5 Dark Horses to Lookout for at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

James Budgen

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World Cup Dark Horses

In each World Cup there's usually one surprise package, so we've taken a look at some longer shot odds that may cause a surprise in Qatar.

From a 100/1 selection to a 28/1 outsider, here's our dark horses for Qatar 2022.

Senegal - 100/1

While Senegal might not have the squad depth other top nations have, the African Champions do have plenty of players with experience winning major European trophies and an experienced squad, having won the AFCON tournament just under a year ago.

Senegal have their star players in Chelsea duo Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Kouliably as part of their defensive force while their attack is usually spearheaded by Sadio Mane, who has been in great form this season for his new club Bayern Munich, scoring 11 goals and assisting four times in 23 appearances. However, due to injury, it now looks like the ex-Liverpool man could miss the World Cup.

The Lions of Teranga have a top-level midfield with plenty of experience and a great work rate in Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, Nottingham Forest’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Leicester’s Nampalys Mendy.

Senegal should be able to get through their group, consisting of hosts Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands, with Louis van Gaal’s side being their toughest challenge, but Senegal will be confident coming off the back of winning the African Cup of Nations and only losing three of their last 25 games and they will be a team that many won’t want to face as they are a team with a lot of quality in it and a team consisting of players with high work rates.

Denmark - 28/1

In their five World Cup appearances, Denmark have never got past the round of 16, but their performance at the Euros last year, being so close to reaching the final for the first time since winning the tournament in 1992, has put them back on the radar for a dark-horse pick, especially with the addition of Christian Eriksen back in their squad.

Since their semi-final loss to England, Denmark have won 11 of their 15 games, keeping eight clean sheets, with their potential as a team shown in their two games against reigning world champions France in the Nations League, beating them home and away.

Denmark have quality all over the pitch, but their midfield is where their strength lies, as not only does it have quality and experience, but is very balanced, with Tottenham's Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Sevilla’s Thomas Delany adding great energy and defensive ability while Christain Eriksen adds top-class ball playing ability, with his set-piece taking being a major threat to other nations.

The Danes should be able to ease through their group with very winnable games against Australia and Tunisia with their toughest game being against France, who they will come in confident against after beating them twice in the past five months.

Croatia - 50/1

This is Croatia's sixth appearance at the World Cup, and like their last appearance they are coming in as a dark horse, and unlike most dark horses, they nearly made the impossible possible happen after winning every game in the lead-up to the final, but losing out in the final to France.

Croatia have had some periods of struggles since the last World Cup, but since being knocked out to Spain in the Euros last year, they have been in great form, winning ten of their 15 games, losing only once, topping their qualification group and winning their Nations League group, beating Denmark twice and winning once and drawing once against France, beating them in Paris.

What has seemed to be the case for many tournaments, Croatia’s strengths are in their midfield with the seemingly never ageing Luka Modric who can dominate a game himself, whilst his partners Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic create a midfield with great balance and quality and plenty of experience together with a combined 313 caps between them.

Croatia do have a tough group with each team topping their qualification group, with both Belgium and Morocco not losing a game in qualifying and Canada showing real promise with their new array of young talent so if Croatia get past the group stage with ease, they should be eyed as a real threat.

Uruguay - 40/1

Uruguay had some struggles during qualification, losing four games on the bounce, including a 3-0 loss to Bolivia, but after regaining their form in 2022, they have the potential to be a scary team in this tournament as their squad, unlike other tournaments, has a lot more balance to it.

Uruguay for the last few tournaments have had great attackers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and excellent central defenders in Jose Giminez and Diego Godin, but the rest of their squad was lacking, but now they have more talent around the team.

With Cavani and Suarez hitting the latter stages of their career, they have Darwin Nunez as a great third option in attack, taking some pressure off the other two and in midfield they have one of the most in-form players in the world in Federico Valverde, an emerging talent in Manuel Ugarte partnering Rodrigo Bentancur, creating a very solid midfield.

With Diego Godin being phased out of the squad, they have a new talent in Ronald Araujo to take his place and partner Gimenez, which has kept six clean sheets in their last seven games, creating a Uruguay squad with a great mix of experience and young talent.

In a group with South Korea and Ghana, they should definitely get to the knockout stages and from there, they have shown in previous tournaments, knocking out Portugal in 2018 for example, they can be a real threat.

Serbia - 80/1

For the first time in 60 years, Serbia have qualified for successive World Cup finals, going unbeaten in the qualifiers and finishing above Portugal, beating them in Lisbon and then showcasing their talents again in the Nations League, topping their group, being promoted into Group A.

Serbia’s attack will be their main threat entering this tournament, with a striking duo of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic which will scare defences, with both players great in the air, have great finishing with their feet and both add other threats with Mitrovic’s aggression, which has got him 50 goals in 76 appearances for Serbia, and Vlahovic’s great link-up play as well as goal-scoring - shown by his eight goals and four assists in only 913 minutes of football for his national side.

Serbia do have a tough group to get through, with Brazil, Switzerland and Cameroon, as in a combined 31 games between the teams, they have only lost once, but in tournament football where goals are few and far between, having two strikers who are scoring experts, with playmakers like Dusan Tadic, Filip Kostic and Sergej Milinković-Savić, Serbia will always have chances in games which will make them threats to whatever team they face.

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