The small host nation is looking to make an impact. Qatar may be one of the smallest, but it will not be a pushover as many small nations are thought to be. They are coming off their first major trophy after defeating Japan(24th) in the Asian Cup in 2019, while also making it to the semi-finals in the CONCACAF Gold Cup (Americas tournament) (Qatar was a guest). Qatar topped its group with Honduras(80th in the world), Panama(60th), and Grenada(173rd). Before defeating El Salvador(74th) in the Quarter-finals and losing to the eventual winners in the United States (16th). Qatar’s recent form has been decent, with wins over Nicaragua(142nd), Ghana(61st), and a 3rd place finish in the 2021 Arab Cup, complemented by draws against Chile(17th) and Morocco(22nd). The losses against the Under-23 Croatian team and Canada(41st) are the only dark spots in their recent encounters.
Qatar’s Strength is its team-first mentality The player does not matter. What matters is winning. This has allowed them to climb this high in the world rankings despite not having a star.
Qatar’s Weakness is they lack natural talent. They have no clear world star like Poland. The entire squad is made up of Qatar league players.
Player to Watch: Almoez Ali
The 26-year-old striker has been on fire for Qatar throughout his international career. 76 caps (appearances) while scoring 39 goals. He has been the top scorer for Qatar. Ali scored 9 in the 2019 Asian Cup, making him the top goal scorer throughout the tournament. Ali scored 4 goals in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, making him the top goal scorer in that competition. If Qatar hopes to make it out of groups, they need Ali to perform.
This is Ecuador’s fourth appearance ever in the tournament. They failed to qualify in 2018. Their best appearance saw them make it to the round of 16 in 2006. Ecuador is a surprising qualifier for the World Cup, sneaking in at number four through the harsh qualifying league to make it, beating out other higher-ranked countries in the process, like Colombia( 10th), Chile(17th), Peru(22th), Venezuela (25th), and Paraguay(40th). In the Copa America, Ecuador is a middle-of-the-pack team finishing 12th- 8th in the competition since 1999. Ecuador’s form is good. Wins over Mexico(13th), Chile(29th), and Nigeria(32nd). Draws with Argentina(3rd), Mexico(13th), and Brazil(1st). Overall, a good run of form.
Ecuador’s Strength has been its defense. They have allowed only one multi-goal game this year against Paraguay(40th).
Ecuador’s Weakness is they do not have a goal scorer. If Ecuador plans to go far in the tournament, one forward will have to step up.
Player to Watch: Piero Hincapié
The 20-year-old lines up on the left side of the centre-back position. He has been an anchor on that left side for the last year. Hincapié has been excellent especially in the air, winning 2 aerial duels per 90 minutes. Hincapié is clearing the ball away from the net 2.70 times per 90 minutes. He is looking to make an impact in this tournament and cement a place in the Ecuadorian team.
They are the highest-rated African team in this tournament. This is just Senegal’s third appearance in the World Cup. Their deepest run came back in 2002 when they made it to the Quarter-Finals. In the 2018 World Cup, Senegal failed to make it out of groups. They have bounced back since finishing 2nd place in the 2019 African Cup and winning the 2021 African Cup. However, the form has been poor for a team of their stature, losing to Zambia(88th). They went to penalties with Eswatini(143rd) and Mozambique (114th), teams that should be beaten easily by Senegal. This form needs to be fixed if they want to go far in the tournament.
Senegal’s Strength. Its experience. Multiple players are winners at the club level and continental levels. The veterans know what it takes to win.
Senegal’s Weakness comes from the right-back and left-back positions. There is no natural right-back in the squad. On the left side, Ismail Jakobs and Fodé Ballo-Touré. Both are not in form at the club level. They are not regularly playing for their respective clubs either.
Player to Watch: Sadio Mané
The 30-year-old winger brings experience and a winning mentality from his run at Liverpool, winning the Premier League and two Champions League tournaments. Mané is the top goal scorer for the nation, at 34 goals. This is likely his last World Cup because of his age. He will want to go out with a good performance in the tournament.
Despite missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Netherlands is the best team in Group A. Their World Cup history reads as always bridesmaids and never the bride. The Netherlands have finished 2nd three times while failing to ever win one. The 2020 European Championship saw them finish 9th. The Netherlands’ recent form is excellent only two losses in the last two years. One to Turkiye(45th) and the Czech Republic(35th). This run has victories over Wales (19th), a 4-1 win over Demark(10th), and a 1-0 win over Belgium(2nd).
Netherlands’ Strength is its defense. The likes of Champions League winner Virgil Van Dijk. Mathijs de Ligt and the young wonderkid Jurrien Timber.
Netherlands’ Weakness is their depth at forwards. The backup strikers are Wout Weghorst, who has 15 caps and 3 goals, and Vincent Janssen, who has 20 caps and 7 goals. Both are at the peak of their careers but have not put it together on the international level.
Player to Watch: Memphis Depay.
The 28-year-old forward has 81 caps with 42 goals over his 9 years with the national team. Depay is noted for his pace with the ball. He receives 10 passes over 10 yards per 90 minutes. While creating 3 shots per 90 minutes. Depay is entering the peak of his career and looking to make a deep run in the tournament. He is the best forward that the Netherlands has in its weakest position.
- Netherlands 1st
- Senegal 2nd
- Qatar 3rd
- Ecuador 4th
Want an analysis of the other groups?