The 2022 World Cup starts in a fortnight, and starting this week Independent Media will breakdown each group, and the contenders most likely to progress to the knockout stages.
Today, Smiso Msomi takes a look at Group A
Qatar will take part in their first World Cup campaign after being handed the rights to host the biggest sporting event in the world. They head into the showpiece tournament as the lowest ranked team in their group at 50th.
The country has proven they have the infrastructure to ensure a successful event but they are yet to prove their pedigree where it matters most – on the pitch.
Their only piece of silverware was acquired back in 2019, when they beat perennial winners of the Asian Cup, Japan, to mark an unprecedented growth in the nation’s football.
Ecuador will be on the world stage for the fourth time after previously appearing in the 2002, 2006 and 2014 editions of the World Cup.
La Tri are the youngest team to qualify from CONMEBOL, with an average age of just over 25. They qualified for Qatar by finishing fourth in South America, two points ahead of Peru.
The biggest name expected on the Ecuador team sheet is Moisés Caicedo, better known as Niño Moi. The Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder has become an indispensable figure for both club and country, providing balance, aggression and an offensive threat.
The current African Champions are undoubtedly the nation expected to go deeper than the rest of the continent’s representatives.
They have played two Africa Cup of Nations finals in the last three years, dispatching continental giants Egypt – with Mohammed Salah – as they won their first-ever crown earlier this year.
The Sadio Mane-led Lions of Teranga are in their best form in recent memory, having won four, drawn two, and lost just one game in the run-up to the World Cup. Mane has been in excellent form for Bayern Munich and will look to captain his side to glory once more.
In terms of squad quality and world cup pedigree, the Oranje go into the group as the heavy favourites to qualify as its winners.
They have proven vulnerable to injuries in recent months, however, with their main creative players – such as Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay – suffering concerns; while Gini Wijnaldum is already ruled out. It will, therefore, be interesting to see how they manage the tournament.
The Dutch hold the record for playing the most World Cup finals without ever winning it. They finished second in 1974, 1978 and 2010, losing to West Germany, Argentina and Spain, respectively, a record they’ll be looking to rectify.