Argentina's Lionel Messi will play a huge role for the team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The wait is almost over and the most anticipated FIFA World Cup in the history of the tournament kicks off tomorrow tonight when hosts Qatar face Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar at 8pm.

This showpiece has all the ingredients of being the most exciting tournament and also the most unpredictable as well as the entire world gets set to watch the action unfurl over the next five weeks.

28 days

For the first time ever the World Cup is taking precedence over domestic leagues across Europe. Depending on what happens, it could end up playing a part in deciding them. The tournament is taking place in the middle of the domestic season and clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris-Saint Germain, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and more have waved goodbye to their superstars at a crucial point in the campaign. The focus is now on the 32 national teams who will be competing over the next 28 days in Doha where there will be a carnival-like atmosphere.

Why is the World Cup in November this year?

After the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010 it was quickly decided that it would be too hot to host the tournament during its normal window in the summer months of June and July. Therefore the first-ever winter World Cup is taking place. Domestic leagues around the world have postponed their seasons to accommodate this winter World Cup. Most will restart in late December and early January.

Which teams are the favourites?

European teams have been crowned champions at every tournament since 2002, with the trophies shared among Italy, Spain, Germany and France, but expectations are swelling in Argentina and Brazil that the time has come again for one of the two South American powerhouses.

Argentina will be desperate to win it because it will be the last finals for star man Lionel Messi. The 35-year PSG attacker has already said he will retire from the national team after the tournament and it would be a great way to sign off by lifting the famous gold trophy.

Ronaldo's last chance

It will also be the last hurrah for Portugal’s 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo on the world’s biggest stage and he will want to go out with a bang. Brazil - chasing their first World Cup triumph in two decades - are the favourites and that is not a surprise when you see their strike force. Their attacking options include Neymar, Gabriel Martinelli, Vinicius Jr, Antony, Rodrygo, Raphinha, Richarlison, Pedro and Gabriel Jesus. That is a wealth of talent to call upon but there are plenty of other sub-plots too and it promises to be a riveting month of action.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

Will England’s Harry Kane become the first player to win two Golden Boots? Or will it be France’s Karim Benzema? And have Denmark replaced Turkey as everyone’s favourite dark horse? Or will Serbia win that tag? And apart for Spain’s Pedri which other youngster has the chance to make the stage his own?

How do World Cup groups work?

Each of the eight World Cup groups have four teams in them. The top two teams in each group advance to the last 16 to participate in the knockout rounds. The bottom two teams in each group are knocked out. If you win a game in the knockout round you advance to the next round and if you lose, you’re out.

What is the World Cup mascot called for 2022?

The mascot for Qatar 2022 is called La’eeb. That name is an Arabic term for ‘super-skilled player’ and Qatar say the mascot will be known for his ‘youthful spirit’ and ‘spreading joy and confidence’ everywhere he travels.

How many people will watch the World Cup?

It is predicted that 5 billion people around the world will watch the World Cup action. That will surpass the 3.5 billion who watched the 2018 tournament in Russia.



Their place was challenged several times over an alleged player eligibility issue and though La Tri’s World Cup qualifying run has been overshadowed a tad by this it shouldn’t be overlooked. They could cause a surprise...

Coach: Gustavo Alfaro

Player to Watch: Enner Valencia, forward

The 33-year-old is scoring goals at a higher rate than ever before. Ecuador’s all-time leading goalscorer has tallied 13 goal in 12 matches for first-place Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super League. Alongside Michael Estrada, Valencia will need to be at his best to turn around his side’s goalscoring fortunes.

World Cup History

Fourth appearance

Last appearance: 2014 (Group stage)

Best finish: Round of 16 in 2006


The Dutch missed out in 2018 but are back with hopes of making another deep run following a runner-up finish in 2010 and third-place honors in 2014.

Coach: Louis van Gaal

Player to Watch: Virgil van Dijk, center back

The anchor of the Dutch defense for the last half-decade, the Liverpool star possesses every quality necessary of a modern center back. Alongside Juventus’s Matthijs de Ligt and Inter Milan’s Stefan de Vrij, the frightening center back trio is one of the best in world football.

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Virgil van Dijk.

World Cup History

11th appearance

Last appearance: 2014

Best finish: Runner-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010


Qatar has been building for this moment for years. Even before FIFA accepted the Middle Eastern nation’s bid for the 2022 tournament in 2010, there has been a clear plan in place for both the country and its national team to put on a show when the time comes. Can they do it?

Coach: Felix Sanchez

Player to Watch: Almoez Ali, striker

The 26-year-old Al-Sadd player will be up front in a two-man attack alongside Akram Afif. Ali is at his best when playing off the shoulder of the defender as Qatar tries to strike on the counter.

World Cup History

First appearance


Sadio Mane led his nation to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in February, but his absence looms over everything the Lions of Teranga are attempting to achieve in Qatar.

Coach: Aliou Cisse

Player to Watch: Edouard Mendy, goalkeeper

The Chelsea goalkeeper hasn’t been in the best of form with his club this season, but rest assured that he’ll be one of the best shot-stoppers in Qatar. And he could be key now what with their lack of firepower up front.

Edouard Mendy.

World Cup History

Third appearance

Last appearance: 2018

Best finish: Quarterfinalist in 2002



England have come close in their last two major tournaments, but although there’s a sense of staleness under Gareth Southgate heading into Qatar, they should be aiming to reach the quarter-finals at the very least.

Coach: Gareth Southgate

Player to Watch: Harry Kane, striker

The Tottenham man is as prolific as they come in front of goal, and he trails Wayne Rooney by two goals for England’s all-time scoring record (53). He can strike the ball from any angle and with either foot, play pinpoint passes in the buildup and finish ruthlessly. If he is on song, England can do well.

Harry Kane for England v Germany
Harry Kane.

World Cup History

16th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Fourth place)

Best finish: Champion in 1966


Team Melli nearly got out of a group with Spain and Portugal four years ago and will fancy their chances again with an easier group this time.

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Player to Watch: Mehdi Taremi, forward

The Porto striker has garnered interest from Arsenal after recording double-digit goals and assists in each of the last two years in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. The 30-year-old has lots of big-game experience — he’s played in 15 Champions League matches with Porto and scored two goals to win a domestic cup final. He is in the best form of his career right now.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best appearance: Group stage in 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014 and 2018


The USA are back at the World Cup after missing out in 2018 and have a young group of players who have achieved plenty at some of Europe’s top clubs.

Coach: Gregg Berhalter

Player to Watch: Christian Pulisic, forward

Pulisic has struggled to find his footing at Chelsea over the last year, but his pace and decisiveness make him one of Group B’s most dangerous attackers.

Christian Pulisic
Christian Pulisic.

World Cup History

11th appearance

Last appearance: 2014 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Third place in 1930


Wales have not been at the World Cup since 1958, and with Gareth Bale on the back nine of his career, they will want to make some noise.

Coach: Rob Page

Player to Watch: Gareth Bale, forward

This is the 33-year-old’s first World Cup. He’s lost a bit of pace and his fitness level remains in question, but he is still the face of a nation and has a special finishing ability that could prove crucial.

Wales captain Gareth Bale against Czech Republic.
Gareth Bale.

World Cup History

Second appearance

Last appearance: 1958 (Quarterfinals)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1958



It’s Lionel Messi’s last World Cup and Argentina just might have the squad to get the all-time great the one trophy missing from his glittering career.

Coach: Lionel Scaloni

Player to Watch: Lionel Messi, forward

Even at his advanced age of 35 the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is still the ultimate game-breaker. Messi is magical with the ball at his feet. He might not be skating past defenders like he used to anymore but that magical left-foot is as good as ever. He can still place pinpoint line-breaking passes and frighten opposition defenses with his otherworldly skill.

Argentina's Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi.

World Cup History

18th appearance

Last appearance: 2018

Best finish: Champion in 1978 and 1986


For seven straight World Cups, it’s been last-16-and-out for El Tri. Amid plenty of pressure and while battling injuries, can this time be different?

Coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino

Player to Watch: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, forward

Lozano announced himself on the global stage with an iconic goal to beat Germany in 2018. He’s battled injury the last couple years at Italian side Napoli and didn’t impact much in qualifying, but Lozano is Mexico’s most dynamic forward.

World Cup History

17th appearance

Last appearance: 2018, Round of 16

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986


The 2018 World Cup didn’t go quite as Robert Lewandowski and Poland hoped, and the pressure is on to make good on that four years later in a manageable group.

Coach: Czesław Michniewicz

Player to Watch: Robert Lewandowski, forward

The Barcelona man is one of the best pure goalscorers of his generation. His machine-like precision in front of goal has earned him over 600 career goals for club and country. He can single handedly get them out of the group.

Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski.

World Cup History

Ninth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Third place in 1974 and 1982

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will need to find the goals to be able to hang with the likes of Messi and Lewandowski. It is a tough group and they will have to be at their best to adavnce to the last 16.

Coach: Hervé Renard

Player to Watch: Salem Al-Dawsari, winger

The wide forward was the primary goal scorer in qualifying with 7 in 13 matches. He’ll have to regain form after an injury kept him out of several pre-tournament friendlies, but the 2021 AFC Champions League most valuable player will be crucial to turning around his side’s goal drought.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018

Best finish: Round of 16 in 1994



17 of their 26 players are going to experience their first World Cup — and they’ll have to tame two top European powers to stay beyond three games. It’s the nation’s fifth straight World Cup appearance.

Coach: Graham Arnold

Player to Watch: Mat Ryan, goalkeeper

Ryan may have missed out on the decisive penalty shootout in the playoff, but he is Australia’s No. 1 choice in goal. The most experienced player on this roster will have his third and final chance to make his mark at a World Cup.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Round of 16 in 2006


Christian Eriksen is back for a team that went on an inspired run to the Euro 2020 semifinals and is more than capable of another deep run on the World Cup stage.

Coach: Kasper Hjulmand

Player to Watch: Christian Eriksen, midfielder

It shouldn’t be glossed over just how remarkable it is that Eriksen is playing at all, much less at a high level. His return to the pitch went swimmingly at Brentford before he made the summer move to Manchester United. His ability to play line-breaking passes adds a unique element to this squad in the attack.

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Christian Eriksen.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1998


There’s no denying France’s depth of talent, but injuries, chemistry and off-field drama again threaten to derail Les Bleus on the biggest stage. No champion has repeated in 60 years, and four of the last five have gone out in the subsequent group stage.

Coach: Didier Deschamps

Player to Watch: Kylian Mbappe, forward

Paris-Saint Germain star Mbappé has the pace and skill to turn almost any defender in the world into knots. If he’s allowed to make one of his signature charging runs in behind the defense, nobody will be able to catch him.

Kylian Mbappe hit four goals as France crushed Kazakhstan 8-0
Kylian Mbappe.

World Cup history

16th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Champion)

Best finish: Champion in 1998 and 2018


Tunisia has never made the knockout stage in five previous World Cup appearances, and it’ll take a monumental effort to avoid a sixth such outcome.

Coach: Jalel Kadri

Player to Watch: Wahbi Khazri, forward

The 31-year-old scored three goals in eight appearances in qualifying. He’s second on his nation’s all-time goal scoring list, but he’ll likely need to shake off some rust in Qatar as he has started just three times for club side Montpellier since mid-September.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Group stage in 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018


Costa Rica

Grouped with Spain, Germany and Japan, can Costa Rica conjure the magic of 2014 with an experienced core giving it one more run?

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

Player to Watch: Joel Campbell, forward

The former Arsenal product, now with Mexican side León, will make his third World Cup appearance. His experience will be crucial to Los Ticos’ attack in Qatar.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 2014


The 2018 World Cup was a national disaster for the Germans, who are back with a blend of stars old and new and an experienced manager tying it all together. They appear primed to embark on a run that meets expectations.

Coach: Hansi Flick

Player to Watch: Kai Havertz, forward

A versatile weapon that can present plenty of problems for opposing defenses, Havertz has scored 16 goals for club and country in 2022. The Chelsea man can play as a No. 9, drop in behind a striker or roam, which will be extremely useful to Flick.

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Kai Havertz.

World Cup History

20th appearance

Last appearance: 2018, group stage

Best finish: Champion in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014


The Samurai Blue are in a brutal group with Spain and Germany, but the potential giant killers should not be overlooked.

Coach: Hajime Moriyasu

Player to Watch: Takumi Minamino, midfielder

No one on Japan’s team during the last international break came in with more international goals than the talented attacker’s 17. But Minamino has struggled somewhat in his club career since his move to Liverpool in 2020 and departure for Monaco this summer.

World Cup History

Seventh appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Round of 16 in 2002, 2010 and 2018


La Furia Roja haven’t enjoyed much World Cup success since winning it all in 2010, but promising young stars could be the key to a deep run.

Coach: Luis Enrique

Player to Watch: Pedri, midfielder

He is the 2021 Golden Boy for a reason. Pedri’s performances at Euro 2020 and the Olympics mean that the 2022 World Cup is his chance to take the world by storm. The 19-year-old is one of the most dynamic midfielders in the game, drawing lofty comparisons to Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi, and will wow with his dribbling and vision.

210615 Spain

World Cup History

16th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Winner in 2010



Belgium finished third in 2018 and pushed France to the brink in the semifinals, but its golden generation wants gold medals to validate its era.

Coach: Roberto Martínez

Player to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne, midfielder

From his playmaking abilities to his impressive work rate, the Manchester City star is one of the best midfielders in the world and is coming off a career year that recently landed him a third-place finish in Ballon d’Or voting. The 31-year-old will have all eyes on him after making the 2018 World Cup Dream Team in Russia and will be expected to lead the Red Devils deep into the tournament.

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Kevin De Bruyne.

World Cup History

14th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Semifinals)

Best finish: Third-place finish in 2018


When Canada’s men were last in the World Cup 36 years ago, it went horribly wrong, but this new generation has the bright young stars to make some noise.

Coach: John Herdman

Player to Watch: Alphonso Davies, winger

The Bayern Munich youngster is the clear star of the Canadian team. Davies has been used in a variety of roles by Herdman, including as a winger, a fullback and an attacking midfielder, and that versatility is sure to draw the attention of each World Cup opponent.

World Cup history

Second appearance

Last appearance: 1986 (Group stage)

Best finish: Group stage in 1986


Croatia fell one win short of a historic World Cup triumph in Russia, but it’s back in Qatar led by some familiar faces who aren’t done just yet.

Coach: Zlatko Dalić

Player to Watch: Luka Modrić, midfielder

The Real Madrid star lead Croatia to a second-place finish in Russia. The 37-year-old is still a model of quality and class in midfield and if he is on song Croatia will go far once again.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Runner-up)

Best finish: Runner-up in 2018


Major developments close to the start of the World Cup have changed the game for the Atlas Lions, whose group won’t do them any favors.

Coach: Walid Regragui

Player to Watch: Achraf Hakimi, fullback

The 24-year-old is the team’s clear star. With a mix of deft passing ability and technical defensive acumen, Hakimi is an incredible talent at right back, although with Morocco he often plays on the left to allow for some of the team’s other talent to take the field on the right. Hakimi has staked his claim as one of the best fullbacks in the world at Paris Saint-Germain over the last year.

World Cup History

Sixth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Round of 16 in 1986



With a World Cup title drought of 20 years, Brazil are not holding back on the firepower as FIFA’s top-ranked side gears up for a run at the trophy they crave.

Coach: Tite

Player to Watch: Neymar, forward

The 30-year-old forward comes into the World Cup with six career goals in the competition, but the PSG star can truly make his mark on the goalscoring charts in Qatar with three more goals, which will see him pass Pelé (77 goals) as Brazil’s all-time leading men’s goalscorer.

SPO_220602 NEYMAR-1654188086230

World Cup History

22nd appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Quarterfinals)

Best finish: Winner in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002


It’s been 20 years since the Indomitable Lions last won a World Cup match. Will a squad flush with attacking talent be able to bring an end to that stretch of futility?

Coach: Rigobert Song

Player to Watch: Vincent Aboubakar, forward

The 30-year-old striker has been scoring goals from Cameroon for more than a decade. Aboubakar’s 33 career international goals for Cameroon is only surpassed by African soccer royalty in Eto’o and Roger Milla. Aboubakar, who plays for Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, made his biggest mark on the international stage at the African Cup of Nations last winter scoring eight of the country’s 14 goals in the tournament.

World Cup History

Eighth appearance

Last appearance: 2014 (Group stage)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1990


Few teams have as accomplished attacking players as Serbia — and they’ll need to be firing at full capacity based on their group in Qatar.

Coach: Dragan Stojković

Player to Watch: Dusan Vlahovic, forward

The 22-year-old Juventus striker is already a star in his own right, but the World Cup stage is where he can become a household name if he lives up to his potential. Vlahović can do it all as a forward, from his incredible finishing ability to hold-up play and aerial prowess in front of goal.

World Cup History

13th appearance (including as Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro)

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Semifinals in 1930 and 1962 (as Yugoslavia)


The Swiss knocked France out of the Euros and topped a World Cup qualifying group with Italy. The dark-horse side is in a tough group, but has all the potential to meet soaring expectations.

Coach: Murat Yakin

Player to Watch: Granit Xhaka, midfielder

The central midfielder is the key leader of the Swiss team. Only Xherdan Shaqiri has made more appearances for Switzerland in the active squad, and the two will be relied upon heavily. Xhaka has come up big on the World Cup stage before, scoring in each of the last two tournaments. But it is his tenacity and reliability in midfield that will be key to advancing to the knockout stage, especially if Switzerland hopes to stem a talented Brazilian attack and defeat Serbia in a tough final group-stage matchup.

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Granit Xhaka.

World Cup History

12th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1934, 1938 and 1954



The road to the World Cup has been anything but smooth for the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, but the Black Stars could outperform expectations thanks to new reinforcements.

Coach: Otto Addo

Player to Watch: Thomas Partey, midfielder

The Arsenal central midfielder is the nation’s biggest talent. Everything runs through him for Ghana. He is a hub of activity in midfield and controls passing lanes, puts a cork in opposing attacks and organizes the team with his work rate.

World Cup History

Fourth appearance

Last appearance: 2014 (Group Stage)

Best finish: Quarterfinals in 2010

South Korea

The Asian side has its sights set on a getting out of a difficult group, but the status of star Son Heung-min’s eye might ultimately determine its fortunes.

Coach: Paulo Bento

Player to Watch: Son Heung-min, forward

The Tottenham forward comes into Qatar as South Korea’s golden star, and as one of the players to watch at the entire World Cup - provided he’s able to perform at full capacity after suffering his injury vs. Marseille. But, the 30-year-old will still have high expectations in Qatar.

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Son Heung-min.

World Cup History

11th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Group stage)

Best finish: Fourth place in 2002


Cristiano Ronaldo headlines a squad stacked with talent, but that’s rarely been the issue for Portugal. Putting it all together on the World Cup stage remains the challenge.

Coach: Fernando Santos

Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, forward

The 37-yer-old has had his problems at Manchester United this season but is expected to go all out in what will likely be his last chance at the World Cup. His impressive log of 117 goals from 191 international appearances should only grow in Qatar.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo.

World Cup History

Eighth appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Round of 16)

Best finish: Third place in 1966


La Celeste rallied in World Cup qualifying to cement their place in Qatar, giving the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godín one more shot on the grand stage. They still rely on the old guard—but have some capable young blood who can take on the baton.

Coach: Diego Alonso

Player to Watch: Luis Suarez, forward

The 35-year-old striker is still a major part of this Uruguay team. The former Barcelona and Liverpool star has scored seven goals in his World Cup career, one behind the Uruguayan record. After two years with Atletico Madrid, Suarez made the move back to Uruguay with Nacional, where he has scored eight goals in 14 appearances.

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez.

World Cup History

14th appearance

Last appearance: 2018 (Quarterfinals)

Best finish: Winner in 1930 and 1950