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Who are the most important players in Group A at the Qatar World Cup 2022?

See if you agree with who we think are the most important players in each group.

Joe Brennan
DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 20: Cody Gakpo of Holland  during the  Training MenTraining Holland at the QT6 on November 20, 2022 in Doha Qatar (Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates ImagesGetty

“Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than earthquakes.” - Voltaire

Ok. Let’s see if we can get through this holding hands and make it out alive at the end. We’re all civilised folks at AS USA, but for some reason, they’ve left this one to me. So, here goes: this is the definitive list of the most important players for each team at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Of course, it’s all up for debate and you definitely can leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter (@English _AS) to tell everyone just how wrong I am (*edit: maybe best just to leave Elon and Donald to it over there). Anyway, let’s go through group by group of the key players in the World Cup and watch the tension creep up on us like a Guillermo Del Toro movie.

Group A

Qatar - Akram Afif

He’s an unbelievable talent, a big player. I have told him many times that he’s an amazing player,” These words don’t come from anyone, they come from FC Barcelona coach, Xavi Hernández. Afif is instantly recognisable in two ways: his happy, frizzy haircut and his ability to smack the ball into the back of the net from pretty much anywhere he chooses. Afif prefers to drift inside from the left wing but is equally as comfortable starting out in the centre, where his dribbling and close control comes in very handily. Don’t think Qatar will be pushovers in this tournament, especially if Afif is on the pitch.

Ecuador - Gonzalo Plata

Ecuador fans have long since complained about their lack of goals, so a nice lump of support for Gonzalo ‘the lightning bolt’ Plata is bound to help. The winger certainly has some form of magic about him, providing puffs of smoke and vanishing skills that a top wizard would be proud of. It feels as though nothing is a foregone conclusion in Group A so attacking the life out of Qatar in the first game of the tournament might just be the trick needed to spark some hope into the hearts of the fed up fans.

That’s just my nickname for him, by the way, but feel free to use it.

Gonzalo Plata vs Iraq
Full screen

Senegal - Edouard Mendy

The Chelsea goalkeeper made headlines last season for his catastrophic blunder against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Apart from that, Mendy had an excellent season, establishing himself as the number one goalkeeper for the London club. On the route to winning AFCON, Senegal conceded just two (!) goals, with Koulibaly and Diallo providing a firm layer of extra protection of the goal that Mendy occupied. Maintaining their tough defence could be key for Senegal who will fancy their chances of coming at least second in such a wide open group.

Netherlands - Cody Gakpo

It could be Daley Blind, Memphis Depay or Denzel Dumfries, but I’ve gone for Gakpo. Why? Well, because I like him. He’s playing as a number 10 in Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side at the moment and is turning into a key part of how the side attack, with sharp movement and excellent ball striking ability two of his standout qualities. I’m going early here, but Gakpo is my tip for breakout star of the tournament.

Thoughts? Comments? You still with me? Good.

The most important players in the rest of the groups:

Group A fixtures

20 November: Al Bayt Stadium: Qatar-Ecuador 11:00 am ET / 08:00 am PT

21 November: Al Thumama Stadium: Senegal-Netherlands 11:00 am ET / 08:00 am PT

25 November: Al Thumama Stadium: Qatar-Senegal 08:00 am ET / 05:00 am PT

25 November: Khalifa International Stadium: Netherlands-Ecuador 11:00 am ET / 08:00 am PT

29 November: Khalifa International Stadium: Ecuador-Senegal 10:00 am ET / 07:00 am PT

29 November: Al Bayt Stadium: Netherlands-Qatar 10:00 am ET / 07:00 am PT