A viewer’s guide to this year’s Qatar World Cup

One last chance for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Kylian Mbappe is back on the biggest stage ever. Brazil Bidding for an expanded sixth title of the record.

One of the most memorable World Cups – for off-pitch reasons like the ones on it – is around the corner in Qatar and the excitement builds after the qualifying period is over.

32 teams, 64 games, 29 days. The first World Cup in the Middle East.

The tournament begins on November 20, and the final is scheduled to take place on December 18.

Here are a few things to watch as the tournament begins in the smallest country ever to host a World Cup:

The best difference

Brazil (No. 1 in the FIFA rankings). Neymar, Vinicius Jr., and the rest of Selecao’s flair-filled climax reach their peak just in time. Is the first World Cup title since 2002 looming on the horizon?

Belgium (No. 2). The “golden generation” is gradually disintegrating, but there is still Kevin De Bruyne leading the Belgian attack.

Argentina (No. 3). No World Cup title since the days of the great Diego Maradona. This will be the first World Cup since his death in November 2020, Argentina are improving, and Messi is still at their core.

France (No. 4). title holder. It remains the deepest state of its lineup. Now Mbappe and Karim Benzema led the attack. No team has held the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

England (No. 5). It reached the semi-finals in the 2018 World Cup, reached the final in the European Championships in 2021. The under-performing national football team is heading in the right direction.

big stars

Lionel Messi, Argentina. Perhaps the world’s best seven-time player salvage his 35-year-old legs to lead a final push into the World Cup winner’s medal which, for many, would cement him as the greatest player in football.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal. He has won the European Championship, but the leading goalscorer in men’s international football has not played in a World Cup final, let alone won a final. He’s 37 now – make the most of it you can.

Kylian Mbappe, France. The star of the last World Cup is 19 years old and still improving. The fast striker can match the great Brazil’s Pele for being a champion in the first two World Cups.

Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium. Widely considered the best midfielder in the world, his driving tours are among the best spectators in football. Belgium can only hope that he arrives in good health.

Neymar, Brazil. Increasingly overshadowed by Mbappe and Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, he remains the main man of Brazil. Watch out for tricks, flicks, and some stage acting, too.

How it works

Get ready for the soccer frenzy. There are eight groups of four, with the top two teams advancing to the 16-team knockout round.

There will be four consecutive matches a day – yes, four matches! For most of the first two groups of team games, then the simultaneous start of the last two matches in each group.

There will be no break for the knockout stage, which begins the day after the group stage finishes. The first day without football comes on December 7 – the 17th day of competition.

Must watch games

Qatar vs Ecuador, November 20 The first match in the tournament and always a date to keep in the calendar.

Argentina vs Mexico, November 26. The first major continental competition in the group stage, where Messi and Argentina are likely to win the round of 16.

Spain vs Germany, 27 November. Surely there can’t be many group stage matches bigger than this at the World Cup? Two recent champions, two giants of European and world football.

Iran against the United States, November 29. It has been rated as the “Mother of All Games Part Two”. Just as they did in the 1998 World Cup, the two countries will meet in the group stage in a politically charged match. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have not yet been restored, since they were severed in 1980.

Ghana vs Uruguay, 2nd December. Does anyone remember the night of July 2, 2010? In the last minute of extra time in the World Cup quarter-final match between Uruguay and Ghana, Luis Suarez deliberately stopped the ball with his hand on the goal, and was sent off, only for Ghana to miss the penalty kick and lose in the penalty shootout as Suarez celebrated. on the sidelines. Revenge will be sweet for Ghana.

upcoming friends

With the World Cup being held in the middle of the domestic seasons for many countries, there will be no backlog of friendlies before the tournament.

In fact, for European countries, the Nations League qualifiers to take place from 22 to 27 September will represent the final matches of the teams before the World Cup.

Among the big matches are Italy vs England (September 23), Netherlands vs Belgium (September 25), England vs Germany (September 26) and Portugal vs Spain (September 27).

The United States will play Japan on September 23 and Saudi Arabia on September 27, and the two friendlies will be held in Europe.

___

More from AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: