2022 World Cup: fixtures, dates, times and group stage schedule
Mundial Qatar 2022


2022 World Cup: fixtures, dates, times and group stage schedule

FIFA's showpiece event in Qatar sees players arrive fresher and more fine tuned than ever, while stadiums, training and hotels are all in close proximity.

Aritz Gabilondo
By Aritz Gabilondo

Walking through Doha this month compared to 12 years ago, when it was announced that the World Cup would be played there, is a very different experience. Qatar has undergone a transformation that only football and money can pull off. From scratch, a megalopolis has been built. A garden of skyscrapers. An Eden of construction and consumption, the ideal place for FIFA to bring its most precious commodity.

The revolution was enhanced with seven newly built stadiums and then an eighth, the Al Khalifa. Qatar, as a host nation, endured pressure and doubt from all angles. Most of those who decided on the location are no longer with FIFA today, not even former president Sepp Blatter. A subsequent report, the Garcia Report, was commissioned by the organisation to clarify that there was no vote-buying in relation to Qatar.

The biggest concession in the history of World Cups was the change of fixture schedule, moving from the usual summer schedule to the late autumn. The reason for this was the high temperatures in Qatar during the summer. Major leagues' schedules have been disrupted for over a month as a result.

The Anglo-Saxon world has been both sceptical and critical of Qatar. The poor conditions for migrant workers and deaths in stadium construction have made the headlines. There is also a major difference between the figures released by the British media and those officially reported by Qatar.

Women's rights and the rights of disadvantaged groups has also fuelled heavy criticism. The World Cup has helped highlight the issues and the UN reports attest to this.

World Cup players fresher than ever?

The 32 best teams in the world - with the notable exception of Italy - are going to Doha. It is a World Cup with many different nuances. Being in autumn, the players arrive fit and ready for a gruelling tournament. The action will take place within a very manageable distance, with the eight venues all located within short driving distance, the furthest distance between stadiums being 34 miles (55 km).

There will be no need to take internal flights to travel to matches or change accommodation during the tournament - a convenience that contrasts with the huge collection of teams, delegations, fans and media. There will be 1.5 million tourists in a country with a population of 3 million.

France arrive as world champions and Brazil as favourites. Argentina are looking forward to Lionel Messi's last World Cup. Luis Enrique's young Spain side could challenge. Qatar is already upon us.

Grupo A

Group A


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Qatar Ecuador Senegal Paises Bajos


Hosts and Félix Sánchez ready


Star player

Akram Afif

Age: 25, Club: Al-Saad



Félix Sánchez

Age: 46, Spain

The hosts have been preparing for 'their' World Cup for years. The Aspire Academy's work with the grassroots took Felix Sanchez to the bench of the senior team, with unquestionable success. The Qataris were Asian champions, reached the U-20 World Cup and came close to qualifying for the Olympic Games. Several players epitomize the Qatari success, especially the talented Akram Afif and goalscorer Almoez Ali. It’s a great and well-managed Qatari generation that hopes to at least make it past the first round of the World Cup.

Star player: Akram Afif. A top quality forward who is almost always on the wing but with a great ability to come inside. He has played for Villarreal and Sporting, with whom he made his debut in the top division. There’s magic in his boots.

Manager: Félix Sánchez. He led the U-19 team to win the Asian Cup, qualified them for the U-20 World Cup, and in the senior team he achieved glory with the Asian Cup. He has endowed Qatar with a Barça-like style that he nurtured during his early days.

Schedule Group phase

vs Ecuador21 November

vs Senegal25 November

vs Netherlands29 November



La Tri to get physical


Star player

Moisés Caicedo

Age: 21, Club: Brighton & Hove Albion



Gustavo Alfaro

Age: 59, Argentina

They started the qualifiers with a number of problems: Jordi Cruyff had to leave before his debut and the federation's board of directors went up in smoke. Gustavo Alfaro then arrived from Boca and with him everything fell into place. The impressive physical nature of the Ecuadorians began to come together. Suddenly everything made sense and the young players who have shone so brightly came to the fore: Castillo, Hincapié, Caiceido, Plata... The results improved too and with them the brilliant qualification for the World Cup, a great success for a country with a lot of potential.

Star player: Moisés Caicedo. It took him a long time to settle in the Premier League, at Brighton, and he was loaned out in Belgium with it looking difficult for him to make the leap to the elite. But as soon as he became a regular in the English top flight he has grown unstoppably. He is also a main figure with the national team, a box-to-box player who helps in defense and has a great ability to get into the opposition box.

Manager: Gustavo Alfaro. He’s done a great job since he arrived at La Tri, proving to be a smart man and able to modernize the game of a national team with the perfect style to move forward in today's methods. Not many believed in him, but he has proved them wrong.

Schedule Group phase

vs Qatar21 November

vs Netherlands25 November

vs Senegal29 November



A Mané blow


Star player

Kalidou Koulibaly

Age: 31, Club: Chelsea



Aliou Cissé

Age: 46, Senegal

LThe main doubt was whether Sadio Mané would make it to the tournament after suffering an injury. A positive assessment was quickly dispelled with the worst possible news: the Bayern star will not feature in Qatar. His inclusion in the squad was a hopeful one, with the knee problem, picked up against Werder Bremen, finally costing him his place. The Senegalese star’s exclusion is a disappointment, but there is belief in the players that won the African Cup of Nations.

Star player: Kalidou Koulibaly. After excellent seasons at Napoli he arrived at Chelsea and, although he has struggled to find his best level, he is a central defender with a lot of character, and with the absence of Mané he will step as a leader of the team. His ball delivery is solid, he is physically imposing and very good in the air. He must pass on his winning spirit to the rest of his teammates.

Manager: Aliou Cissé. Surely the best African coach of the moment, with personality and also with European methodology that he knows how to apply to this Senegal team. Charisma and a strong track record bode well.

Schedule Group phase

vs Netherlands21 November

vs Qatar25 November

vs Ecuador29 November

Paises Bajos


Van Gaal's World Cup return


Star player

Frenkie De Jong

Age: 24, Club: Barcelona



Louis Van Gaal

Age: 71, Netherlands

Now back amongst the elite after a World Cup and European Championship absence, the Dutch now provide us with memories of talent that has gone before. Koeman had them and left to go to Barça, as Van Gaal took the reins, although an illness will see him leave the post after this World Cup, handing control back to... Koeman. It’s a round trip that reunites the former Barça coach with his former cultivated team.

Star player: Frenkie de Jong. Much debated at Barça, he has not quite found his role and that has left him a little lost for direction. His qualities are undeniable and although his Catalan club have not always capitalised on them, a potential move away to another elite side beckons. Holland hope to see his very best in Qatar.

Manager: Van Gaal. With all the charm that we have come to expect, in his first stint as coach he reached the semi-finals in Brazil 2014 with a system of three central defenders, which saw criticism turn to praise. Now he has introduced several young players who are doing well at their clubs and whom he mentors as he did before at Ajax, Barça and United, some of his former teams.

Schedule Group phase

vs Senegal21 November

vs Ecuador25 November

vs Qatar29 November

Grupo B

Group B


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Inglaterra Irán EEUU Gales


Southgate under pressure


Star player

Harry Kane

Age: 28, Club: Tottenham



Gareth Southgate

Age: 51, England

There are some very interesting young players coming through, as well as those who are already established. It is time to maximise the blend of experience and youth. England disappointed in the final of the Euros against Italy and head coach Gareth Southgate was heavily criticised afterwards. Relegation to League B of the Nations League didn't help matters either. He will be under pressure in Qatar.

Star player: Harry Kane. Much more than a striker. Kane has impressed at Tottenham since Antonio Conte took over. As well as his goalscoring ability, he brings knowledge and experience to the England camp.

Manager: Southgate. Impressive performances at the preceeding World Cup and Euros, although for many, he was in a position to achieve more. Southgate has been managing many of the senior squad since his U21 days. Criticised after the Euro final and Nations League disappointments, this may be his last hurrah.

Schedule Group phase

vs Iran21 November

vs United States25 November

vs Wales29 November



Asia's most reliable team


Star player

Mehdi Taremi

Age: 29, Club: Porto



Carlos Queiroz

Age: 69, Mozambique

They were already considered by many to be the most reliable team in Asia in the previous Carlos Queiroz era and proved it by going to the World Cup in Russia. With Dragan Skocic in the dugout, Iran continued to impress. They qualified for Qatar with little trouble, maintaining their well-known defensive traits. They eventually decided to appoint Queiroz, who will be hoping to cause an upset in the group stages.

Star player: Taremi. A goalscorer with Porto, and also with Iran. An essential player going forward, he averages about a goal every other game for Porto, and for his country.

Manager: Queiroz. A legend in the Iranian national team for what he did with the 2018 team. His journey to Qatar started by failing to qualify for the tournament with Colombia. He couldn't turn the situation around with Egypt either, and Iran have appointed him again. It will be the third time Queiroz will lead Iran at a World Cup.

Schedule Group phase

vs England21 November

vs Wales25 November

vs United States29 November

Estados Unidos

United States

A giant in the making


Star player

Christian Pulisic

Age: 23, Club: Chelsea



Gregg Berhalter

Age: 48, United States

After the tremendous disappointment of not making it to Russia 2018, the USMNT have bounced back and thanks to a great new pool of talent they have booked their ticket to Qatar. The rise of MLS has not been as fundamental as the success of several players in Europe.

Star player: Pulisic. A frustrating spell at Chelsea has seen him spend time on the sidelines through injury. With the USMNT, he is their greatest threat in attack and at 24 is ready to light up Group B.

Manager: Berhalter. The shock of being knocked out of the last World Cup led the US to look to one of the most successful coaches in MLS history. He delivered by guiding his country to Qatar.

Schedule Group phase

vs Wales21 November

vs England25 November

vs Iran29 November



A farewell from Bale


Star player

Gareth Bale

Age: 32, Club: Los Angeles FC



Rob Page

Age: 47, Wales

Wales have been guests at recent tournaments thanks to Gareth Bale. They have been to two European Championships and have qualified for the World Cup, something that would be hard to achieve if it wasn't for the forward. There are some standout performers, but Wales rely heavily on the quality of Gareth Bale, even though he has not played much with his new club Los Angeles FC. He heads to Qatar having won the domestic title with LAFC.

Star player: Gareth Bale. Bale was instrumental in almost leading his country to the final of the 2016 Euros and has been key for Wales. He ended up in the MLS after leaving Madrid with more titles than he could have imagined.

Manager: Rob Page. Interim Wales coach in Ryan Giggs' absence until his sacking allowed Page to take the job on a permanent basis. The Wales head coach has gone on to lead his country in some of the biggest games in Wales' footballing history.

Schedule Group phase

vs United States21 November

vs Iran25 November

vs England29 November

Grupo C

Group C

ArgentinaSaudi ArabiaMexicoPoland

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Argentina Arabia Saudi México Polonia


Messi eyes glorious end


Star player

Lionel Messi

Age: 35, Club: PSG



Lionel Scaloni

Age: 44, Argentina

The Albiceleste have an exciting side and are major contenders, as they bid to win the one trophy that has eluded Lionel Messi. A World Cup triumph would see the star finally emulate Diego Maradona’s success at Mexico ’86. Argentina go to Qatar on the back of Copa América victory in 2021 - a feat that underlines the progress they have made under head coach Lionel Scaloni. The 44-year-old has not only persuaded Messi to carry on playing for Argentina, but has also got the likes of Cuti Romero, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Guido Rodríguez and Lautaro Martínez playing better than ever on the international stage. Giovani Lo Celso’s absence through injury is a big miss for Argentina, though.

Star player: Messi. The Paris Saint-Germain forward struggled for form in his first campaign in the French capital, but in the opening months of this season he’s been the player he was at Barcelona. His major outstanding challenge is at international level. After getting his hands on the Copa América, the 35-year-old is now after the biggest prize of all: the World Cup.

Manager: Scaloni. He was hardly a high-profile appointment, but he had done good work for Argentina at age-group level - and has delivered excellent results in charge of the seniors. Having steered his team to the Copa América title last year, he takes a revitalised Argentina to the World Cup in Qatar.

Schedule Group phase

vs Saudi Arabia22 November

vs Mexico26 November

vs Poland30 November

Arabia Saudí

Saudi Arabia

More success for Hervé Renard


Star player

Salem Al-Dawsari

Age: 31, Club: Al-Hilal



Herve Renard

Age: 54, France

Under head coach Hervé Renard, the Saudis qualified in style for the World Cup. With a team populated by players who ply their trade in the domestic league - the Green Falcons have in particular benefited from the success of clubs like Al Hilal - Saudi Arabia once again reached the finals with ease. Special mention should go to Salem Al Dawsari, the side’s star performer and a player familiar to football fans in Spain, as he spent a short period in LaLiga. With Renard in the dugout, Saudi Arabia have displayed the defensive organisation and competitive spirit that tend to characterise his teams.

Star player: Al Dawsari. A forward who is particularly dangerous when popping up between the lines, the 31-year-old tends to start out wide but likes to cut inside. He appeared for Villarreal in 2018, as part of a deal between LaLiga and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation that saw young Saudis join Spanish clubs to further their development.

Manager: Herve Renard. A real globetrotter, the Frenchman has generally done better in international football than on the club scene. He won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and the Ivory Coast, and led Morocco to the last World Cup. A charismatic coach, he has been a hit in Saudi Arabia.

Schedule Group phase

vs Argentina22 November

vs Poland26 November

vs Mexico30 November



Problems surround Tata


Star player

Hirving Lozano

Age: 27, Club: Napoli



"Tata" Martino

Age: 60, Argentina

El Tri performed patchily in World Cup qualifying, leading to heavy criticism of head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino. The team looks uninspired and remains well short of the potential that many see in a footballing nation that is a conveyor belt of talented players. The Liga MX has undergone major growth and investment in Mexico’s elite game is significant, but that’s yet to translate into a truly impressive national side. The Mexican fans are far from enamoured of Martino, and there is a persistent air of pessimism surrounding the team. The Argentinian faces an uphill battle to turn things around.

Star player: Hirving Lozano. The winger is in and out of Luciano Spalletti’s entertaining Napoli side, but he certainly doesn’t look out of place when he pulls on the blue shirt. Lozano has been one of Mexico’s most important attacking players in recent years, and his ability to hit the spaces and pop up at the back post could be key. He performed very well at Russia 2018.

Manager: Tata Martino. The 59-year-old quit Argentina under a cloud, having also failed to deliver success at Barcelona, but he reignited his coaching career in the US. After leading Atlanta United to the MLS Cup in 2018, he was hired by Mexico - taking the reins of a side that comes with huge potential, but also huge pressure. Martino will be out to replicate his World Cup achievements with Paraguay, who he piloted to the quarter-finals in 2010.

Schedule Group phase

vs Mexico22 November

vs Argentina26 November

vs Saudi Arabia30 November



Lewandowski and ten others


Star player

Robert Lewandowski

Age: 34, Club: Barcelona



Czesław Michniewicz

Age: 52, Belarus

The Poles are present once again, having made the most of the Robert Lewandowski era to take their place at most recent major tournaments. Russia’s suspension from football gave Poland a bye to the final of the UEFA qualification playoffs, and they benefited from fresher legs to see off opponents Sweden, who had just been taken to extra time. If they can be well organised and get the best out of Lewandowski, Poland have every chance of competing in Qatar.

Star player: Lewandowski. The Barcelona striker has been Poland’s leading light in recent years. A voracious goalscorer, he takes on added responsibility in his national team, dropping deep to receive the ball almost as if he were a No. 10. The Poles’ hopes of having a good World Cup come down to Lewandowski, who is sure to be his side’s chief attacking threat. However, it’s also worth noting that has better and better lieutenants around him: a more mature Piotr Zielinski, a more injury-resistant Arkadiusz Milik…

Manager: Czesław Michniewicz. With just months to go until the World Cup, Paulo Sousa walked out on Poland to take over at Flamengo. Into Sousa’s shoes stepped Michniewicz, a coach with experience of working with the Poland Under-21s and Legia Warsaw. An emergency appointment that has turned out well.

Schedule Group phase

vs Mexico22 November

vs Saudi Arabia26 November

vs Argentina30 November

Grupo D

Group D


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Francia Australia Dinamarca Túnez


Mbappé brings the fear without Benzema


Star player

Kylian Mbappé

Age: 23, Club: PSG



Didier Deschamps

Age: 54, France

One of the finest ever generations of French footballers won the World Cup in 2018 and lifted the Nations League title in 2021, but in between those successes crashed and burned at Euro 2020. France remain the most powerful of Europe’s teams, but Didier Deschamps’ presence in the dugout appears to hold the side back; it feels like the performances he has got out of the national team are mostly just down to the talent of his players. With Kylian Mbappé leading the line, and despite the loss of Karim Benzema, there’s a lot of talent aiming for more glory.

Star player: Mbappé. Together with Benzema, he’s arguably the best player in the world right now. The pair were expected to create a forward partnership of pretty much legendary quality, but with others he can still shine. The PSG gem starred in France’s World Cup triumph four years ago, and remains Les Bleus’ main man.

Manager: Deschamps. Despite leading France to the world title in 2018, some of his tactical decisions don’t entirely convince, and he has been on the end of criticism. However, his character and his standing in the country - he was France’s World Cup-winning captain in 1998 - do also make him well-suited to the job of managing such a star-laden group of players.

Schedule Group phase

vs Australia22 November

vs Denmark26 November

vs Tunisia30 November



A fifth 'Aussie' World Cup


Star player

Matt Ryan

Age: 30, Club: Copenhagen



Graham Arnold

Age: 59, Australia

The Socceroos, who are perhaps a weaker side than in previous World Cups, will be at the tournament for the fifth time in a row - and there can be no arguing with that achievement. Australia struggled to make it to Qatar, snatching their ticket to the finals via two sets of playoffs: they first had to come through an AFC showdown with the United Arab Emirates, before beating Peru in an intercontinental matchup. That the Aussies have made it to another World Cup - having beaten the Peruvians on penalties after an epic encounter - shouldn’t hide the fact that they’re a side that finds it immensely difficult to create in attack. They’re nothing like the side they were in 2014, for example.

Star player: Matt Ryan. Australia still have a good few well-known names in their squad, and goalkeeper Ryan is perhaps the most notable of those players. After losing out to Álex Remiro for the starting spot at Real Sociedad, he signed for Copenhagen in the summer, but has remained a substitute in Denmark, behind Polish keeper Kamil Grabara. Behind a backline not blessed with first-class defenders, Ryan won’t have an easy task in Qatar.

Manager: Graham Arnold. The Socceroos’ head coach has achieved hero status in Australia, after defying many people’s expectations by steering the team to the World Cup. He had tough acts to follow in the shape of highly-rated former Australia coaches such as Ange Postecoglou, but has responded to the challenge.

Schedule Group phase

vs France22 November

vs Tunisia26 November

vs Denmark30 November



Eriksen is back


Star player

Christian Eriksen

Age: 30, Club: Manchester United



Kasper Hjulmand

Age: 49, Denmark

The Danes have probably grown more than any other national team in Europe in recent years. After reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2020, Kasper Hjulmand’s men were dominant in their World Cup qualifying group, and beat France home and away in the 2022/23 Nations League. Their use of a three-man defence has made them a side that’s both compact and, thanks to their wing-backs, highly effective going forward. They were the revelation of the Euros, a tournament in which they refused to go under after Christian Eriksen’s on-pitch collapse - and indeed became even stronger. Eriksen has made a full recovery and is in the Denmark squad for Qatar 2022. Wonderful news.

Star player: Eriksen. At Manchester United, he now plays in a deeper position than his customary attacking midfield role. Alongside Casemiro, he is the starting point of the United attacks, and his experience is always a decision-making plus in the midfield. Hjulmand is unlikely to move him away from No. 10 for Denmark, but he’s a more versatile player now.

Manager: Hjulmand. The head coach switched to a back three and roving wing-backs during the Euros, and it was a change that clearly worked. Denmark have been fantastic ever since. His management of the Eriksen situation was also excellent. The Danes’ understated leader.

Schedule Group phase

vs Tunisia22 November

vs France26 November

vs Australia30 November



The Italy of Africa


Star player

Ellyes Skhiri

Age: 27, Club: Cologne



Jalel Kadri

Age: 50, Tunisia

After a period of uncertainty, the Tunisians have smiles on their faces once more. They’ve returned to the blueprint that has always worked for them: they’re a tactically diligent, well-drilled side that gives very little away. Head coach Jalel Kadri - who at the time was in an interim capacity - impressed with the way he organised his team in March’s World Cup qualifying playoff win over Mali. He has opted to bring back in major figures such as Youssef Msakni and Wahbi Khazri, and place them alongside players who are starting to make an impact in Europe, such as Ellyes Skhiri and Hannibal Mejbri. With no clear star to depend on, it is how they function as a collective that has taken them to the World Cup.

Star player: Ellyes Skhiri. The Tunisians’ best midfielder, Skhiri is a starter for Köln in the Bundesliga. A player who covers a lot of ground and works his socks off, he fits perfectly into Tunisia’s well-organised unit.

Manager: Jalel Kadri. After Tunisia’s elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations by Burkina Faso, Kadri stepped up from assistant coach to interim head coach, before earning the top job full-time with an aggregate win in a tough playoff tie against Mali.

Schedule Group phase

vs Denmark22 November

vs Australia26 November

vs France30 November

Grupo E

Group E

SpainCosta RicaGermanyJapan

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España Costa Rica Alemania Japón


Luis Enrique's creation


Star player

Pedri González

Age: 19, Club: FC Barcelona



Luis Enrique Martínez

Age: 52, Spain

A new and hungry Spanish generation is taking on the challenge of achieving great things at the World Cup. The bold team that reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals, the 2021 Nations League Final and the 2023 final four faces the challenge of continuing to grow in a World Cup which they enter with a solid and proven foundation. Luis Enrique has used these last two years to incorporate young players who have shown undeniable skill: Pedri, Gavi, Dani Olmo, and Ferran. Winning the World Cup is a difficult goal, but Spain has already shown that they are able to play against teams with much bigger names.

Star player: Pedri. His influence on Barça and the national team is unquestionable- a footballer who is able to get the team to work in harmony, and whose absence is felt more than any other. And that is the problem: missing action due to injuries. If he is able to play regularly again, he would be the leader of the team. Best Young Player of Euro 2020 and Golden Boy 2021.

Manager: Luis Enrique. Against the wind and tide, Luis Enrique managed to convince everyone of the effectiveness of his revolutionary methods and his lineup full of very young players. Now he is reaping the benefits of his choices, thanks to fresh footballers who have already made Spain a notable team that is inching closer to titles. The aggressive model of Lucho appears to be working.

Schedule Group phase

vs Costa Rica23 November

vs Germany27 November

vs Japan1 December

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Another 'tico' miracle


Star player

Keylor Navas

Age: 35, Club: PSG



Luis Fernando Suárez

Age: 62, Colombia

Several iconic players remain in the team that went far in the 2014 World Cup. The team has spent years with Keylor, Duarte, Celso Borges, Joel Campbell, and company, and achieved what seemed to be the impossible: mounting a comeback in Concacaf and fighting their way to a playoff match against New Zealand in Doha. Costa Ricans still remember periods of World Cup success, particularly in 1990 and 2014. They will once again see their country competing among the best, perhaps with a team that has its struggles but manages to remain very competitive.

Star player: Keylor Navas. Despite the fact that Donnarumma has taken his place as a starter in PSG, no one doubts that he remains a competent substitute goalkeeper. Naples tried to sign him last summer and will continue with its efforts after the World Cup. Navas is a legend in the national team, and is considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time in the country.

Manager: Luis Fernando Suárez. This is his third World Cup, as he was already with Ecuador in 2006 and Honduras in 2018. Very sensible and with much experience to make decisions, Suarez has given Costa Rica the impetus to return to the World Cup after missing it in 2018.

Schedule Group phase

vs Spain23 November

vs Japan27 November

vs Germany1 December



Germany revisited


Star player

Joshua Kimmich

Age: 27, Club: Bayern Munich



Hansi Flick

Age: 57, Germany

Flick left his mark at Bayern, and he is now doing the same with Germany. Several years of disappointments with Löw led to his departure and Flick’s arrival. The change revitalized the Mannschaft. With aggressive play without the ball and the teamwork of its young players, the Germans have been adapting a style that is much more current than those of the last few years. Müller recovered from his injury in time for the campaign. The team had an easy time in the qualifiers but had a little more difficulty in the final matches of the Nations League.

Star player: Joshua Kimmich. For many the best midfielder in the world, Kimmich now takes the lead at midfield next to Goretzka or Musiala as Kroos is not playing for the national team. Kimmich has left behind his time as a right-back, and is now an accomplished overall leader.

Manager: Hansi Flick. His arrival in Germany brings him back to the world spotlight. He has rebuilt the team in a little over a year and a half, and he has crafted it in his style. Flick won absolutely everything with Bayern, and yet was never valued enough either in the club or abroad.

Schedule Group phase

vs Japan23 November

vs Spain27 November

vs Costa Rica1 December



Same virtues, same failings


Star player

Takumi Minamino

Age: 27, Club: Monaco



Hajime Moriyasu

Age: 54, Japan

It is hard for Japan to get the good results that they enjoyed some time ago. The team has found an identity and a style of play, but important elements such as a top-level goalkeeper and a center striker are missing. While waiting for these to arrive, the problems of qualifying for Qatar have been even greater than on previous occasions. They chose a Japanese coach instead of a foreigner, and their star players continue to slowly appear in Europe. However, the team is still lacking a great increase in quality.

Star player: Minamino. Waiting for young talents like Doan (Celtic) or Kubo (Royal Society) to develop fully, the Monaco footballer comes out to be the team’s leader by far. He hardly plays with Monaco, but when he does, he manages to display his talent.

Manager: Hajime Moriyasu. He took the reins of the national team after Russia 2018. He made history seasons ago due to his success with Sancfrecce Hiroshima, after which Japan signed him up for the U-23 team. He was prepared for the next level, and he made the leap.

Schedule Group phase

vs Germany23 November

vs Costa Rica27 November

vs Spain1 December

Grupo F

Group F


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Bélgica Canadá Marruecos Croacia


Belgium last chance saloon


Star player

Kevin De Bruyne

Age: 31, Club: Manchester City



Roberto Martínez

Age: 49, Spain

This will be the last chance for Roberto Martínez’s Belgium, who have yet to make the most of the best generation of footballers in their history to win a major tournament. They have put in some memorable performances - as well as some forgettable ones, and that could ultimately be their downfall. Two of their star players, Hazard and Lukaku, are not in the best moment of their careers. The former is hardly getting any game time at Real Madrid while the latter has been struggling to maintain fitness after suffering a series of injuries. Fortunately, the opposite can be said of Courtois and De Bruyne, two key components who are both in excellent form - assets which also include coach Roberto Martínez for his tactical expertise.

Star player: De Bruyne. A talented, classy midfielder who gives his team an attacking edge - City is tailor-made for him. A great passer of the ball, he also scores a few when he finds himself close to the opponents’ box; right now, it’s all on him to give Belgium what they need. He came second in voting for the last Ballon d’Or.

Manager: Roberto Martínez. Premier League-style coach, who has put together a team with many players who have spent time in the English top flight. His methods have helped Belgium cement their place in the elite of world football, although they have been unable to cap it off with a trophy. His experience and reputation make him a candidate for a coaching post at a top club once the World Cup is over.

Schedule Group phase

vs Canada23 November

vs Morocco27 November

vs Croatia1 December



World Cup 36 years later


Star player

Alphonso Davies

Age: 21, Club: Bayern Munich



John Herdman

Age: 46, England

Canada made history by making their return to a World Cup following a 36-year absence. The Canadians’ last appearance at the final was at Mexico 86; this time, they were rewarded for all of their hard work during qualifying, aided by a revolutionary coach and a wealth of talented young players who are triumphing at some of Europe’s top clubs. Alphonso Davies has put his cardiac problems behind him to take up position as the team’s leader. There is a feeling of optimism about Canada’s youthful side, who will be one to watch out for in Qatar.

Star player: Alphonso Davies. He was laid low by the aftereffects of Covid-19 which forced him to sit out half of the season at Bayern, but now he looks ready to take part in the World Cup. His meteoric rise as left-back with the German champions was breathtaking to watch. He plays in a more advanced role with his country. He is also looking after himself after suffering a minor injury on 5 November.

Manager: John Herdman. A revelation for Canada and football in general. Just seven years ago, he was coaching the women’s team, who he led to the 2015 Women’s World Cup; after that, he took the reins of the men’s team and made history again, helping them make the leap the country had waited over 30 years for.

Schedule Group phase

vs Belgium23 November

vs Croatia27 November

vs Morocco1 December



A solid team without stars


Star player

Achraf Hakimi

Age: 24, Club: PSG



Walid Regragui

Age: 47, France

Little over a year ago, Halihodzic infuriated Morocco when he decided to dispense with some of the team’s stars including Ziyech (Chelsea) and Mazraoui (Bayern), both for disciplinary problems. At first, it looked like the team had become stronger, but opinions changed after a disappointing CAN 2022 campaign. Halihozic left, Regragui arrived and with him, the big name players returned. Employing a system geared towards defence with a straightforward gameplan, Morocco breezed through the African qualifiers. They are not the flamboyant side of other years, but a highly-competitive outfit who are tough to break down.

Star player: Achraf Hakimi. He is comfortable playing as a full-back or wing-back. After an erratic first season at PSG, this season he has settled into the starting XI, although he has yet to show the kind of form he displayed at Inter, where he developed a reputation as one of the best right-backs in world football, especially going forward.

Manager: Walid Regragui. He was a surprise appointment, taking the post three months ago after Halihozic’s dismissal. Under his stewardship, Ziyech and Mazraoui returned, a decision which has prompted an upturn in quality for the Atlas Lions. A coaching legend in Morocco who has returned to the national team after having worked as Rachid Taoussi’s assistant from 2012 to 2013. He has hardly had time to put his stamp on the team and get across his style of play and ideas.

Schedule Group phase

vs Croatia23 November

vs Belgium27 November

vs Canada1 December



Enduring Modric


Star player

Luka Modric

Age: 36, Club: Real Madrid



Zlatko Dalic

Age: 55, Croatia

A few of the veterans like Rakitic and Mandzukic have retired from international football, but the evergreen Luka Modric is still going strong, leading an emerging, new generation of players in a side which remains competitive. The runners-up of the last edition have managed to renew the team and booked their ticket to Qatar with merit. Maybe this time they won;t go quite as far but they impressed in the Nations League, even with the mighty France in their group, to secure a place in next summer’s finals. For Croatia’s upcoming stars, they could not wish for a better test of their capabilities and an experience which they can enjoy without the pressure of trying to make history. The team already did that four years ago by reaching the final.

Star player: Modric. Legendary player who thoroughly deserved to win the Ballon d’Or back in 2018, and who is enjoying another brilliant season at Real Madrid. Far from retiring from the national team to concentrate on his club career, Luka has continued as the team’s leader, guiding them to another World Cup finals.

Manager: Dalic. An true legend for his performances in helping Croatia reach the 2018 final, he is struggling to reproduce that form of old within a relatively new side with his old teammates long gone. In any case, for what he did in Russia four years ago, he will always be regarded as a national treasure and football legend.

Schedule Group phase

vs Morocco23 November

vs Canada27 November

vs Belgium1 December

Grupo G

Group G


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Brasil Serbia Suiza Camerún


So much more than Neymar


Star player

Neymar Jr

Age: 30, Club: PSG




Age: 61, Brazil

Brazil go into the World Cup as one of the favourites, for the first time in a long time, after a number of disappointing tournaments and poor results, including the most recent Copa América, lost in the Maracaná against Argentina. But Tite has brought his team on defensively and brought in a number of players in the trequartista zone (Vinicius, Antony, Raphinha, Richarlison…) giving them a boost up front, as well as having Neymar. They had a perfect qualifying run in South America - mighty Brazil is back.

Star player: Neymar. He continues to be the authentic emblem of Tite’s Brazil. He’s been outstanding in the opening part of the season under Galtier’s orders at PSG. He’s highly motivated for this World Cup. He plays better inside, as a 10, as his coach tends to use him.

Manager: Tite. Criticised for his reluctance to change, and for his conservative tactics, he’s achieved a solidity in terms of results that Brazil had previously been lacking. This is his last chance to win the World Cup.

Schedule Group phase

vs Serbia24 November

vs Switzerland28 November

vs Cameroon2 December



Vlahovic is aiming high


Star player

Dusan Vlahovic

Age: 22, Club: Juventus



Dragan Stojkovic

Age: 57, Serbia

They were spectacular in qualifying, forcing Portugal into the play-off. Extremely competitive, as Serbian teams tend to be, but added to that they boast a superb attacking line-up with the entrance of Vlahovic the icing on the cake. Alongside him the have Kostic (Eintracht), Tadic (Ajax) y a fine Mitrovic (Fulham). They set out their stall in the 2018 World Cup with a team far less competitive than the one they now.

Star player: Vlahovic. Juventus paid €80 million euros for him. He’s had to cope with the ups and downs of the team, but is a constant threat up front. Aggressive, potent, fast, an eye for goal, left-footed, he’s one of the strikers who should mark a generation. And with Serbia he’s even better.

Manager: Stojkovic. He's got Serbia back in a major tournament and above all reinforced their identity. A team that's tough to break down at the back, compact and with a star striker up front

Schedule Group phase

vs Brazil24 November

vs Cameroon28 November

vs Switzerland2 December



Europe's giantkillers


Star player

Granit Xhaka

Age: 30, Club: Arsenal



Murat Yakin

Age: 48, Switzerland

Switzerland aren’t one of Europe’s big sides, but they are always there, fighting their corner and making life difficult for the bigger sides. One example: Spain in the Nations League. What’s more, they ensured Belgium were out of the Final Four of the first Nations League, knocked out France, made life difficult for Spain in the Euros and sent Italy into the World Cup play-off, which ended up being a complete disaster for the Italians. As well as the stand-out players of the previous generation, with Xhaka as the star man, youngsters such as Okafor are breaking through and threatening to do great things.

Star player: Xhaka. A ton of character, and he’s having a fine season at Arsenal, where he’s Arteta’s right hand man. He’s in the perfect moment of experience and ability and ready to lead Switzerland in Qatar. His left-footed shot and his leadership make him one of Switzerland’s most important midfielders of all time.

Manager: Murat Yakin. He wasn’t in his finest moment as a coach when Switzerland called, but he’s shown he’s more than capable of managing a country in which he showed a fair bit of skill as a player. This is his opportunity.

Schedule Group phase

vs Cameroon24 November

vs Brazil28 November

vs Serbia2 December



The torturous qualification of the Indomitable Lions


Star player

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Age: 33, Club: Bayern Munich



Rigobert Song

Age: 45, Cameroon

Cameroon didn’t qualify for the World Cup until the last minute of the final game. A goal from Toko-Ekambi in the 123’ sent Cameroon into ecstasy, having conceded the goal that would have put them out just five minutes before. It’s the first big success of Samuel Eto’o as president of the Cameroon FA. In the African Cup held in January they came close to reaching the final, but this time the team showed their character, not giving up when going out and earning their prize.

Star player: Choupo-Moting. He’s enjoying his finest moment since he went back to Germany to sign for Bayern. He’s left behind the bad experience of Paris and he’s helped his team forget Lewandowski. He switched allegiances from Germany, the country of his birth, for Cameroon, where his roots are. He missed out on the African Cup due to a bureaucratic mix up by his federation.

Manager: Rigobert Song. A solid defender in his time as a player, he’s brought his competitiveness to the national team, which wasn’t doing so well until he arrived. He’s brought the tranquility the team needed.

Fixtures in the Group Phase

vs Switzerland24 November

vs Serbia28 November

vs Brazil2 December

Grupo H

Group H

PortugalGhanaUruguaySouth Korea

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Portugal Ghana Uruguay Corea del Sur


Until Cristiano decides


Star player

Cristiano Ronaldo

Age: 37, Club: Manchester United



Fernando Santos

Age: 68, Portugal

They struggled to reach the World Cup, but made it to Qatar, despite Cristiano's Portugal not able to find consistency. They won the Euros and Nations League consecutively in 2016 and 2017, but then suffered disappointments at the 2018 World Cup and the most recent Euros. Still, it is a team with the ability to beat any other team in the world. In addition to the many young players already established in Europe, they have the legendary presence of Cristiano, the all-time top scorer in international football. He was undoubtedly a tough opponent for Spain in their group.

Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo. An absolute legend, he is ready to play in his fifth World Cup and continues to score important goals for his country. Although physically he is no longer the player of yesteryear, that threat to the opponent that he always had is still intact. His situation at United has not allowed him to arrive in the best form, but he is still Cristiano, for some the GOAT.

Manager: Fernando Santos. Much criticized in Portugal for the problems he had in qualifying the Portuguese for the World Cup. His defensive style is not liked either, although he has two titles under his belt and that gives him credit. He has to manage a lot of talented individuals and sometimes chooses not to take risks.

Schedule Group phase

vs Ghana24 November

vs Uruguay28 November

vs South Korea2 December



When you least expect


Star player

Iñaki Williams

Age: 28, Club: Athletic Bilbao



Otto Addo

Age: 47, Germany

They knocked out Nigeria in a match that will go down in the history books in Abuja, with an interim coach, several injured players and a disasterous situation after the African Cup that suddenly turned on its head. The World Cup has gone well for Ghana in previous years they have made it, with their crucial quarter-final against Uruguay in 2010 being a memorable one. The federation stepped up and has convinced top players like Williams (Ahtletic Bilbao) and Lamptey (Brighton) to represent the country of their roots. There remains a lack of cohesion.

Star player: Iñaki Williams. The World Cup train arrived at the Athletic striker’s door and he decided to hop on. He heard the call, and the fact that Luis Enrique did not include him in his Spanish thinking, convinced him to accept. It will be his first World Cup and he will be fully motivated.

Manager: Otto Addo. A surprising appointment as interim coach shortly after Ghana fell in the AFCON, but with only a little time he prepared for a very tough battle against Nigeria on the way to the World Cup, and solved it successfully. Nothing more could be asked for.

Schedule Group phase

vs Portugal24 November

vs South Korea28 November

vs Uruguay2 December



The Uruguayan reaction


Star player

Fede Valverde

Age: 24, Club: Real Madrid



Diego Alonso

Age: 47, Uruguay

The change of Tabárez for Diego Alonso a few days before the end of the qualifiers was crucial for Uruguay to reach the World Cup again. Sacking a symbol of Uruguayan soccer history was a risk, but the subsequent results have shown that it was absolutely necessary. The former Atlético and Valencia striker showed a change of direction to the national team, introducing new blood like Pellistri and he recovered the spirit. A hyper-competitive Uruguay, and a dark horse in Qatar.

Star player: Fede Valverde. He was the lungs of the Uruguayans in the crucial matches at the end of qualifying. Physically, he is a wonder, as he has demonstrated in Madrid, and in that sense he stands out even more in the face of the gradual decline of Luis Suárez and Cavani.

Manager: Diego Alonso. The real architect of the qualification, he took the team out of the playoff places and qualified it directly and with a margin of error. Good work in Mexico and MLS, but this could crown him definitively.

Schedule Group phase

vs South Korea24 November

vs Portugal28 November

vs Ghana2 December

Corea del Sur

South Korea

Son, a classy flag-bearer


Star player

Heung Min Son

Age: 30, Club: Tottenham



Paulo Bento

Age: 53, Portugal

The qualifying rounds have been better for them than the final rounds lately. Even so, with a player like Son in their ranks they are capable of causing a major surprise at any time. The Tottenham player is probably one of the best Asian players of all time, but he arrives wrapped in cotton wool after a facial injury. Paulo Bento pitched up and gave the team a modern touch to add to the unquestionable growth of domestic football through its ever-improving clubs.

Star player: Son. A star of the Premier League, South Korea and the World Cup, by extension. Very fast, he is lethal with space, and his leadership in the national team makes him a much more decisive player. We will have to see how he arrives after undergoing surgery earlier this month for a fracture near his left eye.

Manager: Paulo Bento. A good coach, perhaps he has not had as much recognition in Europe as he deserved, and coaching in a World Cup with South Korea could provide more time in the spotlight. Some important decisions he’s made, like with Cho Gue-sung, have paid off.

Schedule Group phase

vs Uruguay24 November

vs Ghana28 November

vs Portugal2 December

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