As we continue to keep you updated with every bit of information about the World Cup, we ride on by offering an in-depth analysis of each group.
It is just under 30 days till the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the sense of excitement is almost at a fever pitch.
In a series of articles, we’ll take a keen look at the 32 teams in the World Cup but via their groups. Our focus group for today: Group A.
This group consists of the Netherlands, Senegal, and Ecuador and hosts Qatar. Being the host nation, Qatar were already drawn into group A alongside the Netherlands who were deemed a pot A country by virtue of their high FIFA ranking. The likes of Senegal and Ecuador who were considered lower in the FIFA ranking system, were placed in Pot 2 and 3 respectively.
Although sometimes when a group is drawn, it looks like one team will coast through the group or another team will suffer but this great sport is notorious for its twists and turns which makes the group stages really exciting. However, some necessary questions arise such as: Who are the favorites to win the group? Which two sides are most likely to make it from the group, which players are of interest?
We’ll attempt to answer those questions.
The Dutch National team are heavy favorites to win the group according to the odds from the bookies. The Oranje were outstanding during the World Cup qualifying stages as they won their group by claiming 23 out of 30 points and a goal differential of +25. They have a squad filled with very high quality players with a mix of talented young players and world class experienced players.
The Terranga lions of Senegal qualified for the World Cup without much hassle as well. They claimed five wins during the initial qualifying stages and then knocked out the Pharaohs of Egypt in the playoffs. Interestingly, they also won the African Cup of Nations, also beating Egypt on penalties.
Meanwhile, South American nation Ecuador were able to qualify for the tournament by going through the famously notorious CONMEBOL group and finish in fourth place, marginally edging out Peru to book their tickets to Qatar.
As it is customary, the hosts will always have an automatic pass to compete in the World cup. Hence, Qatar are here by virtue of their position of being hosts.
The odds for each team according to the bookies are as follows;
Objectively, any of the four sides can make it through to the next round. This is football and we have seen bigger surprises in this sport over the years. However, based on the current strength of each squad and the odds provided by the bookies we can say that the Netherlands are hands-on favorites to not only qualify but to win the group. Their manager, Louis van Gaal, still has a point to prove to the footballing world that he is still one of the finest coaches in the history of the game.
He has assembled perhaps the most balanced Dutch side since the 2010 World cup when they made it to the finals and narrowly lost out to Spain.
Van Gaal had previously taken the Dutch national team to the World cup prior to this edition. The former Manchester United and Bayern Munich manager took the country to the 2014 World Cup, where he guided them to a bronze medal in a campaign that saw them beat the then World Champions Spain by an incredible 5-1 scoreline.
Senegal are the defending champions of Africa. Their head coach Alou Cisse was also a member of their golden generation that stunned the World in the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. The likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy are the headliners for the Terranga lions and if they are to qualify, they will need all three of them to be in great form.
The Ecuadorian national team, led by Gustavo Julio Alfaro, are also a threat in this group. The simple fact that they were able to navigate through the murky waters of South American qualification to be in Qatar is enough proof. The Ecuadorians will hope key players like Pervis Estupinan, Bryon Castillo and Moises Caicedo will offer enough firepower in their tanks to fire their nation to the knockout stages.
Qatar are making it to the World Cup for the first time in their history but didn’t need to go through qualification as they are the hosts. This says a lot about their quality and we think they will not have enough quality to trouble the other teams in the group.
We are tipping the Netherlands and Senegal to advance to the round of 16.
This group is not deficient of top quality players. The Netherlands can boast of superior quality in almost every area. Memphis Depay is not far away from becoming the all-time leading scorer for his country while Virgil van Dijk remains one of the best center backs in the world. Elsewhere, Frenkie De Jong still has the quality to run the midfield. The Dutch also boast of young superstars like Cody Gakpo and Tyrell Malacia.
Senegal can boast of the likes of Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy and Idrissa Gueye. While the Ecuadorians have Bryon Castillo, Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan. While the Qataris can boast of Hassan Al-Haydos, Akram Afif.
Cody Gakpo: The young Dutch forward has really emerged this season with his huge goal and assist contributions. He will be looking to carry his great form to the World Cup and have a breakout tournament.
Pape Mater Sarr: The young Spurs man is one of the young players to shine if given the chance in Qatar.
Moises Caicedo: The 20-year-old Brighton midfielder is making strides in the Premier League and could sparkle in Qatar.
Akrim Afif: At 25, Afif is surprisingly one of the youngest in the team, he is one to watch out for.