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Teams: Qatar, Senegal, Ecuador, Netherlands
The hosts will be up against it in this group, with enormous pressure to perform in front of their home fans and the world as they represent the Middle East as the first country from the region to host the FIFA World Cup.
Ecuador will be hoping to reach the Round of 16 for just the second time in their nation’s World Cup history, and have a great chance to do that with an emerging generation of players including Sebas Méndez and Brighton pair Moisés Caicedo and Pervis Estupiñán to name a few.
Senegal are fresh off a historic victory at the African Cup of Nations and boast one of the strongest teams on the continent with the likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy. Mane and rising star Ismaila Sarr make up a lethal strike pairing and are a big part of why Senegal are favoured to take one of the top two spots in Group A.
Arguably the strongest team in the group, the Netherlands enter this group with a point to prove on their return to the World Cup after failing to qualify for Russia 2018. It may not be as easy as expected to get out of this group though, as the lack of a clear number one goalkeeper and the inconsistent form of captain Virgil van Dijk at club level may hamper their strength once the tournament gets underway.
Teams: Iran, England, Wales, USA
England look to be in the midst of a purple patch in their international history as they come into this World Cup off the back of a fourth-placed finish at Russia 2018 and an agonising loss in the final of the 2020 Euros. There are big questions over the form of players such as Harry Maguire and Trent Alexander-Arnold, but coach Gareth Southgate has rising stars Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka to be optimistic about.
Iran return to the tournament after causing Portugal and Spain a world of trouble in 2018, with hopes of reaching the round of 16 for the first time. A controversial coaching change could affect them though, after former boss Dragan Skocic was sacked despite leading Iran to top their qualification group. New coach Carlos Queiroz will hope his tenure can begin with a strong campaign in Qatar, with the match against the USA surely a target due to the history of the two nations.
The youngest team at the World Cup, the USA are back after missing out in 2018 with a squad full of extremely promising talent. Led by Chelsea star Christian Pulisic, there is a golden generation feel of this team, but their youth raises doubts about their ability to put it all together and make an impact against more experienced sides. While they may leave earlier than later, this tournament will give the youngsters the best chance to gain valuable experience for when the World Cup comes to American shores in 2026.
In what will only be their second ever World Cup appearance and their first since 1958, Wales will look to cap off a potential last hurrah for a golden generation of players, led by superstar Gareth Bale, by escaping from a difficult group. However, the health and fitness of their biggest stars – specifically Bale and veteran midfielder Aaron Ramsey – will be the biggest hurdle for their knockout stage prospects. The Welsh narrowly missed out on automatic qualification to Qatar 2022 and thus had to take the play-off route to Group C, defeating Ukraine 1-0.
Teams: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Argentina will be one of the big favourites for this World Cup and arrive on the back of an incredible 35-game unbeaten streak. Lionel Messi has declared this is his last World Cup so he and his team will be more determined than ever to send the legendary number 10 off with the World Cup in hand.
Saudi Arabia face an almighty task at the World Cup with one of the toughest groups at this year’s tournament. Saudi were strong in AFC qualifying, having lost only one game in a group that included Japan and Australia. However, qualifying form will mean nothing for the second-lowest ranked side in Qatar as they look to stop the attacking might of Lionel Messi, Hirving Lozano and Robert Lewandowski in consecutive games.
Mexico will have their eyes on a quarter-final berth but it is going to be a tough job for Tata Martino’s experienced squad. Key attacking starters Jesus Corona and Raul Jimenez are at risk of missing out due to injury, which leaves Hirving Lozano as Martino’s main man going forward.
Poland will be determined to make up for a poor showing at Euro 2020 and fight their way out of a tough group. Talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski will be central to Polish hopes with the prolific front man in great touch for new club Barcelona. Despite boasting a strong squad, Poland have had poor form in major tournaments as they were eliminated at the group stage at Euro 2020 and the 2018 World Cup. Can new coach Czeslaw Michniewicz guide the Poles into the knockout round in what is set to be Lewandowski’s final World Cup?
Teams: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
Reigning champions France will be fighting to defend their title in Qatar but poor recent form and a myriad of issues off the pitch could derail Les Bleus. Didier Deschamps will need to juggle egos, injuries and off-field drama if they are to end France’s poor history of results at World Cups after reaching the final. France will have one of the strongest squads in Qatar but several stars are under an injury cloud, while N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have already been ruled out.
Australia were the second-last nation to clinch qualification after a drama-filled qualifying campaign, securing their spot after penalty shootout heroics from Andrew Redmayne. It will be Australia’s fifth straight World Cup tournament and the squad face some familiar foes in France and Denmark, who they faced in the group stage of the 2018 tournament. The Socceroos lack a true superstar but will rely on experienced veterans such as Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan. Will Arnold take a punt on squad bolters such as Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol? Will defensive tower Harry Souttar be fit in time?
Denmark will look to repeat their emotion-charged run to the final four at Euro 2020 and have a fit and firing Christian Eriksen to help them. The Manchester United midfielder has made an incredible recovery after his cardiac arrest during the Euros and will once again be their creative fulcrum. Two recent wins against France will have the Danes confident they can make a deep run in Qatar.
Tunisia are back for their second consecutive World Cup and will be desperate to improve upon their third-placed finish to their group in 2018. Despite being in a tough group, Jalel Kadri’s side will be out to make history by qualifying for the knockout round for the first time. Wahbi Khazri is one player to watch – he scored twice in Russia and will be a good chance to find the net again in Qatar.
Teams: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
Spain have changed a lot as a team over the past four years with coach Luis Enrique blooding a new generation of players for the national team. Gone are former mainstays Pique and Sergio Ramos, with young stars like Pedri now the fulcrum of the side. Enrique has shown he will chop and change his side to suit the opposition and will pick a squad with plenty of options. The biggest question for Spain is: where will the goals come from? Alvaro Morata will most likely be Enrique’s first-choice striker but he has his shortcomings. Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres will need to help carry the burden at their first World Cup.
Costa Rica were the last team to book their spot in Qatar when they edged New Zealand in the intercontinental play-off. It will be Los Ticos’ fifth appearance at the World Cup and they will once again bring the same gritty defensive performances they have become renowned for at the tournament. The big question is: will they be able to match it against their star studded Group E opponents? Keylor Navas is the leader and highest profile player – a lot will rest on his shoulders.
Germany will be hoping to end a horror run of results and rediscover their form as they look to win their fifth World Cup title. Coach Hansi Flick had a strong start when he took over as coach, with only one loss in his first 15 games, but he is now desperate for a win, with only one victory in his last six. The big question mark surrounds the number nine position, with Kai Havertz likely to fill in for the injured Timo Werner amid the emergence of bolters Niclas Fullkrug and Nils Peterson. There is a national calm in Germany that Flick will have the team performing when it matters most. Nevertheless, Die Mannschaft will have their work cut out in what has been dubbed the ‘group of death’.
Japan will be looking to improve on their 2018 World Cup performance, with a quarter-final berth the goal for the Samurai Blue. It is their seventh appearance at the World Cup. Takumi Minamino is one of Japan’s highest profile stars but his form leading into the tournament will be one of the biggest questions. A move to Monaco from Liverpool was supposed to give the winger more opportunity but he has struggled to settle in Ligue 1. Japan’s squad will have plenty of Europe-based players in their squad, including Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Junya Ito.
Teams: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Belgium will be eyeing World Cup Glory in Qatar and should be one of the tournament favourites. It will be arguably one of the final chances for the nation’s golden generation, with superstars Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois now all in their thirties. The Red Devils finished the 2018 World Cup in third place after being eliminated by France in the semi-finals. Two Big questions surround Belgium’s chances. Firstly, will the club struggles of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku stunt the Belgian attack? Secondly, will an ageing Red Devils defence led by Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen be able to hold strong against the world’s best?
Canada return to the World Cup arena for the second time in their history and first time in 36 years. They bring a burgeoning squad to Qatar determined to make history. Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies is the main man for Canada, while striker Jonathan David is having another impressive season with Lille. Their one and only previous World Cup showing was in 1986, where they lost all three games and failed to score. While it will be difficult to get out of the group – expect them to improve on their last World Cup appearance.
Morocco will be out to shock their opposition at this World Cup, boasting a squad brimming with x-factor. Wide players are Morocco’s strength, though they will have a battle for right-back on their hands with Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui. Hakim Ziyech is the creative fulcrum, while Sofiane Boufal is a solid attacking option. The biggest issue for Morocco is their stability through the middle of the pitch and their ability to match it with the superstar midfielders they’ll face in the group such as Kevin De Bruyne and Luka Modric. Morocco has not won a game at the World Cup since 1998, when they beat Scotland 3-0.
2018 runners-up Croatia return determined to clinch a maiden World Cup title in Qatar. Most of the 2018 squad remains intact with 37-year-old Luka Modric leading the team both on and off the pitch. Modric’s midfield partners Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic have taken another step in their careers during the past four years and will play a key role. Croatia were an unknown quantity in 2018 – their unpredictability one of their biggest strengths. Four years on, they have lost the element of surprise. Coach Zlatko Dalic utilises a regimented system that he rarely tinkers with which has left an aura of predictability around the team.
Teams: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Brazil are back on top of the world rankings and looking for World Cup number six in Qatar. The Selecao are in arguably the best shape they’ve ever been heading into a World Cup and are many people’s favourite to lift the trophy. Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Marquinhos, Casemiro and Alisson are just some of the superstars Tite will have at his disposal. The big question for Brazil is whether they can handle the pressure of being tournament favourites; it’s World Cup or bust.
Serbia return to the World Cup in 2022 and will be looking to make the knockout rounds for the first time since 1998. They have a strong team led by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in midfield as well as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic up top. Serbia also have Luka Jovic as an attacking option off the bench. Incredibly, it is the second straight tournament Serbia have been matched up with Brazil and Switzerland in the group stage. Defence is the big question for Serbia, who don’t have the riches of talent in the backs as they do in midfield and up front. A 3-0 loss to Denmark in March put the limitations of the squad on full display.
Switzerland have been building a reputation as tournament giant-killers and will look to do so once again in Qatar. Switzerland have progressed from the group stage at five of their past six tournaments, including eliminating World Champions France at Euro 2020. Granit Xhaka has had a career renaissance this season for Arsenal and will look to carry that over to the national team.
Cameroon secured qualification for the World Cup in dramatic fashion and will be hopeful to make the most of their opportunity against the world’s best. In Qatar, Cameroon will be hoping to win their first World Cup contest since 2002. Midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa has been a revelation this season for Napoli and will be the centre of Cameroon’s hopes, along with forwards Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar. The biggest question surrounding the team resides in their defence, where a lot will rest on the shoulders of Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana.
Teams: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, Korea Republic
Portugal will be looking to make the most of their riches of talent at the World Cup and secure a historic tournament win. Cristiano Ronaldo is the face of the side which has stars in every position, including Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo. This breadth of talent has made the team less reliant on heroics from the man known as CR7. It has also created one of their biggest issues coming into the tournament, with 37-year-old Ronaldo struggling for form and minutes at Manchester United with fans saying the club plays better without him. Ronaldo will do everything to be the centre-point of Portugal’s 2022 World Cup campaign but coach Fernando Santos may be forced to make one of the toughest decisions of his career if their legendary striker’s struggles holds them back.
Ghana will line up for their fourth appearance at a World Cup when they take to the field in Qatar this November. It has been a turbulent year for the Black Stars who struggled at the Africa Cup of Nations, leading to a change of manager. Ghana have a solid squad led by Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew. The Ghanaian have also added Spanish born winger Inaki Williams and British born defender Tariq Lamptey to the squad after the pair reclassified their nationalities. Ghana’s clash with Uruguay will be one to watch as a rematch of their infamous quarter-final clash from the 2010 World Cup, when a Luis Suarez handball denied the Black Stars a winning goal.
Uruguay could be set to surprise at the World Cup. Blessed with a big-match mentality and never-say-die attitude, Uruguay will be a difficult opponent in Qatar. Star strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will be out to make a mark in what will be their final major tournament for La Celeste, and they’ll be helped by Darwin Nunez. Federico Valverde figures to be a focal point in midfield for Diego Alonso, as will Rodrigo Bentancur. Meanwhile, an injury cloud currently surrounds Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo, who has not played since September.
Korea Republic are set to make their 10th consecutive appearance at the World Cup. The Asian giants’ hopes in Qatar will rest on the production of Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min, though it remains to be seen whether he will recover from his eye injury in time.
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