Preparing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Preparing+for+the+2022+World+Cup+in+Qatar

With the biggest sporting event in the world kicking off in November this year, there are some things that everyone should know. What is hyped up to be the best World Cup to date will be taking place in Qatar, and for the first time ever, in the winter. 32 of the world’s best teams will compete for the most prestigious trophy in the sporting world with a thrilling, action-packed tournament. For those not familiar with the format of the World Cup, 32 teams are split into eight groups of four. These groups are decided by a draw (but more on that later). From there, it is pretty simple: each team plays each team in their group once, and the top two advance to the 16 team knockout tournament. Over the course of this article, I will cover the key elements that make the World Cup special: the teams, groups, and players, and maybe most importantly, the match ball. 

The Match Ball 

Every four years, Adidas creates a new match ball for the World Cup, and this year is no exception. These match balls usually end up as iconic memoirs for their respective World Cups, with even a glimpse of the ball invoking all the emotions of that tournament. In 2010, Adidas produced the Jabulani for the World Cup in South Africa, one of the most controversial and memorable match balls ever. The ball moved unpredictably in the air due to its smooth design—almost like a beach ball—causing some glorious goals and many memories. Suffice it to say, the match ball affects the World Cup. So what about this year? Adidas has gone back to its roots, using 20 panels rather than six on the 2018 Telstar. The 2022 Al Rihla –which translates to “The Journey” – should not cause too much controversy as Adidas has opted for a design that is conventional and safe. 

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Love it or hate it, the ball will be iconic. The design certainly isn’t for everyone, but the Al Rihla will be the symbol of one of the most important World Cups in history. Every World Cup needs its own match ball, and I’m excited to see what goals the Al Rihla will bring this winter. 

The Players, Teams, and Draw 

With almost all the teams decided for the 2022 World Cup (although some playoffs still need to be played), the draw on the first of April decided the groups. I will be taking a look at each group, noting standout teams and players. But before anything, it is important to mention that each of these teams has gone through a grueling multi-year qualification process, so even making it to the tournament is a big deal. 

 Group A 

Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands make up Group A. The host of the tournament is always placed in Group A and plays the first match of the tournament. Many have claimed this to be a favorable group for the Netherlands, the powerhouse of this group, which features stout defender and captain Virgil Van Dijk, midfield maestro Frenkie De Jong, and playmaker Memphis Depay. All of these players, and many more, in the Holland squad, have shown their pedigree in their respective European leagues and will look to show out for the Netherlands in Qatar. While Holland may be the favorites, Senegal is not far behind—the reigning AFCON champions have an experienced squad with some of the Premier League’s finest players: prolific forward Sadio Mane and Chelsea’s shot-stopper Edouard Mendy. Their high-powered attack will prove to be a handful for the defenses of any team they will face. Ecuador and Qatar should not be overlooked. Ecuador qualified in a strong CONMEBOL qualifying group featuring some of the tournament favorites, and Qatar will look to impress in front of a home crowd. 

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Predictions: 1. Netherlands 2. Senegal 3. Ecuador 4. Qatar. 

Group B 

If there is any group to pay attention to, it’s this one. England, USA, Iran, and the winner of the European Playoff (Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine). As much as I don’t want to admit it, England are clear favorites in this group; the Euro 2020 runners-up will look to fulfill the prophecy of “Football’s coming home,” now more than ever with no Italy there to stop them. Complete forward Harry Kane, young talent Phil Foden, and superstar Jude Bellingham will look to bring the World Cup back to England. Now onto the USA. Powered by youth talent, Gregg Berhalter will look to harness the energy of our young squad to show the world that the USA shouldn’t be a laughing stock in the footballing world. After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, our boys will be buzzing to get to Qatar. Led by Pennsylvania’s finest Christian Pulisic, Texas boy Weston McKennie, and Barcelona wingback Sergino Dest, the USA has no excuses to not perform. This is an exciting time for football (soccer) in the United States. Iran topped their group in qualifying and will look to continue their success not too far from home in Qatar, so don’t count them out. As for the last team in the group, Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine would all make for good opponents and make this one of the better groups in the tournament. 

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Predictions: 1. England 2. USA 3. European Playoff Winner 4. Iran. 

Group C 

Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland make up Group C. Another strong group features one of the tournament favorites, Argentina. Reigning Copa America Champions Argentina will look to put their stamp on the world stage and provide a fitting send-off to one of the best players to ever grace the game: Lionel Messi. The seven-time Balon d’Or winner would love to end his shining career with a World Cup victory, having been so close in 2014. Argentina’s quality doesn’t end with Messi, Premier League star Emiliano Martinez stands between the posts, and  Atletico Madrid workhorse Rodrigo De Paul runs the midfield. Saudi Arabia topped their AFC qualifying group and are no strangers to appearances in the World Cup, so don’t overlook their impact on this group. After qualifying through a European Play-off, Poland will look to rely on the form of FC Bayern man Robert Lewandowski, arguably the world’s best number nine at the moment. If Lewandowski can make an impact on this tournament, Poland could be looking at a deep run into the knockout stages. Rounding out the group is Mexico with not their best squad historically. Nevertheless, Mexico always produces some results in the World Cup, and Qatar should be no different. Overall a strong group with an interesting battle for second.