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The sphere for this yr’s World Cup is, finally, mostly complete. With the draw set for Friday, the tournament is starting to take shape.
Quite what the 2022 World Cup, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced because the host, might be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are — for essentially the most part — extremely familiar.
Most, if not quite all, of the standard contenders are already there: a 12-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, in addition to the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They’ve been joined by the 2 great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina.
Just one major name is missing: Italy, which can miss the tournament for the second straight cycle after falling to North Macedonia in a playoff. Elsewhere, the image is becoming clearer.
4 of Asia’s slots, for instance, will go to Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan; Australia now must discover a way in through a playoff. In North America, Canada — unexpectedly — has made it, joined by Mexico and the USA. In South America, Ecuador is back within the finals, dragged across the road by Uruguay, which goes as well.
Only three places remain unclaimed, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic or the war in Ukraine. Those teams — Ukraine and Scotland and Wales from Europe; Costa Rica and Recent Zealand; Peru and either Australia or the United Arab Emirates — may have their fates decided by playoffs in June. For them, there are still months to attend, precious hopes to cling to. The chances are, though, that the winner is already within the draw, waiting for them to reach.
Here’s a have a look at who’s in:
The way it qualified It has been easy to lose sight of it, within the swirl of controversy that has dogged the tournament ever because it was awarded to this tiny Gulf state in 2010, but the automated entry granted to the competition’s host nation has given Qatar a direct route into a contest it has rarely come near reaching on merit.
What can we expect in 2022? Recent results haven’t been encouraging: Coach Félix Sánchez’s team has over the previous couple of months been beaten comprehensively by Serbia, Portugal and Ireland. Qatar is unlikely to survive the group stage, but don’t expect it to be embarrassed: Sánchez is a brilliant, capable coach, and his team — bolstered by several nationalized Qataris — is organized and technically proficient.
The way it qualified Germany may need been the primary team to earn a spot in Qatar, but by its standards, its progress was filled with jeopardy and tension. In March, under its former coach Joachim Löw, Germany actually lost a game in qualifying. It won all nine of the others, and made it with an entire set of fixtures to spare.
What can we expect in 2022? The timing of the tournament could also be against Germany. 2022 may come a little bit too late for a number of the country’s stalwarts — Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Ilkay Gündogan — but just too early for the exciting generation, led by Kai Havertz, Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, that can eventually replace them.
The way it qualified Fresh from a powerful, emotional run to the semifinals of the European Championship, Kasper Hjulmand’s team made short work of a form group, winning its first nine games and qualifying with a month to go.
What can we expect in 2022? Denmark’s impressive qualifying record — not just for this tournament, but established during the last six years or so — and its performance at Euro 2020 augur well for Qatar: Hjulmand might be aiming for a spot within the knockout rounds on the very least. The one query mark is that if the team will have the opportunity to count on Christian Eriksen, the midfielder who should make Denmark a sentimental favorite for neutrals. Last week, he marked his return to the national team with a goal against the Netherlands. On Tuesday, he added one other in his first game within the stadium in Copenhagen where he collapsed in the course of the Euros last summer.
The way it qualified Tite’s team sailed through South America’s arduous qualifying process, winning 14 of its 17 games and drawing the opposite three. It has conceded only a single goal at home — a statistic aided by the proven fact that its meeting with Argentina was called off after officials from the country’s health ministry stormed the sphere to arrest a number of the visiting Argentine players — and has only dropped points on the road in Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador.
What can we expect in 2022? Now we have been here before: Brazil looking irresistible in qualifying, only to stutter when the finals arrive. Tite has crafted a resolute, well-drilled side greater than able to winning the tournament — and wresting it away from Europe for the primary time since 2002 — however the suspicion continues to be that an excessive amount of of the creative burden rests on Neymar.
The way it qualified In a word: curiously. The defending champion’s place in Qatar never looked in any real doubt, however it was more a purgatory than a parade. Ukraine and Bosnia each left Paris with a degree — indeed, the French didn’t beat second-place Ukraine home or away — and the abiding impression is that France may very well be so far more.
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What can we expect in 2022? There’s every reason to consider that France could retain the trophy, becoming the primary team since Brazil, in 1962, to do it: The country’s depth of talent is such that its reserves would probably make the semifinals. And in Kylian Mbappé, it has a player who could use the tournament as a springboard to true greatness. But, just as in 2018, there is completely no guarantee it should be thrilling to look at.
The way it qualified The world’s No. 1-ranked team — a standing Belgium has held for 3 years or so — didn’t, really, need to interrupt a sweat, scoring a powerful 25 goals in its eight qualifying games, although a 3rd of those got here in a single outing against Belarus.
What can we expect in 2022? This looks like a mantra that has held for not less than the last three tournaments: Now really is the time for this Belgian generation to win something. Its array of attacking talent is bettered only by France and England, and the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku are actually of their prime years. If there’s a note of caution, it’s that the country’s defensive ranks have thinned a little bit in recent times; this team doesn’t seem as well-balanced because the 2016 or 2018 editions.
The way it qualified Croatia left it extremely late, sealing a spot in Qatar only due to an Fyodor Kudryashev own goal with 10 minutes to play within the country’s final match, what turned out to be a 1-0 win against Russia on a sodden field in Split. Topping a finely balanced group, though, one which included Slovakia and Slovenia, warrants praise.
What can we expect in 2022? Next winter will presumably function a final hurrah for the generation of players that took Croatia to the ultimate in Russia in 2018: Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Domagoj Vida and the remaining may not have one other tournament in them. There are signs that one other generation will follow, and Croatia will most actually not go quietly, but a repeat of Russia doesn’t seem likely.
The way it qualified With loads of the ball, but not an unlimited amount to point out for it. Spain’s automatic place in the sphere was doubtful until the ultimate round of qualifiers, when Sweden’s sudden collapse eased the strain. Few teams are as technically adroit as Luis Enrique’s side, but qualifying proved once more that Spain’s toothlessness in front of goal is now endemic.
What can we expect in 2022? All the pieces is determined by whether Spain can discover a reliable goal-scorer: for all that Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets were hailed because the embodiments of the team that lifted the trophy in 2010, the presence of David Villa was the antidote to what might otherwise have been a sterile form of domination. In Pedri and Gavi, Spain has two of the brightest prospects in world soccer to switch Xavi and Iniesta. Now it must hope that Ansu Fati may be its Villa.
The way it qualified In silence, in Lisbon. For 90 minutes on the ultimate matchday, it seemed as if Serbia can be taking over a reasonably customary place within the playoffs: Portugal needed only a degree to qualify. But then Aleksandar Mitrovic headed in Dusan Tadic’s cross, the Serbian bench emptied, and Portugal found itself watching the grass because it opened up beneath its feet.
What can we expect in 2022? Serbia must be a threat. It has a team drawn largely from Europe’s major leagues: a defense built on Matija Nastasic and Nikola Malenkovic, a midfield adorned by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and the evergreen Tadic, and, in Dusan Vlahovic, considered one of the brightest young forwards on the planet. History, though, suggests Serbia is not going to live as much as expectations.
The way it qualified England is, under Gareth Southgate, seriously good at qualifying for tournaments. Draws with Hungary, at home, in a game marred by crowd trouble, and Poland, away, were the one blots on its ledger this time. It has now lost just one game on the solution to a significant finals in 12 years.
What can we expect in 2022? More vital, England’s record at those finals is on the upswing. Southgate took the team to a semifinal in 2018 — with the help, admittedly, of a form draw — after which to inside a penalty shootout of winning the European Championship on home soil in the summertime of 2021. With a settled spine and an ever-improving cadre of young players, England must be considered a real contender.
The way it qualified Belgium tends to attract focus as Europe’s diminutive powerhouse, however the Swiss transformation into tournament mainstays is not any less admirable. Murat Yakin led the team to the highest spot in its group, above the recently-anointed European champion, Italy, in his first few months within the job. The Swiss didn’t lose a game and conceded only two goals in the method.
What can we expect in 2022? The reply to that is, effectively, certain: Switzerland will qualify in second place from its group after which be eliminated — probably on penalties, probably after a goal-less draw — within the round of 16. That shouldn’t be read as a dismissal. That a rustic as small as Switzerland can perform so reliably makes it, in some ways, an example to others.
The way it qualified Remarkably, Euro 2020 was the primary major tournament the Dutch had reached since making the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup: The Netherlands missed each Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Its progress to Qatar was not exactly imperious — a defeat in its final game against Norway would have meant elimination — but that Louis van Gaal’s team coped with the pressure, and the ghosts of failures past, bodes well.
What can we expect in 2022? There are reasons to consider the Netherlands, safely qualified, is perhaps something of a force in Qatar. Its record in World Cups is incredibly good: a final in 2010, semifinals in 1998 and 2014. The last of those, in fact, got here under the aegis of van Gaal, now restored to his post. In Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, it has the core of a particularly good team. And in Ryan Gravenberch, the most recent Ajax wunderkind, it could have a star able to take flight.
The way it qualified The search to make sure Lionel Messi gets one final shot on the World Cup should, really, have been fraught and stressful and filled with internecine squabbles. It’s a shame, in a way, that it was anything but: After a slow start, Argentina didn’t lose a game before punching its ticket.
What can we expect in 2022? A whole lot of garment-rending over Messi, probably, on condition that it should be the last time a player many regard as the best of all time will grace the World Cup stage. The query might be how well Lionel Scaloni can craft a team to intensify Messi’s gifts — impacted or not by age — and if Argentina’s moderately cobbled-together defense can live as much as its inconceivable richness in attack.
The way it qualified Iran has, this century, grow to be something of a World Cup stalwart. It has only missed two tournaments since 1998, and there was never any real doubt that it will qualify for its third consecutive finals. Dragan Skocic’s side only dropped points to South Korea in the ultimate round of qualifying, and it had secured its place in Qatar by the top of January.
What can we expect in Qatar? Traditionally, the benefit with which Iran qualifies has no bearing in any respect on the way it performs within the finals: the country has only ever won two games at a World Cup, and it has never made it beyond the group stage. There’s more reason to be positive this time around, not least due to an attack that features Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the form of Champions League-quality talent that might have an effect.
The way it qualified After a surprisingly slow start for a team that has not missed a World Cup since 1982 — involving draws with Iran and Iraq and a really late win on home turf against Syria — Paulo Bento’s team made it through qualifying relatively unscathed. A win in its penultimate game, against Iran, bodes well, too.
What can we expect in Qatar? South Korea may need contributed probably the most memorable moments in Russia 4 years ago — eliminating Germany in Kazan — but its tournament was still a disappointment, eliminated within the group stage alongside the reigning champion. The query this yr might be similar to it was then: Does Tottenham’s Son Heung-min have enough of a supporting forged to shine?
The way it qualified Placed within the more competitive of Asia’s two final qualifying groups — alongside Saudi Arabia and Australia — Japan toiled, at first, losing two of its opening three games. Hajime Moriyasu’s team recovered, though, winning six games in a row, even when few of those victories were emphatic.
What can we expect in Qatar? Japan tends to oscillate between exiting the World Cup on the group stage and exiting within the round of 16; the chances are high that the identical will apply again this time around. The one note of encouragement, though, is that there are more Japanese players in Europe than there have been for some years: not only the celebs at Liverpool and Arsenal, but a clutch of representatives at Stuttgart and Celtic and Eintracht Frankfurt. That have may come in useful.
The way it qualified Hervé Renard’s team provided what was, essentially, a mirror image to Japan’s qualification process: it began strong, increase what proved to be an unassailable lead over Australia, after which appeared to switch off, losing in Japan after which drawing with China. By that stage, though, it could afford to coast just a little bit.
What can we expect in Qatar? Renard, the globe-trotting French coach with the long blond hair and the open-necked shirt, made his name by winning the African Cup of Nations twice, but his sole experience of a World Cup was being eliminated on the group stage with Morocco in 2018. With a squad based entirely in Saudi Arabia, it is difficult to see him bettering that on the second attempt.
The way it qualified As ever, South America’s qualifying group was a frantic scrap to occupy considered one of the 2 automatic slots not occupied by Brazil and Argentina. Ecuador made it thanks in no small part to a wonderful home record — it lost just once, to Peru, at altitude in Quito — and the six goals of D.C. United’s Michael Estrada.
What can we expect in Qatar? There’s a case to be made that Ecuador is now well-placed to determine itself as South America’s third force, a job previously played by the likes of Colombia (2010-2014) and Chile (2014-2018). Gustavo Alfaro, the Argentine coach, has a young, talented squad, though the shortage of a high-caliber goal-scorer could also be a hindrance.
The way it qualified Few countries can have endured quite a lot angst on the solution to Qatar as Uruguay, which got here so near failing to make it to the finals that it parted company with Óscar Washington Tabarez, the beloved coach who had grow to be synonymous with the country’s national side, halfway through the tournament. His alternative, Diego Alonso, guided the team over the ultimate few hurdles with surprising assurance and little to no fuss.
What can we expect in Qatar? This might be the ultimate stand of Uruguay’s great generation, the one which got here of age in South Africa in 2010 and can still, one way or the other, carry the country’s hopes into Qatar. The forwards will still be Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani; the defense will still be marshaled by Atlético Madrid’s Jose María Gímenez. Age, almost definitely, will prevent a repeat of that run to the semifinals 12 years ago, but there might be no more wily team within the tournament.
The way it qualified Canada has not, famously, been to a World Cup since 1986; though the country began qualification with hopes of ending that wait, it will doubtless have imagined a fraught and stressful path through the North American octagon. It didn’t work out like that: Canada sailed through, from start to complete, not only securing a spot but ending above each the USA and Mexico in the method.
What can we expect in Qatar? Canada isn’t more likely to win the World Cup — sorry, Canada — but there is no such thing as a reason to consider it should be humiliated. John Herdman has a sensible, industrious squad with two beacons of real star quality: Alphonso Davies (once he’s healthy again) and Jonathan David. Successful tournaments have been built on less.
The way it qualified It might be a little bit of a stretch to suggest qualification went easily for Ghana. Having missed out on Russia 4 years ago, it took three coaches, a deeply controversial penalty kick and a victory over Nigeria on away goals to hold the Black Stars to Qatar.
What can we expect in 2022? This isn’t quite so star-studded a squad because the team that took Ghana to inside a missed penalty of the semifinals in 2010, and even the one eliminated within the group stage in 2014: Arsenal’s Thomas Partey is by a long way the standout performer. The tournament could, though, come at a fantastic time for a promising crop of talent: Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus, Roma’s Felix Afena-Gyan and Kamaldeen Sulemana of Rennes.
The way it qualified Twice in seven weeks, Senegal and Egypt couldn’t be separated. First, in February, the African Cup of Nations final went to penalties. Then, after narrow home wins in Cairo and Dakar, so did their World Cup playoff. On each occasions, Egypt stuttered, and Sadio Mané didn’t, turning his country into continental champion and earning it a spot on the World Cup.
What can we expect in 2022? Senegal could be the best-equipped team Africa has sent to the World Cup for the reason that Ivory Coast’s golden generation in 2014. In Mané, it has considered one of the world’s best players, and around him are a clutch of mainstays of Europe’s best and brightest teams: Edouard Mendy, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly. Aliou Cissé’s team may have a little bit of assist in the draw, but it should be aiming for the knockout rounds on the very least.
The way it qualified Vahid Halilhodzic is nice at qualifying. The Bosnian coach has taken three countries to the last three World Cups — Ivory Coast, Algeria and Japan — and there was rarely any doubt that he would repeat the trick with Morocco. It won six of six in its qualifying group, after which comfortably dispatched the Democratic Republic of Congo in a playoff. No other African team has made it look quite really easy.
What can we expect in 2022? Oddly, just once has Halilhodzic actually made it to a finals: he was fired by each Ivory Coast and Japan before the World Cup rolled around. When he did get there, in 2014, he took Algeria to the round of 16. Now, with a squad including Achraf Hakimi and Youssef En-Nesyri, he’ll consider he can match that achievement with Morocco.
The way it qualified Exquisitely. Did you see it? You should have seen it. Go and watch the video. Even in the event you’ve already watched it, watch it again. Download it. Within the 119th minute of the second leg of its playoff against Algeria, Cameroon was beaten, condemned to heartache on the last. After which, within the 124th minute, Karl Toko Ekambi appeared, and all the pieces modified. It is difficult to assume how any team could have ever qualified more dramatically.
What can we expect in 2022? Cameroon finished third within the Cup of Nations on home soil earlier this yr — beaten by Egypt, on penalties, within the semifinals — and Coach Rigobert Song has built an experienced, well-organized side. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar lend it a threat at one end, however the star is, almost definitely, at the opposite, in the shape of goalkeeper André Onana.
The way it qualified Thanks, largely, to a particularly miserly defense: Tunisia conceded only twice in Africa’s second group stage, after which managed to see off Mali by a single goal within the playoff. It doesn’t have the identical form of star quality as any of 4 other African representatives, but it should be no pushover in Qatar.
What can we expect in 2022? Tunisia has never survived beyond the group stage in any of the five World Cups it has reached, and it’s more likely to be forged because the weakest of the African qualifiers this time around, too. Its defensive solidity will stand Jalel Kadri’s team in good stead, though, while the young Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri adds a little bit finesse.
The way it qualified Portugal should, really, have been home and dry months ago, just for its concentration to falter on the worst possible moment: a last-minute goal in Lisbon from Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic condemned Cristiano Ronaldo and his support staff to Europe’s repachage. It didn’t detain Portugal too long, though: Turkey and North Macedonia were dispatched with relative ease to keep up the country’s record of qualifying for each major tournament this century.
What can we expect in 2022? Though the main focus will, in fact, be on what’s more likely to be Ronaldo’s final tournament, Portugal shouldn’t be reduced to the Manchester United forward and 10 others. Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes add guile in midfield, João Cancelo is amongst the perfect fullbacks on the planet, and Diogo Jota has emerged as a poacher supreme. Portugal will travel to Qatar believing it will probably win the tournament.
The way it qualified Poland’s players made it absolutely plain each to the country’s authorities, and to FIFA, that they might be greater than willing to forego qualification in the event that they were forced to fulfill Russia in a playoff within the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine. That message, almost definitely, was the decisive consider Russia’s expulsion from the tournament. Poland was given a bye, and duly beat Sweden comfortably to book its place.
What can we expect in 2022? The query for Poland this winter might be similar to it has been for a decade or more: can the coach — on this case Czeslaw Michniewicz — construct a team that enables the country’s biggest asset, Robert Lewandowski, to shine? So long as Lewandowski, the best pure striker in world soccer, is present, Poland shouldn’t be taken flippantly.
The way it qualified For all of the low moments — defeats in Panama and Canada, dispiriting draws with El Salvador and Jamaica — and for all of the lingering anxiety that there a repeat of 2017 might in some unspecified time in the future drift into view, Coach Gregg Berhalter’s team progressed relatively serenely back to the World Cup, making it to Qatar with (effectively) a game to spare and without losing to Mexico.
What can we expect in 2022? That the USA has the core of a really gifted young team, one built around Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, shouldn’t be in query. If all of those players remain fit, and if Berhalter manages to choose — or unearth — a standout striker, there’s abundant reason for optimism ahead of the tournament.
The way it qualified In reality, it’s Mexico, moderately than the USA, that has seemed unsure and inchoate during qualifying during the last couple of years. Gerardo Martino’s team made it through despite failing to beat either the U.S. or Canada, home or away, and after managing to lose each the Nations League and the Gold Cup finals to its northern neighbor within the last yr.
What can we expect in 2022? Mexico’s recent World Cup record is a proud and frustrating one: seven straight tournaments, seven straight progressions out of the group stage, seven straight eliminations within the round of 16. There’s reason to consider this is perhaps the time to interrupt the streak, but for all of the talent at Martino’s disposal — Raul Jiménez, Hirving Lozano, Diego Lainez, Jesús Corona — qualifying has done nothing to suggest it should be in quite the best way Mexico wants it.
That’s 29 teams, so FIFA still needs three more: Those might be decided in June, it hopes.
One will come from the war-delayed European playoff: Ukraine must play Scotland, after which the winner will face Wales for Europe’s final place.
The opposite two will come from intercontinental playoff matches: single elimination games set to be held in Qatar (where, it must be noted, it should be blistering hot in June). Costa Rica, the fourth-place finisher in Concacaf, will meet Recent Zealand, the Oceania champion, in a single game. In the opposite, Peru, which got here fifth in South America, will play the last Asian survivor: either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.
By then, those teams will know their paths in Qatar, as their places might be drawn with the remaining of the teams on Friday. They’ll just need to claim them.