With the FIFA World Cup 2022 set to kick off soon, we bring you the lowdown on Group A, which consists of Qatar, the Netherlands, Ecuador, and Senegal.
The world was a different place the last time 32 national teams convened for a FIFA World Cup. COVID-19 ravaged the globe less than two years after France lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in Moscow. Speaking of Moscow, Russia lost the chance to participate in the grand event in Qatar after the country’s attack on Ukraine.
Nonetheless, the FIFA World Cup 2022 is nearly upon us, and it gets underway in ten days. The upcoming event in Qatar has attracted a lot of controversy due to human rights issues. But despite everything, the month-long 32-team extravaganza will finally get underway at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday, November 20.
Today, we look at Group A, which consists of one of the dark horses to go all the way, the Netherlands, a tricky Senegal, the hosts Qatar, and an intriguing Ecuador. Here is an analysis of each team and their chances of making it to the Round of 16.
Group A – Qatar, Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal
November 20: Qatar vs Ecuador
November 21: Senegal vs Netherlands
November 25: Qatar vs Senegal; Netherlands vs Ecuador
June 20: Ecuador vs Senegal; Netherlands vs Qatar
Four years ago, the Netherlands missed the plane to Russia for the FIFA World Cup 2018 after collapsing in the European leg of the qualifiers. Fast forward four years and the Oranje are back in the big leagues again after cruising through the qualification campaign to progress to the main draw.
Louis van Gaal is back at the helm with the Dutch national side and is yet to oversee a defeat in 15 games thus far. With the FIFA World Cup 2022 likely being a swansong, van Gaal will look to guide his team to top Group A before springing a surprise in the knockout stages.
The Netherlands have previously reached three World Cup finals, making them the team involved in the most World Cup finals without winning one. But they have been unbeaten in the last four World Cups they have participated in – 1998, 2006, 2010, and 2014. And van Gaal will be delighted with how the draw panned out for the Dutch national side.
The Netherlands have never failed to qualify for the knockout stages in their ten previous World Cup participations. And with the Oranje progressing superbly under van Gaal, one can back them to go deep into the tournament. It will take a phenomenal effort to get the better of a resurgent Dutch side.
Key Players: Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong
Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have been the cornerstone for the Netherlands as they have resurrected their image in world football. And the duo will be pivotal figures for the Oranje if they want to go deep in the World Cup after qualifying from Group A.
The two stalwarts have not had it easy at FC Barcelona this season, with Depay, in particular, failing to make his mark. But the star attacker is a different player for the Dutch national side. However, Depay will need the utmost support from de Jong, who will have to hold the midfield and set the base for an impressive offensive unit to put the opposition under pressure.
When one thinks about a team that is perhaps lucky to be at a World Cup due to the privilege of being the host nation, Qatar might take the cake. South Africa, who hosted the 2010 edition, would be a close second. But the Bafana Bafana had still produced a few notable names at the club level.
Nonetheless, Qatar can throw some weight around their credentials as they are the AFC Asian Cup holders. The Maroons were shock winners of that tournament, but they had conceded only once throughout the campaign while scoring 19 goals. But beating Japan 3-1 was incredible, and Felix Sanchez will hope for his team to spring a surprise in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Sanchez has overseen the progress of several players from their formative years and deserves to take Qatar into the World Cup. But realistically speaking, Qatar will do well if they avoid becoming only the second host nation to be knocked out in the group stage of a World Cup tournament, after South Africa in 2010.
Key Players: Hassan Al-Haydos and Akram Afif
Akram Afif is the marquee player for Qatar, who will bank on his goals to spring a surprise in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2022. On the other hand, Hassan Al-Haydos is Qatar’s most-capped player of all time. While keeping their more illustrious opponents quiet will be a big ask, Al-Haydos and Afif will make Qatar the wildcards if they rise to the occasion in the final third.
🚨 BREAKING 🚨
Ecuador have been cleared to play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup by CAS. pic.twitter.com/hFwSXwynit
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 8, 2022
Group A features a few teams and nations that have attracted some controversy in the build-up to the FIFA World Cup 2022. One such national side is Ecuador, who progressed to the grand event in Qatar by becoming an automatic qualifier in the CONMEBOL leg.
Ecuador finished fourth in the South American qualifying group behind traditional powerhouses Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Chile and Colombia should have compete for the fourth spot, but both failed to reach even the play-offs spot. Ecuador and Peru claimed the other two qualification berths, leaving Chile and Colombia high and dry.
But the two South American powerhouses later lodged a complaint, saying Ecuador fielded an ineligible player. However, Chile’s bid to secure a backdoor entry into the World Cup fell short, and La Tri will feature in Group A. As for what Ecuador will bring to the table, they might be one of the least entertaining teams in the tournament.
They have lost only one of their last 14 games, with eight of those fixtures ending in stalemates. In addition, Ecuador’s most recent five matches have seen the two teams scoring only two goals between them. But only Brazil scored more than them in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. So Ecuador might spring a surprise.
Key Players: Piero Hincapie and Moises Caicedo
Ecuador will not be a force to be reckoned with defensively, so Piero Hincapie will need to play out of his skin to keep his team in the three Group A games at the FIFA World Cup 2022. In addition, Moises Caicedo will have to win the midfield battle in the clutch moments.
The duo’s output in the defensive phases will dictate how well they take the pressure off the profligate attackers. If they struggle, Ecuador will have an uphill battle in the three matches in Qatar in the coming month.
The final team in Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2022 features a national team from Africa that often promises much but does not deliver at the biggest stage. But 2022 has been a memorable year for Senegal, as Egypt would have you know.
The Lions of Teranga went all the way at the Africa Cup of Nations at the turn of the year, beating Egypt in the final. The Pharaohs then faced agony against Senegal in the African leg of the World Cup Qualifiers.
Aliou Cisse, who was at the helm at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is still in charge of Senegal. And after overseeing the AFCON triumph, he will turn his attention to the grand event in Qatar. But unfortunately for Cisse, Senegal might be at the World Cup without talismanic forward Sadio Mane.
The experienced attacker picked up an injury that has ended his World Cup dream. But Senegal should still be strong enough to give the best teams a run for their money. That is because Cisse has helped forge a solid defensive unit that can contain the most fearsome offensive units.
Key Players: Kalidou Koulibaly and Ismaila Sarr
Sadio Mane would have been an automatic pick in this section if he was available. But with the 30-year-old likely not travelling to Qatar, Aliou Cisse will likely turn to Ismaila Sarr to produce inspirational performances in the final third. The 24-year-old might be plying his trade in the EFL Championship but can be a formidable attacker on his day.
The other pivotal figure for Senegal will be Kalidou Koulibaly, who will marshall the backline in Qatar. The veteran defender has not had it easy at Chelsea, and he did not even feature against Arsenal. But he usually turns up for his national side and will aim to keep things tight at the back.
Likely to Qualify: Netherlands and Senegal
Netherlands should ideally breeze through Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2022, with none of Qatar, Ecuador, and Senegal likely to pose a threat to their defensive unit. So the Oranje will likely finish atop Group A, leaving the other three teams to wage the battle for the second spot.
Qatar showed at the AFC Asian Cup nearly four years ago that teams should not take them lightly. Meanwhile, Ecuador can create tight spaces at the back to frustrate their opponents. But Senegal will likely clinch the runners-up berth in Group A, even if Mane misses out.
The Lions of Teranga have a formidable defensive unit, with Ismaila Sarr leading a tricky offensive department. And if Mane somehow regains his fitness to travel to Qatar, Senegal should easily get past Qatar and Ecuador to seal the second spot in the group.
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