2022 World Cup in Qatar: Dutch favorites top Group A | Soccer News


The FIFA World Cup is the most popular sporting event on the planet. Every four years, football fans around the world eagerly await the start of this prestigious tournament. Even many non-soccer fans only tune in at this time to follow the World Cup and get caught up in the fervor, excitement and frenzy of the showpiece event. Every fan will pray that this year will be the year their team lifts the Cup, which is a symbol of excellence in the beautiful game at the highest level.

Even before the start of the tournament, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has already become unique. The decision to hold the mega event from November to December rather than the norm, which is from June to July, has already set it apart from previous tournaments. This time the World Cup will take place in the middle of the 2022-23 season for most European clubs and it remains to be seen how a player or team’s performance at the club stage will affect them on the greater stage.

It will also be the final tournament for arguably the two greatest players the world of football has ever seen, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will likely hang up their boots ahead of the 2026 World Cup. Qatar will also likely host the final hooray from several superstars, including Robert Lewandowski, Luka Modric, Thiago Silva, Manuel Neuer, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.

Joel Campbell’s solitary goal against New Zealand on June 14 saw Costa Rica book the final spot in Qatar and helped complete the 32 teams that will take part in the tournament. Contrary to the other editions, this year the eight groups seem quite balanced and no group has really emerged as a “Group of death”.

Onmanorama analyzes the prospects of the teams in this four-part series starting with Groups A and B.

Can Qatar clear the first hurdle?

Group A will host Qatar, as well as Senegal, Ecuador and the Netherlands. Although the chances of Qatar advancing to the Round of 16 seem slim, the host country has always done better than average. Apart from the 2010 hosts, South Africa, all other hosts have reached the round of 16. Qatar will be hoping to use their home advantage to make their first appearance a memorable one.

Senegal look like the strongest African team at the tournament and will be hoping to use their momentum after winning their maiden Africa Cup of Nations title in 2021 to advance to the final. No African team has made it past the quarter-finals in any edition of the tournament yet, but this Senegalese side might be the ones to finally clear that hurdle. The team is packed with superstars such as Chelsea starting goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and of course, former Liverpool striker and team talisman Sadio Mane.

Ecuadorian players celebrate after scoring a goal against Argentina in the South American qualifier. Photo archives: AFP / José Jacome

Ecuador had a tough race in qualifying and managed to climb to fourth place. Yet their woes didn’t end there as they were investigated by FIFA on the grounds that they allegedly used a player, Byron Castillo, who was not born in Ecuador but rather Colombian. This investigation was due to a call from Chile, which claimed that Ecuador should be disqualified and that Chile should take their place. Luckily for Ecuador, FIFA sided with them and said there were no grounds for disqualification. The case is not over yet as Chile could still appeal the decision and potentially have the matches played by Castillo cancelled. This would allow Colombia to qualify for the World Cup as they would have the second most points.

Finally, the Netherlands sit last in Group A and are expected to be the group winners. After failing to qualify for the previous tournament, the Dutch hope to have a reversal of fortune and replicate past performances that have taken them to three finals. Unfortunately the Cup eluded them, the last being a 0-1 loss to Spain in the 2010 final in South Africa. Although they have improved their performance considerably since the 2018 qualifiers, the team is still quite inconsistent. The Oranje will rely heavily on captain Virgil Van Dijk, widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the game right now, as well as youngsters like Barcelona’s Frankie de Jong and Juventus’ Matthijs De Ligt.

No cake for England

Group B is an interesting group as it will feature two countries from the UK – Wales and England – as well as the United States and Iran.

The Three Lions

The Three Lions are trying to end a 56-year wait by resuming the World Cup. File photo: AFP/Paul Ellis

England will start at the top of the group after their performances at the 2018 World Cup (fourth place) and Euro 2020 (runners-up). Unfortunately, if their current performances in the Nations League are to be believed, without a win in four games, they won’t be able to come top very easily. Harry Kane will be looking to lead from the front again as he did in 2018 when he picked up the Golden Boot for scoring six goals. Gareth Southgate will be hoping to dispel doubts about his squad and make another World Cup charge. Mason Mount, Trent Alexander Arnold, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka will be the base of the team in the future and hope that the English fans will sing Ït’s Coming Home again”.

Wales qualified for their first international tournament in 64 years thanks to stunning goals from captain and star player Gareth Bale. Despite barely playing 90 minutes for Real Madrid all season, Bale delivered when he was needed most and gave Wales the goals needed to progress. The Welsh hope to make it out of the group stage but their performance will undoubtedly rest on Bale’s shoulders.

A surprise contender to top the group could be the United States, who have just won the CONCACAF Gold Cup as well as a string of strong performances since then. The current team is one of the best American teams ever, led by the young Chelsea left winger – Chrisitan Pulisic. Pulisic and the current team brought football to life in the United States. They have always played at a higher level and, for the first time, many of their players are also playing for Europe’s top clubs. The United States will be hoping to replicate their success at the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay 1930, where they finished third, their best performance by far. Since then, they have only reached the quarter-finals once in 2002.

Iran completes the group and is playing its sixth World Cup. Although the outlook is not high for the team as they have never made it past the group stages, they could pull off a surprise or two and get their first knockouts. So far, they have only won two World Cup games, including one against the United States in 1998. Hopefully, this will finally be the tournament where the team suffers a setback.

(To be continued)


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