The World Cup draw offered some box office matchups in the group stage of this year’s World Cup. Get ready for some heavyweight clashes, a renewal of old rivalries, and the chance for some teams to avenge bitter defeats. Top teams can now plan their path to the final, with Brazil aiming for a record sixth title. And France aiming to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cups since Pele’s Brazil in 1958 and 1962. There are some exciting games ahead in the early stages. The World Cup draw determined that Spain will face Germany in Group E. While Argentina and Mexico will compete in Group C. Ghana will face Uruguay who they played in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The World Cup has a lot of history, but what will happen this tournament?
Except for South Africa in 2010, every host nation has advanced from the qualifying group to the knockout stage, but Qatar may face a tough task. They avoided qualifying as hosts, but they did play a series of high-profile friendlies and even entered the 2021 Gold Cup as an invitational team, losing to the United States in the semifinal. However, the World Cup draw wasn’t kind to the hosts. Qatar will face the highest ranked teams from each pot. On paper, the Dutch, Senegal, and Ecuador appear to be a step ahead of them. The Netherlands have been back on the rise since Louis van Gaal’s return. Senegal are the reigning African champions and feature Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in attack. And Ecuador were third for the majority of the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament before slipping to fourth at the end.
Senegal has depth and talent in every position, from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to defender Kalidou Koulibaly and attacker Mane. They also have plenty of big-game experience, having won both the African Cup of Nations final and the CAF World Cup playoff in shootouts against Egypt. The Dutch pedigree will not faze them, and this should be an open contest. The match is scheduled as the opening game of the World Cup. Do you want more information about the schedule you can find the complete schedule here.
England has a lot of depth and talent. They reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of the previous European Championship. If anything, they left with the feeling that they could have done more because their talent was not inferior to the sides that defeated them. Has Gareth Southgate learned from his mistakes in the past? He appears to have done so. Things should be extremely tight behind England. The US has plenty of stars based in top European teams, from Chelsea to Borussia Dortmund, but for various reasons, Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna aren’t always difference-makers at club level. They’ll need to be in Qatar. Iran breezed through Asian qualifying, losing only one game, but don’t appear to be as strong as in previous editions. Wales capped off this group after beating Ukraine on June 5th.
This is both teams’ second group game; if Southgate and co. need a result, and if they haven’t played well up to that point, anything is possible.
This could be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup. But the fact that the narrative isn’t about him as much as it is about Argentina’s long unbeaten streak should help relieve some of the pressure. In any case, they’ll be very pleased with this group. Mexico will most likely compete for second place with Poland. El Tri went hot and cold in qualifying, while Poland is still finding their feet after changing coaches before the playoffs. Robert Lewandowski will get you out of trouble, but only if you can get the ball to him in dangerous areas, which isn’t always possible. The Saudis won their Asian qualifying group, defeating Australia and Japan, but they struggled at the Asian Cup and appear to be a notch below the rest of the group.
It’s the first game of the group, and it could be a deciding factor in who finishes behind Argentina. There’s a lot of pressure on coach Gerardo Martino, but on the other hand, Mexican fans tend to travel in large numbers, so this could feel like a ‘home’ game. Poland qualified after defeating Sweden in a tense playoff final, but there is a sense that they have yet to get the best out of their stars, Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski.
Les Bleus have reloaded, and Didier Deschamps now possesses an embarrassment of riches. It will be interesting to see if he sticks to the defend-and-counter approach that won him the World Cup the last time around. Or if he opts to be a bit more expansive, as we’ve seen in recent outings. Either way, he’s in the driver’s seat. The rest of the group is very close. Tunisia will not win points for style, and they are not as talented as they have been in the past, but they have proven to be difficult to play against and cagey. All eyes are on Denmark, who proved at the Euros that they can compete with the big boys all the way to the semifinals. Peru, if they qualify, should not be underestimated. They appear to be stronger than Australia, who had a poor qualifying campaign, or the United Arab Emirates whose run was even worse.
This is simple. Christian Eriksen will play in his first World Cup game since suffering a cardiac arrest at the Euros. He stated that this was his dream and that this is where he would live it. There will be no more emotional World Cup moments well, certainly not in the first week.
On the surface, this appears to be one of Qatar’s more straightforward groups. At previous World Cups, Japan has shown the ability to cause an upset. While Costa Rica or New Zealand, who will complete the group, have both recorded surprise results. However, Spain and Germany are two European heavyweights who are unlikely to crumble in this group. Germany will be determined to avenge their humiliating group-stage exit as holders four years ago. While Spain is a resurgent force under Luis Enrique following a second-round exit against hosts Russia in 2018. The key issue in this group will most likely be which team finishes first. With the losers most likely facing Belgium in the second round, while the winners will face Croatia, Morocco, or Canada.
It is all about the second group game on November 27. Spain’s lack of a reliable goalscorer may cost them in Qatar, and Germany will have too much in all areas of the field for the 2010 world champions.
Group F is filled with intrigue. The World Cup draw put Belgium and Croatia together. Belgium never lived up to their potential, while Croatia advanced to the World Cup final before losing to France. However, despite having world-class players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku for Belgium and Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic for Croatia. Both teams are among the oldest in Qatar and could be vulnerable to upsets against Morocco and Canada. Belgium and Croatia are the favourites to qualify, but Canada, led by coach John Herdman, is a young and ambitious team that will be eager to impress in Qatar. Morocco have a squad full of top-level European experience. Most notably Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi, Wolves defender Romain Saiss, and Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri.
The meeting between Belgium and Croatia could be the decisive fixture for the top spot in the group. The winner will most likely face Spain or Germany in the round of 16. A challenging fixture.
When Brazil comes out the pot in the World Cup draw, you can bet that one qualification spot has already been claimed. The five-time champions have advanced to the knockout stages in each of the last 13 World Cups, with their early exit in 1966 the only time they have failed to advance from their group. Group G will be decided by which team qualifies alongside Tite’s squad, which reclaimed first place in the FIFA world rankings this week. The group consists of Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon, and recent results indicate that Switzerland will advance. They knocked world champions France out of Euro 2020 in the second round less than a year ago. Cameroon hasn’t advanced past the group stage since 1990, and Serbia has also struggled in recent World Cups.
The game to watch in this group could determine who qualifies alongside Brazil. When the two countries met in Russia in 2018, Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri were both charged by FIFA for provoking Serbia supporters with an Albanian nationalist symbol while celebrating their goals in a 2-1 win. Both Xhaka and Shaqiri have Albanian-Kosovan ancestors; Kosovo is not recognised by Serbia, and relations between the two countries are strained. Switzerland’s captain and vice-captain, Xhaka and Shaqiri, are both likely to be involved and crucial against Serbia.
Group H appears to be a group of ageing rock stars getting together for one last tour. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Godin are all in their 30s, and Son Heung-min will be 30 when Qatar 2022 begins. Son may play in another World Cup with South Korea in 2026, but this appears to be the final tournament for Portugal’s Ronaldo and Uruguay’s long-serving stars. And they’ve all ended up in a tough group, with a young and developing Ghana team likely to make it a four-way battle for qualification. Portugal, who qualified through the UEFA playoffs, is no longer reliant solely on Ronaldo’s goals. Coach Fernando Santos has real quality from back to front in Ruben Dias, Renato Sanches, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Diogo Jota, and Portugal will be favourites to win the group. However, each team is capable of defeating the other, and Group H is too close to call, with South Korea demonstrating on several occasions that they are capable of defeating anyone at a World Cup, as Germany will attest in 2018.
When the two sides met in the second round in Sochi in 2018, Uruguay won 2-1, and this one could be a case of Manchester United teammates Cavani and Ronaldo facing off to keep their World Cup dreams alive – with the ever-present threat of Suarez providing a subplot.