World Cup Group A: Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador

Remark

There may be little arguing that Group A produced the softest draw of the 2022 World Cup, with Ecuador and host Qatar representing two of the 4 lowest-ranked groups within the 32-nation discipline. Even the Netherlands, a standard contender, is coming off a slew of disappointments on the worldwide stage, whereas African champion Senegal makes for an attractive however unproven darkish horse possibility.

Right here’s a more in-depth take a look at Group A, which kicks off Nov. 20 when Qatar meets Ecuador in Al Khor for the event’s opening match.

There could also be no greater enigma on this event than Qatar, which has by no means performed its approach into the World Cup — or come notably shut — however will make its debut in soccer’s showcase occasion after mechanically qualifying because the host.


Qatar has by no means certified for a World Cup earlier than. This time it certified as hosts.

Qatar has by no means certified for a World Cup earlier than. This time it certified as hosts.

Qatar has by no means certified for a World Cup earlier than. This time it certified as hosts.

Qatar’s most up-to-date World Cup qualifying marketing campaign, for the 2018 event in Russia, ended with a thud because the Maroons went 2-7-1 within the ultimate spherical. However the newfound funding within the males’s nationwide staff has began to pay dividends lately, because it received the 2019 Asian Cup — having beforehand by no means made it previous the quarterfinals — and superior to the semifinals as a visitor because the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

In lieu of taking part in qualifiers for this World Cup, Qatar joined one in all UEFA’s qualifying teams — that includes Serbia, Portugal, Eire, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan — and scheduled a pair of friendlies in opposition to every opponent. That train emphasised how far Qatar nonetheless has to go, because it went 2-5-3 with a minus-14 aim differential.


Coach

Félix Sánchez

46 years previous

Coach Félix Sánchez’s squad is fully composed of gamers who ply their commerce within the Qatari Stars League, with defending champion Al Sadd and runner-up Al-Duhail dominating the roster. Amongst Qatar’s most influential gamers: goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, left again Abdelkarim Hassan, defensive midfielder Karim Boudiaf and winger Hassan Al-Haydos, the squad’s captain.


Almoez Ali

26 years previous, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

Almoez Ali

26 years previous, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

Almoez Ali

26 years previous, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

The participant to look at, although, is 26-year-old Almoez Ali. The Sudan-born striker, who performs for Doha’s Al-Duhail, may quickly surpass Mansour Muftah’s file of 44 objectives to turn into Qatar’s all-time main scorer. His 9 objectives on the 2019 Asian Cup had been greater than twice as many as every other participant, and he additionally was the highest scorer on the 2021 Gold Cup with 4 tallies.

The Oranje has returned to the worldwide stage after an unthinkable absence 4 years in the past in Russia, having superior to the 2010 ultimate and 2014 semifinals. And it wasn’t the Netherlands’s solely current embarrassment: It additionally didn’t qualify for the 2016 European Championship, regardless that that was the primary version performed with an expanded 24-team discipline.


Netherlands

within the World Cup

The Netherlands has by no means received a World Cup, regardless of reaching three finals.

Netherlands

within the World Cup

The Netherlands has by no means received a World Cup, regardless of reaching three finals.

Netherlands

within the World Cup

The Netherlands has by no means received a World Cup, regardless of reaching three finals.

These shortcomings had been beautiful for a nation that, regardless of having a inhabitants of simply 17 million folks, has lengthy endured as a worldwide energy with outsize affect on footballing tradition. Though the Netherlands has by no means received the World Cup, it has completed because the runner-up 3 times — in 1974, 1978 and 2010. The Dutch received the 1988 European Championship and have completed third on 5 events. Their “Total Football” philosophy has turn into synonymous with free-flowing, engaging soccer, and Johan Cruyff — a three-time Ballon d’Or winner within the early Nineteen Seventies — is taken into account one of many biggest to play the sport.

The Netherlands returned to main event play at Euro 2020, profitable all three group stage video games earlier than crashing out with a shocking loss to the Czech Republic within the spherical of 16. The Oranje booked its ticket to Qatar with a powerful qualifying marketing campaign, going 7-1-2 and edging Turkey for first place in UEFA’s Group G.


Coach

Louis van Gaal

71 years previous

Louis van Gaal is again for a 3rd stint answerable for the Netherlands, having beforehand managed his native nation from 200o to 2001 and 2012 to 2014 — together with the run to the World Cup semifinals. The previous Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich supervisor left the nationwide staff to take over Manchester United in 2014, retired following his 2016 firing, then returned to this system final summer season.

Van Gaal will boast a talent-laden squad. Matthijs de Ligt, a 23-year-old who signed with Bayern Munich this previous summer season, is without doubt one of the world’s most polished younger middle backs. Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong is as full as box-to-box midfielders come. PSV midfielder Cody Gakpo can be all of the extra integral after Roma’s Georginio Wijnaldum suffered a damaged leg. And Barcelona ahead Memphis Depay tied with England’s Harry Kane to guide UEFA’s World Cup qualifying marketing campaign with 12 objectives.


Virgil van Dijk

31 years previous, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk

31 years previous, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk

31 years previous, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

If the Netherlands goes to make one other run deep within the World Cup, it can lean on Liverpool middle again Virgil van Dijk. Arguably the world’s prime defender, with a hulking 6-foot-4 body and the flexibility to ping a 70-yard ball on a dime, van Dijk can be keen to depart his mark on the worldwide stage after sitting out Euro 2020 with a torn ACL.

At No. 18, Senegal enters the event as Africa’s highest-ranked nation. With the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in tow and Bayern Munich star Sadio Mané main the entrance line — assuming he can rush again from a leg harm in time — the Lions of Teranga have emerged as a classy choose to make a deep run in Qatar.


This can be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third total.

This can be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third total.

This can be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third total.

It wouldn’t be the primary time: In Senegal’s World Cup debut, it upset defending champion France within the opening recreation of the 2002 event and made a run to the quarterfinals. After lacking out on the following three tournaments, Senegal returned to the World Cup 4 years in the past however didn’t get out of the group stage in Russia.

Senegal has lately established itself as the category of Africa, beating Egypt for the Cup of Nations crown earlier this yr and going 5-0-1 within the World Cup qualifying group stage. However the area’s punishing format noticed Senegal drawn in opposition to Egypt in a two-game conflict for a spot within the World Cup. Senegal emerged with that ticket to Qatar, as Mané transformed the clinching shot in a tense shootout victory this previous March — simply as he did within the Cup of Nations ultimate the month earlier than.


Coach

Aliou Cissé

46 years previous

Aliou Cissé, Senegal’s former captain who has coached the staff since 2015, has probably the most adorned assortment of gamers in program historical past at his disposal. Goalkeeper Édouard Mendy was between the posts for Chelsea’s 2020-21 Champions League title. He was joined at Chelsea this previous summer season by middle again Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal’s captain. Defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye was a gentle contributor for Paris Saint-Germain the previous three seasons earlier than lately returning to Everton. Ismaïla Sarr, a 24-year-old winger for Watford, is a rising star.


Sadio Mané

30 years previous, Bambali, Senegal

Bayern Munich

Sadio Mané

30 years previous, Bambali, Senegal

Bayern Munich

Sadio Mané

30 years previous, Bambali, Senegal

Bayern Munich

However the headliner is Mané. A slippery winger with a knack for locating the web, the 30-year-old is already Senegal’s all-time prime scorer. He made a $32 million transfer to Bayern Munich this previous summer season after a prolific six-year stint with Liverpool by which he racked up 120 objectives for a squad that received the 2019-20 Premier League title and superior to 3 Champions League finals, profitable the 2018-19 version. Though Mané suffered a proper fibula harm with Bayern on Nov. 8 that threatened to rule him out for the event, Senegal included him within the squad in hopes that he’ll make a swift restoration.

If home-field benefit offers Qatar a shot at making it out of the group (South Africa in 2010 was the one host to not advance), then Ecuador represents Group A’s lengthy shot.


Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

La Tri is making its fourth World Cup look and first since 2014, with its solely knockout spherical look coming on the 2006 event in Germany. On the subject of regional competitors, the Ecuadorans have a historical past of struggling on the Copa América, having superior out of the group stage simply 4 instances within the 18 tournaments performed since 1975. However they shocked with a fourth-place end in South America’s grueling World Cup qualifying marketing campaign, going 7-6-5 to beat out Peru, Colombia and Chile for the area’s ultimate ticket to Qatar.


Coach

Gustavo Alfaro

60 years previous

Bayer Leverkusen middle again Piero Hincapié holds down the protection for Argentine coach Gustavo Alfaro, who additionally leans on Villarreal left again Pervis Estupiñán and Augsburg defensive midfielder Carlos Gruezo. The assault is sparked by 21-year-old Valladolid winger Gonzalo Plata and striker Michael Estrada, the staff’s main scorer in qualifying who’s coming off the early termination of an underwhelming mortgage with D.C. United.


Enner Valencia

32 years previous, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

Enner Valencia

32 years previous, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

Enner Valencia

32 years previous, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

For Ecuador to search out its approach out of the group, nevertheless, it might want a turn-back-the-clock efficiency from 32-year-old striker Enner Valencia. This system’s all-time prime scorer, Valencia has scored 19 objectives in his first two seasons for Turkish energy Fenerbahçe and is off to a scorching begin this yr. Beforehand, he performed for Premier League golf equipment West Ham and Everton and Mexico’s Pachuca and Tigres.

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