The World Cup for 2022 has met its own share of controversies and challenges. Since the day Qatar won the bid to host the extremely popular event, it saw issues that not only hounded the games but picked up pace as this has not yet been addressed completely.
There are human rights issues wherein deaths of migrant workers and the working conditions in preparing for the game. The LGBTQ community and women’s rights remain a sensitive topic. The latest straw lain on the camel’s back is the sudden banning of alcohol in and surrounding the venues.
Despite the shroud of mystery and opaqueness, the world remains a big fan of the World Cup and has awaited for four long years for its return. Currently, 32 nations are participating and one can imagine the fans around the world anticipating the games.
The tournament kicks off on the 20th of November with the first game between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. Knockout stages will start on December 3 and the final takes place on the 18th of December.
Key Dates and Matches to Focus On
Here are some of the key dates, including Messi and Ronaldo’s first games of the tournament and all USMNT group fixtures.
- Nov 20: Qatar vs. Ecuador – 4 pm, Fox Sports 1
- Nov 21: USMNT vs. Wales – 7 pm, Fox
- Nov 22: Argentina vs. Saud Arabia – 10am, Fox Sports 1
- Nov 24: Portugal vs. Ghana – 4 pm, Fox
- Nov 25: England vs. USMNT – 7 pm, Fox
- Nov 29: Iran vs. USMNT – 7 pm, Fox
- Dec 18: World Cup Final – 3 pm, Fox
Channels and platforms to watch the games on
- US: Fox Sports
- UK: BBC or ITV
- Australia: SBS
- Brazil: SportTV
- Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
- Canada: Bell Media
- South Africa: SABC
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The tourney favourites
Despite the global tourney starting its first run in 1930, there have been only eight nations who won the men’s World Cup. Many are among this year’s favourite teams.
First on the list is Brazil.
They hold the most titles and have won the World Cup five times. The current generation of players is showing that they have the skills and tools to make it to the finals if not be this year’s champion team. It has been 20 years since they last lifted up the trophy. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior or more popularly known as Neymar will be leading the pack. Along with the other team, leads will be Ream Madrid’s Vinicuis Jr., and Barcelona’s Raphinha to watch out for.
Chelsea’s Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos
Exciting plays will be seen once Chelsea’s Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos will most likely make life difficult for Liverpool’s goalkeeper Allison. Brazil also has an impressive record of winning or drawing 28 of its last 29 matches. The only loss of Brazil was the match with Argentina this was back in 2021 at the Copa America. The group stage facing Brazil would be Switzerland, Cameroon and Serbia.
France – current holder of the World Cup
The next team to watch out for would be France, but of course, they are the current holder of the World Cup. France was able to outplay every qualifying match without losing a game. Kylian Mbappe has since then become a global star in the football universe. Unfortunately, the squad’s Karim Benzema has been ruled out recently, and the duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante will also be missed. The good news is central defender Raphael Varane remains part of the team after recovering from an injury.
Brazil 20% chance of winning World Cup 2022
Nielsen’s Gracenote Sports gave a fearless forecast that Brazil has a 20% chance of winning the competition. Argentina closely follows with an 18% chance of the great Lionel Messi being part of its team. Simon Gleave, head of analysis for Gracenote Sports, said: “No other teams have been anywhere near as consistent over the last four years as the two South American giants and this consistency means that there is a good chance of one of them prevailing.”
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The Beloved Underdogs
The World Cup won’t be complete without the beloved teams who are considered the most favourable underdogs for this year’s event.
Denmark takes the lead with its new generation of players. Although knocked out by the English in the Euro 2020 semifinals, the team was still able to go through swimmingly well through the World Cup qualification rounds. They won nine out of 10 matches conceding only three goals.
Manchester United is going strong with its main playmaker, Christian Eriksen. Eriksen is the team’s core mover and shaker, and without a doubt, is the most important player to team Manchester. Although Eriksen did receive quite a scare when he collapsed during Denmark’s game against Finland at the Euro 2020 — he was able to receive life-saving treatment before being fitted with a Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) device.
The best African team at the current world cup is proving to be Senegal. The Lions of Teranga as they are fondly called by fans will most likely make it through impressive gameplay despite missing Sadio Mane due to an injury. They also won the African Cup of Nations for the first time, too. Each player in the team has had experience in other teams as well. Among the best players in Senegal include Edouard Mendy as a goalkeeper and Kalidou Koulibaly as a strong defence. Ismaila Sarr is also someone Senegal can depend on for fast-paced gameplay strategies.
Watch out for these Players
Some of the best players and the most heroic ones to boot will be having this year’s World Cup as the last one they’ll be participating in, too. This has drawn a huge number of fans to eagerly come to the live games in Qatar and cheer them on — more so to be lucky enough to have an autographed souvenir.
The two phenomenal players, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be among those who are going to step away from football after the World Cup. Messi has confirmed that this will be his last World Cup. He noted that he’ll be well over 40 by the time the next global sports event comes in after four years.
Deducing from Messi’s announcement, the general pulse or assumption for Ronaldo is that he’ll also be having — if not his retirement from the sport completely — stop participating in the next World Cup. Ronaldo will also be clocking in at the ripe age of 41 by the next one, too. Both have become legendary in their own right and have contributed greatly to the game.
The new players who are exhibiting great skills and possible epic strategies are going to be giving an all-out performance in the World Cup. Team Qatar has several players belonging to top leagues prior to joining the team. These are attacker Akram Afif. He was previously with Belgium and Spain. The 25-year-old has since exhibited 11 assists during the team’s Asian Cup win in 2019 and currently has eight assists in just seven appearances in Qatar’s top division. He’s one to watch in the opening game.
Already dubbed as the Japanese Lionel Messi in his home country, Takefusa Kubo at 21 years of age developed his game tactics earlier on and sharpened them, even more, when he joined Real Madrid in 2019. He has excelled in another team, Real Sociedad as well and will be an important player in Japan’s World Cup.
The 19-year-old American star Gio Reyna is showing signs that he is a rising football star. He joined the German club Borussia Dortmund in 2019 and had to pause last season to recover from injuries. He will be playing with the USMNT. Hopes are up for his team to go through the knockout rounds without a problem as well.
Let’s go and watch the World Cup, folks! Despite the controversy that has some parties reeling, as well as human rights issues that are not addressed as expected — the World Cup still remains the greatest show on earth. Enjoy the games and root for your favourite teams and heroic players in the meantime.
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