Teams To Look Out For At World Cup 2022
There is no doubting that this year’s World Cup in Qatar will be like no other for players and fans alike.
The issues for fans are well documented. The costs to travel and stay in Qatar are proving prohibitive to many, as is the time of year with children being at school and the lead-up to Christmas being in full swing. If this doesn’t put you off then there are also more hoops to jump through in terms of entry requirements in comparison with many other countries. Oh, and Qatar’s human rights record has been heavily criticised too.
Player-wise, the majority of the competition’s top bods ply their trade in mainland Europe and England. And, whilst it has been unseasonably mild the past month or so, the sudden increase in temperature and humidity will be a big shock to the system.
Then there’s the lack of pre-tournament build-up - the World Cup has always previously been held in the Summertime, around a month after the conclusion of the main domestic league seasons. This gives the players plenty of time to rest up before meeting up with their international team mates to partake in vital training sessions and warm-up games. Not this time. The final Premier League game before the break is on 13th November, just seven days before the World Cup opener. And that one week gap will include travelling, time differences and jet lag! Not ideal preparation.
Domestic leagues and European competitions have also been going hell for leather for the past couple of months to squeeze in as many games as possible before the event begins, in an attempt to avoid a fixture pile-up come the end of the season. This has inevitably led to injuries and fatigue for keys players who’ve regularly been playing ninety minutes every three days or so for their clubs.
All of this means that there may well be a few surprises this time around. Of course the big guns will still be a force to be reckoned with, but there has never been a better chance for some of the lesser known nations to give them a run for their money. Here are our teams to look out for at World Cup 2022.
What the Danes lack in star names, they make up for in spirit and guile.
Few gave them much of a chance at Euro 2020, even less so after their talisman - Christian Eriksen - suffered a cardiac arrest in an early group stage match (thankfully he has made a full recovery after “dying for 5 minutes”). However, they dug in and impressed as they reached the semi-final before a narrow extra time defeat to England on their home turf of Wembley.
Now, with their star man back pulling the strings and very winnable group games against Australia and Tunisia, they’re in with a great shout of progressing to the latter stages once more.
Another underdog, and a team to watch out for, in this year’s competition is Senegal.
The current African Cup of Nations Champions boast an explosive world class forward in Sadio Mane, alongside a kind group draw and a similar seasonal average temperature to the host nation.
Other names on the Senegal team sheet that many will be familiar with include captain Kalidou Koulibaly and goalie Edouard Mendy, both of whom can usually be found in the starting line-up for Chelsea.
All of this could point towards an unexpectedly strong tournament for Senegal.
England have reached the semi-final and final of the past two major international tournaments respectively. Could they go one better and finally end those “years of hurt”?
Bias aside, England have an embarrassment of riches in terms of talented and exciting young players. Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham to name but a few.
Throw in experienced stars such as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling and the recipe could be potentially be there for something special. Let’s just not mention their recent performances in the Nations League, which have been unconvincing at best.
If there is any other team aside England where the pre-tournament expectations are as consistently high, and the term “golden generation” is so regularly used, it has to be Belgium.
Some would argue that their key men are the same ones as the past three tournaments, and are getting older with each anti-climactic performance. However, those same key men are still capable of destroying teams on their day.
Kevin De Bruyne is the best creative midfielder in world football, striker Romelu Lukaku still knows where the goal is and ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois pretty much won the Champions League Final for Real Madrid single handedly (well, double handedly but you get the point) last season.
Could this finally be the year for Belgium?
You just never know what you’re going to get with France in international tournaments.
Reigning world champions after an electric 2018 event but desperately disappointing at Euro 2020, where they were knocked out by un-fancied Switzerland after winning just one game in the competition.
Prior to this they won in 1998, didn’t get out the group stages in 2002, lost the final on penalties in 2006 and imploded in 2010 in an open rebellion against their manager. So which France will we see this time?
Who knows, but one thing we do know is that their strike force of Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema and world’s highest paid player Kylian Mbappe is a combination that has the potential for greatness.
The final name on our list has to be Argentina, primarily for one reason.
Widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi will almost certainly be gracing us with his final World Cup appearance in Qatar. The fact that he hasn’t won one is almost criminal.
The last time Argentina won the World Cup was in 1986, when another five foot six inch superstar ran riot; Diego Maradona; one of the few players to be in with a shout of challenging him to GOAT status.
Could history repeat itself at the fifth time of asking? If it did then surely the question of who is the greatest would be answered for certain.