World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide | AfroNaija

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World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

The FIFA World Cup is perhaps the greatest sporting spectacle in the world. That once every four year period where, for only a month, the entire planet is left captivated by the countless number of stars of the beautiful game that come together at locations around the world in search of eternal glory in service of their country.

And the run-up to the tournament had already provided a massive shock when holding European Champion Italy were dumped out of the qualifying playoffs by minnows North Macedonia, making it the second successive World Cup where Gli Azzurri will not feature on football’s biggest stage.

But if you are defending World Cup champion France, or five-time winner Brazil, the absence of Italy presents one less giant to potentially topple on your way to footballing Valhalla.

Who can forget the storyline of host-nation Qatar who qualify for their first World Cup as host nation and will look to give a good account of themselves on the back of winning the 2019 Asian Cup as the Arab world takes centre stage as first-time hosts?

As always, the storylines and potential redemption arches are endless. It is what truly defines this month-long spectacle.

With that in mind, 101 Great Goals presents the nation-by-nation guide to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.



World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates with the World Cup trophy following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018, in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 3rd – holding World Cup champion

Qualification: 1st place in Group D

It was always likely to go smoothly for France during World Cup qualifying after Didier Deschamps’ men were drawn into a group that comprised Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Kazakhstan. Though France was held to draws on three occasions across eight matches, they still comfortably topped the group by the end of qualifying by a six-point margin over Ukraine while allowing just three goals in the process.

On the surface, the goal contributions from Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, and Karim Benzema were a sight to behold, with the frontline trio directly offering 14 of France’s 18 goals, but a deeper dig could expose a real potential weakness in Les Bleus this winter.

Best Player: Kylian Mbappé

Young Player to Watch: Aurélien Tchouaméni

Odds to Win: 6/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

TUBIZE, BELGIUM – JUNE 19: Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium during a press conference after a training session of the Belgian national soccer team as part of preparations for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 match against Finland, at the Proximus Basecamp on June 19, 2021, in Tubize, Belgium. (Photo by Vincent Van Doornick/Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 2nd

Qualification: 1st place in Group E

Despite tricky qualification opponents in the vein of former bugbear Wales as well as the Czech Republic, Belgium was expectedly dominant in Group E while topping the group with a 5-point cushion and bagging an impressive 25-goals in just eight matches, with thirteen coming in an 8-0 thrashing of Belarus and a 5-2 drubbing of Estonia.

Draws against Wales and the Czech Republic were not all too surprising as well despite the firepower under the command of Roberto Martínez and perhaps serve as a microcosm for the fact that the nations ‘Golden Generation’ has yet to bring home the country’s first international honour. World Cup 2022 serves as probably the last chance they will have.

Best Player: Kevin De Bruyne

Young Player to Watch: Charles De Ketelaere

Odds to Win: 10/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

England’s players line up as the anthems are played before the FIFA World Cup 2022 Group I qualifier football match between England and Albania at Wembley Stadium in London on November 12, 2021. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 5th

Qualification: 1st place in Group I

There is no question that England under Gareth Southgate are one of the top national teams in not just Europe but in the world. That evidence was clear when the Three Lions finished fourth at Russia 2018 and then even more so when they lost on penalties to Italy in the finals of Euro 2020.

But reliving the glory moments around 1966 continue to elude England despite the level of player that has so often emerged from the island nation, though the confidence and form that they bring into the winter tournament after smashing Group I and scoring 3.9-goals/match while only surrendering three at the other end was the best goal difference in UEFA while their 39-goals scored was also top of the qualifying program. England are a real threat coming into Qatar.

Best Player: Raheem Sterling

Young Player to Watch: Bukayo Saka

Odds to Win: 7/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

SEVILLE, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 14: Sergio Busquets of Spain celebrates with teammates after victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Spain and Sweden at Estadio de La Cartuja on November 14, 2021, in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 7th

Qualification: 1st place in Group B

Spain’s qualifying campaign did not get out of the blocks in a manner that headmaster Luis Enrique intended when La Roja opened their campaign with a home draw against Greece (1-1) and then eventually lost to Sweden in the wake of a struggling narrow win against Georgia.

But Spain got themselves together in a way that we are accustomed to seeing from the Iberian giant, winning four matches on the spin which culminated in them topping the group after Sweden was dropped by Georgia in the latter stages of qualifying.

For a side of the depth and talent that Spain can call upon they still so often struggle to impress in a way they are truly capable of, but their run to the Nations League final on the back of a semi-final appearance at Euro 2020 shows promise.

Best Player: Ferran Torres

Young Player to Watch: Pedri

Odds to Win: 7/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

PORTO, PORTUGAL – MARCH 29: Bruno Fernandes of Portugal looks on as Pepe of Portugal celebrates with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portugal number 11 scored his second goal to give the side a 2-0 lead during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match between Portugal and North Macedonia at Estadio do Dragao on March 29, 2022, in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 8th

Qualification: Winner of Path C vs North Macedonia

The notion that Cristiano Ronaldo was close to missing out on what is likely to be his last hurrah at the World Cup would have made for endless storylines in itself, but a talented Portugal side persevered and qualified via the playoff scheme after losing out to Serbia in Group A but managed to claim the top spot in the playoff table.

Wins against Turkey (3-1) and giant-killer North Macedonia (2-0) were enough to book passage to Qatar and ensure that Ronaldo and great rival Lionel Messi suit up on the international stage together for the fifth time.

But despite their near-hiccup in qualifying Portugal remain formidable and has long been stripped of the notion that – at least on paper – they are the Ronaldo and company show. With a squad brimming with talent, they’re a potential dark horse even though they’re in the FIFA top 10.

Best Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Young Player to Watch: Rafael Leão

Odds to Win: 14/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – JUNE 21: Mikkel Damsgaard of Denmark celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group B match between Russia and Denmark at Parken Stadium on June 21, 2021, in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Wolfgang Rattay – Pool/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 11th

Qualification: 1st place in Group F

Denmark’s fairytale run at Euro 2020 was what neutral dreams were made of, only bested by the notion of what if they went on to win it all in the wake of the near-tragedy that befell national team icon, Christian Eriksen. But Kasper Hjulmand made it clear that this was no flash-in-the-pan performance from the Nordic nation after Denmark embarked on a superb qualifying campaign where they dropped points in just one fixture on their way to a 9-0-1 record while bagging 30-goals and surrendering only three and boasting one of the best goal difference markers in UEFA.

Despite their run at the Euros, Denmark have not progressed past the Round of 16 at the World Cup since 1998 but their ability to progress past the group stage is credible. They should rightly be considered a dark horse once more.

Best Player: Christian Eriksen

Young Player to Watch: Andreas Skov Olsen

Odds to Win: 25/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

ZEIST – (lr) Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Donyell Malen, Jordan Teze or Denzel Dumfries, Steven Bergwijn, Noa Land, Jurrien Timber during a training session of the Dutch national team at the KNVB Campus on March 21, 2022 in Zeist, The Netherlands. The Dutch national team is preparing for the friendly matches against Denmark and Germany. KOEN VAN WEEL (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 10th

Qualification: 1st place in Group G

It is hard to imagine that the Netherlands, a nation that has helped shape the very fabric of the beautiful game right down to its roots, has never lifted a World Cup despite the countless legendary figures that have hailed from inside its borders. Even more surprising is the fact that on multiple occasions they have failed to qualify for the tournament which included Russia 2018.

After being dumped out of Euro 2016 in the Round of 16, the Dutch have a massive task ahead of them to set the record straight regarding who and what they are in their current iteration under legendary figure Louis van Gaal. Their topping of Group G ahead of tricky customers Turkey and Norway does give them credit in the bank, but the many questions surrounding their ability to score goals through multiple avenues could be a potential stumbling block.

Best Player: Virgil van Dijk

Young Player to Watch: Owen Wijndal

Odds to Win: 16/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

YEREVAN, ARMENIA – NOVEMBER 14: Thomas Müller of Germany celebrates after their side’s third goal, scored by Ilkay Guendogan (Not pictured) during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Armenia and Germany at Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium on November 14, 2021, in Yerevan, Armenia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 12th

Qualification: 1st place in Group J

Eight years ago in 2014 seems a lifetime away for global giant Germany. The 7-1 thrashing of host-nation Brazil on the run into their fourth World Cup win will forever be remembered, but the bad times stand tall in equal measure lately after Die Mannschaft were unceremoniously dumped out of the group stage at Russia 2018 after demolishing their qualifying group.

Which Germany will show up this coming winter remains to be seen and the form that saw them comfortably top Group J despite a shock loss to North Macedonia (don’t tell that to Italy) cannot be put into the bank as evidence that they will be among the deep runners in Qatar.

But chief trainer Hansi Flick has revitalized the Germans of late since taking the top job in the country, winning all seven matches in qualifying at the helm while Germany scored 31 goals and allowed just two. Will the real Germany stand up?

Best Player: Joshua Kimmich

Young Player to Watch: Florian Wirtz

Odds to Win: 9/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Swiss’ midfielder Noah Okafor celebrates after scoring a goal during the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying group C football match between Switzerland and Bulgaria at the Swissporarena in Lucerne. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP) (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 14th

Qualification: 1st place in Group C

Outstripping holding European Champions Italy to top Group C was a fantastic achievement for a Switzerland outfit that regularly are underestimated on the international stage despite consistently reaching the knockout stages at both the World Cup and the Euro.

Perhaps it is the lack of superstar status among the squad that has many never consider them as a considerable opponent, but their collective attitude has proven tricky for many they have lined up against and is one of the reasons why Italy will not feature in Qatar after crashing out in the qualifying playoffs to North Macedonia.

The Swiss boasted the joint-best defensive record in UEFA qualifying and though goals are not always a hot commodity for Nati, they should give a good account of themselves as always.

Best Player: Xherdan Shaqiri

Young Player to Watch: Noah Okafor

Odds to Win: 100/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

KALININGRAD, RUSSIA – JUNE 16: Luka Modric of Croatia celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group match between Croatia and Nigeria at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 16, 2018, in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 16th

Qualification: 1st place in Group H

Croatia, Croatia, Croatia.

Fairytale runs are a common storyline for the Balkan nation after they became an independent nation and participated in their first World Cup at France ’98. Everyone remembers that summer as well; when Davor Šuker led Kockasti to a third-place finish as the standout name among a Croatian team filled with talent in all areas of the park.

That trend has long remained with the nation, and it was once again on display at Russia 2018 when they lost in the final to France while once again embodying the same spirit and footballing know-how that brought them success 20-years prior.

Though many of their top players are aging and some questions about what is next have begun to surface, they still performed well in qualifying and have a cadre of veteran stars that are capable of producing fine moments indeed.

Best Player: Luka Modrić

Young Player to Watch: Joško Gvardiol

Odds to Win: 50/1


Aleksandar Mitrovic Serbia World Cup Switzerland

KALININGRAD, RUSSIA – JUNE 22: Aleksandar Mitrovic of Serbia celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 22, 2018, in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 25th

Qualification: 1st place in Group A

Few expected Serbia to outperform a very talented and Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal in qualifying play, but Оrlovi did just that when star striker Aleksandar Mitrović scored in the 90th minute to gift his nation a 2-1 win against Os Navegadores in Lisbon to break a points deadlock in Group A that would have seen the Portuguese win the group on goal difference.

But since Serbia have become its own nation after the breakup of first the former Yugoslavia and then Serbia & Montenegro, they have failed to get out of the Group Stage at the World Cup on two occasions while missing out on Brazil 2014 altogether. Still, it stands as a testament to the level of player the country continues to produce and then ship off to the top leagues around the world that they outshone one of the top nations in Europe.

Best Player: Dušan Tadić

Young Player to Watch: Dušan Vlahović

Odds to Win: 100/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

CHORZOW, POLAND – MARCH 29: Poland players celebrate after their sides’ victory, qualifying them for the 2022 FIFA World Cup during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match between Poland and Sweden on March 29, 2022 in Chorzow. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 26th

Qualification: Winner of Path B vs Sweden

When you boast arguably the best striker in world football in the last few years, it would be a complete shame if Poland managed to miss out on Qatar 2022 and thus strip the global viewership of the goalscoring talents of Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich star will be the unquestioned focal point for a Poland outfit that, unlike Portugal by comparison, has not moved away from the massive overreliance they place on him. When Lewa is firing, or at least not isolated, times are good for Czesław Michniewicz’s troops, but if he is left unsupported, the collective struggles. But it is not for a lack of talent, however. Biało-czerwoni boast other talented front-line options while they can call upon a blend of veteran know-how and youthful exuberance in midfield. They certainly have the capability to spring a surprise.

Best Player: Robert Lewandowski

Young Player to Watch: Kacper Kozłowski

Odds to Win: 100/1




World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Neymar Brazil player during a Group B match between Brazil and Colombia as part of Copa America Brazil 2021 at Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos on June 23, 2021 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Thiago Ribeiro/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 1st

Qualification: 1st in Group

Brazil and the World Cup; a relationship that is perhaps the strongest across any in the entire history of the beautiful game.

Seleção are the only team to feature in every single edition of the tournament since its inception in 1930 and no other country has lifted the famous Jules Rimet trophy (five times). That intimate relationship is set to continue this winter as national icon Neymar leads his country in an attempt to bag their sixth win.

The manner in which they decimated their qualifying campaign is hardly a fluke, and head boss Tite has one of the most talented squads to select from with unquestionably the deepest pool of attacking talent anywhere in the world. Fourth place at home in 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2018 was not nearly enough for Brazil, who certainly will be considered one of the favourites in Qatar.

Best Player: Neymar

Young Player to Watch: Antony

Odds to Win: 5/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi looks on during a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires on March 23, 2022, ahead of a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifier football match against Venezuela to be held on March 25. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 4th

Qualification: 2nd in Group

Gearing up for their 12th consecutive World Cup appearance, Argentina are a constant addition when the world comes together every four years but perhaps this time around the level of significance is arguably the loudest it has ever been for La Albiceleste. 

Now 33-years-old, this could well be the last time Lionel Messi features for his country at the World Cup along with another massively influential presence in Ángel Di María (34). With the recent retirement of Sergio Agüero, Argentina must begin to look ahead starting in Qatar but thankfully can come into proceedings while currently sitting on an immense undefeated run that included a qualifying campaign that saw them the only other nation apart from Brazil to taste defeat.

If there was ever a moment where Messi could solidify his national legacy, it would be a World Cup win in what could be his last hurrah.

Best Player: Lionel Messi

Young Player to Watch: Julián Álvarez

Odds to Win: 10/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Uruguay’s Giorgian De Arrascaeta celebrates with teammates after scoring against Peru during the South American qualification football match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the National Stadium in Lima on September 2, 2021. (Photo by Daniel APUY / various sources / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL APUY/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 13th

Qualification: 3rd in Group

Much like neighbours Argentina, South American giants Uruguay are also on the precipice of what comes next after the 2022 World Cup for a nation that has long relied on an aging generation of superstars that are set to embark on their final campaign together.

Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godín, Martín Cáceres, and Fernando Muslera are all 34-years-old and up, and have a combined 662-caps between them. They have defined an era, and even though they remain at the core of Uruguay’s successful qualifying campaign (one that saw Suárez finish joint-second in goals (8), how will La Celeste move forward? Who will become the new defensive stalwart tandem? Who will bag the goals?

If their qualifying run showed anything, its that a potential valley is ahead that may be hard to climb out of.

Best Player: Luis Suárez

Young Player to Watch: Darwin Núñez

Odds to Win: 50/1


Ecuador's Moises Caicedo celebrates after scoring against Uruguay during their 2022 FIFA World Cup South American qualifier football match at the Rodrigo Paz Delgado Stadium in Quito on October 13, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Jose Jacome / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE JACOME/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Ecuador’s Moises Caicedo celebrates after scoring against Uruguay during their 2022 FIFA World Cup South American qualifier football match at the Rodrigo Paz Delgado Stadium in Quito on October 13, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Jose Jacome / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE JACOME/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 46th

Qualification: 4th in Group

Ecuador come into their fourth World Cup tournament in their history and perhaps can count their lucky stars a little bit after they failed to secure a win in their final four qualifying fixtures in CONMEBOL while doing enough to hold on to the final automatic qualifying place just two points ahead of Peru.

But as the nation that is clearly the weakest of the guaranteed South American contingent, there are few expectations surrounding La Tri and their chances of even emerging from group play into the Round of 16, with even bigger uncertainty surrounding a distinct lack of goalscoring threat other than the exploits of Enner Valencia. As the nation’s all-time leading scorer much of the attacking onus will be on him, but considering Michael Estrada led Ecuador in goals during qualifying, there could be some hope for a multi-faceted attacking threat in Qatar.

Best Player: Enner Valencia

Young Player to Watch: Gonzalo Plata

Odds to Win: 150/1



World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 26: Players of the Qatar National Football Team gather for a team photo ahead of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup match between Qatar and Iraq, at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on November 26, 2019.
(Photo by Mohammed Dabbous/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 52nd

Qualification: Host nation

For the first time ever, Qatar will take part in the grandest stage of football when the tiny nation plays host to the 2022 World Cup. Not much can be surmised about Félix Sánchez’s The Maroon but their incredible Asian Cup win in 2019 – one where they defeated both Japan (final) and South Korea (quarterfinal) – serves as a testament to just how far they have come in such a short period of time.

Most fans will not have heard of any of the players that will eventually be included in Qatar’s first-ever World Cup squad, but given their success from two years ago, that could certainly be about to change.

Best Player: Almoez Ali

Young Player to Watch: Mohammed Waad

Odds to Win: 200/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

TEHRAN, IRAN – OCTOBER 10: Iranian Players celebrate after the sixth goal during FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Iran v Cambodia at Azadi Stadium on October 10, 2019, in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 21st

Qualification: 1st in Group A

With just two wins in 15 matches at the World Cup across five previous appearances, Iran remains an enigma of sorts when it comes to global football. Though they have never left their mark in a considerable way on the international front, they still have proven themselves highly capable in Asia having now qualified for five of the last seven World Cups.

Boasting the best overall performance in qualifying in terms of points earned, goals scored, and goals allowed, Iran flexed their muscles once again to include themselves in the national field in Qatar and can at least count on a handful of European-based players the likes of Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Ehsan Hajsafi, Mehdi Taremi, and Saman Ghoddos. With some considerable attacking firepower, they could be a tricky operator.

Best Player: Sardar Azmoun

Young Player to Watch: Allahyar Sayyadmanesh

Odds to Win: 250/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

OSAKA, JAPAN – JULY 12: Takehiro Tomiyasu of Japan is seen during the U-24 international friendly match between Japan and Honduras at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium on July 12, 2021, in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 23rd

Qualification: 2nd in Group B

Long touted as the Asian nation that produces arguably the most technically gifted footballers in the region and some of the most memorable fan-favourite names the likes of Hidetoshi Nakata, Japan have featured in six consecutive World Cups since 1998 and come into the seventh instalment hoping to finally get past the round of 16 after having reached that milestone on three occasions.

They finished just a single point behind Saudi Arabia in Group B and had a comfortable gap between them and playoff-bound Australia, while the goalscoring exploits of attacking tandem Takumi Minamino and Yuya Osako (10 goals apiece) proved absolutely vital throughout all stages of qualifying. Lauded for their individual and collective ability, Japan are always capable of playing spoiler while entertaining in the same measure.

Best Player: Takumi Minamino

Young Player to Watch: Takefusa Kubo

Odds to Win: 150/1

Korea Republic

World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

ANSAN, SOUTH KOREA – OCTOBER 07: Son Heung-Min of South Korea celebrates after the team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifier Final Round Group A match between South Korea and Syria at Ansan Wa Stadium on October 07, 2021 in Ansan, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 29th

Qualification: 2nd in Group A

South Korea have been a mainstay in the World Cup for nine consecutive editions of the global tournament but it will be hard for Taegeuk Warriors to top their fairytale run to the semi-finals and an eventual fourth-place finish as joint-hosts back at World Cup 2002 in Korea & Japan.

But one can argue that South Korea has even more talent in its ranks than it did nearly 20-years-ago and can bank on the very comfortable qualifying campaign that saw them finish second behind Iran while boasting their ace in the hole in the vein of Tottenham star Son Heung-min.

But their upset loss in the final qualifying match against UAE is why South Korea did not top the group and perhaps there is cause for slight apprehension regarding their chances to get out of the group stage in Qatar. There is talent in this team but balance remains the question of the day.

Best Player: Son Heung-min

Young Player to Watch: Jeong Woo-yeong

Odds to Win: 200/1

Saudi Arabia

World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Saudi Arabia’s players celebrate their opening goal during the 2022 Qatar World Cup Asian Qualifiers football match between China and Saudi Arabia, at the Sharjah Football Stadium in the Emirati city, on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 53rd

Qualification: 1st in Group B

Topping a group that also included Japan as well as Australia is a credible performance for Saudi Arabia; a nation that will be featuring in its sixth World Cup but has failed to make it past the group stage apart from their inaugural appearance at World Cup 1994 where they emerged from a group (second) containing the Netherlands, Belgium, and Morocco.

It was the high watermark for Saudi Arabian football, but the nation has at least remained competitive in Asia while being one of the regular representatives of the region. But for a nation whose entire national team pool is comprised of Saudi-based players, it is likely that – just like the last four occasions they have competed at the World Cup – they, unfortunately, will likely succumb to a similar fate.

Best Player: Yasser Al-Shahrani

Young Player to Watch: Firas al-Buraikan

Odds to Win: 250/1



Sadio Mane will be hoping his Senegal side will outlast Mo Salah's Egypt

Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane controls the ball during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Senegal and Cape Verde at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 25, 2022. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP) (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 20th

Qualification: Third round win over Egypt (1-1 aggregate; 3-1 on penalties)

After their success at AFCON 2021 when Sadio Mané led his country to their first-ever international honour, the top-rated African nation was expected to be a part of the participant field in Qatar and they have not disappointed in that regard after blitzing to the top of Group H in the second round of qualifying before – once again – besting Egypt on penalties after the budding rivals were level after two-legs in their third-round qualifying tie.

The Lions of Teranga continue to impress under former international Aliou Cissé and sit in the top-20 of the FIFA rankings with good reason with 21 of the latest 26-man squad plying their trade in Europe’s top five leagues and their capacity to make a dark-horse run this coming winter remains considerable.

Best Player: Sadio Mané

Young Player to Watch: Pape Matar Sarr

Odds to Win: 150/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Morocco’s forward Tarik Tissoudali (L) and Morocco’s midfielder Azzedine Ounahi celebrate a goal during the second leg of the 2022 Qatar World Cup African Qualifiers football match between Morocco and DR Congo at the Mohamed V Stadium in the city of Casablanca on March 29, 2022. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 24th

Qualification: Third round win over Algeria (2-2 on aggregate; away goals)

Traditionally a bit-part player on the international stage, Morocco spent 20-years without featuring in the World Cup before they crashed out of the group stage at Russia 2018; the same level they managed to muster at World Cup ’94.

Only once have The Atlas Lions managed to make it out of the group stage way back in 1986 and Qatar 2022 represents just the sixth time they have featured on football’s biggest stage. Coming out ahead of Algeria in the third round knockout stage after obliterating Group I in the second round while scoring 20-goals and allowing just one in the process, Morocco are a potential tricky customer but – like many nations set to take part in Qatar – can question their ability to sustain a goal threat against considerable opposition.

With Hakim Ziyech self-isolating from selection, only one player (Youssef En-Nesyri) has scored more goals than star right-back Achraf Hakimi (8). Goals could be in short supply.

Best Player: Achraf Hakimi

Young Player to Watch: Abde Ezzalzouli

Odds to Win: 200/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

TUNIS, TUNISIA – MARCH 29: Players of Tunisia celebrate after beating the team Mali at the end of the second leg of the FIFA World Cup African Qualifiers 3rd round match between Tunisia and Mali in Tunis, Tunisia on March 29, 2022. (Photo by Tnani Badreddine/vi/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 35th

Qualification: Third round win over Mali (1-0 aggregate)

Tunisia has managed just two wins across their five World Cup appearances on their footballing resume, so it is hard to say that there can be lofty expectations for Aigles de Carthage at Qatar 2022 but they do come into this tournament on the back of a quarterfinal appearance at AFCON 2021, which unfortunately ended in disappointment when they were upset by Burkina Faso.

They did well to come through the second round of qualifying but were made to fight tooth and nail against Mali where they could only secure a 1-0 aggregate win across the two-legged tie. Despite the scoreline, top boss Jalel Kadri does have some intriguing attacking options that include Wahbi Khazri while boasting a cadre of young players that could have a breakout tournament including Manchester United starlet Hannibal Mejbri. Getting out of the group stage would be an achievement unto itself.

Best Player: Wahbi Khazri

Young Player to Watch: Hannibal Mejbri

Odds to Win: 250/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Cameroon’s forward Vincent Aboubakar celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Cameroon and Comoros at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on January 24, 2022. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 37th

Qualification: Third round win over Algeria (2-2 aggregate; away goals)

Cameroon so nearly missed out on Qatar 2022 after performing admirably at AFCON 2021 as the host nation, but their story in qualifying against Algeria in the third-round playoff is the stuff dreams – and nightmares – are made of.

In the fourth minute of stoppage time after 120-minutes of football were played, Karl Toko Ekambi bagged the second goal on the night for Les Lions Indomptables which netted them a 2-1 away win in the second leg after succumbing to a 1-0 home loss against Algeria.

It was utter heartbreak for Algeria, but the goal booked Cameroon’s participation in Qatar in dramatic fashion and it is perhaps no more than the nation deserves after reaching the semi-finals of AFCON while outstripping Ivory Coast in the second round of qualifying. Vincent Aboubakar is sure to be the focal point once again for his nation, but he is certainly up to the challenge.

Best Player: Vincent Aboubakar

Young Player to Watch: Jean Onana

Odds to Win: 200/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Ghana’s players react after scoring their second goal during the Group C Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ghana and Comoros at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 18, 2022. (Photo by Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 60th

Qualification: Third Round win over Nigeria (1-1 aggregate; away goals)

It was not long ago when Ghana fought their way to the quarterfinals at World Cup 2010 in South Africa before succumbing to Uruguay as the high watermark of their young international presence that has included just three appearances at the World Cup between 2006-2014.

Ghana failed to qualify for Russia 2018, but their fight to reach Qatar has come by the thinnest margins after they progressed through their qualifying group level on points but with a better goal difference only to narrowly skirt by powerhouse Nigeria by the away goals rule. But despite their previous status of years past, Ghana is fairly far from where it used to be.

They do have some top-level players under former international Otto Addo, but the negatives perhaps underline the few positives.

Best Player: Thomas Partey

Young Player to Watch: Mohammed Kudus

Odds to Win: 250/1



World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 02: Alphonso Davies #19 of Canada during a 2022 World Cup Qualifying match against Honduras at BMO Field on September 2, 2021, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 38th

Qualification: 1st in Group

For only the second time in their nation’s history, Canada are off to the grandest stage in football after America’s upstart neighbours to the north have made good on the footballing renaissance currently gripping the national team program.

Under manager John Herdman, Les Rouges have harnessed their considerable talent to not only qualify but top the group ahead of perennial powerhouses Mexico and the United States, with the likes of Cyle Larin, Jonathan David, and Alphonso Davies as headline names to rely on.

But there are other players in Canada’s camp that are gifted as well despite being relatively unknown, like Lucas Cavallini, Stephen Eustáquio, and Tajon Buchanan. It was no fluke that Canada topped the group, and though much is not expected of them in Qatar, they will be fun to watch and should not be underestimated.

Best Player: Alphonso Davies

Young Player to Watch: Jonathan David

Odds to Win: 150/1


World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

Mexico’s players Jesus Manuel Corona (L) and Diego Lainez (R) celebrate the team’s goal against Jamaica during the Central American qualifiers football match between Jamaica and Mexico for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the National stadium in Kingston on January 27, 2022. (Photo by Ricardo Makyn / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO MAKYN/AFP via Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 9th

Qualification: 2nd in Group

Though they will undoubtedly be disappointed for not topping World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, Mexico still secured their right of passage to Qatar 2022 despite no longer being the unquestioned leader of the pack in North America after only being beaten out by Canada on goal difference but finishing ahead of their bitter rivals the United States.

Though FIFA ranks them quite high across the global footballing landscape, there is perhaps a sense that Mexico has perhaps fallen away a little bit in recent times, but their fantastic result against Germany at Russia 2018 shows that there is plenty of fight left in El Tri who still have a credible amount of talent in their camp headlined by Wolves striker Raúl Jiménez. Though the days of Hugo Sanchez, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Luis Hernández, and Jared Borgetti are gone, Mexico are a welcomed feature every four years.

Best Player: Raúl Jiménez

Young Player to Watch: Diego Lainez

Odds to Win: 125/1

United States

World Cup 2022 | A Team Guide

ORLANDO, FL – MARCH 27: Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States during a FIFA World Cup qualifier game between Panama and USMNT at Exploria Stadium on March 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

FIFA ranking: 15th

Qualification: 3rd in Group

Ask any American who knows and/or loves football, and they would tell you that the United States are in the midst of the highest point in their history when it comes to how deep the pool of talent is in the national team program.

At no other point have so many American footballers been at the forefront of youth development or plying their trades at the elite level across Europe, but despite that, questions still persist on if talent alone is enough for the USMNT to make a deep run at the World Cup when tactically they are still being held back under Gregg Berhalter.

Finishing third in qualifying, even if only off the pace by three points, was certainly frustrating. But such is the budding young talent in the ranks of the Stars & Stripes that anything is possible in Qatar.

Best Player: Christian Pulisic

Young Player to Watch: Gio Reyna

Odds to Win: 100/1

On the bubble: inter-confederation playoffs

Wales vs Scotland/Ukraine

Costa Rica vs New Zealand

Peru vs Australia/United Arab Emirates

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Aminat Aigbe

Aminat Aigbe is the first lady of afronaija and a very good blogger ( Original Mrs AfroNaija )

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