World Cup Preview


Darin Martin, Sports editor

This Sunday, the world’s most popular sport takes center stage again as the 2022 FIFA world cup kicks off with host nation, Qatar taking on Ecuador. Several countries will see themselves in a favorable position to lift the FIFA World cup trophy. 

In group A, the host nation Qatar will face The Netherlands, Ecuador, and Senegal. The Netherlands is expected to easily advance out of this group. Boasting a talented group of players, including defenders Virgil van Dijk, Denzel Dumphries, and Matthijs de Ligt, midfielder Frenkie de Jong, and forwards that include the highly touted Cody Gakpo, and the top scorer in the world cup qualifiers, Memphis Depay. Senegal is expected to follow them through in second place. However, an injury to forward Sadio Mané that may cause him to miss the first game against the Netherlands. This may complicate things, as there is little room for error in the group stages with only three games to qualify for the knockouts. However, they should still boast enough talent to see them through to the second round.  

Group B is probably the most talked about group heading into this world cup. England is expected to qualify in first place. However, the battle for second is where it gets interesting. The United States and Wales will be facing off against each other immediately in a matchup that could decide the fate of the group. Wales boasts talent such as the international super star and 4-time Champions League winner, Gareth Bale along with other solid players such as Dan James, Ethan Ampadu, and Aaron Ramsey. The USA will field young talents such as Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Weston Mckennie, and Sergiño Dest. However, their inexperience will be tested against the England and Wales teams’ veterans. 

Group C is expected to be another closely contested group. Argentina enters the world cup having not lost a game since 2019 and is currently on a 36-game unbeaten streak. This makes them the overwhelming favorites to not only win the group, but to be strong contenders for the World Cup. The list of talent is almost endless, as it includes defenders Lisandro Martinez, Cristian Romero, and Nicolas Otamendi, and a midfield that includes the likes of Champions League finalist, Leandro Paredes, and Rodrigo de Paul. Their attack is probably most threatening as it includes Champions League winner, Angel di Maria, who is fresh off of a game winning goal in the 2021 Copa America final.  The team also consist of young strikers Julian Alverez and Lautaro Martinez, and arguably the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi. The Argentinian squad is one that is closely knit and will be looking to send Messi off with a World Cup victory. The battle for second in this group will most likely be contested between Poland, led by European Golden Boot winner, Robert Lewandowski, and Mexico. 

In group D, defending World Cup Champions, France will be looking to break the curse of defending champions getting knocked out in the group stage. They have been the team most affected by injuries, as midfielders Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante, who both played big roles in their 2018 triumph, will both be out due to injuries. However, many believe that the defending champions have more than enough talent to make a run at the World Cup title. Their squad includes defenders Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe. Young midfielders Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni will be looking to take the reins from Pogba and Kante. And the attack is led by forwards Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, and Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema. Denmark will look to follow them through in second ahead of Australia and Tunisia. 

Group E is possibly the most top-heavy group as previous World Cup Champions, Spain and Germany will each be looking to one up each other and take the top spot of the group. Spain’s coach, Luis Enrique made headlines with his squad selection heading into this world cup, choosing to leave behind multiple experienced and more recognizable names in favor of a younger squad. Many criticized his selection, but Enrique has recently experienced positive results with this squad, including a semi finals appearance in the European Championship and a finals appearance in the Conference League. Spain will be looking to go one step further and win the whole thing this time around. Germany boasts a squad with a solid mix of experienced veterans, such as captain and goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer and his Bayern Munich teammate, midfielder Thomas Müller. Young talents such as Jamal Musiala and Kai Havertz will also be playing a big role for Germany. Japan and Costa Rica will look to upset the establishment, as they both have interesting teams of their own, but they will most likely be fighting to avoid last place in the group. 

Group F looks to be another closely contested group as both Belgium and Croatia will be looking to finish first. Belgium’s squad seems really top heavy, as it includes Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois, who are seen as the best midfielder and goalkeeper in the world at the moment. However, their squad depth falls off the further down the list you go. This may hurt them in the knockout rounds, but they will still be favorites to make it out of the group. Croatia’s squad includes former Ballon D’or winner, Luka Modrić, who despite turning 36 years of age continues to defy father time and perform at the highest level. Mateo Kovačić will partner him in midfield. However, just like Belgium, the lack of squad depth may hurt them in the end. 

One team that doesn’t have to worry about squad depth are world cup favorites, Brazil. Brazil has been touted as the most exciting team to watch going into this world cup. On paper, they probably have the best attack including exciting wingers Vinicius Jr, Raphinha, Antony Santos, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, and Neymar. Their midfield includes the likes of Casemiro, Fabinho, and Bruno Guimarães. In defense, they have Captain Thiago Silva and Marquinhos. And they have two very capable goalkeepers in Alisson Becker and Ederson. The battle for second will be closely contested as any one of Serbia, Switzerland, or could make it out. This will be one of the groups to watch for sure. 

The eighth and final group, Group H consists of Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea. This is probably the most complete group top to bottom. Portugal consists of world superstars such as Bruno Fernandes, João Félix, João Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal has been a team criticized for boasting great individual talent, but not one that is able to work together for a series run. They will be looking to put those narratives to rest and hopefully send Ronaldo off with a victory in what will almost certainly be his last World Cup. Uruguay’s squad includes players such as Luis Suárez, Darwin Núñez, Fede Valverde, and Ronald Araújo. The matchup between Uruguay and Ghana will be one to watch. Ghana will be looking to get revenge as during the 2010 world cup quarter finals, a purposeful handball by Luis Suarez on the goal line denied them the win and a chance to become the first African team in the semifinals of a World Cup. 

There are many interesting storylines heading into the 2022 World Cup and with several nations in prime position to win, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.