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2022 World Cup Group Breakdowns: Group A
The 2022 World Cup starts in just over a month, as host nation Qatar is set to take on Ecuador on November 20th, 2022. This is a massive World Cup for American fans–not only because we qualified, but because it will be the first World Cup that many of us can bet on.
That’s right, you can bet on your favorite World Cup action through any of these New Jersey Online Casinos. If you’re new to soccer and don’t know who to bet on, don’t worry–I’ll be breaking down each of the 32 teams in this year’s World Cup, group by group.
As the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is looking to have its name attached to more than just the title of this year's tournament. Qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history, Qatar has been investing heavily into its national team program over the past decades, and it looks like it’s finally starting to pay off. The big push for a strong Qatari presence in international soccer started in 2010, when the nation first won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup. At the time, they were the 112th ranked country in the world, and coming into this year’s World Cup they are 48th. Their success is reflected in more than just the international rankings, though–Qatar won their first-ever AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
Ex-Barcelona youth coach Felix Sanchez has been the head coach of the Qatar National Team since 2017, and the team has recorded a record of 43-16-24 (W-D-L) during his reign. Under Sanchez, Qatar progressed into the third and final round of World Cup Qualifying back in 2018 but was unable to qualify thanks to a 2-1-7 record. However, they bounced back with an AFC Asain Cup victory, as well as a third-place finish in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. Qatar also competed in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup and made it all the way to the Semi-Finals, which is where they fell to the USMNT by a score of 1-0
Almoez Ali, ST: Since 2016, Ali has made 76 appearances for the Qatari National Team and has netted 39 goals across all competitions with the senior squad. He was the leading scorer across the entire AFC Asian Cup, scoring nine goals throughout the tournament. Almoez also scored four goals in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which was enough to win him the golden boot.
Akram Afif, LW: The 2019 Asian Footballer of the Year award winner, Afif is the only Qatari National Team player with European club play experience under his belt. Afif was an integral part of Qatar's 2019 AFC Asian Cup victory, and has scored 25 goals through 85 appearances with the National team.
We actually have some drama going down here with the Ecuadorian National Team. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has registered appeals made by the Chilean and Peruvian federations against a FIFA ruling last month that declared Byron Castillo, a defender that made eight appearances for the Ecuadorian side in World Cup Qualifying, eligible to play for the team, despite evidence that may have proven otherwise. Chilean officials claim to have evidence proving Castillo is actually Colombian, so Ecuador should be forced to forfeit all eight games he played during qualifying. If this comes to fruition, Ecuador would be kicked out of the World Cup, and Peru, the next highest finishing team in Qualifying, would take their spot.
For the time being, though, Ecuador is firmly in the World Cup, and is set to face off against host nation Qatar in the Tournament’s first game. Ecuador has struggled to score goals as of late, scoring three goals in their last six games. At the same time though, their defense has been strong, conceding only two goals in that same stretch.
Ecuador’s last major tournament, the Copa America, was a tournament to forget for Ecuadorian fans. They went winless in the group stage of the tournament but managed to move on to the knockout stage by one point. They went on to get dominated by Argentina in the next round.
Pervis Estupinan, DEF: Estupinan made his debut for the national team in 2019, and since has made 28 appearances. He is one of the premier defenders across the nation and has been in prime form as of late. Although he seldom gets playing time at the club level, Estupinan already has a clean sheet under his name, helping Brighton to a 1-0 win over Leeds in his first ever start for the English side.
Piero Hincapie, DEF: If anything this should just magnify the importance of Ecuador’s defense. Their two best, and most valuable, players are integral parts of the team's identity and help hold the defensive line in every one of the team’s games. Hincapie has made 21 appearances for the Ecuador senior squad, and has started 33 games from Budesliga squad Bayer Leverkusen since 2021.
Senegal seems to be everyone's dark horse team in this year’s World Cup, but I can’t help but ask the question–will they even make it out of Group A? Senegal barely managed to grab third in the COSAFA Cup, narrowly squeaking out a penalty shootout win over Mozambique. It must be said though, Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy did not participate in the tournament–but are they enough to drastically change the tides?
While both Mendy and Mane are world-class talents, you need more than two players to succeed at the World Cup. Senegal has managed to score at least one goal in each of their last thirteen games, but none of their opponents in those games were as good as, say, the Netherlands–or even Ecuador.
Senegal will definitely be a fan favorite in this year's tournament and I am rooting for their success–but it may be a lot harder to find than some people imagine.
Sadio Mane, FOR: Mane is not only one of the best players on the Senegal team, but he is one of the best players in the world. From 2016-2022, Mane made 196 appearances for Premier League giant Liverpool, and managed to score 90 goals across all competitions. He now plays for Bayern Munich, where he has netted 4 goals in just 8 games. He’s an explosive winger that demands almost all of your defense’s attention, and will likely be enemy #1 for any opposing team.
Edouard Mendy, GK: Mendy has been battling with an injury for quite some time now, but is expected to come back in just the coming days (Oct. 5th). However, injury aside, Mendy is in the worst form of his life right now, and has possibly lost the starting keeper job at Chelsea.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Louis van Gaal and this Netherlands side have their sights set on proving all the haters wrong, and will look to make a deep run in this years tournament. This is a much different team than the one we say fail to qualify just four years ago–what was once a team dominated by age and veteran presence is now younger, faster, and a defensive war horse.
The Dutch National Team has played tremendously in the UEFA Nations League, handidly winning their group with a record of 5-1-0 (W-D-L). They most recently defeated international powerhouse Belgium in the competition, which was enough to guarantee their spot in the Nations League Final Tournament next year.
Many feel this is the Netherlands’ group to lose, and I can’t help but agree.
Virgil van Dijk, DEF: The man who netted the game-winning goal against Belgium in that aforementioned game, van Dijk will have hist sights set on two things during this year’s World Cup: winning it all, and proving he is the best defender in the world.
Frenkie de Jong, MID: In 45 appearances for the Dutch National Team, de Jong has only scored once–but don;t let that distract from the impact he makes on every game he plays. De Jong is one of the best facilitators in the game, and values ball possession over everything else.