The World Cup begins Sunday with a match between Ecuador and Qatar.
After 4 ½ years of waiting, we finally get to see our national teams playing on the biggest stage of soccer.
For some, like the USA, Canada, Ghana, Cameroon, the Netherlands, Wales, and the aforementioned Ecuador, it will be their first time back at the World Cup after missing the previous edition, or for Wales and Canada, after missing many previous editions.
For others like Italy and Colombia, they sadly will not get to see their national team at this year's World Cup.
And then there is Qatar, the new nation to the family of nations that have qualified for a FIFA Men's World Cup finals.
The rest of the nations will return having played in the 2018 edition in Russia.
We will look at each group individually and keep in mind, if you are a betting person, look somewhere else as this is meant for Catholics more so than a guide for Vegas.
Qatar: Qatar's state religion is Islam and it has Sharia Law. Qatar is very traditional, but does have many Christians. Qatar has a Muslim majority at 65.2% according to the CIA, but also has 13.7% Christians. In total, about 200,000 to 300,000 Catholics live in Qatar out of a population of 2.5 million. This is equal to around 8% to 12% of Qatar's population. However, very few of these are actually Qatari and most are foreign workers who work in Qatar. Most Qataris are Sunni Muslim and they retain a Sunni Royal Family, the House of Thani, and an Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as Head of State. Qatar is a semi-constitutional monarchy meaning they retain some forms of democracy with a prime minister as Head of Government and some forms of absolute monarchy. Qatar has strict abortion laws with exceptions for the mother's life or health, and if the fetus is imparied, and Qatar does not recognize same-sex marraige or civil unions. As for soccer, Qatar will make their World Cup debut. Qatar were 2019 Asian Champions and their U-20 national team made it to the 1981 FIFA Youth World Cup Final. As the host nation for 2022, they are expected to be a difficult team for each nation they play, but they are not expected to advance out of Group A.
Ecuador: Ecuador has been a Catholic-majority nation since its independence. As it is now, Ecuador's Catholic population is as high as 68.8% of their populace. This Catholic population has kept abortion laws strict as abortion is only allowed if the mother's life or health is at risk, or due to rape. Same-sex marraige is fully legal in Ecuador. Ecuador is a republic and a democracy with a president as Head of State and Head of Government. As for soccer, Ecuador will make their fourth World Cup appearance and their first since 2014. In 2006, Ecuador made it to the Round of 16, their furthest run at a FIFA World Cup. While they are not expected to advance out of Group A, it is not by much. As a South American side, the experts recognize that Ecuador beat out nations like Colombia and Chile to get here, and those nations would likely be favored to advance out of Group A.
Senegal: Senegal is a majority Muslim nation of the Sunni branch at around 97.2% according to the CIA. However, according to the ARDA, Senegal's Catholic population accounts for around 4.9% so there are discrepancies. Unlike many Muslim nations, Senegal is not an Islamic Republic and there appears in law to be fully freedom of religion. In addition, Senegal is a republic with democratic elements and a president as Head of State and a prime minister as Head of Government. Senegal only allows abortion if the woman's life is at risk and does not recognize same-sex marraige. As for soccer, Senegal are the favorites to finish #2 in Group A and therefore advance with the Netherlands. Combining a mix of Senegalese-born players and players from the diaspora, Senegal had formed what many considered the strongest contender for an African team at the World Cup so far. However, their best player, Sadio Mané, was recently announced to be injured and out of the World Cup. Senegal is one of three African nations to have advanced to the Quarter-finals (2002), and this will be Senegal's third World Cup, having been knocked out in the Group Stage in 2018. Senegal are the defending African Champions (2021).
Netherlands: Most Catholics know of the Netherlands as being the historic Protestant nation of the Low Countries, but in fact, their largest religious denomination is Catholicism today at anywhere between 15% to 20%. The CIA says 20.1% but they are also including other parts of the Kingdom outside of Europe that have their own national teams. The southern provinces of North Brabant and Limburg are the Catholic strongholds. So, if you watch the Dutch Eredivisie and you see PSV Eindhoven playing, that is a historic Catholic club. Despite a strong Christian heritage in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions, the Netherlands is today mostly irreligious, which reflects in many of their laws from very lenient abortion laws to 17 weeks to the legalization of same-sex marraige. However, they still retain their Protestant Royal Family with King Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange-Nassau. Traditionally Calvinist, the former Dutch Reformed Church has united with the Lutherans to form a Protestant Church of the Netherlands since 2004 and serves the Dutch Royals. As for soccer, the Dutch are the favorites to win Group A and are 3x World Cup runners-up (1974, 1978, and 2010) and 1x European Champions (1988). They have never won the World Cup, but are so close and most would say unlucky not to. This year's team has the talent to go the distance. The Dutch missed the 2018 World Cup, but in 2014, finished third place.
England: England, like the Netherlands, is a constituent country of a larger Kingdom. In England, their established church is the Protestant Church of England and their Head of State, the Monarch and part of the House of Windsor, King Charles III, must be of this denomination. England fully allows same-sex marraige and their abortion laws are only restrictive on economic and social reasons at 24 weeks and prohibits on request. England has a proper unitary democracy with a prime minister as Head of Government, but is a constitutional monarchy. England does not feature their own English parliament, however, and only uses the United Kingdom's, their sovereign-state's. England has around 47% Anglicans and around 9% Catholics, but Catholics have higher weekly mass attendance numbers. As for soccer, England has won one World Cup (1966), and prior to this competition, along with Scotland, were the best soccer nation and had many world championships not recognized by FIFA. Since the World Cup, England has had very elite teams, but they have failed to impress. But, a recent World Cup fourth place in 2018 and a runners-up in the European Championship in 2021 suggests that England has turned back the clock for their 16th World Cup appearance. England are the favorites in Group A. England is notable for having invented soccer, codifying the sport in 1863, and having the current best league with the most money, the Premier League. As part of Great Britain, England has won a co-record three Olympic Gold Medals (1900, 1904, and 1908).
Iran: Iran is an Islamic Republic, but despite the name, it is a theocracy with their Head of State a cleric, The Ayatolloh and Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, and their state religion being Twelver Shia Islam of the Ja'farî school. Their president is their Head of Government. 90-95% of Iranians are part of this specific version of Islam, at least nominally. Christians make up around 300,000 to 1.5 million of the population for at most 0.015% of the population, although some estimate Christians make up 0.5% of the population. The Church of the East was the state religion of past Iranian dynasties, and today, the Armenian Apostolic (Oriental Orthodox) followed by the Assyrian Church of the East are the largest Christian denominations. Catholics make up around 21,000 or 0.00025% of Iran. Most of these belong to Eastern Catholic Churches. Iran has no legal same-sex marraige and abortion is only allowed up to 4 months when the mother's life or health is at risk, or when the fetus is impaired. As for soccer, Iran has made it to six World Cups now, but have never advanced past the First Round or Group Stage. Iran are 3x Asian Champions (1968, 1972, and 1976) and many people say they are the best Asian team. With many Iranians in Qatar, they could benefit from a home atmosphere, but are not likely to advance out of Group B.
USA: The USA is a proper democracy and republic founded on the ideals of freedom of religion and a separation of church and state with a president as Head of State and Head of Government. Coming from a Protestant majority background, the USA retains this with 46.5% of the population being Protestant, but with more than 20% being Catholic making Catholicism the largest denomination in the USA. Due to federalism, the USA has abortion regulated at the state level with some states being very strict and other states being completely lenient and many in between. The USA has legal same-sex marraige in almost all jurisdictions. Keep in mind, this is not including US territories who mostly have their own national teams. As for soccer, the USA is famous for its 3rd place finish at the 1932 World Cup, the highest finish among any non-European or non-South American side at a World Cup, but since then, the USA has only reached the Quarter-finals once in 2002. The USA does often make the Round of 16, however, with three of their previous seven appearances being Round of 16 finishes, and one of those seven being the Quarter-final finish, and their previous two trips to the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 were Round of 16 finishes. The USA also has a slight fan advantage as the USA will have many fans traveling to the World Cup and has military bases in Qatar and neighboring nations. The USA has achieved high marks in the Confederations Cup finishing runners-up in 2009, and have dominated North America since the 90s along with Mexico, winning 7 North American Championships, most recently with the 2021 Gold Cup, and winning the only Nations League (2020-2021) for North America thus far, meaning that the USA are the second best nation historically in North America. This will be the USA's 11th World Cup. The USA are the #2 favorites for Group B and thus are expected to advance.
Wales: Wales is also a constituent country part of the United Kingdom along with England. Unlike in England, Wales does not have a state or established church, but the Protestant and Anglican Church of Wales used to be and Protestantism as a whole is the majority of the Welsh religious population. Catholics make up between 6% and 7% of the population. In total, Christianity makes up between 45% and 57% of the Welsh population with either non-religious people making up more or just slightly less. In reality, most people tend to not be religious with very low mass attendances and this reflects in their laws which are mostly the same as England's, especially with regards to abortion and same-sex marraige. Like England, Wales is also a proper democracy but under King Charles III as a constitutional monarchy. However, Wales both has their own devolved parliament with a first minister as the Head of the Welsh Government, and the United Kingdom's government with their prime minister as Head of their sovereign-state's Government. In soccer, Wales had periods of the early years of soccer being the best in the world and world champions not recognized by FIFA, but almost always found themselves behind England and Scotland. Since the World Cup started, Wales has only qualified for one other World Cup in 1958 where they reached the Quarter-finals. They did finish 3rd place at the 2016 European Championships, but are unlikely to advance out of Group B. However, in 2021, Wales made it to the European Championship Round of 16, so there is plenty to hope for as a Welsh person. As part of Great Britain, Wales has won a co-record three Olympic Gold Medals (1900, 1904, and 1908).
Argentina: Argentina has special provisions in their constitution for Catholicism thus making it almost a state or established religion. Furthermore, since its independence, Argentina has been Catholic and today is 62.9% Catholic. However, despite being a Catholic-majority nation and despite Pope Francis being from Argentina, Argentina now has much more lenient abortion laws with the only limitations being at 14 weeks for fetal impairment, economic or social reasons, and on request. Furthermore, same-sex marraige is fully legal. Argentina is a federation and a republic with proper democracy and a president as Head of State and Head of Government. In soccer, Argentina has won the World Cup twice in 1978 and 1986, and have qualified for 18 World Cups now, third most all-time. Argentina are co-favorites to win the World Cup with Brazil according to most experts as the Argentines are coming off of winning their co-record 15th South American Championship in 2021 and the 2022 Cup of Champions between the European and South American Champions. Argentinian clubs are notable for having a combined record of most South American Club Championships. Argentina is also widely regarded to currently have the best player of all-time, Lionel Messi. Argentina has also won two Gold Medals at the Olympics (2004 and 2008).
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is the lone non-Catholic country in Group C, but it will not feel lonely because they border Qatar and will most likely have many fans at their matches, making them feel like the host nation. Saudi Arabia's state religion is Islam and no religions besides Islam may hold public worship, and some of the cities do not even allow non-Muslims to enter. Saudi Arabia holds the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, and is the birth place of the Propher Muhammad. Saudi Arabia is a majority Sunni at around 85% to 90%, with most others being Shia. But there are Christians in Saudi Arabia and a lot of them are Catholic. Catholics make up around 7% of the population with 85% of them being Filipino foreign workers. Most Catholics have to either worship privately or underground presumably. They are allowed to be there, but not to publicly display their religion. Saudi Arabia is a kingdom under the Sunni House of Saud and under current king, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as Head of State and a prime minister (Crown Prince usually) as Head of Government. And it is an absolute monarchy, with not a proper democracy. Same-sex marraige is banned in Saudi Arabia and abortion laws are strict with only exceptions if the mother's life is at risk and up to 4 weeks if the mother's health is at risk. As for soccer, Saudi Arabia has now qualified for six World Cups. Saudi Arabia's best period came in the 1990s when they went to the 1994 World Cup Round of 16, and finished runners-up at the 1992 Confederations Cup. As for Asia, they have won Asia 3 times and in this competition, the 1980s were their best decade winning it in 1984 and 1988. Saudi Arabia did not advance out of their World Cup group the last time in 2018, but look much better. However, they are picked to finish last in Group C and to not advance this year either.
Mexico: Mexico is a Catholic-majority nation with 78% of their nation being Catholic. Mexico is a Federal Republic with proper democracy and a president as Head of State and Head of Government. As such, abortion ranges from very strict to very lenient by state, and same-sex marraige is legal in all but two states. As for soccer, Mexico has made it to 7 straight Round of 16s, but has yet to advance past this round since 1986 when they went to the Quarter-finals, a feat also achieved in 1970. This will be Mexico's 17th World Cup, the fifth most all-time and most from North America. Mexico is North America's all-time best nation with 11 North American Championships, winning their latest at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Mexico has also won one Olympic Gold Medal (2012) and one FIFA Confederations Cup (1999). Mexico are the #2 favorites for Group C and are likely to advance, but only just by a little over Poland.
Poland: Poland is a very Catholic county at around 84% of the population with some estimates up to 90% and they have stricter abortion laws than most of Europe, with it being only legal when the mother's life or health is at risk. Poland has very limited recognition for same-sex relations, offering unregistered cohabitation and legal guardianship. Poland is often considered to almost have Catholicism as a state or established religion because it does hold a special place in its Constitution. As a nation, Poland is a proper republic, but is a unitary state like most of the nations on this list, meaning the central government has much more control over its subdivisions like its provinces. Poland is a proper democracy too, with a president as Head of State, but a prime minister as Head of Government. As for soccer, Poland boasts arguably the best soccer player right now at striker, Robert Lewandowski, but have not lived up to their collective potential as of late. Going into the 2018 World Cup as the #7 team in the world saw them not even advance out of their group. But Poland pushed on having qualified for nine World Cups now, and have achieved as high as third place on two occasions, in 1974 and 1982, but since 1986, have failed to reach the Round of 16. Poland won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal. Poland are only slightly not favored to advance out of this group as they are widely considered the #3 team in the group, but it is not because they are bad, rather it is because Argentina arguably has the best player of all-time and is playing the best it has played since he has started to play for them, and Mexico has advanced out of the group stage seven straight times.
France: France is historically a Catholic nation, and the Catholic Church still has some special privileges in their Constitution, but overall, France is very adamant about the separation of church and state and the freedom of religion, and continues on a trend of no religion. Despite these trends, France still features a 47% Catholic population with many stating the number exceeds 50%. This reflects in France's laws on abortion which are very lenient up to 16 weeks and with no limits when the mother's life or health is at risk, and when there is fetal impairment. Same-sex marraige is also legal in France. France is a proper republic, but is a unitary state. However, they do have subdivisions with their own FIFA national teams that despite being fully a part of France, act like dependent territories in many instances such as sports. So, this may mean that among the European part of France, the France at the World Cup, there may be slightly less percentage of Catholics, or potentially slightly more. France has a proper democracy with a president as Head of State and prime minister as Head of Government. As for soccer, France is one of the best nations all-time winning two FIFA World Cups in 1998 and 2018, and two European Championships in 1984 and 2000, plus are the defending Nations League Champions from Europe (2020-2021) and won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1984. France are one of three co-favorites to win the World Cup, but are not overly confident because lately, the defending World Cup Champion has failed to advance out of their Group (in 2010, 2014, and 2018). This will be France's 16th World Cup.
Australia: Australia does not have a state or established religion, but their Head of State must be Anglican and a member of the Church of England, as they have King Charles III of the House of Windsor as their King. Australia is a proper democracy however, with a prime minister as its Head of Government. Australia is also a federal country. Therefore, abortion laws vary in Australia but is almost always allowed with some time limits and only in one subdivision is abortion not allowed, but only for on request, and that is the Northern Territory. Same-sex marraige is legal. Australia is a majority Christian nation with Protestantism being the largest, but Catholicism being the largest denomination at 22.6%. As for soccer, Australia does not compete in Oceania anymore and actually chooses to play in Asia since 2008, and has become one of Asia's Top 5 teams. Before, they were Oceania's best team. Australia has been Asian Champions once (2015), and have finished 3rd place in the Confederations Cup in 2001. This will be Australia's sixth World Cup and their fifth in a row. Their only time advancing out of their group was in 2006 when they made it to the Round of 16. The Socceroos are not favored to advance out of Group D.
Denmark: Denmark is a proud Lutheran country with 74.7% of Danes adhering to their established religion and the religion of its Royal Family, the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, with Queen Margrethe II of Denmark being the Head of State and the Supreme Authority of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark. However, it must be stated that this number might be slightly inflated because like the Netherlands, Wales, and England, Denmark is a constituent country part of a larger Kingdom and therefore the statistics might not include the exact numbers representative of the constituent county of Denmark competing at the World Cup. As a constitutional monarchy, Denmark has a proper democracy with a prime minister as Head of Government. In terms of Catholicism, Catholics make up anywhere from 0.7% to 1.3% of the population, but these numbers may be too high or too low because they once again include the other parts of the Kingdom. As for soccer, Denmark is historic in the European Championships having won the 1992 edition, and made it to the Semi-finals in 2021. Denmark also won the 1995 Confederations Cup. But, in the World Cup, Denmark has fared less prolific with only six appearances, their furthest being in 1998 when they reached the Quarter-finals. Out of these five previous appearances, Denmark has reached the knockout rounds four times including the Round of 16 in 2018. Denmark is the #2 favorite in Group D and are expected to advance to the knockout stages. Denmark also won an unofficial Olympic Gold Medal in 1896.
Tunisia: The Arab Spring did not bring much democratic success to the Arab World minus a few examples, one of them being Tunisia. Tunisia is now a proper democracy with its state religion being Islam, but with freedom of religion. As a unitary republic, Tunisia has a president as Head of State and a prime minister as Head of Government. Tunisia is 99% Sunni Muslim, but also has a Catholic population at around 0.0026% with many titular sees as the parts that make up Tunisia today were historic Catholic nations. Tunisia has no legal same-sex marraige and their abortions laws are lenient up to 3 months, and then they have no limits for if there is risk to the mother's life or health, or if there is an impairment to the fetus. As for soccer, Tunisia have qualified for six World Cups, but have failed to reach the knockout rounds and are not expected to this year either. However, Tunisia has become one of the strongest teams in Africa winning the African Championship in 2004, and being a constant competitive nation across various competitions. Tunisia qualified for the 2018 World Cup too, finishing in third place in their group.
Spain: Since 1978, Spain no longer has Catholicism as its state religion, but it still holds a special place in its Constitution, plus, the Royal Family of Spain, the House of Bourbon-Anjou is Catholic, meaning that their Head of State must be Catholic, which is currently King Felipe VI. Spain, however, is a constitutional monarchy with a proper democracy and a prime minister as Head of Government. As such, Spain has legal same-sex marraige and has lenient abortion laws with 22 weeks being the limit when the mother's life or health is at risk and when the fetus is impaired, and 14 weeks for other reasons. Spain is 58.2% Catholic, although some estimate it is larger than this. As for soccer, Spain is historically one of the best nations in soccer with one World Cup championship in 2010, three European Championships (1964, 2008, and 2012), and one Olympic Gold Medal in 1992. Spain, however, is much more dominant in club soccer and features the best club team of all-time with the most Club World Cups/Championships and European Club Championships, Real Madrid. Together with FC Barcelona, Spanish clubs have won the most Club World Cups/Championships and European Club Championships. Spain is favored to advance out of Group E with Germany.
Costa Rica: Costa Rica is a country where Catholicism is the state religion, yet is also a unitary republic and a proper democracy with a president as Head of State and Head of Government. Costa Rica is 47.5% Catholic with some estimates being higher, and are a majority Christian when you include minority Protestants. As such, Costa Rica has stricter abortion laws with only abortion allowed if the mother's life or health is at risk. Costa Rica does have legal same-sex marraige. As for soccer, Costa Rica is often considered the third best team in North America, although Canada looks to change this. Costa Rica has the third most amount of North American championships at three (1963, 1969, and 1989), but has recently faltered only finishing fifth in the 2019 and 2021 editions. Costa Rica has become a mainstay at the World Cup since 2014, where they achieved their greatest result yet, a Quarter-final finish after winning a group that featured Uruguay, Italy, and England. In 2018, they failed to advance from their group finishing fourth place in the group behind Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia. Their other three appearances were in 2006, 2002, and 1990. In 1990, Costa Rica reached the Round of 16, their second best ever result at a World Cup. While Costa Rica are not favored to advance out of Group E, many people give them a shot because of their experience in groups with very good teams the last two times and how competitive they were. Plus, they have one of the world's best goalkeepers.
Germany: The problem child in the story of Catholicism might be Germany but Germany still posses Catholicism as its largest denomination at 26.7%, although many estimate this number is above 30%. Germany still is slightly a Christian majority country when you include Protestants, which are a minority, but not by much. Germany's strongest Catholic areas are its three southern states of Saarland, Baden-Württenberg, and Bavaria, plus two other states: Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. As a federal republic with a proper democracy, Germany features a president as Head of State and a chancellor as Head of Government. Germany does have freedom of religion and separation of church and state to an extent, but also has church taxes, whereby if certain religious people sign up, such as Catholics, they also have taxes go to the Church and this allows them to get baptisms and marriages and other services. So, there is a semi-state co-church in a way that includes Catholicism. Germany has full legal same-sex marraige and their abortion laws are lenient for a risk to the mother's life or health, but stricter at 12 weeks for all other reasons. As for soccer, since the World Cup was created in 1932, Germany has been the second most successful nation along with Italy with four World Cup championships (1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014). Germany has won one Olympic Gold Medal in 1976 under East Germany, while all their World Cups besides 2014 came under West Germany. Germany's now 20 World Cup appearances is second most all-time and most of any European nation. Germany has also won three European Championships (1972, 1980, and 1996), two of those under West Germany, and one Confederations Cup (2017). Germany has the most soccer players per capita for a country of its large size and their league, the Bundesliga, has the highest average attendance. Germany failed to advance from their group in 2018, but are expected to advance out of Group E with Spain this year.
Japan: For those that want to explore a very good novel on Japanese Catholicism, check out Catholic365 contributor, Michael Thomas Cibenko's Masaru. Japan is predominantly Shinto and it acts as Japan's Imperial Family's religion. However, most Japanese mix in Shinto with Buddhism too. Christians make up 1.5% of the population and with freedom of religion, many have risen to the top ranks of society. Catholics make up 0.34% of Japan. Japan is a constitutional monarchy and a proper democracy with the Imperial House of Japan or Yamato and Emperor Naruhito as its Head of State. A prime minister serves as Head of Government. Japan has a mixed culture with some not so conservative things popular, but overall has a conservative ruling majority, and as such, same-sex relations only have limited recognition with non-binding certification, and abortion is more restrictive than many of its neighbors with fetal impairment and on request being prohibited, and other reasons being restricted at 22 weeks. As for soccer, Japan has become Asia's best team with South Korea since the 1990s, qualifying for every World Cup since 1998, and advancing to the Round of 16 on three separate occasions thus far (2002, 2010, and 2018). Japan has also come to dominate in the Asian Championship with four Asian Championships since 1990 (1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011), the most of any nation. Japan finished runners-up in the most recent edition in 2019. Japan also had success in the Confederations Cup finishing runners-up in 2001. Japan are not expected to advance out of Group E, but no one would be surprised if the Empire of the Rising Sun made it to the knockout rounds again.
Belgium: Belgium is a Catholic-majority country with around 57.1% of the population, and is a constitutional monarchy with a proper democracy and a federal country. The Head of State is a member of the Catholic House of Belgium and is currently King Philippe. The Head of Government is a prime minister. While Belgium has to have a Catholic Head of State, technically, there is separation of church and state and there is freedom of religion. Belgium has gone from large mass attendances to very low weekly mass attendances and this has resulted in very lenient laws with abortion where there is a 14 week limit for on request, economic or social reasons, and rape, but an unlimited limit for all other cases. Same-sex marraige is fully legal in Belgium. Despite this, Belgium is the largest of the Catholic low countries while Luxembourg is the smaller Catholic low country. Belgium is historically very Catholic as that is the main reason it is not part of a United Netherlands. As for soccer, Belgium is a historic nation and is one of nine nations to have won a FIFA recognized World Championship. The last 3 editions of the Olympic Games before the World Cup began in 1932 were considered the World Championship like the World Cup is today by FIFA, and Belgium won the 1920 Olympic Gold Medal in men's football. Belgium has not won a World Cup though, so most people do not realize this historic achievement by Belgium. Belgium will play in their 14th World Cup and so far has achieved a fourth place finish in 1986, and a third place finish in 2018. Belgium made it to the Quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2014, so they look to make the Final this year. Belgium earned third place at the European Championship in 1972, and have made it to the past two editions' Quarter-finals. Belgium is notable for having been the #1 team in the world in 2015 and from 2018 to 2021. Their consistency has kept them at #2, however, they have lacked winning a major competition since the 1920 Olympics, and therefore are not expected to win the World Cup. But they do have the talent.
Canada: Canada is a traditional Protestant and Catholic nation divided by their different provinces and their history. But, their Head of State has to be a member of the Church of England as an Anglican as the House of Windsor is their royal house. King Charles III is Canada's current king. Canada is a proper democracy, federation, and constitutional monarchy with a prime minister as its Head of Government. Canada is a majority Christian nation today, with Catholicism as its largest denomination at anywhere from around 28% to around 38% and itself out numbers Protestantism. Yet, despite this large Christian majority and history, there is no state religion. As for abortion, there are almost no limits with an exception for on request, but this is allowed in every province and territory with variations, and same-sex marriage is legal throughout. As for soccer, Canada is unique for having won the 1904 Olympic Gold Medal, but since then, has not really appeared much on the international stage. Canada made it to the 1986 World Cup, but finished last. This is Canada's second World Cup. In North America, Canada has fared better winning the North America championship twice, in 1985 and 2000. In the most recent edition, Canada made it to the Semi-finals. Canada has recently become very good and looks to take over as the third best team in North America, and was the best team in World Cup Qualifications for 2022 from North America. Despite this, Canada is not likely to make it out of Group F.
Morocco: Morocco is a Muslim majority nation with almost all 99% of Moroccans being Sunni Muslim. Catholicism has existed in the area that makes up Morocco for a very long time. Currently, Catholics account for 0.07% of Morocco's population. Morocco embraces freedom of religion, but does have Islam as its state religion. Morocco is a semi-constitutional monarchy with elements of democracy and absolute monarchism. Their royal family is the 'Alawi Dynasty and their Head of State is King Mohammed VI, while their prime minister is the Head of Government. Morocco has strict abortion laws with only the risk to the mother's life or health allowed. Same-sex marraige is not allowed in Morocco. As for soccer, Morocco has always been very talented, but has lacked success. They did win the 1976 African Championship and made it to the Round of 16 at the 1986 World Cup. But, their other four appearances thus far has seen Morocco eliminated in the First Round or Group Stage, including in 2018. This will be Morocco's sixth World Cup appearance. Morocco has another very talented team, but is not likely to make it out of Group F.
Croatia: Croatia is a very Catholic nation since their beginnings as an independent nation to their rebirth of one in the 1990s. Croatia served as one of the Bulwarks of Christianity against the invading Ottomans, and this history continues to this day. In fact, Catholicism in Croatia is at 86.3%, and Christianity as a whole is at over 90% as there is still a minority of Eastern Orthodox at over 4%. Despite this, years of communist rule under Yugoslavia brought more atheistic laws that have stayed in place since. As such, there are no limits to abortion except a 10 week limit for on request and economic or social reasons. Same-sex civil unions and partnerships are legal in Croatia. Croatia is a unitary republic with proper democracy. A prime minister is their Head of Government and a president is their Head of State. As for soccer, Croatia has only been eligible for the FIFA World Cup since after the 1994 World Cup Qualifiers, meaning the first edition Croatia could qualify for was 1998. Croatia has qualified for six of the seven World Cups they have had an opportunity to qualify for now. Croatia finished third place in 1998, and in 2018, Croatia finished runners-up. The other editions Croatia did not advance out of the Group Stage. In the European Championship, Croatia has only made it to the Quarter-finals twice (1996 and 2008). Croatia struggled after their 2018 World Cup to compete against the top teams until this past year, where they made it to the European Championship Round of 16, taking Spain to Extra-Time, and then won their Nations League group defeating and tying France. Croatia looks very good now and is expected to advance out of Group F as the #2 favorite. As a member of Yugoslavia, Croatia was part of two fourth place World Cup finishes (1930 and 1962), two European Championship runners-up (1960 and 1968), and one Olympic Gold Medal in 1960.
Brazil: Brazil has been a Catholic nation since its independence and has a current Catholic-majority at between 54% and over 64%, with a large Christian majority when other denominations are included. This reflects in their abortion laws which are very restrictive with only risk to the mother's life and rape being okay to abort at a 22 week limit. All other reasons are not allowed. Brazil does allow same-sex marraige. Brazil is a federation and a republic with proper democracy. They have a president as their Head of Government and Head of State. Brazil has had freedom of religion and separation of church and state since 1890. As for soccer, since the FIFA World Cup era, Brazil has been the most successful soccer nation, in almost all forms of the sport. In the World Cup, Brazil has won a record five World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002), and have qualified for every World Cup thus far at 22, the most of any nation and the only nation to have been to every World Cup so far, and made it to the Quarter-finals in the 2018 edition. In the Confederations Cup, Brazil also has a record amount at four Confederations Cup Championships, and has won two Gold Medals at the Olympics (2016 and 2020). Brazil does not hold the record in South American Championships, but does have nine trophies in this competition including in 2019, with a runners-up finish in 2021. And up until very recently, Brazilian clubs held the most Club World Cup/Championship titles, but Spanish clubs have taken this top position. Brazil is currently #1 and has a record amount of #1 rankings. Brazil are one of the co-favorites to win the World Cup and is the favorite of these co-favorites.
Serbia: Serbia is a majority Eastern Orthodox country and historically has been very Eastern Orthodox. Currently, Eastern Orthodoxs, mainly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, account for 84.6%, while Catholics account for around 5% of the populace. Freedom of religion and separation of church and state exists in this unitary republic with a proper democracy and a president as Head of State and prime minister as Head of Government. Abortion is legal in all cases except past 10 weeks for on request or social or economic reasons. There is no legal same-sex marraige. In soccer, Serbia has only been able to compete as an independent nation since after the 2006 World Cup. From 2002-2006, Serbia was part of Serbia and Montenegro, and before this, during the era of the FIFA World Cup, Serbia played under Yugoslavia. Serbia has now qualified for three of four World Cups they have been eligible for just as Serbia itself, yet has failed to advance past the Group Stage finishing 23rd place both times, such as in 2018. Serbia and Switzerland are both very even and one of the two are expected to advance while the other is not. Serbia and Montenegro finished last place in the 2006 World Cup, and under Yugoslavia, Serbia was part of two fourth place World Cup finishes (1930 and 1962), two European Championship runners-up (1960 and 1968), and one Olympic Gold Medal in 1960.
Switzerland: Switzerland is a federation, republic, and a proper democracy. Switzerland has a strange form of government with a seven member Federal Council that has a rotational Head of State and Head of Government between them. Switzerland has freedom of religion and separation of church and state, but most of their cantons have special privileges for the Catholic Church and Swiss Reformed Church. Historically, each Canton had an official state church, either Catholic, Zwinglianism, or Calvinism. Today, Switzerland is a majority Christian with Catholicism being the largest denomination at over 34%. Lately, Catholicism has been expanding even in traditionally Protestant cantons where it now is a plurality such as Zurich. Switzerland also has the church tax system similar to Germany. Switzerland has legal same-sex marraige and abortion is restricted to 12 weeks for all but when the mother's life or health is at risk and then there is no limit. As for soccer, Switzerland has been a very respectable side historically, always competitive against the best, but never winning anything. Switzerland has made it to three World Cup Quarter-finals (1934, 1938, and 1954), and have qualified for 12 World Cups now. They made it to the Round of 16 in three of the last four World Cups (2006, 2014, and 2018). Switzerland has been less successful in the European Championship only making it to the Quarter-finals once, in 2021. Their highest finish in any major tournament was a fourth place finish at the 2018-2019 Nations League for Europe, and a Silver Medal at the 1924 Olympics. Switzerland and Serbia are about even and one of them is likely to join Brazil in advancing to the knockout rounds.
Cameroon: Cameroon is a Christian-majority nation and has been ever since its independence with Catholicism being its main denomination. Today, their Catholic population is at over 38%. Cameroon has freedom of religion and separation of church and state as a unitary republic with democracy and a president as Head of State and prime minister as Head of Government. Cameroon allows abortion if the mother's life is at risk, and allows abortion up to 28 weeks if the mother's health is at risk or if there is rape, but prohibits abortion for all other reasons. Same-sex marraige is not legal. As for soccer, Cameroon is one of the three African teams to have advanced to the Quarter-finals (1990), but besides this feat, has never advanced past the Group Stage in their other six World Cups, including in their most recent World Cup in 2014 where they finished in last place. Cameroon has won five African Championships (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017) and achieved third place in the most recent edition in 2021. Cameroon also finished second place in the Confederations Cup in 2003. Cameroon won the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal, becoming one of two African nations to do so (Nigeria in 1996). Cameroon is expected to finish last in Group G, but they are not underestimated by anyone as they earned their way to the 2022 World Cup. And many argue that Cameroon is the best African nation of all-time when looking at both African Championships (second to Egypt who has won 7) and World Cup performances combined, especially since Cameroon has now been to eight World Cups, an African best.
Portugal: Portugal is a majority Catholic country and has been key on spreading the Catholic Faith around the world much like Spain. Portugal is currently 81% Catholic and has even more Christians when you include other denominations. Catholicism was Portugal's state religion until 1976, but it still retains certain privileges. Abortion is legal with no limits when the mother's life or health is at risk, then at 16 weeks for rape, 24 weeks for fetal impairment, 10 weeks for economic or social reasons and on request. Same-sex marraige is legal in Portugal. Portugal is a unitary republic with a proper democracy whereby their president is Head of State and their prime minister is Head of Government. As for soccer, Portugal is one of the elite nations to have never won a World Cup. Portugal finished third place at the 1966 World Cup and fourth place at the 2006 World Cup. Portugal have now been to eight World Cups, including the last six in a row, with their most recent edition being in 2018 where they advanced to the Round of 16, a feat they finished in in 2010 as well. All other World Cup appearances saw Portugal fail to advance out of the Group Stage. Portugal has won one European Championship (2016) and one Nations League for Europe (2018-2019), as well as a third place finish at the Confederations Cup (2017). Portugal is notable for currently having arguably the best player of all-time, Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal have the talent to win the World Cup and their national team are favorites to win Group H.
Ghana: Ghana is a proper democracy and unitary republic with a president as the Head of State and Head of Government. Ghana has been a majority Christian country since its founding with Protestantism earning the largest share at over 48%, and Catholics holding anywhere from 10% to 15% of the population. Pentecostal is the largest denomination at anywhere from 24% to 31%. Christianity as a whole sits around 71%. Ghana prohibits abortion on request and for social or economic reasons, but does allow for all other reasons at 28 weeks. Ghana does not have legal same-sex marraige. As for soccer, Ghana's World Cup days began in 2006 where they reached the Round of 16. Then in 2010, they reached the Quarter-finals, and in 2014, Ghana were knocked out in the Group Stage. This will be Ghana's fourth World Cup and so far, their record is good. Despite Ghana's World Cup adventures not coming until 2006, Ghana had won four African Championships, all in the previous century so far, in 1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982. Ghana's most recent African Championship in 2021 saw a Group Stage exit. Ghana were expected to finish last in Group H, but with naturalized Ghanians coming in to the team, now their chances look more bright. Still, Ghana is not likely to advance out of Group H.
Uruguay: Uruguay has been a Catholic nation since its independence, and still has a Christian-majority population with Catholicism being its largest denomination at around 42%, even larger than Protestants in the country. Uruguay is a unitary republic with a proper democracy and has a president as Head of State and a prime minister as Head of Government. Uruguay used to have Catholicism as its state religion until 1919, but now embraces separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Same-sex marraige is legal and Uruguay has a 14 week limit on abortion for rape, a 12 week limit for economic or social reasons and on request, and then no limits for other reasons for abortions. As for soccer, Uruguay is historic as they have won four FIFA-recognized World Championships, tied with Germany and Italy. However, two of these came because of a technicality whereby Uruguay's 1924 and 1928 Olympic Gold medals count as world championships by FIFA, because the last three editions of the Olympics prior to the World Cup being created were considered the then world championship by FIFA. Yet; Uruguay also has won two World Cups, one in the first World Cup in 1932, and one in the 1950 World Cup. Uruguay has also finished fourth place at the World Cup in 1954, 1970, and 2010. Uruguay is making their 14th World Cup, and in the 2018 edition, made it to the Quarter-finals. Uruguay has so far advanced out of their group or the first round in nine of their 13 previous World Cups. Uruguay has a co-record of 15 South American Championships with Argentina, but recently; Uruguay has only made it to the Quarter-finals of that competition (2019 and 2021). Uruguay is the #2 favorite to get out of Group H.
South Korea: Despite its history, South Korea is now a majority non-religious with its largest religion being Christianity at 27.6%, with Presbyterians making up the largest Christian denomination. Catholicism itself is 7.9% of the population. Catholics have quickly grown into the elite circle of South Korea and so many prominent South Koreans are Catholic. South Korea is a proper democracy with a president as Head of State and Head of Government and is a unitary republic. When it comes to abortion, South Korea is very lenient with only limits at 24 weeks for rape and fetal impairment. South Korea does not have legal same-sex marraige. As for soccer, South Korea is the best performing Asian nation at the World Cup historically, having now qualified for 11 World Cups, the most among Asain nations, and having achieved fourth place in 2002, the highest finish of any Asian nation and any non-European, South American, or North American nation. However, South Korea lacks consistent success, and has only made it out of the Group Stage or the First Round one other time and that was a Round of 16 appearance in 2010. In Asain competition, South Korea has won two Asian Championships (1956 and 1960), but has not won anymore since the first two editions. Their most recent result was a Quarter-final finish in 2019. South Korea is not expected to advance from Group H, but South Korea does have some very good players and a talented team. South Korea has made it to every World Cup since 1986 so far and in the last edition, beat Germany to finish third in their group. This year's group is much easier for South Korea.
It is important to note that the Olympics have been an under-23 tournament for European and South American teams with the exception of three players since 1932 in order to make the World Cup more important. Other continents have recently followed suit.
Also, some of the nations have very repressive laws regarding homosexuality that go against our Catholic Faith. While Catholicism may not agree with same-sex marraige, some of these nations go too far to abusing human rights and should not be looked at as a guiding light on this issue.