In simply over 24 hours, Qatar 2022 will burst into life because the host nation takes on Ecuador within the opening recreation of the World Cup.
It’s a match that has triggered controversy ever because it was awarded to the Gulf nation in 2010 however, after years of ready, the gamers are making the ultimate touches to their preparations.
Whereas off-field points proceed to make headlines, from the deaths of migrant staff and the situations many have endured in Qatar, to LGBTQ and girls’s rights, and the very fact no alcohol shall be bought at stadiums, the on-field motion guarantees to be unpredictable and thrilling.
Right here is all you have to know concerning the 32 nations competing and the gamers who may dazzle.
Solely eight nations have ever gained the boys’s World Cup, a lot of that are among the many favorites this time round.
Brazil holds the data for many titles, having lifted the trophy 5 occasions, and the brand new era has an actual probability of including one other for what could be the nation’s first in 20 years.
The attacking choices communicate for themselves. As he has carried out since stepping onto the world stage, Neymar will carry the expectations of a nation however can have Actual Madrid’s Vinicuis Jr. and Barcelona’s Raphinha to assist him.
There may be high quality all around the pitch, not least in protection, the place Chelsea’s skilled Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos will seemingly kind a defend for Liverpool’s goalkeeper Allison.
Brazil additionally has a formidable document to boast, profitable or drawing 28 of its previous 29 matches, the one loss coming in opposition to Argentina within the Copa America ultimate in 2021 and can really feel assured of reaching the knockout rounds. It faces a comparatively simple group stage, in opposition to Switzerland, Cameroon and Serbia.
Alongside Brazil, you possibly can’t ignore France.
The reigning world champion breezed by way of qualifying with out shedding a recreation and has Kylian Mbappe maturing into a worldwide celebrity.
Nonetheless, quite a lot of accidents in key positions may hurt its probabilities. Star striker Karim Benzema has been dominated out on the eve of the match, whereas the midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – so pivotal to its success in 2018 – miss out. Nonetheless, central defender Raphael Varane has been included within the squad after recovering from damage.
Nielsen’s Gracenote predicts Brazil has a 20% probability of profitable the competitors, with Argentina, boasting the good Lionel Messi in its squad, the subsequent probably to carry the trophy with an 18% probability.
Simon Gleave, head of research for Gracenote Sports activities, stated: “No other teams have been anywhere near as consistent over the last four years as the two South American giants and this consistency means that there is a good chance of one of them prevailing.”
It’s uncommon that an underdog wins the World Cup however it’s not unimaginable.
Denmark has its new golden era. After being knocked out by England within the Euro 2020 semifinals, the crew waltzed by way of World Cup qualification, profitable 9 of its 10 matches and conceding solely three targets.
Manchester United playmaker Christian Eriksen is arguably its most vital participant and his return to the crew is nothing in need of a miracle.
Eriksen collapsed throughout Denmark’s recreation in opposition to Finland at Euro 2020 and acquired life-saving remedy on the pitch earlier than being fitted with a Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) machine.
Such trauma appeared to unite the crew and the Danes shall be a troublesome proposition for anybody in Qatar.
Elsewhere, Senegal is arguably the most effective African crew on the match – even with out Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, who misses out by way of damage.
‘The Lions of Teranga’ gained the African Cup of Nations for the primary time earlier this 12 months and have a bunch of star names taking part in in Europe’s high leagues.
Though Mane shall be an enormous loss, the crew is not simply reliant on its captain.
Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy is a high class goalkeeper and Kalidou Koulibaly is used to coping with the perfect attackers in Europe. It additionally has the scary tempo of rising star Ismaila Sarr to lean on.
No African crew has ever made it to the semifinals of a World Cup however this Senegal aspect has an opportunity, albeit very slim, ought to the draw be sort.
Among the greatest gamers on this planet shall be on present in Qatar and, for a lot of, it’s presumably the final probability they should get their fingers on the well-known trophy.
Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the best gamers to have performed the sport, however neither have had success on the largest worldwide stage.
Messi has already confirmed this shall be his final World Cup and, given he’ll be over 40 when the subsequent match comes round, it’s secure to say Ronaldo is unlikely to play one other.
Each are already their nation’s high goalscorers and each have an affordable probability of going far within the match.
Away from the established superstars, although, this may be a match that reveals some lesser-known abilities.
Along with making its World Cup debut, Qatar is a comparatively unknown amount with most of its gamers spending their careers within the nation’s high league. The exception is attacker Akram Afif.
The wideman spent transient spells in Belgium and Spain earlier than returning to Qatar and signing for Al Sadd in 2020. The 25-year-old has since developed into an thrilling playmaker and backs up his trickery with effectivity.
Afif made 11 assists throughout the crew’s Asian Cup win in 2019 and presently has eight assists in simply seven appearances in Qatar’s high division. He’s one to look at within the opening recreation.
One other rising star is Japan’s Takefusa Kubo.
The playmaker, 21, has learnt his commerce at a few of soccer’s most prestigious faculties, spending time in Barcelona’s youth academy earlier than becoming a member of Actual Madrid in 2019.
He’s since left the Spanish capital however has excelled at Actual Sociedad this season. He shall be an vital participant in Japan’s World Cup marketing campaign and has already been dubbed the ‘Japanese Lionel Messi’ again dwelling. No stress, then.
American star Gio Reyna may additionally change into a worldwide star.
The 19-year-old, whose mom and father each performed worldwide soccer for the US, joined German membership Borussia Dortmund in 2019 from New York Metropolis’s youth academy and has made massive strides, getting loads of recreation time in latest weeks after lacking quite a lot of video games final season with damage.
Chatting with CNN in 2020, Ghana’s supervisor and former Dortmund youth coach Otto Addo stated Reyna’s capacity was clear from an early age.
“It’s his technique under pressure,” he stated. “To make no errors beneath stress, to vary course beneath stress and to speed up within the midfield.
“He also has game intelligence, to position himself always between the lines, to read the game and he knows what’s next. He brings a lot, way more than other players from his age group.”
The match kicks off on November 20 with Qatar dealing with Ecuador on the Al Bayt Stadium. The knockout levels then begin on December 3, earlier than the ultimate takes place on December 18.
US: Fox Sports activities
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC
Listed here are a number of the key dates, together with Messi and Ronaldo’s first video games of the match and all USMNT group fixtures.
Nov 20: Qatar vs. Ecuador – 4pm, Fox Sports activities 1
Noc 21: USMNT vs. Wales – 7pm, Fox
Nov 22: Argentina vs. Saud Arabia – 10am, Fox Sports activities 1
Nov 24: Portugal vs. Ghana – 4pm, Fox
Nov 25: England vs. USMNT – 7pm, Fox
Nov 29: Iran vs. USMNT – 7pm, Fox
Dec 18: World Cup Last – 3pm, Fox