Team-by-Team Pinstickers’ Guide – Star Sports

For the first time ever, the World Cup is being held in the winter and, all of a sudden, it is now nearly upon us!

If you’re unsure about which team to back, don’t panic – Star Sports have you covered with our mega pinstickers’ guide where every nation’s chances at the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar are assessed and ranked!

Check out more of our World Cup 2022 content below:

YES/NO Competiton –

Countdown Diary –

Q&A with Dave Jolly (Head of Trading) –

Schedule & Groups –

🇧🇷 Brazil ★★★★★

Five-time winners Brazil are the current favourites to go all the way at the 2022 World Cup. Their rich history in this competition, coupled with the seasoned quality they possess all over the pitch, means that many view them as the team to beat in Qatar.

They set a new record for most points in the qualifiers, amassing 45 points after winning 14 and drawing just three of their 17 fixtures. Including the 12-game unbeaten run leading to the 2018 tournament, they are now 29 games unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers.

There are some question marks over the coach and whether he can get this side over the line, but with experience like Thiago Silva in defence, power and exuberance in midfield with Fabinho and Bruno Guimaraes, topped off with the pace and skill brought by Neymar and Vinicius Jr in the final-third – they should go really well at this year’s World Cup.

Group: G (Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon)

Manager: Tite – The former Corinthians coach has been in charge of the national side since 2016. He will be hoping to improve on the last World Cup, where he could only guide Canarinho to the quarter-finals, as well as a disappointing performance at the latest Copa America.

Key player: Neymar – For a long time, Neymar has been Brazil’s talisman; racking up 75 goals in 121 caps for his country. He will be going into the tournament in good form as well as having made a good start to the domestic season with PSG.

Best previous performance: Winners, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 & 2002



🇦🇷 Argentina ★★★★★

It’s been a long time since Argentina won the World Cup – and it’s the last big achievement that Lionel Messi hasn’t claimed for himself – but Argentina are surely massive contenders to take glory in Qatar.

Lionel Scaloni’s side are unbeaten in 35 games – a run that dates back to 2019 – and they will set a new record for international men’s football if they can stay unbeaten in the group stages.

Last summer’s Copa America win – their first major trophy for 28 years – came after beating Brazil in the final (having dispatched Uruguay along the way) can provide inspiration for another major challenge and arrive here with a deep and well-balanced squad that has a mix of youth, talent and experience.

All eyes are on Lionel Messi – playing as well as he ever has for PSG this season – but defences mustn’t forget about Lautaro Martinez, who scored seven goals in qualifying, and their midfield and defence has improved a great deal since Russia, with Cristian Romero establishing himself in defence whilst Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso bulk up the midfield.

Group: C (Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland)

Manager: Lionel Scaloni – Amazingly in his first job as a manager, Scaloni took over as a caretaker after Argentina’s defeat to France in the 2018 World Cup and hasn’t looked back, leading the Albiceleste to third place in the 2019 Copa America when Brazil got the better of them.

Key player: Lionel Messi – What more can be said about the man? Messi almost single-handedly dragged Argentina to glory in 2014 when Mario Gotze broke Argentinean hearts and he’s enjoyed an ominously good season for PSG, scoring 12 goals and registering 13 assists in 17 matches for the French club this season.

Best previous performance: Winners, 1978 & 1986



🇫🇷 France ★★★★

Can the reigning Champions be the first side to win back to back World Cups in 50 years? Les Bleus will have an uphill challenge as mercurial midfielder Paul Pogba has been ruled out with injury and team harmony suffered after the devastating quarter-final loss at Euro 2020.

Despite the absence of Paul Pogba and potentially even Ngolo Kante, France are safe in their numbers and quality of depth. With the emergence of teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga as well as Aurelien Tchouameni, both now at Real Madrid, France’s midfield is stable regardless. With Mbappe and Benzema supplied by Ousmane Dembele, Christopher Nkunku and others, goals will always flow for Les Bleus.

Defensively, they’ve been sound too and their depth at centre-back is unlike any other. For every age group, there are two or three superstar defenders. France will only be satisfied with another trophy to bring home. Only they can answer the big question: Which French side will we see? The 2018 vintage or the stop-star disappointments of the Euros?

Group: D (Australia, Denmark, Tunisia)

Manager: Didier Deschamps – 10 years in the hot-seat is astounding for any manager but for Didier Deschamps, nurturing French talent and turning them into ruthless winning machines is second nature. His style of football isn’t the most enticing to watch, but if you win, who cares how it looks?

Key player: Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain’s poster boy, Nike’s superstar, as revered as one man can be in France. 18 goals and 5 assists this season for PSG, 28 goals and 21 assists in 59 caps for France. As Messi and Ronaldo likely say farewell, Mbappe is only just getting started.

Best Previous performance: Winners, 1998, 2018



🇪🇸 Spain ★★★★

Since the glory days of Vicente Del Bosque came to a close, where his side achieved the unthinkable of winning three straight major tournaments between 2008 and 2012, Spain have been in transition – and things haven’t always gone smoothly.

Whether it’s Julen Lopetegui getting fired on the eve of World Cup 2018 or successor Luis Enrique quitting and then re-joining four months later – there has rarely been a dull day in Spain over the past few years. But, finally, are they set to recapture some of the magic of 2008-2012 in Qatar?

Well, as you’d expect, they are not short of quality players; 19-year-old Pedri the jewel in their crown and already such an important asset for both club and country. They will be hoping to go one better after reaching the semi-final of EURO 2020 and, after another 18 months of development and coaching from Enrique, will certainly be expecting to be there or thereabouts.

Group: E (Costa Rica, Germany, Japan)

Manager: Luis Enrique – Possesses excellent pedigree at club level having led Barcelona to a domestic treble in 2014-15. His first international tournament was not a disaster but he will be aiming for more in Qatar.

Key player: Pedri – At 19, it is remarkable to think how vital Pedri has already become for club and country. The Barcelona midfielder’s skill, technique and intelligence rank him among the best young players in world football.

Best previous performance: Winners, 2010



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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England ★★★★

England have an exciting crop of young talent coming through and Gareth Southgate has a strong pool of players to pick from. Although, frustratingly, there are a few injuries to contend with as Reece James and Kyle Walker both face a race against time to get fit for the tournament whilst wing-back Ben Chilwell is the latest player to pick up a knock that puts his place in Qatar at risk.

These injuries may force Southgate to re-jig his plans slightly which, coupled with the disastrous Nations League campaign England are coming into this World Cup off the back of, means that confidence in the Three Lions’ chances perhaps isn’t as high as it was for EURO 2020.

Although, that said, with the players they have – the likes of Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Harry Kane – they should still have a decent chance of success.

Group: B (Iran, USA, Wales)

Manager: Gareth Southgate – Heading into this tournament under a bit of pressure. Impressively guided England to the semi-final of the last World Cup and the final of EURO 2020, but some question marks over tactics, style of play and results since the Euros. Has a point to prove.

Key player: Harry Kane – The England skipper has made a decent start to the Premier League season with Spurs and will be hoping to carry that into the World Cup. He is the current 15/2 favourite to win the Golden Boot.

Best previous performance: Winners, 1966



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🇩🇪 Germany ★★★★

With the long reign of Joachim Low coming to an end after being knocked out of EURO 2020 by England at Wembley Stadium, this will be a fresh, new-look Germany side heading into this World Cup under the mentorship of Hansi Flick.

There have been some promising signs from the early stages of Flick’s reign, but there have also been indications that this team can be a little volatile and inconsistent; demonstrated perfectly by a superb 5-2 win over EURO 2020 champions Italy being followed up shortly after with a desperately poor defeat to Hungary.

With the tools they have available coupled with some much-needed fresh leadership, they will fancy their chances of improving on EURO 2020, but a likely route to the final could include a last-16 fixture against Belgium or a potential clash with Brazil in the quarter-finals and that *might* just be a bridge too far for this team.

Not to be counted out, though, by any means. They have some really good players.

Group: E (Japan, Spain, Costa Rica)

Manager: Hansi Flick – Replaced Joachim Low in 2021 after winning the Champions League as Bayern Munich manager the year prior. Not had the easiest ride so far as Germany boss – took a fair amount of flak after their 1-0 loss to Hungary – but is still a smart, astute coach.

Key player: Joshua Kimmich – Incredibly versatile; arguably one of the best right-backs and best defensive midfielders in the world. His passing and vision among his main strengths. Will be key for Germany.

Best previous performance: Winners, 1954, 1974, 1990 & 2014



🇳🇱 Netherlands ★★★★

The Netherlands failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2018 so will be looking to make up for lost time when they head to Qatar this winter for the 2022 tournament.

Under the stewardship of former Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, the Dutch appear more cohesive and harmonious than perhaps they did under Frank De Boer and they are currently unbeaten in Van Gaal’s latest stint in charge.

As ever, Van Gaal’s tournament press conferences will be worth watching, but his side could well be too. They are probably not quite at the level where they could really challenge for the main prize, but they have every chance of being competitive at this tournament and will almost certainly look like a better side than they did at EURO 2020.

Group: A (Senegal, Ecuador, Qatar)

Manager: Louis Van Gaal – A unique character to say the least, Van Gaal came out of retirement in 2021 for his third stint as Netherlands boss and this will be his second World Cup.

Key player: Virgil Van Dijk – The Liverpool defender has not had the best of seasons so far for his club but is still a huge part of the Dutch side and the Netherlands are a much better side with him in it.

Best previous performance: Runners-up, 1974 & 1978



🇩🇰 Denmark ★★★

The Danes have gone from plucky also-rans into genuine contenders in recent years. Making only their 6th appearance at the World Cup this winter, Denmark has become a hotbed of football talent and innovative coaching that is present in most of the major European leagues.

Placed in a simple qualifying group with Scotland, Israel, Austria, Faroe Islands and Moldova, Die Rød-Hvite (The Red & Whites) sailed through, winning all but one, scoring a massive 30 goals and conceding 3.

Their Euros in 2021 went well, losing out on a place in the final to a rebounded penalty vs England, but this is a strong team with little obvious weakness, and meeting current holders France again at the group stage won’t worry this team. After all, they beat France in the 2022 Nations League both home and away (1-2 in June and 2-0 in September).

The top of our three-star picks.

Group: D (Tunisia, France, Australia)

Manager: Kasper Hjulmand – Since taking the job in 2020, Hjulmand commands a 67% win percentage and has lost only 9 of his 34 games in charge. They play attacking football, based around the technical qualities of Christian Eriksen and Mikkel Damsgaard.

Key player: Christian Eriksen – Eriksen is undoubtedly still Denmark’s key player. After recovering from the tragedy of his cardiac arrest at the Euros, he has rebuilt his career in the Premier League, first with Brentford and now at Manchester United. His 39 goals and 26 assists in 117 caps speak for itself.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 1998



🇧🇪 Belgium ★★★

2018’s bronze medallists find themselves going for a bit of a last hurrah in Qatar. With an ageing squad, what is probably Belgium’s greatest ever team is looking at a final chance of World Cup glory.

The Red Devils are another major European nation that flew through qualifying, finishing undefeated at the top of their group (Wales, Czech Republic, Estonia, Belarus) with 20 points. Whilst the Euros didn’t go to plan last summer, Belgium will be determined to finally lift some silverware here. Everyone remembers their World Cup run in 2018, sweeping aside Mexico and Brazil in the knockouts only to fall to the eventual winners yet again, this time in France.

Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne will be bringing their lethal partnership back and both are well in form this season as well. Captain Eden Hazard has struggled since moving to Madrid but after making little impression at the Euros there are wrongs to right.

Group: F (Canada, Croatia, Morocco)

Manager: Roberto Martinez – Offers of a return to the Premier League have not yet tempted the Spaniard Roberto Martinez back into club management since taking the job in 2016, as he seeks that elusive trophy with Belgium. Built more on “sufferball” instead of the tiki-taka ways of his fellow countrymen, Martinez will be relying on his key lieutenants both on pitch (De Bruyne, Hazard and ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois) as well off pitch in his assistant Thierry Henry to finally deliver.

Key player: Kevin De Bruyne – At tournaments in the past, Eden Hazard was surely always Belgium’s go to man, but no more. Kevin De Bruyne is the best midfielder in the world and with age, is seemingly only getting better. This season, he’s already racked up 12 assists to go with his three goals for Manchester City, and who could forget that strike vs Brazil in 2018? 25 goals and a staggering 46 assists in 93 caps for his nation, no wonder they call him King Kev.

Best Previous performance: Third place, 2018



🇵🇹 Portugal ★★★

Portugal find themselves with somewhat of a Golden generation at the moment, even if round-of-16 exits at both the previous World Cup and Euros left a lot to be desired. Cristiano Ronaldo is the talisman but they have other options – for all that the Manchester United man will be at the centre of attention.

Bar the untimely injury to Diogo Jota – a serious blow to their chances – there’s a lot of quality in the Portuguese team. Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo play together week in week out for Manchester City and that familiarity will be just as important as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo linking together the attack.

Sprinkling in the mercurial young talent such Rafael Leao and Joao Felix, or even Matheus Nunes and you have a side that on paper can take on any team. Will they put their best foot forward this winter?

Group: H (Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea)

Manager: Fernando Santos – This is Santos’ fourth major tournament with Portugal. After leading them to victory at Euro 2016, he has fostered a younger side that won the 2018/19 Nations League, but that will be looking for a much stronger World Cup performance than four years ago.

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo – Despite what’s said above, Ronaldo is always going to be the star, he demands it. Whilst his fascinating talent is on the wane, he knows his job isn’t to be the man week in week out at Manchester United, but to turn up in the big moments on the biggest stages.

Best previous performance: Third place, 1966



🇭🇷 Croatia ★★★

The 2018 World Cup runners-up are making their sixth appearance at the World Cup in Qatar, hoping to go that final step that they couldn’t in Russia. They find themselves in Group F with the 2018 Bronze medallists Belgium as well as Morocco and Canada who will be looking for an upset.

Croatia breezed through their Qualifying group, only losing once, with 23 points out of a max of 30. The later suspended Russia featured in Group H but a free-scoring Croatia saw off that main threat to win the group. A relentlessly solid defence only conceded 4 goals and Kockasti (The Checkered Ones) went through automatically.

Their team is expected to be largely similar to the squad from 2018, but the emergence of younger defensive talents such as Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa and Duje Caleta-Car have made an impact in the interim.

Group: F (Belgium, Canada, Morocco)

Manager: Zlatko Dalic – Coached Croatia to the Final in 2018 and remains in post now. With an upcoming appearance next year at the Nations League finals, Croatia are in as strong a position as they could be, and might just well be a valuable outside shot.

Key player: Luka Modric – 37-year-old Real Madrid star won the Ballon d’Or off his performances for club and country in 2018, could he be about to do the same again? His form for Real Madrid is that of a timeless player, and the Croatian captain, playmaker and superstar will surely give his all to make more history, adding to his national record 154 caps.

Best previous performance: Runners-up, 2018



🇺🇾 Uruguay ★★★

The first-ever World Cup winners return to the competition they started but Group H is not one to take lightly. Defensive worries are there for all to see. Scoring 22 in 18 matches in qualifying isn’t fantastic but conceding 22 as well? A huge risk in a group full of goalscoring potential.

Luis Suarez has returned to ply his trade in his home nation, playing at Nacional, whilst fellow striker Darwin Nunez is causing a stir at Liverpool, but neither have scored too many this season (6 and 7 respectively).

However, Federico Valverde is blowing minds at Real Madrid, having been a key part of their UCL winning squad last season, he’s already got 8 goals and 4 assists this term in 18 games. A 36-year-old Diego Godin is expected to lead the backline still, which is a significant worry against the mobile forwards of their group

Group: H (South Korea, Portugal, Ghana)

Manager: Diego Alonso – Steadily rose up the ranks, building his reputation in South and Latin America, including winning the CONCACAF Champions’ League and getting a third-place finish at the 2017 Club World Cup with CF Pachuca of Mexico. Sealed qualification to Qatar World Cup within first four games.

Key player: Federico Valverde – Whilst in past years it may have been Suarez who decides Uruguay’s fate, in 2022, times are changing for La Celeste (Sky Blues). Getting the most out of the Real Madrid star is vital for Uruguay. Whether as a winger or a central midfielder, freeing Valverde to exploit space, run at defenders and score goals like he’s so used to is the best way forward for the 24 year old to increase his small tally of 4 goals in 44 caps and get Uruguay into the latter stages.

Best previous performance: Champions (1930, 1950)



🇸🇳 Senegal ★★★

After defeating Egypt – in a repeat of the African Cup of Nations final – for a place at the World Cup, there is growing optimism that Senegal could achieve something in Qatar and that they represent Africa’s best chance of success.

They were crowned champions of Africa for the first time in February and been looking like a really good side for a while now. Yes, Sadio Mane is at the core of it all with his pace and dynamism up-front, but there is so much more to Senegal.

Confidence is flowing through this team right now and momentum can be one of the hardest things to stop in a knockout competition like this. They will get through the group without too much problem and may end up as the surprise package after that.

Group: A (Netherlands, Qatar, Ecuador)

Manager: Aliou Cisse – There were question marks about Cisse prior to their African Cup of Nations campaign in 2021. I think it would be fair to say he has answered those questions now after winning the AFCON and then guiding Senegal to the World Cup. Played in England with Birmingham City and Portsmouth prior to his managerial career.

Key player: Sadio Mane – A player that should need no introduction to British football fans from his time with Liverpool, where he 120 goals in 269 appearances in all competitions for the Reds. He has settled into life in Germany quickly since signing for Bayern Munich, already taking Bundesliga defences by storm! Will be a huge player for Senegal in Qatar.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 2002



🇨🇭 Switzerland ★★

Switzerland qualified for this tournament after beating EURO 2020 champions Italy to top-spot in their group; a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria in their final qualifying group sealing their route through to the finals.

They have often been a side that fall at the first hurdle at the knock-out stage of major tournaments, but the Swiss stunned the world by defeating France in the round-of-16 at EURO 2020. Can they repeat their success – or even better it – at the World Cup?

They proved at the last European Championship and in the qualifying stage for this tournament that they are not a side to be underestimated and will see progression from this group as achievable. They might even be able to match their previous best of reaching the quarter-finals but that is probably the very best they can hope for.

Group: G (Cameroon, Brazil, Serbia)

Manager: Murat Yakin – Appointed last year after Vladimir Petkovic left for pastures new, Yakin has overseen nine matches so far as Switzerland boss; winning four, drawing four and losing one.

Key player: Granit Xhaka – His time at Arsenal hasn’t always been plain-sailing, but Xhaka is enjoying a super season so far with his contributions finally starting to be appreciated and understood. He will be a key cog in Switzerland’s midfield in Qatar.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 1938 & 1954



🇲🇽 Mexico ★★

17 appearances at the World Cup, not one missed since 1990 where they were banned, Mexico will be looking to break a 28-year-old run this winter. Since 1994, El Tri (The Tricolore) have made, but then lost at the round-of-16 every World Cup, but could a tricky group make it so they never even get there this time?

As is normal, qualification was mostly a breeze, finishing in the top 3 of CONCACAF’s group as they always do, but this time second, behind Canada. They failed to beat Canada and the United States, but no harm was done as everyone else was swept aside with large ease.

However, for some of Mexico’s players, this will be their final World Cup, so players like Guardado and Moreno will want to go out on a high, even if they’re having to face Messi’s Argentina and Lewandowski’s Poland.

Group: C (Argentina, Poland, Saudi Arabia)

Manager: Gerardo Martino – Martino took on the Mexico job in 2019 after time with Atlanta United and Argentina. Has won silverware at multiple clubs, whether managing in the Paraguayan Premier Division, winning Atlanta’s first MLS Cup, a three time runner-up at the Copa America, as well as a Gold Cup with Mexico in 2019.

Key player: Hirving Lozano – Lozano is the pick to be the star for Mexico at this tournament. Despite Raul Jimenez and legendary captain Andres Guardado both likely to be involved, the Napoli winger is a key part of one of the most in-form teams in Europe.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 1970, 1986



🇵🇱 Poland ★★

Poland have regularly been a team that promises better than they often deliver at international tournaments in recent years, despite finishing third twice in years gone by. In 2018, they failed to get out of the group and it was a similar story in the recent Euros as well.

Qualification was tough for Poland, in a group with England, Albania, Hungary, Andorra and San Marino, they finished second and faced a play off against Sweden where they won 2-0. Robert Lewandowski added 9 goals to his international tally during qualification so goals are not an issue for this team. But their defence could cause issues as they lack the grit and nous to cope with the world’s best players, a scary thought as they face Lionel Messi and Argentina in the groups.

Group: C (Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina)

Manager: Czeslaw Michniewicz – Journeyman of Polish football, having managed 10 domestic teams before taking the international job early in 2022 after Paulo Sousa’s departure. Michniewicz’ record after 8 games stands at W3 D2 L3, so an underdog fighting spirit may be required in Qatar, something which he brings in abundance.

Key player: Robert Lewandowski – Who else but their captain, all time leading goalscorer and most capped player? Lewandowski might be 34, but with 76 goals in 134 caps and a new lease of life at Barcelona, who dares to underestimate him? If Poland do well, it’ll be him they’ll have to thank.

Best previous performance: Third place, 1974, 1982



🇷🇸 Serbia ★★

Serbia have failed to progress past the group-stage of a World Cup finals since they became an independent nation in 2006 and that is what they will be desperate to achieve in Qatar.

After their failure to reach EURO 2020, in which a missed Aleksandr Mitrovic penalty proved decisive in their play-off match with Scotland, Serbia redeemed themselves in World Cup qualifying by topping their group ahead of Portugal.

They are a good side, heading into this tournament in good form, so there is ‘dark horse’ potential there but the same could be said for Switzerland. The final group match between them could be decisive.

Group: G (Brazil, Cameroon, Switzerland)

Manager: Dragan Stojkovic – Began his managerial career in Japan with Nagoya Grampus before moving to China with Guangzhou R&F and then taking over Serbia in 2021. Was considered one of the best ever players in the history of Yugoslav and Serbian football.

Key player: Aleksandr Mitrovic – A player that British football fans will be very familiar with from his time with Newcastle United and Fulham. Last season, he scored a record-breaking 43 league goals in 44 appearances in the Championship for the Cottagers.

Best previous performance: Fourth-place, 1962



🇺🇸 USA ★★

With North American football growing rapidly, the USA national team has made big strides forward in recent years with a plethora of exciting players coming through and the strength of their player pool better than ever.

They missed out on the 2018 tournament in Russia, though, and this will be their first appearance at a World Cup since 2014 where they were knocked out in the round-of-16 by Belgium.

Gregg Berhalter has all the tools available to be successful – with quality players Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson – it’s just about bringing it all together and moulding it into something cohesive that works. Wales and Iran are certainly no pushovers, but they will fancy their chances of at least grabbing that second-spot with the quality they possess or possibly even beating England to top-spot.

Group: B (Wales, England, Iran)

Manager: Gregg Berhalter – Took over four years ago after a successful stint at Columbus Crew in MLS. Guided USA to their seventh CONCAF Gold Cup in 2021.

Key player: Christian Pulisic – The USA football poster boy. Although things have still not quite clicked for him at Chelsea, he will be their biggest attacking threat at the World Cup. 21 goals in 52 international caps.

Best previous performance: Semi-finals, 1930



🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Wales ★★

After a solid EURO 2020, in which they reached the round-of-16, things have been heading in upwards trajectory for Wales in recent months and they have been playing some good stuff under Rob Page who was finally given the permanent gig in September.

Gareth Bale is still the main man, but Page has found a way of maximising his squad and making it a lot more than just a ‘one man team’. Their team spirit, in particular, is something to be really admired.

They haven’t been placed in an easy group but qualification to the knockout phase doesn’t feel unachievable for them. That opening match against USA feels crucial, though.

Group: B (USA, Iran, England)

Manager: Rob Page – Recently earned himself the job on a permanent basis after standing in for Ryan Giggs at EURO 2020. Previously managed the Wales under-21 side as well as EFL clubs Port Vale and Northampton Town.

Key player: Gareth Bale – Joined Los Angeles FC in June, but is much more focussed on international football. Will be fully motivated for his first World Cup with Wales and is still their main man in attack.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 1958



🇨🇦 Canada ★★

This will be Canada’s second ever World Cup appearance. A nation who have only relatively recently embraced football, their team is one full of young talents, some of whom have reached the top of European football already like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

However, it will not be easy for them in Group F, facing Croatia, the 2018 runners up; Belgium, 3rd place in 2018 and Morocco.

They beat both Mexico and the United States to top their qualifying group, scoring 23 and conceding 7 in the process, including being unbeaten against both of their major opponents.

Group: F (Belgium, Croatia, Morocco)

Manager: John Herdman – The Englishman is making history at this World Cup too, having previously managed the Canadian women’s team for 7 years before taking the men’s job in 2018. This makes him the first ever manager to manage both a men’s and women’s side of the same country at FIFA World Cups.

Key player: Alphonso Davies – The 22-year-old Bayern Munich man is a huge part of Canada’s team. Their main defender, a creator and even a goalscorer, Davies contributes consistently to Canada’s successes and defensively suffer without him. 12 goals in 34 caps is a record most forwards would pride themselves on, here? It’s a left back.

Best previous performance: Group stage, 1986



🇰🇷 South Korea ★★

South Korea find themselves in an incredibly tough group for their 10th consecutive World Cup appearance, however the Tigers of Asia are by no means pushovers; a 2-0 win at the 2018 World Cup ver Germany knocked out the then reigning champions and in more recent years, have been a real challenger in Asian football.

They came second in Qualification, behind only Iran and only losing once, conceding 3 times. More and more of their players are in European football, with defender Kim Min-Jae a summer signing for Serie A leaders Napoli as well as Son Heung-Min and Hwang Hee-Chan plying their trade in the Premier League.

Group: H (Ghana, Portugal, Uruguay)

Manager: Paulo Bento – Since taking the South Korea job after the 2018 World Cup, Bento has been moderately successful; they reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in 2019, losing to winners Qatar, but won the East Asian Championship facing Japan in the final that same year.

Key player: Son Heung-Min – 
Son Heung-Min is undoubtedly South Korea’s star player, with the captain’s armband and 35 goals for his nation. However, after fracturing his eye socket, he is now a doubt and in a race against time to make it to Qatar. Without him, the Tigers’ hopes could be over before they’ve even started.

Best previous performance: Fourth place, 2002



🇲🇦 Morocco ★★

Morocco find themselves yet again in a challenging group at the World Cup. Despite nicking a point off Spain in the 2018 edition, Belgium and Croatia will offer the Atlas Lions a tough test, and Canada will be no pushovers either.

However, after a disappointing AFCON at the start of the year, the team have gone through upheaval and new boss Walid Regragui was only appointed in August and have only had two games under him – a 2-0 win over Chile and a 0-0 vs Paraguay.

The return of Hakim Ziyech to international football is a huge plus though and with fellow stars like Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri led by captain Romain Saiss, the Atlas Lions should feel emboldened to do well. And who knows? A good result in the opening game against Croatia could turn Group F on its head.

Group: F (Belgium, Canada, Croatia)

Manager: Walid Regragui – Only been in the job a few months and has only had two games with the squad. However, he’s managed in the CAF Champions League and won it with Wydad AC this summer, beating Al-Ahly.

Key player: Hakim Ziyech – Exiled under the previous manager and even retired from international football at one point, the Chelsea playmaker is now back. Whilst his time at Chelsea has not gone to plan, Ziyech has scored 17 in 42 for Morocco and his return is a huge boost.

Best previous performance: Round-of-16, 1986.



🇪🇨 Ecuador ★

Ecuador finished fourth in the South American qualifying standings to book a slightly unlikely spot in Qatar, just their fourth appearance at the finals of a World Cup.

They did so with a bright, young team that had an average age of just 25 but, like many other nations, injuries have hit them hard in the lead-up to this tournament with key players Robert Arboleda, Ayrton Preciado and Joao Rojas all ruled out.

Stranger things have happened but, up against two potential ‘dark horses’ in the Netherlands and Senegal as well hosts Qatar in Group A, it is hard to see Ecuador going very far in this tournament.

Group: A (Qatar, Netherlands, Senegal)

Manager: Gustavo Alfaro – Highly-experienced coach. Guided Ecuador to fourth-spot in the South American qualification table and is now tasked with leading the nation into their first World Cup since 2014.

Key player: Enner Valencia – Yes, it’s the Enner Valencia who played for West Ham, he’s still going…and somehow still only 32?! The Ecuador skipper now plays for Fenerbache and has made a rip-roaring start to the Turkish Super Lig season.

Best previous performance: Round-of-16, 2006



🇨🇲 Cameroon ★

This will be Cameroon’s eighth appearance at a World Cup with their previous best coming in 1990 when a Roger Milla-inspired side reached the quarter-finals.

They qualified for this tournament after defeating Algeria in the third-round of their qualification process. They drew 2-2 over two legs meaning the away goals rule had to come into play which sent Cameroon through.

Cameroon have a young side and perhaps one for the future rather than the here and now. In a tricky group where Switzerland and Serbia will fancy their chances of grabbing second-place behind likely group winners Brazil, Rigobert Song’s side may slip through the cracks in Qatar.

Group: G (Switzerland, Serbia, Brazil)

Manager: Rigobert Song – The former Liverpool defender took charge earlier this year following the dismissal of Toni Conceicao, stepping up from the under-23 side where he had been manager for four years.

Key player: Karl Toko Ekambi – The Lyon winger, who has scored 12 goals in 50 caps for his country, will add pace, power and skill to the Cameroon front-line. Usually deployed on the left-side of attack.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 1990



🇬🇭 Ghana ★

This will be Ghana’s fourth time at the World Cup, having previously qualified three times in a row between 2006 and 2014. The Black Stars are one of the most iconic teams in African football and despite a challenging group, they will hope to upset the apple cart.

Group H pairs them with 2010 foes Uruguay, where after a Luis Suarez handball, Ghana were knocked out by a penalty shootout, so revenge, perhaps even rightful karma is on the agenda.

Their squad draws from across the world, with no less than five Premier League players most recently called up in September. Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey was an England youth player but switched to the Black Stars ahead of the World Cup, adding considerable pace and ability to a potentially frail defence. Bilbao attacker Inaki Williams is another recent switch, and will be a reliable source of creativity and goals for Ghana.

Group: H (Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea)

Manager: Otto Addo – First job as a head coach in senior football, but his CV is glistening regardless. Having previously worked as a scout and coach for Hamburger SV, Gladbach and Dortmund, he rejoined the Ghana set up in 2021 as assistant coach. He later became the interim boss in February 2022 before getting the job full time later.

Key player: Tariq Lamptey – Adds another level of quality to Ghana’s squad, especially in attack in which they so badly need the spark that Lamptey has shown in the Premier League. Despite injury issues, he’s playing more and more for Brighton which is only a good thing for Ghana.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 2010



🇯🇵 Japan ★

This is Japan’s seventh World Cup, continuing their run of qualifying for every one since their debut at the 1998 tournament.

Hajime Moriyasu has assembled a good side with talented forwards but, annoyingly for them, the tough group – dare I say ‘Group of Death’? – they have been lumbered with means their chance of beating their previous best of the round-of-16 feels unlikely.

They could provide Germany and Spain with a potential banana skin in Group E – and that is certainly what they will be hoping for – but those sides should probably go through.

Might win the award for best shirts at the competition though!

Group: E (Germany, Costa Rica, Spain)

Manager: Hajime Moriyasu – Appointed in 2018 after securing a silver medal in the Asian Games with the U-23 side. Led Sanfrecce Hiroshima to three J. League titles.

Key player: Junya Ito – A wide player full of pace and trickery, currently with Ligue 1 side Reims. Ito was a huge part of getting Japan to this tournament and will be a key man if they are to get past Germany and Spain.

Best previous performance: Round-of-16, 2002, 2010 & 2018



🇶🇦 Qatar ★

Tournament hosts Qatar will be hoping to make the most of their first-ever appearance at a World Cup.

Despite their lack of experience at the top table of world football, Qatar have been placed into a group that does provide them with a chance of progression to the knockout-stages. Although we do like the look of Netherlands and Senegal, it isn’t the toughest-looking group in the competition.

Qatar’s recent results in friendly fixtures have been pretty good (drawing with Chile and beating Nicaragua and Guatemala), but we really haven’t seen enough of them in competitive action to know exactly what they are going to bring. They could be anything, but it would be surprising to see them go far.

Group: A (Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands)

Manager: Felix Sanchez – Appointed in 2017, the Spaniard led Qatar to their first-ever AFC Asian Cup title in 2019. He earned his stripes as a youth coach at Barcelona between 1996 and 2006.

Key player: Akram Afif – One of the few members of the Qatar squad that has experience in Europe having played for Eupen in Belgium and Villarreal and Sporting Gijon in Spain. A left-sided forward who can also play through the middle, he has scored 26 goals in 86 caps and is still only 26.

Best previous performance: N/A



🇦🇺 Australia ★

This is Australia’s fifth consecutive World Cup appearance, but they face a huge uphill struggle to make it out of their group. Despite a heroic penalties victory over Peru to qualify, in which substitute goalkeeper David Redmayne became a national hero, current holders France, Denmark and Tunisia pose a stern test.

Australia did struggle in their third round qualifying group finishing third after Saudi Arabia and Japan, meaning they faced a further round vs the UAE (2-1 win) and then the intercontinental playoff vs Peru, a 5-4 win on penalties.

Goalscoring could be an issue, with only two recently capped players having scored 10+ on the international stage – Matthew Leckie and Tom Rogic.

Group: D (Denmark, France, Tunisia)

Manager: Graham Arnold – One of the most successful Australian managers around, having won three A-League Premiership titles, before taking the Australia job after the 2018 World Cup. Under his stewardship, Australia became the first ever nation to win 11 World Cup qualifying matches in a row.

Key player: Mathew Ryan – Australia’s captain and goalkeeper will be imperative to any success Australia manage to drag out of their group and beyond. A former Premier League shot-stopper with Brighton & Hove Albion, with spells at Arsenal, Real Sociedad, now at FC Copenhagen, he’s maintained a presence at clubs around the top of European football, which should stand him in good stead.

Best previous performance: Round-of-16, 2006



🇹🇳 Tunisia ★

The other underdogs of Group D, Tunisia are in for the difficult task of having to best France, Denmark and Australia if they want to get out of the Group stage for the first time.

A squad compiled of various talents from across Europe, Tunisia topped their qualifying group before winning a play-off against Mali, where an own goal was the only action across the two legs.

Tunisia do have goals in their side, both Wahbi Khazri and captain Youssef Msakni are in the country’s top-ten, but their squad is somewhat youthful. 19-year-old midfielder and Manchester United loanee, Hannibal Mejbri already has 18 caps for his country and will play a big role for the Eagles of Carthage.

Group: D (Australia, Denmark, France)

Manager: Jalel Kadri – Only took the job in January after having been an assistant for six months prior. Has spent his 21-year career in African and Middle Eastern football. Won the Kirin Cup with Tunisia, a four nation competition against Japan, Ghana and Chile.

Key player: Wahbi Khazri – Tunisia’s second all time leading goalscorer with 24 goals in 71 appearances. Currently playing for Montpellier, he’s spent his entire career in French football except for a two-year excursion with Sunderland.

Best previous performance: Group stage, 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018



🇮🇷 Iran ★

Iran are looking to make history at the Qatar World Cup by reaching the round-of-16 for the first time in their history, but the odds are stacked against them after being placed in a tough group alongside Wales, USA and England.

Perhaps a better side than people are aware of or give them credit for – now up into the top-20 in the FIFA world rankings – but, in all honesty, are they getting out of Group B? Probably not.

Group: B (England, Wales, USA)

Manager: Carlos Queiroz – In his second spell in charge; returning a matter of weeks before the start of the 2022 World Cup. Perhaps best known in the UK for his spell as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number two at Manchester United.

Key player: Sardar Azmoun – A striker that was once a target for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool before he joined Zenit St Petersburg in Russia. He has bagged an impressive 41 goals in 65 international caps.

Best previous performance: First round, 1978



🇨🇷 Costa Rica ★

Costa were winless in their first four qualifying matches, but managed to recover and book their spot in Qatar for their fifth appearance at a World Cup.

At the 2014 World Cup, they stunned the world by beating Italy, Uruguay and England to top-spot in their group and reaching the quarter-finals. However, they crashed out at the group-stage in 2018 without a win to their name.

They have been placed in a tough group and, although they have managed to navigate that before, it is hard to see them doing it here. Probable group-stage exit.

Group: E (Spain, Japan, Germany)

Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez – Very experienced manager who took over Costa Rica in 2021. Not his first taste of international management having coached Ecuador between 2004 and 2007 and Honduras from 2011 to 2014.

Key player: Keylor Navas – Often underrated during his time with Real Madrid and now PSG, goalkeeper Navas is a vital player for Costa Rica due to his shot-stopping and ball-playing abilities as well as his leadership qualities.

Best previous performance: Quarter-finals, 2014



🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia ★

Making their sixth appearance at the World Cup, Saudi Arabia have only made it to the last 16 once – in 1994 – that outcome looks unlikely as they have landed an extremely tough section in Group C with Argentina, Mexico and Poland.

The Green Falcons have improved under their new manger Hervé Renard, topping a qualifying group that contained Australia and Japan to reach the finals. That has been built upon a solid defence – they let in just six goals during qualifying – and they’ll need to be every bit as good against their Group C opposition.

Their main difficulty is likely to be going forward. Saleh Al Sheri and Salem Al Dawsari scored seven goals in qualifying but they’ve only scored 5 goals in their last 13 games and they’ll need to carry more threat to spring a surprise and make it to the last 16.

Group: C (Argentina, Mexico, Poland)

Manager: Herve Renard – One of the best managers in international football, having led Zambia and then the Ivory Coast to African Cup of Nations Glory. He also helped Morocco qualify for its first World Cup in 20 years, and after leaving that job following a surprise exit at the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

Key player: Salem Al-Dawsari – Scored a last gasp winner against Egypt – can play across attacking positions for Saudi Arabia and has 17 goals for the Green Falcons in this ten-year career. He scored 9 goals and assisted five in the last Saudi League season and will be crucial to their prospects.

Best previous performance: Round-of-16, 1994






Author: Eugene Morris