About Boardroom

Boardroom is a media network that covers the business of sports, entertainment. From the ways that athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward to new technologies, emerging leagues, and industry trends, Boardroom brings you all the news and insights you need to know...

At the forefront of industry change, Boardroom is committed to unique perspectives on and access to the news, trending topics and key players you need to know.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

World Cup 2022: Boardroom Predicts the Winners, Surprises, Dark Horses & Breakout Stars

Boardroom convenes its first-ever Soccer Roundtable to identify the unlikely contenders, rising transfer market phenoms, and much more at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Der Ball ist rund — this much we can tell you with confidence. Everything else is subject to pure footballing entropy (and perhaps the Qatar authorities besides).

As the 2022 FIFA World Cup descends upon us in Qatar, it’s time to get a handle on exactly what’s at stake when the world’s biggest sporting event captures global imaginations for four heady weeks in the Persian Gulf. Fortunes will be made. The transfer market pump shall be primed. Scintillating international careers will come to a close. Americans will be arrested for smuggling airplane bottles of Bacardi into Al Rayyan Stadium, probably.

With that in mind, we convened our first ever SOCCER ROUNDTABLE — Vinciane Ngomsi, Sam Dunn, Nate Loucks, and Shlomo Sprung — to answer three questions:

  1. The USMNT’s fate in the World Cup hinges on ______.
  2. Pick a breakout star whose performance will cause clubs to overreact and overpay on the transfer market, a.k.a. the James Rodríguez Award.
  3. Pick (a) a tournament favorite who won’t make the knockout rounds, and (b) a dark horse who could shock the world and win the whole thing.
  4. World Cup prediction time — who wins the whole thing and whom do they defeat in the final?

Let’s see if there’s a place where we can legally consume an adult beverage and make some World Cup predictions.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

The USMNT’s fate in the World Cup hinges on ______.

VINCIANE NGOMSI: Walker Zimmerman.

The Nashville SC center back was never really a guaranteed slot in the national side, but has seemed to find a permanent spot the last few call-ups, helping the Red, White and Blue cruise to a 2021 Gold Cup title. He’s a natural-born leader and relentless on the pitch. His particular skills have the potential to surprise, which could work to his advantage against the group stage opponents. He won’t be an obvious goalscorer, but I expect he’ll help set up a few of them.

Walker’s got some pressure on him, but that should only fuel his motivation to advance into the knockouts from a manageable Group B.

NATE LOUCKS: The defensive line.

SAM DUNN: The USMNT has long been characterized by bend-don’t-break play at the back, so assuming that juice still flows in the Persian Gulf, this run could very well come down to whether or not at least one young, upwardly mobile phenom has a coming-out party.

First of all, someone’s gotta go full John Brooks and steal a win from a late-game set piece situation — FC Dallas striker Jesús Ferreira and Leeds United midfielder Brenden Aaronson come to mind — but I’ll go with someone even younger: Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna, the NYCFC Academy product and national team legacy guy who’s finally back from injury and raring to go.

SHLOMO SPRUNG: It hinges on clean, sturdy, mistake-free play in the backline and the ability to counter and take advantage of goal-scoring opportunities when they present themselves. The lack of a true, dominant No. 9 can’t be the Americans’ downfall — and scoring can’t just come from Christian Pulisic.

Pick a breakout star whose performance will cause clubs to overreact and overpay on the transfer market.

NL: Andreas Skov Olsen. Look him up!

SS: He’s already quite well known to non-casuals, but Brazil’s Vinicius Júnior has a chance to cement his status and take the torch as the next legendary Brazilian goal-scorer. Expect Germany’s Jamal Musiala to break out as well.

VN: Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands. Linked with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, and Real Madrid, the 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven winger will want to put on a show over the next month. The Netherlands are probably going to cruise out of the group stage, but Gakpo should nonetheless showcase his brilliance within minutes of the opening match against Senegal if he wants the aforementioned clubs to open the pocketbooks come the January transfer window.

SD: The transfer sharks have been circling for France forward Marcus Thuram for a while now, and though his contract at Borussia Monchengladbach ends this summer, expect a swift January swoop (plus a handsome new deal) if he even shows an enticing flash or two of world-class promise in Qatar.

The son of France legend and World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, the big, physical attacker is reportedly ready to leave for a bigger club, with interest already noted from the likes of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Tottenham, AC Milan, and Liverpool.

Pick (a) a favorite who won’t make the knockout rounds, and (b) a dark horse who could win it all.

All odds are to win the World Cup outright via FanDuel Sportsbook.

SS: After making the final in 2018, Croatia (+4900) will fail to make it past the group stage. A dark horse? Belgium (+1700) aren’t exactly coming out of nowhere, but they only have the ninth-best odds to win the World Cup. On any given day, they have the talent to beat anyone.

SD: Portugal (+1500) are dealing with too much drama and won’t escape Group H. Be honest: João Félix is really more of a concept. Elsewhere, Switzerland (+9000) are frisky as hell in a tough Group G. They have more talent than you think as one of the world’s ultimate “I Didn’t Know That Guy Played for That Country” teams.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

NL: Germany (+1200) down, Denmark (+2700) up.

VN: Mexico (+15000) have serious competition in their group, especially with Argentina. All love to El Tri, but they might be catching an earlier-than-expected flight out of Qatar.

Meanwhile, I’m channeling the delusion of the greatest African soccer player of all time and picking Cameroon (+25000) to win the whole thing. Samuel Eto’o might have been onto something when he said, “Africa has always had the potential to achieve a successful World Cup, but we haven’t always shown our best face up to now.”

I mean, a LOT of things will have to occur for Cameroon to even see the knockout round, but I’m willing to bet they’re hoping to create some magic similar to the 1990 games when they beat defending champs Argentina 1-0 in the group stage.

Final World Cup predictions time — who wins the whole thing and whom do they defeat in the final?

NL: Brazil (+320) win it 3-1 over Uruguay (+3800).

VN: Lionel Messi needs this final trophy to cement his spot as the undisputed GOAT. I think he and Argentina get it done 2-1 against France (+700).

SD: The Belgium boys finally come of age and take it 3-2 against Argentina (+550). As Thibaut Courtois sheds joyous tears by the barrel, he thinks back to the time Chris Wondolowski nearly bested him in Brazil.

SS: Argentina defeat England (+550) in the final 2-1 in extra time.

Click here to see more Boardroom coverage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Read More:

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.