wales international Clayton Blackmore, discussing his predictions for the greatest footballing show on Earth.
World Cup winner: England
I hate to say it, but I think England are favourites, though I think their biggest problem is the manager; he’s a little bit too defensive-minded. If England play 4-4-2, or just four at the back, they could go on and win it, especially if they are playing their best players – not leaving them on the bench!
It’s going to be between them, Argentina, and Brazil, who I don’t think England play until they get to the final. I’ve got a feeling it’ll be an Argentina vs England final – if they can get past Germany that is. Hopefully, England have been working on their penalties!
Golden Boot winner: Harry Kane
Looking at the top strikers, for me this is Harry Kane’s year. I’ve heard his Tottenham manager Antonio Conte say that he’s a bit tired and he’s knackered or whatever, but it’s a World Cup finals, and with a week’s rest, he’ll be fine.
He won it in Russia in 2018, and I think he’s due it again. He’s been a little bit quiet lately, and when he gets like this, you get a funny feeling he is going to pop up out of nowhere. You’ve got people like Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi around, but I just get the feeling it’s going to be Harry’s year. He’s a goalscorer. That’s what England need. If England make the chances for Harry, he is strong in front of goal and there’s a good chance he’s going to score most of them.
Player of the tournament: Lionel Messi
That’s going to be a tricky one. It could be anybody, there are so many talented players and the World Cup is so unpredictable.
It’ll probably be one of the top scorers, they always give it to players like that unless somebody stands out like Lionel Messi. It could also easily be Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal are in there. And I’d love Portugal to have a really good run just for him because he’s had a bad time in the last year or so.
And he can prove a lot of people wrong. I think a lot of people are against him because he’s a Manchester United player. He can prove that he’s still got it. It won’t surprise me if it was Messi. It wouldn’t surprise anyone, would it?
Dark horses: Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland
I thought Denmark were quite strong at Euro 2020 getting to the semi-finals, and again it could be Portugal; they’ve got Ronaldo, but anything can happen. Portugal could do very well, they have a lot of Manchester City and top Premier League players in their squad. I wouldn’t put it past Ronaldo to drag them over the line and to come up with the goods when they need him.
But I think maybe Switzerland or Denmark could be the dark horses, or hopefully, Wales!
Wales v England result: Draw
I think it’ll be a draw. England, of course, could be too strong. They are favourites and have been good in the last few competitions, and for me, they should have gone further. They should have won the Euros. And I thought they should have gone further in the last World Cup.
But I just think Wales have got enough here; it just depends on what team Gareth Southgate puts out. Hopefully Harry Kane is playing, so Wales can put Daniel James next to him and see who is the quickest out of the two of them!
Group B final positions: 1) England, 2) Wales, 3) Iran, 4) USA
England are going to be at the top with Wales. Well, hopefully, Wales will be at the top, but I think England will win the group, with Wales coming second.
Wales need to take four points in the Iran and USA games, and then maybe they might need a draw against England, but I think Iran will be third. I can’t see England losing to USA, but you never know. USA will be out to beat them and they’ve got a few decent results lately, though I can’t see them getting anything out of the group. They will finish bottom.
How far will Wales progress: Quarter-finals
I think they’ll get to the quarter-finals. The first two games are really important against USA and Iran, they’ve got to get something out of both of them. I think they’ll get through the group stage and turn somebody over, but then they’ll come up against somebody really big, and it might be a bridge too far. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they got to the semi-final, because they’ve got the talent in the team, with both the young lads and the senior lads.
Wales Player of the Tournament: Daniel James
I’m hoping it’s going to be Daniel James. I think Dan is the key for Wales. Wales need the old boys fit, the old boys certainly need to be fit, but he’s the key to breaking things down. Him and Gareth Bale are the guys who are going to set chances up and score the goals Wales need. But with Dan, when Wales beat Ukraine, he got through one on one three times within about five minutes. He can do that at any time if he uses his head and the team work around him.
BEST BETS FROM WALES’ FIXTURES
I can see Wales beating USA 2-1. I have a feeling USA will score. The weakest part of the Wales team is the defence, but I think they will still have the edge and win 2-1.
LAY BET FROM WALES’ FIXTURES
I honestly believe that Wales have it in them to win all three games, but I feel Iran and USA are going to be the ones to lose. That will be an angle to follow in the betting over the group stage, to lay those teams.