World Cup guide: Teams and players to watch

Doha, Qatar

In just over 24 hours, Qatar will face Ecuador in the 2022 World Cup opener.

It’s a tournament that has been controversial since it was awarded to the Gulf state in 2010, but after years of waiting, the players are putting the final touches on their preparations.

From the deaths of migrant workers and the conditions faced by many in Qatar, to LGBTQ and women’s rights and the ban on selling alcohol in stadiums, off-field issues are making headlines. unexpected and exciting.

Here’s what you need to know about the 32 competing nations and the eye-catching players.

Only eight nations have won the men’s World Cup, and most of them are favorites this time around.

Brazil holds the record for the most titles, having lifted the trophy five times, and the new generation has a real chance to add a new generation of glory, the country’s first in 20 years.

The attacking options speak for themselves. Neymar will live up to the expectations of a crowd, as he has done since breaking onto the world stage, but will have Real Madrid’s Vinicuis Jr. and Barcelona’s Rafinha to back him up.

There is quality in midfield rather than defence, where Chelsea’s experienced Thiago Silva and PSG’s Marquinhos could form a shield for Liverpool goalkeeper Allison.

Brazil also boast an impressive record, winning or drawing 28 of their last 29 matches, their only loss against Argentina in the 2021 Copa América final, and feel confident of reaching the knockout rounds. It faces Switzerland, Cameroon and Serbia in a relatively easy group stage.

Brazil has named a strong squad for Qatar 2022.

Along with Brazil, France cannot be ignored.

The reigning world champions went through qualifying without losing a single game, turning Kylian Mbappe into a global superstar.

But a series of injuries at key positions could hurt his chances. Star striker Karim Benzema was suspended ahead of the tournament, while midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – crucial to his success in 2018 – missed the competition. However, central defender Raphael Varane has recovered from injury and joined the team.

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Nielsen’s Gracenote predicts that Brazil have a 20% chance of winning the competition, while Argentina, who boast the great Lionel Messi in their squad, are the next with an 18% chance of lifting the trophy.

Simon Gleave, head of analysis at Gracenote Sports, said: “No other team has been as consistent as the two South American giants over the last four years, and that consistency means there is a good chance one of them will win.”

It’s rare for someone to win a World Cup, but it’s not impossible.

Denmark has a new golden generation. After losing to England in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, the team qualified for the World Cup, winning nine of their 10 matches and conceding just three goals.

Manchester United playmaker Christian Eriksen is arguably their most important player and his return to the team is a miracle.

Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s Euro 2020 game against Finland and received life-saving treatment on the field before being fitted with an Intermittent Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD).

Such trauma has seemed to hold the team together and the Danes will be a tough proposition for anyone in Qatar.

Elsewhere, Senegal are the best African team in the tournament, even without Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, who is out through injury.

The Lions of Teranga won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time this year and have many star names who have played in Europe’s top leagues.

Although Mane is a big loss, the team will no longer rely solely on their captain.

Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy is a top-class goalkeeper and Kalidou Koulibaly is used to working with Europe’s best strikers. He also has the fearsome pace of rising star Ismaila Sarr.

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No other African team has qualified for the World Cup semi-finals, but if the draw goes well, Senegal have a chance in this side.

Senegal celebrated winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.

Some of the world’s best players will be represented in Qatar and for many, it could be their last chance to win the prestigious trophy.

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are some of the best players to ever play the game, but neither has succeeded on the biggest international stage.

Messi has confirmed that this will be his last World Cup and given that he will be over 40 at the next tournament, it is safe to say that Ronaldo cannot play again.

Both are top scorers for their country and both have the potential to go far in the tournament.

While far from established superstars, this could be a tournament that unearths some lesser-known talent.

Aside from making their World Cup debut, Qatar are a relatively unknown quantity with most of their players having spent their careers in the country’s top league. Akram Afif is a striker.

Returned to Qatar and had brief training spells in Belgium and Spain before signing for Al Sadd in 2020. The 25-year-old has since become an exciting playmaker and has backed up his trickery with efficiency.

Afif provided 11 assists in the team’s 2019 Asian Cup win and currently has 8 assists in just 7 matches in Qatar’s top division. He is one of the ones you will see in the first game.

Another rising star is Japan’s Takefusa Kubo.

The 21-year-old playmaker spent time at Barcelona’s youth academy before joining Real Madrid in 2019, learning his craft at some of football’s most prestigious schools.

He has left the Spanish capital, but has been impressive at Real Sociedad this season. He will be a key player in Japan’s World Cup campaign and has already been dubbed the ‘Japanese Lionel Messi’ in his homeland. There is no pressure.

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Qatar's Akram Afif could be interesting to watch for the hosts.

American star Gio Reyna can also become a world star.

The 19-year-old, whose mother and father both played international soccer in the United States, joined German club Borussia Dortmund from New York City’s youth academy in 2019 and has made big strides in recent weeks after missing a number of games. games last season with injuries.

Speaking to CNN in 2020, Ghana manager and former Dortmund youth coach Otto Addo said Reina’s talent was evident from an early age.

“It’s his technique under pressure,” he said. “Don’t make mistakes in the press, change direction under pressure and accelerate in midfield.

“He also has game intelligence, always positioning himself between the lines, reading the game and knowing what’s coming next. “He brings more than any other player in his age group.”

Gio Reyna could make an impact for the US if he can stay fit.

Qatar will face Ecuador in the tournament on November 20 at Al-Bait Stadium. On December 3, the final stages will begin on December 18.

USA: Fox Sports


Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC

Here are Messi and Ronaldo’s first games of the tournament and all of the USMNT’s group games, including some of the key dates.

November 20: Qatar vs Ecuador – 16:00, Fox Sports 1

Nov 21: USMNT vs Wales – 7pm, Fox

November 22: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia – 10:00, Fox Sports 1

November 24: Portugal vs Ghana – 16:00, Tulku

Nov. 25: England vs. USMNT – 7 p.m., Fox

November 29: Iran vs. USMNT – 7:00 p.m., Fox

Dec. 18: World Championship Finals – 3 p.m., Fox


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