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Group A World Cup Qatar 2022 : favourites, analysis and schedule

 
The challenge of Group A of the 2022 World Cup: how far can Senegal go?


Surprise quarter-finalist in 2002 then disappointingly eliminated in the group stage in 2018 (because they were ahead of Japan in the… fair play ranking!), Senegal approach their 3rd World Cup with a very different costume. Firstly because the Lions of Teranga are reigning African champions, then because they eliminated the formidable Egypt in the play-offs, and finally because they have a fairly impressive squad (Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mané to name a few) who know each other inside out since coach Aliou Cissé has been in office since 2015.


The coronation at the CAN last February broke down a psychological barrier since it was the first major title in the history of Senegalese football and the Lions arrive in Qatar carrying almost the hopes of an entire continent. In recent times, they have managed the pressure inherent in their new status admirably well.


A priori, the Netherlands are a notch above, Qatar several notches below and qualification should mainly be played against Ecuador. Next ? Everything is possible, including a fabulous epic like in 2002.


The ambition of the Netherlands


Back after missing the previous edition, the Oranje were rather spoiled in the draw by inheriting this Group A relative to their reach where they stand out quite clearly. We can consider that we are globally witnessing a return to form of the Batavians in recent years after their crossing of the desert between 2016 and 2018, but the Euro 2020 fiasco proved that this jump is relative with elimination in the round of 16 against the Czech Republic (0-2).


Since this failure, the return to business of coach Louis van Gaal has still had a very positive effect since the Dutch are undefeated under his command.
They finished top of a tough qualifying group including Turkey and Norway and humiliated Belgium 4-1 in Brussels in June in the Nations League. With Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay, very prolific in selection (joint top European scorer in qualifying with 12 goals),
they have one major player per line and can count on the contribution of the rising generation like Steven Bergwijn and Cody Gakpo. What to see life in oranje?


Ecuador, itchy hair or future flop?


Absent in 2018, El Tri is making a strong comeback after finishing 4th in qualifying in the South American Zone, which is never an easy task. Indeed, only Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay finished ahead of Gustavo Alfaro's men, who therefore edged out Peru, Colombia and Chile, which were bigger chunks on paper.


This performance inevitably invites respect, even if it must be admitted that the Ecuadorians did not particularly impress during the last Copa America by finishing 4th in their group behind Brazil, Peru and Colombia without winning a single match, before to be outclassed by Argentina in the quarter-finals (0-3).


The case of Byron Castillo, a Tri striker accused by Chile of being of Colombian nationality and using a false identity, posed a risk of disqualification for Ecuador until the end, but FIFA finally ruled in his favor.


Qatar, the unknown


What about the host country, who will discover the World Cup? On the one hand, there is an obvious impression of growing in power over the last few years, with the first crown in history in the Asian Cup of Nations in 2019 then the route to the semi-finals of the FIFA Arab Cup in December 2021, certainly helped sometimes by “house arbitration”. For years, everything is thought out so that this team reaches its zenith at the end of 2022, like the policy of naturalization of foreign players like the Algerian Boualem Khoukhi and the Franco-Algerian Karim Boudiaf, specially recruited very young and international Qataris for 9 years now!


However, the results against selections from other continents are quite worrying: Serbia twice and Ireland inflicted a 4-0 on the men of Félix Sánchez Bas in 2021, Portugal also won 3-1 and 3 -0 and the recent 3-0 rout against Croatia U23 challenges. Like South Africa in 2010,
the only precedent in history, the adventure risks stopping as soon as the group stage for the host country.


Group A World Cup 2022 – Their history at the World Cup:


Ecuador: 4th participation, including an 8th final in 2006.
Qatar: 1st participation.
Senegal: 3rd participation, including a quarter-final in 2002.
Country-Bottom: 11th participation including three defeats in the final in 1974, 1978 and 2010.


 

The 2022 World Cup Group A schedule


Sunday November 20

Qatar – Ecuador, at Al Bayt Stadium


Monday November 21

Senegal – Netherlands, at Al Thumama Stadium


Friday November 25

Qatar – Senegal, at Al Thumama Stadium

Netherlands – Ecuador, at Khalifa International Stadium


Tuesday, November 29

6 p.m., Qatar – Netherlands, at Al Bayt Stadium

6 p.m., Ecuador – Senegal, at the Khalifa International Stadium


The star of Group A of the 2022 World Cup: Sadio Mané


  Elected African Player of the Year for the second consecutive time in July and a very credible contender for the Ballon d'Or podium,
the 30-year-old striker has just lived his hour of glory in selection by transforming the victorious shot on goal into the CAN final (at the end of a competition which saw him shine) then into the World Cup play-offs, each time at the expense of his ex-teammate, the unfortunate Mohamed Salah.
The Lion thus succeeded where the 2002 generation had failed: to offer a title to Senegal. If the talent of the native of Bambali is no longer to be proven, his mixed first steps at Bayern Munich sow a little doubt about his current form after an XXL season with Liverpool.

 
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