friday’s draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar didn’t create a “Group of Death” to dismay over, but fans around the world will be treated to some top-quality matchups in the group stage.
Former champions Germany (1954, 1975, 1990, 2014) and Spain (2010) were both placed in Group E, and the two European powers meet in the second game of group play. Group F also features two heavyweights, with the 2018 runner-up (Croatia) and third-place finisher (Belgium) meeting in the final game.
The United States was drawn into a group with England, setting up a rematch of the teams’ opener at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Here’s a breakdown of each group and a way-too-early prediction for which nations will advance
Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
qatar makes it World Cup debut at home, opening against Ecuador on Nov. 21. Hassan Al-Haydos has 161 appearances with 33 goals and helped lead his country to victory at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. … Ecuador is the lowest-ranked South American team in the tournament but features some familiar names including striker Enner Valencia. … Senegal won the African Cup of Nations this year and has two of the best players in the world including goalkeeper Édouard Mendy (Chelsea) and forward Sadio Mane (Liverpool). … The netherlands is reloaded after failing to qualify in 2018 and has to be considered the group favorite. Captain Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) anchors a strong defense with Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) and Georginio Wijnaldum (PSG) in midfield and Memphis Depay (Barcelona) up top.
PREDICTION: Netherlands, Senegal
England, Iran, United States, Wales/Scotland/Ukraine
Manager Gareth Southgate has England back among the world’s elite with a supremely talented group of (mostly) young players, coming off a fourth-place finish in 2018 and heartbreak in the Euro 2020 final. With 49 international goals, striker Harry Kane (Tottenham) could overtake Wayne Rooney’s England record of 53 before the World Cup begins. …don’t overlook Iran, a perennial power in the Asian confederation. Iran has qualified for the third consecutive tournament and was unlucky not to advance in both 2014 and 2018. … This may be the United States’ most talented World Cup team ever after failing to qualify in 2018. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Weston McKennie (Juventus) are among the players who have gained valuable big-game experience in Europe.
PREDICTION:England, United States
Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Led by Lionel Messi, Argentina is certainly the favorite to win the group. The champions in 1978 and 1986, they’re unbeaten in 31 games and coming off their first Copa America championship since 1993. … saudi arabia has a team consisting of almost entirely domestic-based players and fought hard at the 2018 tournament after a 5-0 shellacking in the opener against host Russia. … Mexico has reached the knockout stage in seven consecutive tournaments and has several key veterans in Raul Jimenez, Jesus Corona and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. … Poland captain Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) has won consecutive awards as FIFA’s best men’s player but didn’t score in 2018 as the team struggled to a disappointing last-place finish in the group stage.
PREDICTION: Argentina, Mexico
France, Peru/Australia/United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Tunisia
defending champion France should breeze through this group with Kylian Mbappe (PSG) and Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) leading Les Blues’ attack and N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) anchoring the midfield. … denmark made it to the knockout stage in 2018 and all eyes will be on midfielder Christian Eriksen, who returned this year after collapsing on the field at the European championship in 2021 when he went into cardiac arrest. … Regularly among the top teams in Africa, Tunisian features a handful of players based in Europe and went wire-to-wire with England in its 2018 opener, only to lose on a goal in stoppage time.
PREDICTION: France, Denmark
Spain, Costa Rica/New Zealand winner, Germany, Japan
Manager Luis Enrique is going to have to make some tough decisions for Spain, assembling a roster filled with (very) young talent such as Barcelona’s Pedri (19) and Ferran Torres (22) as well as holdovers including midfielder Sergio Busquets. … Costa Rica finished last in its group in 2018 after a quarterfinal run in 2014. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is among the world’s best and forward Joel Campbell delivers in big games for the Ticos. … Striker Chris Wood (Newcastle United) is a player to watch for New Zealand. One of the most consistent scorers in England for years, Wood has 33 goals in 65 international appearances. … Germany crashed out in the group stage in 2018 but the four-time champs will look much different in 2022. The showdown with Spain in the second match may decide who tops the group. …Japanese has reached the knockout stage in two of the past three World Cups. Midfielder Minamino (Liverpool) and defender Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal) are among the team’s top players.
Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Belgium Finished third at the 2018 World Cup and its lineup features Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) and Romelo Lukaku (Chelsea), but captain Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) has been hampered by injuries. … Canada qualified for the first time since 1986, finishing atop the Concacaf standings. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) is expected to return soon after sitting out with myocarditis following a bout of COVID-19, and striker Jonathan David (Lille) could be on the move to a bigger club by the time things kick off in Qatar. … Right back Achraf Hakimi (PSG) and forward Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) are among the top players for Morocco, which didn’t win a game at the 2018 tournament. …The runner-up in 2018, Croatia’s midfield is led by Luka Modric (Real Madrid), who was named the top player in Russia. The Croatians will hope to rack up points in the first two games before meeting Belgium in the finale.
PREDICTION: Belgium, Croatia
Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Brazil will be one of the tournament favorites but haven’t won it all since 2002, the second-longest drought in the nation’s history. Familiar faces such as Neymar (PSG), Thiago Silva (Chelsea) and Casemiro (Real Madrid) welcome a talented group of youngsters to the mix. … Serbian has a strong front line with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Luka Jovic and a sneaky-good midfield. … It was a good draw for Switzerland, which reached the knockout stage in 2018. Defender Manuel Akanji has developed into one of the most consistent center backs in Germany for Borussia Dortmund. … cameroon, which failed to qualify in 2018, has lost its last seven World Cup games dating back to 2002 and is the underdog in this group. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has been getting regular playing time for Bayern Munich since joining from PSG.
PREDICTION: Brazil, Switzerland
Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly the headliner for Portugal, but he has more support in Qatar than his first four World Cup appearances, with Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) and Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) blossoming into two of the world’s finest creative midfielders. … Ghana didn’t qualify in 2018 but has proven itself at the World Cup before, reaching the knockout stage in 2006 and 2010. Box-to-box midfielder Thomas Partey (Arsenal) is worth keeping an eye on. … The midfield is much improved for Uruguay with Rodrigo Betancur (Tottenham) and Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) becoming regulars for big clubs in Europe. … South Korea midfielder Son Heung-min (Tottenham) is one of the best players in the English Premier League.
PREDICTION: Uruguay, Portugal
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism