Harry Kane reacts with dismay after his missed penalty during the FIFA World Cup match between England and France at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar, December 2022.

Revisiting ESPN’s 2022 World Cup predictions from 2018

The 2022 World Cup is drawing to a conclusion and we want to know where ESPN are keeping their crystal ball after making a number of scarily accurate predictions four years ago. 

The 2018 World Cup was one of the most enjoyable editions to date, with England narrowly losing to Croatia in the semi-finals, who lost 4-2 to France in the final in Moscow.

After the tournament had finished, ESPN made a number of predictions for the 2022 edition, and with the Qatar edition almost over, now is a good time to analyse their shouts.

We’ve broken down each of these predictions to see which were incredibly accurate, and which were well wide of the mark.

The big guns return

The original prediction that the big footballing nations Italy, the USA, the Netherlands, Chile and Cameroon would return was incorrect, as Italy failed to reach their second World Cup in a row following their shocking loss at home to North Macedonia in the qualification playoffs.

Chile also failed to qualify but Cameroon, the Netherlands and the United States all returned – and all three made an impact.

It was a stunning goal to knock Italy out…

Ronaldo bids farewell

ESPN predicted that Ronaldo would retire after the tournament and, after being dropped by Portugal for the knockout stages, we wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d called it a day after their quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

But early indications are that the 37-year-old will carry on until Euro 2024 but it remains to be seen whether he could regain his starting spot.

Qatar become the worst-performing hosts

Yep, this was spot on.

Qatar were unfancied coming into the World Cup and lived down to expectations with three defeats in a relatively easy group.

African teams mount a better challenge

All five African contenders exited at the group stage in Russia, but the continent enjoyed a much better tournament this time around.

Every country won a match – with Cameroon beating Brazil and Tunisia getting the better of France – while two African teams reached the knockout rounds.

But, while Senegal fell to England, Morocco made history by becoming the first African semi-finalist. It’s truly been their tournament.

Mbappe confirms himself as the star of his generation

Kylian Mbappe scored in the final and had a fantastic tournament as France won the World Cup in 2018, and he’s only gotten better since.

Five goals have been plundered by the PSG forward as France have reached a second consecutive World Cup final and he’s in with a golden chance of winning the Golden Boot.

Football doesn’t come home

Sob, another open goal slotted away by ESPN.

VAR ends controversy

Back in 2018, VAR was still in its early stages, and it was finally implemented in the Premier League at the start of the 2019-20 season.

However, controversy has not been avoided in the slightest, with VAR being questioned in nearly every single game, and even though some earlier teething issues have been ironed out, there is no doubt that referees, and the technology, came under immense scrutiny during the tournament.

Who will win all the awards?

ESPN predicted that the Golden Boot will go to Timo Werner, the Golden Glove to Gianluigi Donnarumma and the best young player to Phil Foden.

Iran were tipped as the team to make a shock upset, and France to make a huge collapse.

The player award predictions haven’t aged well, as Werner was ruled out through injury, whilst Donnarumma’s Italy weren’t even at the tournament.

Foden for young player of the tournament wasn’t the worst shout but we reckon team-mate Jude Bellingham made more of an impact than the Manchester City man.

Iran went out in the groups again but performed admirably under immense pressure from events at home but ESPN completely misjudged their France prediction.

You can’t win them all…

READ MORE: A definitive ranking of every World Cup since 1990 from worst to best

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