The World Cup draw in Doha brought Qatar 2022 into greater focus, with many mouths watering as group stage matchups were revealed and pathways to the final could be charted. The event began on November 20th, with 32 teams vying to reach the final and become global champions on December 18th.
The World Cup will be held in the Arab world for the first time, and just the second time in Asia, after Japan and South Korea co-hosted the tournament in 2002. England, under by Gareth Southgate, was placed in Group B with the United States, Iran, and Wales.
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Senegal vs. Netherlands – November 21
The first day of the World Cup begins with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador, but it’s Group A’s second game that has everyone on edge. Senegal are the strongest of the five African representatives in Qatar, as seen by their victory at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year and their two-legged victory over Egypt to qualify for the World Cup, and a game against three-time finalists is a must-win. The Netherlands is an intriguing proposition that might pit Sadio Mane against Liverpool colleague Virgil van Dijk. The victor of this battle will have a strong chance of qualifying from Group A.
Belgium vs. Canada – November 23rd
Belgium, now ranked second in the FIFA World Cup Rankings, is definitely a world-class team, but they are still without a trophy as their much-vaunted ‘golden generation’ ages. Roberto Martinez’s side will be big favorites in their Group F opening against Canada, but the fact that this is just the second encounter between the two teams – and the first in a competitive game – will give plenty of intrigue. The Canadians are competing in a World Cup for the second time, having made their debut in 1986, yet they have the potential to pull off an upset.
France vs. Denmark – November 26
The incumbent World Cup champion has not defended their championship since Brazil in 1962, but France will attempt to break that trend in Qatar. They begin with a game against the winner of the intercontinental play-off between Peru and Australia or the UAE, but Denmark might be their hardest Group D opponents. It will be the fourth World Cup meeting between the sides, with the most recent being an uninspiring 0-0 draw in Russia four years ago, and Christian Eriksen potentially playing in a major tournament for the first time since his cardiac arrest during Euro 2020 adds another wrinkle to the proceedings.
Argentina vs. Mexico – November 26
The Latin American rivalry between Argentina and Mexico, the only group-stage match involving two teams presently ranked in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings, might easily determine who leads Group C. The teams are rather frequent opponents on the international scene, and Mexico will be looking for their first win against La Albiceleste since the 2004 Copa America, having failed in ten previous efforts. The Argentines will not want to make a mistake in what is likely to be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup.
Iran vs. the United States – November 29th
Perhaps predictably, considering the nations’ complicated geopolitical connection, Iran and the United States have only met twice in men’s football history. The first of these memorable matchups occurred in the 1998 World Cup, with a meticulously staged pre-game ritual that included Iranian players gifting white flowers to the Americans as a sign of peace before Iran won 2-1 for its first-ever World Cup victory. The game was billed as the “most politically heated game in World Cup history,” and given the ups and downs in ties between the nations since, the 2022 rematch promises to have its own distinct atmosphere.
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