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The countdown to Qatar 2022 is well underway. Once again, Irish football fans are without a home team to fall back on. It has been 20 years since the Republic of Ireland qualified for the World Cup, while Northern Ireland have to look back further to 1986.

Tough qualifier

This year, it’s fair to say that there was no luck in the qualifiers. Switzerland and Italy were always going to dominate Group C and being the “best of the rest” was a pyrrhic victory for Northern Ireland. Same thing happened in Group A. Serbia and Portugal were in a league of their own and the Republic of Ireland had no prize for third place.

It’s certainly frustrating, but for true football fans, a tournament can be more enjoyable when you can just sit back and watch the action without the pressure of too much emotional investment in the game. Of course, it’s still fun to have a team to support, and at a guess, some Irish fans will cheer for the English.

America

We all know the strong cultural and emotional ties between Ireland and the United States. We also know that Ireland’s closest neighbor to the west is slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the international game.

What is less obvious, perhaps, is that the United States has a strong track record in World Cups. Russia 2018 was the first time they failed to qualify since the 1980s. Having been drawn in the same group as England added a pinch of spice, and may be hopeful of a World Cup win, with this online USA sportsbook saying they are a 9/2 shot to reach the quarter-finals. If all goes to form and they qualify as runners-up in Group B, all they need to do is beat the winner of Group A – likely the Netherlands – in the round of 16.

Canada

The USA is the team to root for if you want to support someone who has a realistic chance of reaching the cutting edge. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a truly outdoorsy shot, look to Group F. Now at first glance, the qualifiers for the knockout phase should be easily identified. Belgium were the best team in the world until a few months ago, while Croatia reached the final last time. However, both teams are dependent on several key players, none of whom are in their prime of youth. Expectations will be heavy on Croatia’s shoulders in particular.
Canada, on the other hand, go in expecting nothing. However, it’s not like the hot pooch of players that came out in 1986. There will be some real talent vying for a place in the final squad. Look out for Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan from Club Brugge in particular.

LiveScores are now available on IrishScores.com

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