One last chance for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Kylian Mbappé back on the biggest stage of all. Brazil offers a record sixth title. One of the most anticipated World Cups, both for reasons off the field and those that take place on it, kicks off in Qatar on Sunday.
Thirty-two teams, 64 games, 29 days. The first World Cup in the Middle East. League play around the world has been halted and now the focus of football is on Qatar, whose national team opens the tournament with a match against Ecuador.
Here are a few things to watch as group matches kick off in the smallest country ever to host a World Cup, where some fans will be staying in floating hotels when they head to the action:
Brazil (No. 1 in the FIFA ranking): Neymar, Vinícius Júnior and the rest of the flair-filled Selecao peak at the right time. Is a first World Cup title since 2002 on the horizon?
Belgium (No. 2): The “Golden Generation” is gradually falling apart, but there is still Kevin De Bruyne leading the Belgian leadership. However, there is doubt about Romelu Lukaku’s fitness.
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 and Argentina has improved under coach Lionel Scaloni, with Messi still at center stage and leading the team on a 35-match unbeaten run.
France (No. 4): The defending champions. Still the country with the most depth in its squad, despite an injury list that includes Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Now with Mbappé AND Karim Benzema on the attack. No team has retained its World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.
England (No. 5): The team has achieved poor form – winless in six games – but has a strong record in recent major tournaments. England was a semi-finalist at the 2018 World Cup and a finalist at the 2021 European Championship.
Lionel Messi, Argentina: The seven-time World Player of the Year might have saved his 35-year-old legs for a final push at a World Cup winner’s medal that would, for many, solidify him as football’s greatest player. He is currently in great form for Paris Saint-Germain.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: He has won the European Championship, but the top scorer in international men’s football has not played in a World Cup final, let alone won one. He is now 37 years old and no longer first-choice at Manchester United, so make the most of it while you can.
Kylian Mbappe, France: The star of the last World Cup at the age of 19 and he’s only getting better. The speedy striker could emulate Brazil’s great Pelé by winning his first two World Cup titles.
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium: Widely regarded as the world’s best midfielder, his quick runs and crosses are among the best sights in football. Belgium will be grateful that he arrives healthy in Qatar.
Neymar, Brazil: Often overshadowed by Mbappé and Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, still Brazil’s main man. Watch out for tricks and cutscenes, as well as some histrionics.
HOW IT WORKS
Get ready for a football feast. There are eight groups of four teams, with the top two advancing to the 16-team knockout stage.
There will be four games a day back-to-back – yes, four! – for most of the first two sets of group matches, then simultaneous kick-off for the last two matches in each group.
There is no intermission for the knockout phase, which starts the day after the end of the group stage. The first day without football comes on December 7 – the 17th day of competition.
MUST SEE GAMES
Qatar vs. Ecuador, Sunday: The first match of the tournament and always a date to record on the calendar.
Argentina vs. Mexico, November 26: The first of the great continental rivalries in the group stage, with Messi potentially sealing his and Argentina’s spot in the last 16.
Spain vs Germany, November 27: Surely there couldn’t have been many bigger group stage matches than this one at a World Cup – Two recent champions, two giants of European and world football.
Iran vs. United States, November 29: It has been labeled “The Mother of All Games Part II.” Just like at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the two countries meet in the group stage in a politically charged duel. Diplomatic relations between the nations have yet to be restored since they were severed in 1980.
Ghana vs. Uruguay, December 2: Does anyone remember the night of July 2, 2010? In the last minute of extra time in a World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana, Luis Suarez deliberately stopped the ball with his hand on the goal line, was sent off, but Ghana missed the penalty and lost in a shootout as Suarez celebrated. on the sidelines. Revenge would be sweet for Ghana.
FIFA World Cup 2022 TV Details and Live Streaming in India
All matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be broadcast LIVE on the Sports18 and Sports18 HD channel and the live streaming will be available on Jio Cinemas.
(with PTI inputs)