The biggest tournament in football begins on Sunday but who will lift the World Cup? Jake Osgathorpe previews the tournament, providing outright selections.
3.5pts e.w. Argentina to win the World Cup at 7/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill)
1pt e.w. Uruguay to win the World Cup at 50/1 (General)
It seems an age since the 2018 World Cup. Since England exceeded expectations by reaching a first major tournament semi-final since 1996. Since France reigned supreme over Croatia in a high-scoring final.
The wait has been real too, as we have to wait a few months longer than usual given its (hopefully) one off move from the usual summer slot.
While it means no 40+ temperatures, winter remains above the 20 mark in Qatar. Certainly more bearable but climate could still have an impact.
Not as much as the timing of the tournament though, in the middle of the domestic season, which is unprecedented for a World Cup.
Given the hectic, crammed schedule we have seen this term, a strong, deep squad could prove vital - something Brazil and France, who head the outright betting, have in abundance.
Generally priced at 4/1, Brazil are simply too short.
They no doubt have a great chance of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2002, boasting an excellent squad and some electric attacking players, but they have a tough group and a tough potential run.
Tite's face tough European pair Switzerland and Serbia and AFCON 2022 semi-finalists Cameroon in Group H and should they qualify will likely face either Portugal or Uruguay. Reach the quarters and it's looking like Spain or Germany.
All of that is enough to put me off at 4/1.
Holders France are second favourites and are close to backable at 6/1 had they had a fully fit squad.
Paul Pogba is a huge doubt and N'Golo Kante has been ruled out leaving a gaping hole in the French midfield. Les Bleus can fill that void with Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni but both are still raw, young players untested at this level.
Then there is the potential for French implosion.
This time around the maverick is Kylian Mbappe. As wonderful a player as he is he could make this World Cup as French vintage as 2010 having already butted heads with the FFF (French Football Federation) over sponsorship.
Add into this a coach in Didier Deschamps who consistently chops and changes formation and system to the dismay of his players, and a tricky group containing Denmark, who beat them home and away in the Nations League recently, and the reigning champions are happily swerved.
The inability to rely on England's defence is what kept them out of the staking plan - they very nearly snuck in.
That was based mainly on the fact that Gareth Southgate's side have drifted from 6/1 second favourites just six months ago to a best price of 17/2 following a poor run of results, which feels like a bit of an overreaction. Ultimately though, they now look to be correctly priced.
What shouldn't be forgotten in all the turbulence of recent international results, the Three Lions are proven major tournament operators under Southgate, with his conservative style paying dividends in one-off games for the most part.
But a tough route to the final - France likely await in the quarter-finals - and uncertainty around defensive players and structure is enough to put me off.
Defensive issues is what saw Spain, who could make a mockery of their 9/1 price given the attacking talent at their disposal, and Germany discounted, coupled with a likely head-to-head match up to top Group E.
The Netherlands were close to being selected at around the 13/1 mark. Louis van Gaal led the Dutch to third place in 2014, so knows what it takes.
Their young squad is exciting but they're probably one tournament away from peaking and failure to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup before being knocked out of Euro 2020 by the Czech Republic is not a great recent record.
Belgium's 14/1 price may pique the interest of some but that looks short given their defensive personnel issues as they appear set on playing the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. Doubts surrounding Romelu Lukaku's fitness doesn't help either.
Portugal are another team with an abundance of talent, a team who have won a major tournament in the last decade, but their Achilles heels could be Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Fernando Santos, with both perhaps halting the development of what could be a sensational, front-foot team.
They now carry Ronaldo far too much. I could quite easily be proved wrong by one of the greatest players of all time though.
From one GOAT to the other and Lionel Messi's ARGENTINA look well placed to make a real run at winning the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Lionel Scaloni's team head to Qatar unbeaten in 35 matches, during which time they won the Copa America.
A team of great balance, the attack takes care of itself with the genius of captain Messi combined with the graft and quality of Lautaro Martinez, the midfield looks feisty yet full of ball playing ability and the Argentine defence - a weakness not long ago - has improved drastically thanks to the arrivals of Gonzalo Montiel, Lisandro Martinez and Cristian Romero since the last World Cup.
The main concerns would be the forward position alongside Messi and Martinez, with Angel Di Maria doubtful to be fit in time and Paulo Dybala definitely out. They do have an abundance of quality to bring in though, with Papu Gomez and Manchester City's Julian Alvarez pushing for minutes.
So, the squad looks great, the manager has a system and style to suit the players, they are unbeaten for a very long time and they have won a major tournament in the last two years.
If that doesn't have you swayed, a kind group containing Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia and a fairly generous run to the semi-finals compared to other leading contenders makes their 7/1 price attractive.
Who would bet against Messi ending his World Cup career in perfect style, too.
Our second selection is a huge price. At 50/1 URUGUAY could easily outrun those odds given their upturn since a recent managerial change.
They were on the verge of missing out on the World Cup altogether with four games remaining of South American qualifying, but replacing veteran Oscar Tabarez with the younger Diego Alonso proved a masterstroke.
Uruguay won all their remaining games, displaying great balance, averaging 1.90 xGF and 0.60 xGA per game; prior to Alonso's arrival they averaged 1.18 xGF and 1.33 xGA.
According to our ratings they went from ranking fifth best South American side to second best under Alonso.
With such a small sample size in no way are we arguing they are South America's second-best team, but Uruguay's improvement is eye-catching.
Combine that with a quality squad, which contains emerging talents Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde and still possesses the wily know-how of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Should they manage to pip Portugal to top Group H, which also contains Ghana and South Korea, the tournament could really open for them. All told, their price just looks too big.
Odds correct at 1630 (23/10/22)
We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.