The 50 greatest footballers of Qatar 2022

Right here we’re: Getting ready for a World Cup in November and December. Who would’ve ever imagined that soccer’s showpiece summer season occasion would turn into a winter wonderland?

The recreation of soccer has modified so much all through the years: the best way it is performed, who performs it, how we watch video games being performed. Slowly however absolutely the sport developed, and when there is a jarring transformation — like a winter World Cup — it may possibly really feel like a revolution has occurred in a single day.

That change is mirrored by the 2022 version of ESPN FC’s World Cup Rank. We requested tv analysts, reporters, columnists, producers and editors from all around the world to vote on who they imagine to be the very best gamers taking part on this yr’s match.

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For greater than a decade, it got here all the way down to a duel between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to high this sort of record, however rapidly, this isn’t a title to be determined by them. This yr’s record is filled with recent faces, many younger however some older, who now have their likelihood to exhibit that they are the very best that soccer has to supply.

And what higher stage to do it on than the largest sporting occasion on the planet?

So, with the enter of our world community of contributors, these are the 50 greatest gamers at Qatar 2022.

Editor’s observe: All ages are as of the beginning of the World Cup on Nov. 20.


Nation: Cameroon
Membership: Inter Milan
Age: 26
Place: Goalkeeper
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Weirdly, he nearly performed extra in 2022 for Cameroon than he did for his membership sides, Ajax and Inter. However his agility and persona make him one of many leaders of this Cameroon crew, and it isn’t a coincidence that he unseated Inter’s longtime captain, Samir Handanovic, between the sticks earlier this yr. Onana exudes confidence and has the abilities to again it up. — Gab Marcotti


Nation: Senegal
Membership: Chelsea
Age: 31
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Senegal have excessive hopes for this World Cup following their African Cup of Nations triumph in February, and whereas there will be loads of consideration round their sensible ahead Sadio Mane, any triumph will likely be anchored on the again and captain Koulibaly is indispensable. His season has began slowly at new membership Chelsea following his summer season transfer from Napoli, however he’ll really feel proper at residence in entrance of Edouard Mendy because the final wall of defence for Senegal. He prioritises the collective over any particular person reward. When Senegal gained the Cup of Nations, Koulibaly refused to carry the trophy by himself and as an alternative waited to be again along with his crew so they may rejoice collectively. — Tom Hamilton


Nation: England
Membership: Arsenal
Age: 21
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

There is loads of competitors for locations in broad attacking areas for England, however Saka’s spectacular Arsenal type offers him a reside likelihood of forcing his manner into the beginning lineup. The 21-year-old is within the combine with Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount — amongst others — for 2 positions both aspect of Harry Kane in assault, however Southgate is filled with reward for the best way Saka recovered from being one in every of three gamers to overlook a penalty within the Euro 2020 last shootout defeat to Italy. — James Olley


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 29
Place: Goalkeeper
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Brazil have performed ten video games this yr, and Ederson has solely appeared as soon as — in a World Cup qualifier at residence to Paraguay that was really easy he may have taken a deckchair. Courageous and imposing, with a left foot that mixes precision with howitzer energy, Ederson would stroll into many nationwide groups in Qatar, however he appears set to be the backup for Brazil. He received the nod within the knockout levels of final yr’s Copa America, however with out doing something unsuitable, seems to have misplaced out to Alisson. — Tim Vickery


Nation: Denmark
Membership: Manchester United
Age: 30
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: 19

The truth Eriksen is on the record is exceptional given what occurred in July 2021. Eriksen was taking part in for Denmark of their Euro 2020 opener in opposition to Finland, and within the forty second minute of the match, he suffered a cardiac arrest. He acquired CPR on the sector and within the ambulance he informed his fiancée, “I’m not going to play again, no way.” But right here we’re forward of the following main match, and Eriksen is Denmark’s key participant.

Since that day in Copenhagen, Eriksen wanted to have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator fitted, which meant attributable to Serie A guidelines, he may now not play for Inter Milan. So he skilled away from the general public eye, and in February 2022 he returned to aggressive soccer within the Premier League having signed a short-term cope with Brentford. In the summertime he signed for Manchester United and has been key for them this time period, however Eriksen that includes within the World Cup completes the total circle of a most exceptional restoration.

He made his worldwide return in March in its place in opposition to the Netherlands, and scored inside two minutes of coming onto the sector. “He’s back and has the best football in front of him,” Denmark supervisor Kasper Hjulmand stated on the time. — Tom Hamilton


Nation: Spain
Membership: Barcelona
Age: 18
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

There had been complaints throughout Spain final yr when Luis Enrique referred to as up Gavi on the age of 17 after simply six Barcelona appearances. The complainers have since been silenced, with Gavi amongst Spain’s greatest gamers in every of his 12 caps up to now. He’s already a longtime a part of the midfield, alongside membership teammates Sergio Busquets and Pedri, and his depth and work price, to not point out his high quality with the ball, will likely be necessary in Qatar. — Sam Marsden


Nation: France
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 22
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Tchouameni made his large transfer from AS Monaco to Actual Madrid in the summertime and is now set to anchor France’s midfield in Qatar. Tchouameni, 22, made his nationwide crew debut throughout World Cup qualifying and has now consolidated his place, beginning 5 of France’s previous six video games. He is settled in effectively in Madrid, making changing Casemiro seem like no large deal. — Alex Kirkland


Nation: Belgium
Membership: Inter Milan
Age: 29
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 33

Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan on mortgage from Chelsea has been disrupted by hamstring hassle this season, but when he recovers in time from his newest setback, he’s in with a shout of the Golden Boot on the World Cup. He’s Belgium’s talismanic striker and the point of interest of their exceptional assault. With a formidable document of 68 targets in 102 matches, Lukaku is “irreplaceable,” within the phrases of supervisor Roberto Martinez. All of Belgium will likely be hoping his troublesome hamstring kinds itself out in time. — Tom Hamilton


Nation: Spain
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 26
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Spain go into the World Cup with two of the very best defensive midfielders within the recreation with captain Sergio Busquets and Manchester Metropolis’s Rodri. Alongside the Barcelona participant, Rodri supplies a defensive protect to teach Luis Enrique’s again 4 and likewise offers Spain’s attacking midfielders the platform to take the sport to the opposition within the last third of the pitch. — Mark Ogden


Nation: Germany
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 19
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

With none hyperbole, this teenager is perhaps the very best pocket participant within the recreation at this time. Nobody is sort of as slick when below immense stress in tight areas. In actual fact, Musiala typically strikes into double or triple protection deliberately to create room for his teammates. At 19, he’s about to turn into the offensive centerpiece of the Germany nationwide crew. — Constantin Eckner


Nation: Serbia
Membership: Juventus
Age: 22
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: Not ranked

The large man has had a rocky time over the previous few months at membership stage, however he is central to Serbia’s goal-scoring plans, forming a heavyweight tag crew with Aleksandar Mitrovic. At 22, when he is on track, he bristles with power, athleticism and enthusiasm, outmuscling and outpacing most defenders. — Gab Marcotti


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Arsenal
Age: 25
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 36

Jesus might have been revitalised by his summer season transfer to Arsenal from Manchester Metropolis, however his place in Brazil’s lineup is doubtful. In actual fact, he was omitted from the latest squad in September altogether, though Brazilian head coach Tite confirmed the 25-year-old may be very a lot “in the running” to make the ultimate 26. Jesus’ power and dedication have shortly endeared him to Gunners followers, however his north London rival Richarlison seems to be favoured to steer the Brazil assault at current. — James Olley


Nation: France
Membership: Barcelona
Age: 25
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 49

Dembele was a part of the France squad that gained the World Cup in 2018, however he has made simply seven appearances since. Nevertheless, the finals arrive with him in the very best type of his Barcelona profession. Xavi Hernandez has guess large on him and France ought to see the advantages. Dembele struggles with consistency however is electrical when video games open up and is more likely to be possibility off the bench for Didier Deschamps. — Sam Marsden


Nation: France
Membership: Atletico Madrid
Age: 31
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 8

Griezmann actually does not have the identical standing as he did 4 years in the past when he arrived in Russia having simply gained the Europa League with Atletico Madrid and completed among the best seasons of his profession. He was at his peak then. Now could be a really totally different story.

His transfer to Barcelona two years in the past was a catastrophe and he has struggled with France, too. He must get well his greatest type if he desires to assist Les Bleus go far on this match — and preserve his place within the beginning lineup. With the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Christopher Nkunku and Kingsley Coman on the bench, Didier Deschamps may simply drop Griezmann. It’s a big match for him. At 31, this might be his final World Cup, and the French are hoping that the thrill of the match will convey the very best again out of “Grizi.” — Julien Laurens

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Gab Marcotti says he has no thought what to anticipate from defending champions France on the 2022 World Cup.


Nation: Morocco
Membership: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 24
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

That is Hakimi’s second World Cup, and the 24-year-old right-back is formidable. He’s taking part in effectively this season with PSG, and Morocco are underdogs with a gifted squad and nothing to lose. Hakimi is an enormous a part of what may make them profitable in Qatar along with his runs and exercise on the appropriate. — Julien Laurens


Nation: England
Membership: Liverpool
Age: 24
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Whereas Alexander-Arnold is likely one of the first names on the Liverpool crew sheet, his relationship with England has been much less simple. He was omitted from their final matchday squad for the match with Germany and has made simply three begins for the Three Lions since Euro 2020 — with none of them coming in his normal right-back spot. His versatility means he’s equally adept in central midfield as he’s on the appropriate, however England have not discovered how you can play to his strengths. With Reece James dominated out of the World Cup, Alexander-Arnold might but be given an opportunity to showcase his uncommon skillset. — Tom Hamilton


Nation: Argentina
Membership: Inter Milan
Age: 25
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: Not ranked

He is the inheritor to the good Argentina centre-forwards, taking over the mantle of Gabriel Batistuta, Sergio Aguero and Hernan Crespo. However he is as a lot a supplier as he’s a finisher, at all times prepared to come back quick to play a one-two or run behind to stretch a line of defense. — Gab Marcotti


Nation: Germany
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 32
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Gundogan did not have an incredible World Cup in 2018, however Germany have rediscovered a few of their swagger forward of Qatar, and the Manchester Metropolis midfielder’s expertise and composure on the ball is necessary to Hansi Flick’s crew. He is turn into one of many on-field leaders for Pep Guardiola and for his nationwide crew. — Rob Dawson


Nation: Netherlands
Membership: Barcelona
Age: 25
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

The Netherlands have loads of expertise within the squad, however nobody is as necessary as De Jong when it comes to how the Dutch will play. He’s essential within the gameplay of Louis van Gaal. The manner he is ready to velocity up with a dribble or key move is significant and he cannot be missed in the course of the match as nobody within the squad has the qualities De Jong has. — Max Toemen


Nation: Germany
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 33
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 28

Muller’s hips do not lie, though presently they’re inflicting an excessive amount of hassle and add to the record of latest accidents. It could, nevertheless, match his profession to see him play an excellent World Cup and show all doubters, who predict the top of the “Raumdeuter,” unsuitable another time. His means to learn the sector higher than virtually anybody within the recreation might help him overcome some shortcomings associated to his health. — Constantin Eckner


Nation: Germany
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 29
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Rudiger will virtually actually be one in every of Germany’s first-choice centre-backs on the World Cup. The 29-year-old, who left Chelsea for Actual Madrid on a free switch in the summertime, performed each minute of Germany’s run to the final 16 at Euro 2020, the place they had been crushed 2-0 by England at Wembley. The lack of a constant goal-scoring menace will place extra emphasis on Germany’s defending, already below scrutiny after a run of only one win in seven video games. Rudiger leads by instance along with his aggressive defensive fashion, a fan of a bursting ahead run that helped make him a preferred determine at Stamford Bridge, though he has solely began roughly half of Madrid’s matches this season. Rudiger was one in every of a number of gamers to talk out in opposition to FIFA’s resolution to award the World Cup to Qatar, claiming in September that “it shows money plays a crucial role in the world of football.” — James Olley


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 28
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

It’s the defence that may decide whether or not Brazil will win or lose this World Cup. Marquinhos, 28, may have an enormous position to play. His partnership with Thiago Silva may be very stable, having performed collectively for years at PSG and for the Selecao. They perceive one another with no phrase, and the Brazilians will want them at their greatest. — Julien Laurens


Nation: Portugal
Membership: AC Milan
Age: 23
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Pace kills. And you may’t coach it. His accelerations down the left flank, his sudden bursts of creativity, his mazy dribbling … all of those had scouts mesmerized by his abilities from a younger age. However it’s actually solely lately that Leao has managed to elbow his manner into Portugal’s crowded entrance line. — Gab Marcotti


Nation: Portugal
Membership: Manchester United
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

The Manchester United midfielder has but to play to his full potential for Portugal attributable to coach Fernando Santos typically favouring Manchester Metropolis’s Bernardo Silva in a floating position between the midfield and assault. There can also be a perception that Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence is one other complication for Fernandes, however the World Cup presents the 28-year-old the chance to lastly escape on the worldwide stage. — Mark Ogden


Nation: Canada
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 22
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Davies is a world-class footballer with the skills of an Olympic sprinter, an attacking winger taking part in left-back nearly all of the time. He’s so out of the atypical that he naturally creates chaos on the sector, significantly throughout the opposing again line. Some defenders are purposely sitting deep to provide Davies as little room as doable to interrupt via in direction of the byline.

Whereas he’s one amongst many top-class gamers at Bayern Munich, Davies is head and shoulders above any else on the Canada nationwide crew. Les Rouges want the Ghana-born left-footer to make their crew really aggressive. If there’s any problem that’s probably holding Davies again, it’s the truth that his muscular physique seems to be liable to accidents. — Constantin Eckner

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Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez check out which CONCACAF gamers make ESPN FC’s World Cup rank.


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Manchester United
Age: 30
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Erik ten Hag calls Casemiro “the cement between the stones” at Manchester United, and in a Brazil crew filled with attacking aptitude, he’s a invaluable insurance coverage coverage in entrance of the defence. After taking time to earn an everyday spot at Outdated Trafford, the 30-year-old has turn into one in every of United’s key gamers up to now this season and he will likely be very important for the Selecao in Qatar. Tite has constructed a Brazil that has stability as one in every of its strengths and Casemiro’s position within the centre of the pitch — alongside United teammate Fred — is vital to it. He is heading to Qatar match and in type. — Rob Dawson


Nation: Germany
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 36
Place: Goalkeeper
2018 Rank: 25

Nobody is basically capable of defy age, not even an all-time nice goalkeeper. In the interim, nevertheless, Neuer continues to be the identical kind of participant he was a decade in the past, that means that he reveals nice reflexes and positional consciousness as a shot stopper and is tremendously gifted within the position of a sweeper keeper, often denying opponents from counterattacks. If there’s something that may cease Neuer, it’s his age and mounting accidents. — Constantin Eckner


Nation: Portugal
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 25
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Dias has emerged as Portugal’s primary centre-half since taking part in a key position of their UEFA Nations League triumph in 2019. The Manchester Metropolis defender has cast a formidable partnership on the again with 39-year-old Porto centre-back Pepe, who continues to defy the years for membership and nation, however Dias is now the senior associate in that relationship along with his management qualities and skill to learn the sport. — Mark Ogden


Nation: England
Membership: Borussia Dortmund
Age: 19
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

England’s wunderkind performs with extra restraint for England than he does for Borussia Dortmund, which is attributable to the position Gareth Southgate often places him in. Whereas Bellingham can not present his box-to-box qualities as a lot, his runs down the sector are essential for the Three Lions to create probabilities.

Bellingham is the Swiss pocket knife amongst midfielders, as he can do virtually something from hard-nosed defending to opening the sector with intelligent passes to creating penetrating sprints into the field. England have turn into depending on Bellingham. If he performs a powerful match, the doorways to the semifinals and even the ultimate are broad open. — Constantin Eckner

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The ESPN FC crew debate who may have the very best World Cup out of Jude Bellingham, Federico Valverde and Pedri.


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Liverpool
Age: 30
Place: Goalkeeper
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Alisson was thrown within the deep finish in 2015 when, little identified and inexperienced, he was surprisingly promoted to turn into Brazil’s first-choice keeper. It proved an impressed hunch. He has developed into one of many world’s greatest within the place, sound and unflashy however able to the excellent. He has labored laborious at his distribution, and over time has turn into one of many crew’s leaders. All of those virtues preserve him forward of the wonderful Ederson as Brazil’s No. 1. — Tim Vickery


20. Cristiano Ronaldo

Nation: Portugal
Membership: Manchester United
Age: 37
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 2

The Manchester United ahead’s record-breaking profession may lastly be on the wane on the age of 37, however he stays a talismanic determine for Portugal forward of his fifth look at a World Cup. Ronaldo goes into Qatar because the all-time main aim scorer in worldwide soccer, taking his tally to 117 by scoring twice within the 4-0 UEFA Nations League win in opposition to Switzerland in June.

These are the one targets he has scored for Portugal in 2022, although, and the talk about his significance to his nation is starting to develop within the buildup to Qatar. But Ronaldo continues to be the primary title on Coach Santos’ crew sheet and his document of delivering large, necessary targets for his nation can’t be disputed, so he’ll proceed to steer his nation at this World Cup. — Mark Ogden


Nation: Spain
Membership: Barcelona
Age: 19
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

The Barcelona midfielder was named the very best younger participant at Euro 2020 and will likely be central to Spain’s hopes in Qatar. He’ll flip 20 in the course of the match and, as is more and more the case at Barca, every little thing La Roja do is more likely to run via him.

He has a maturity past his years, is aware of when to hurry up the sport and when to gradual it down and, most significantly, not often makes errors with the ball. After an injury-hit marketing campaign final day out, following his exploits on the Euros and the Olympic Video games, he’s now again in peak bodily situation simply in time for the largest competitors within the recreation. — Sam Marsden


18. Phil Foden

Nation: England
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 22
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Foden has turn into central to Guardiola’s profitable machine at Manchester Metropolis, however he is not assured to start out for England on the World Cup. If Gareth Southgate decides to play with three centre-backs and a pair of wing-backs, it is more likely to imply Foden is left battling for one in every of two positions both aspect of captain Harry Kane, and there’s loads of competitors from Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford.

Foden has been in fantastic type for Metropolis up to now this season, however Southgate hasn’t at all times picked his crew on type and he might have to attend for his likelihood. The 21-year-old has a behavior of influencing large video games for Metropolis and it is solely a matter of time earlier than he does the identical for England. — Rob Dawson


Nation: Portugal
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 28
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Cancelo has developed a repute as one of the crucial devastating attacking full-backs on this planet at Juventus and Manchester Metropolis, and will likely be anticipated to ship the service for Ronaldo. He is anticipated to play in his most well-liked right-back position regardless of recurrently taking part in on the left on the Etihad Stadium. — Rob Dawson


16. Bernardo Silva

Nation: Portugal
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

There is a sense in Portugal that if they’re to do effectively in Qatar, it is going to be due to gamers like Silva slightly than Ronaldo. Portugal have a crew of star names however they may want the trade and work price of the Manchester Metropolis man if they will make it to the later rounds. — Rob Dawson


Nation: Germany
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 27
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

He’s the guts and lung of Germany’s midfield. Kimmich not often breaks below stress, which makes him laborious to separate from the ball. The majority of buildup performs go instantly via him and Ilkay Gundogan. The two complement one another drastically in the midst of the park, as Kimmich supplies depth and defensive consciousness whereas Gundogan has confirmed to be a artistic thoughts. — Constantin Eckner


Nation: Uruguay
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 24
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Few gamers have improved a lot, so quick as Valverde previously yr. Now one in every of Actual Madrid’s key attacking gamers, he’s consequently a star-in-waiting for Uruguay at this match. One query mark is precisely what place he’ll undertake: He has tended to function extra centrally for his nation than the right-wing position that has already introduced him eight targets for Madrid this season. — Alex Kirkland


Nation: South Korea
Membership: Tottenham Hotspur
Age: 30
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 37

South Korea have a deeper expertise pool than in recent times, however Son stays the nation’s famous person, carrying a nation’s hopes on his shoulders. So in that context, information that the Tottenham ahead required surgical procedure on a fractured eye socket lower than three weeks earlier than the match started was simply concerning the greatest scare South Korea may endure. They face a troublesome group with Uruguay, Portugal and Ghana to play, and they’ll absolutely want Son again at his greatest to progress. — James Olley


Nation: Netherlands
Membership: Liverpool
Age: 31
Place: Defender
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Van Dijk has had a combined membership season up to now. Nice performances in opposition to Man Metropolis and Napoli had been mixed with matches the place he was rightfully criticised for his performances. Alongside the best way he additionally misplaced his wonderful unbeaten document at Anfield, however no matter occurs, Van Dijk is and will likely be all through this match the undisputed chief of the Dutch nationwide crew. — Max Toemen


11. Harry Kane

Nation: England
Membership: Tottenham Hotspur
Age: 29
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 5

Kane is sort of merely England’s talisman and will turn into his nation’s all-time document aim scorer in Qatar (presently on 51, two behind Wayne Rooney). He gained the Golden Boot on the 2018 World Cup and may have designs on doing the identical once more as a part of a Three Lions aspect that was fourth in that match, second at Euro 2020 and eyeing the largest prize of all this month. The drawback is, England have struggled for targets of late in a six-match winless run, and Kane has not scored a world aim from open play since November 2021. — James Olley


10. Sadio Mane

Nation: Senegal
Membership: Bayern Munich
Age: 30
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 31

The Bayern Munich ahead is arguably Africa’s main participant, edging out his previous Liverpool teammate and Egypt star Mohamed Salah for that distinction, and Mane’s performances for Senegal greater than again up his claims to be considered his continent’s most necessary participant.

The 2022 African Participant of the 12 months struck the profitable spot kick on this yr’s Africa Cup of Nations last penalty shootout in opposition to Salah’s Egypt and he grew to become his nation’s all-time main aim scorer with 32, eclipsing the earlier document of Henri Camara, in June. Having been named because the participant of the match on the Cup of Nations, Mane then delivered for Senegal once more by sending his crew to the World Cup, scoring the decisive penalty as soon as once more within the playoff in opposition to Egypt. — Mark Ogden


Nation: Belgium
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 30
Place: Goalkeeper
2018 Rank: 43

A yr in the past, Courtois felt underrated and underappreciated, overshadowed by high-profile Premier League counterparts like Alisson and Ederson. Not anymore. An all-time nice, man-of-the-match goalkeeping efficiency in Actual Madrid’s Champions League last win over Liverpool in Might — making a document 9 saves — was adopted by a seventh-place end on the 2022 Ballon d’Or shortlist.

The Belgium stopper is broadly recognised as the very best on this planet proper now and he’ll have the chance to show that in Qatar. A few of Belgium’s veteran outfield gamers similar to membership teammate Eden Hazard is perhaps previous their greatest, however Courtois, at 30, is on the high of his recreation. — Alex Kirkland


Nation: Brazil
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 22
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: Not ranked

The younger winger has exploded as a world star with Actual Madrid, that extraordinary acceleration sowing panic in opposing defences. In distinction with Raphinha on the Selecao‘s reverse flank, Vinicius has taken time to seek out his ft with the nationwide crew, with one aim from 16 video games, and his place within the beginning lineup in no way a given.

Brazil have three slight variations of their formation. Vinicius seems in two, however not within the one that appears almost certainly within the powerful video games, the place Lucas Paqueta operates as a withdrawn left winger. Even so, he nonetheless has an enormous half to play within the match, if solely off the bench. He’ll hope that by the top of the competitors he may have made himself undroppable. — Tim Vickery


Nation: Croatia
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 37
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: 13

What else is there to say about Modric? Croatia’s document look holder — with 154 caps since he made his debut in 2006 — and arguably best ever participant will likely be turning out for his eighth main worldwide match in Qatar. Modric was key to Croatia’s shock run to the 2018 World Cup last and at 37, his stage hasn’t dropped a bit, starring in final season’s LaLiga and Champions League-winning marketing campaign for Actual Madrid.

A midfield of Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic is a formidable unit and Croatia’s probabilities of coming wherever near repeating their heroics final day out will relaxation on the trio’s shoulders. You’ll say that this may absolutely be his worldwide swansong, however with Modric, you by no means know. — Alex Kirkland


6. Neymar

Nation: Brazil
Membership: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 30
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 3

The stress will likely be immense on Brazil’s No. 10, who might effectively overtake Pele as Brazil’s all-time high scorer in the course of the match. He trails effectively behind Pele when it comes to achievement, although, and this would be the World Cup the place he’s anticipated to place that proper.

Neymar says this will likely be his final World Cup, and it’ll actually be the match that defines his legacy as a nationwide crew participant.

He advantages from the emergence of a extremely promising technology of younger attackers, which can take a number of the load off his slender shoulders. The timing of the match additionally works to his benefit. He has tended to be at his greatest within the first half of the season, and there would appear to be no issues about his type and health as he marches in direction of his date with future. — Tim Vickery


Nation: Poland
Membership: Barcelona
Age: 34
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 10

There will likely be few nations in Qatar whose hopes are pinned a lot on one participant. That is to not say Poland shouldn’t have different good gamers, however the actuality is none are near Lewandowski’s stage.

Now 34, the striker has seamlessly translated his type with Bayern Munich to Barcelona, the place he has already scored 18 targets this season after being signed for €45 million in the summertime. Now, his activity is to steer Poland out of the group stage for the primary time since 1986. A document of 76 targets in 134 caps proves his type carries into worldwide soccer, however as a ahead he’s at all times, to an extent, reliant on the service he will get. Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Argentina will all have him singled out as the person to cease after they tackle Poland. — Sam Marsden


4. Lionel Messi

Nation: Argentina
Membership: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 35
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 1

That is doubtless his final World Cup and he’ll arrive in Doha whereas taking part in, at 35, a number of the greatest soccer of his latest profession. Messi is clearly crucial to Argentina’s success, however, relative to the final World Cup, issues are totally different. Coach Lionel Scaloni has made him the important thing cog in a well-oiled machine, able to going 34 video games unbeaten. It is a stark distinction to the final World Cup, when he was anticipated to hold the aspect amid coach Jorge Sampaoli’s chaos.

Messi does not run like he did, however the trickery and the power to seek out area stays. And his trademark transfer, when he begins broad proper, cuts inside and whips a low, laborious end previous the keeper, stays near unplayable. The Copa America victory in 2021 received the “major international tournament” monkey off his again. Now it is time for the one crown that has at all times eluded him. — Gab Marcotti

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Gab & Juls preview Group C on the 2022 World Cup, with Argentina anticipated to cruise into the knockout rounds.


Nation: Belgium
Membership: Manchester Metropolis
Age: 31
Place: Midfielder
2018 Rank: 4

After Belgium’s 2-1 win over Wales in September, Belgium supervisor Roberto Martinez was requested about De Bruyne. Typically managers desire to give attention to the collective, slightly than the person, however in relation to De Bruyne, his means is so exceptional and abundantly clear, that there is little level in holding again on celebrating his skills.

“It’s a message for all our fans, don’t take for granted watching Kevin De Bruyne play,” Martinez stated. “For me he’s the most incredible playmaker in world football at this present time.”

At Manchester Metropolis, Guardiola has lately challenged De Bruyne to enhance. Per week after Guardiola’s ask, the participant responded by scoring their winner in opposition to Leicester Metropolis, to take a seat alongside his Premier League-leading 9 assists this time period. He is indispensable for membership and nation, and his rating of third within the final Ballon d’Or was the best spot ever reached by a Belgian participant. If the Pink Devils make a dent on this yr’s match, then you possibly can guess your own home on the very fact De Bruyne will likely be on track. — Tom Hamilton


Nation: France
Membership: Actual Madrid
Age: 34
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: Not ranked

Benzema, on the age of 34, has needed to wait eight and a half years to function once more within the World Cup. He desires to make up for misplaced time.

In spite of everything that point away from the nationwide crew, he got here again with a bang on the Euros in 2021 with 4 targets in 4 appearances, however the final 16 elimination left a bitter style in his mouth. Now, after profitable the 2022 Ballon d’Or, he is able to make this World Cup rely. It’s more likely to be his final one, so this marks his greatest alternative to write down his title within the competitors’s historical past books.

Benzema is extremely motivated and he is aware of that his partnership with Kylian Mbappe up entrance is the important thing to France’s success. They hit it off and complement each other on the pitch. Benzema is a task mannequin for Mbappe, and collectively, they’re prepared to steer France. — Julien Laurens


1. Kylian Mbappe

Nation: France
Membership: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 23
Place: Ahead
2018 Rank: 15

Russia 2018 was the World Cup the place Mbappe really introduced his arrival. He was 19, up and coming, nonetheless not essentially identified worldwide, and he took the competitors by storm to turn into the primary teenager since Pele to attain within the last and to win it. Qatar 2022 would be the World Cup affirmation for the French prodigy; affirmation of his world-class standing, of his famous person picture, of his famous person expertise.

There will likely be extra stress, the expectations will likely be larger and his position with France will likely be greater. On the pitch, the 23-year-old has to redeem himself after not scoring a single aim for Les Bleus since lacking the decisive penalty within the final 16 shootout defeat to Switzerland within the 2021 Euros some 18 months in the past. Now he has to ship, like he did in 2018. — Julien Laurens