As hosts, Qatar qualified automatically. Taking part in football’s biggest tournament for the first time it’s safe to say they have a challenge ahead if they are to leave their mark. Written off by many experts, Felix Sanchex will be hoping his side, who are currently the reigning Asian champions, can inflict a surprise or two on some of the more experienced teams in the tournament. They will be hoping their star goal scorer Almoez Ali can hit the ground running and defender Abdelkarim Hassan who boasts 115 caps for his country can instil a sense of calm at the back.
Representing the first tournament for manager Hansi Flick and after a strong qualification run it is clear to see why the four-time champions once again head to the tournament as one of the front runners. Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gudogan tasted World Cup glory in Brazil and they are once again likely to be some of the first names on the team sheet. It is also set to be long-standing keeper Manuel Neuer’s last tournament – the 36-year-old Bayern Munich shot stopper will be looking to instil the old sense of calm that will make this German side hard to beat.
After winning the tournament a record breaking five times, the South American titans are once again one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar. Despite falling short to Argentina in the Copa America, the Seleção have been playing with their usual creativity and flair throughout qualifying. Star striker Neymar is set to surpass Pele and become the country’s record goal scorer and will once again likely be one of coach Tite’s first names on the team sheet and a force to be reckoned with.
One of the tournaments all-time greats, Les Bleus are aiming to become only the third country to retain the title after Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962. France, the only team other than Brazil to have played in every tournament, enter the competition with high hopes. They will once again be relying on the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema to hit the ground running and lead their front line but it’s the quality and depth that run throughout this team with familiar names such as Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez and Juventus’s Adrien Rabiot that will fill other nations with fear. Coach Didier Deschamps is quite rightly full of confidence and has high hopes for his team.
Qualifying for the World Cup with ease, which culminated with a resounding 10-0 victory over San Marino, England enter the tournament once again with high hopes. However, with only 26 seats on the plane, manager Gareth Southgate has some difficult choices to make as he selects his final squad to take Qatar. Whichever names are on his final team sheet, the Three Lions will once again be hopeful of going far into the tournament and it’s not inconvincible that they could be lifting the trophy for the first time since 1966. Captain Harry Kane will likely lead the line but with the likes of Manchester City duo Phil Foden and Jack Grealish in support, things are looking positive for England. Could that 56-year wait finally be over?
Drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ with Germany, Spain will still have high hopes to proceed to the knockout phases and go deep into the tournament. Despite not being the force they once were, there is hope this may be changing. With the exciting young talents of Barcelona’s Ferran Torres, Gavi and Pedri, coach Luis Enrique has some sensational talent to select from. All eyes will be on the match versus Germany on Sunday, November 27th – a win for Spain would put them as strong contenders to proceed as group winners.
After missing out on the previous World Cup, the Netherlands will be looking to make amends in Qatar. Despite not being the force they once were, coach Van Gaal has a squad peppered with some outstanding talent. The team will be looking to the likes of Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk or Barcelona’s talented midfielder Frenkie do Jong to inspire their young talent. The Dutch came through a tricky qualifying group, winning seven of their matches and finished in top spot. Supporters will be boosted by their newfound hunger and aggressive mentality. Not being seen as tournament favourites could be just the ticket for the Oranje as they look to cause an upset or two.
Qualifying for their 18thtournament and the 13th in a row, Argentina enters as one of the favourites to come out as winners. However, despite the high hopes, football fans across the globe don’t need to be reminded that Argentina and anguish go hand in hand at major tournaments. But could this year be different? Their coach, Lionel Scaloni has instilled a winning mentality sinch their success at the Copa America. A young, talented squad has been built around one of the greatest footballers of all time, Lionel Messi. At the age of 35, this is expected to be his last chance to bag a winner’s medal so he will need his rising starts to rally around him.
Despite many of their superstars seen to have passed their peak, the Red Devils are still expected to be a force to be reckoned with. The main challenge in their group will be Croatia but with a squad led by captain Eden Hazzard and packed with the likes of Courtois, Vertonghen and Lukaku, not to mention Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne who is seen by many as the complete package, their coach Roberto Martinez will enter the tournament full of conviction. If the squad hits the ground running, this could be one team to look out for.
Despite needing play-offs to reach this year’s tournament the Portuguese will always represent a danger with household names such as Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, Bernado Silva and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. Having made an appearance at every World Cup since 2002 this year’s group is seen by many as one of the more straightforward for them. If the Euro 2016 winners can get through to the knockout phase, they could be a surprise package. Ones to watch for sure.
There are a number of reasons why the Danes are seen by many as an outsider to walk away with the trophy in what would be their first major success since winning the Euros in 1992. After a near-perfect qualifying campaign and letting in only three goals, it’s safe to say coach Kasper Hjulmand won’t be the only one heading into Qatar with high hopes. With their talented midfielder Christina Eriksen making a comeback the spirit and unity in the squad is tighter than ever. Could this togetherness be the key for the Danes in Qatar?
So, there we have it, a brief run-down of some of the favourites, hopefuls and what could be a surprise package or two for this year’s tournament in Qatar. We will be keeping a close eye as the nations announce their final squads in the coming weeks and continue to revel in the debate as to who will walk away as 2022 World Cup Champions.