2022 World Cup pocket-sized guide

The World Cup is upon us once again, and although the hype is not as feverish as it has been for previous tournaments, there is still a month of glorious showcase football awaiting us. This is a mini guide for every team in Qatar, including their nicknames, coaches, captains, key players and ones to watch.

Group A

  • Qatar – Surprise champions of Asia in 2019, the Maroons would be looking to shift the focus of their controversial World Cup hosting onto the pitch with some impressive performances in their first World Cup.

Nickname – The Maroons

Coach – Felix Sanchez

Captain – Hassan Al-Haydos

Key Player – Almoez Ali

One to Watch – Akram Afif

Fun Fact – Qatar’s squad features Mohammed Muntari, a Kumasi-born forward who naturalised for the Qataris in 2014.

 

  • Ecuador – An exciting Ecuadorian side packed full of youth and exuberance has the potential to be one of the surprise packages this tournament. Led by young stars Moises Caicedo and Piero Hincapie as well as all time top scorer Enner Valencia, the Ecuadorians would be hoping to improve upon their best ever World Cup finish of reaching the Round of 16.

 

Nickname – La Tri

Coach – Gustavo Alfaro

Captain – Enner Valencia

Key Player – Moises Caicedo

One to Watch – Piero Hincapie

Fun Fact – La Tri have three players; Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinian, and Jeremy Sarmiento plying their trade for Brighton & Hove Albion in the English Premier League.

 

  • Senegal – Champions of Africa and featuring a galaxy of stellar names who have played together for so long under the same local head coach, it is no surprise to see Senegal be a popular choice for tournament dark horses. However, a number of these players are approaching the twilight of their career and must rediscover their best form of Senegal are to make history in Qatar.

Nickname – The Teranga Lions

Coach – Aliou Cisse

Captain – Kalidou Koulibalu

Key Player – Sadie Mane

One to Watch – Ismailia Sarr

Fun Fact – Senegal are one of only three African teams to ever reach the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup (Cameroon 1990 and Ghana 2010 are the two others), achieving this feat in 2002 with current head coach Aliou Cisse as captain.

 

 

  • Netherlands – Perennial underachievers Netherlands would look to put the shock disappointment of missing out on the 2018 World Cup to bed completely with a strong showing in Qatar. Legendary manager Louis Van Gaal, who oversaw an excellent campaign in 2014 where they were cruelly eliminated on penalties in the semifinal, is back in charge and hoping to do even better this time.

Nickname – Oranje

Coach – Louis Van Gaal

Captain – Virgil Van Dijk

Key Player – Virgil Van Dijk

One to Watch – Cody Gakpo

Fun Fact – This would be the first major tournament elite centre back and talismanic captain Virgil Van Dijk has ever featured in for the Oranje

 

Group B

  • England – The Three Lions would be hoping to build on impressive World Cup and Euros campaigns by going a step further and lifting the trophy in Qatar next month. They have been in poor form heading into the tournament and would need to step things up if they are to stand any chance of becoming champions

Nickname – Three Lions

Coach – Gareth Southgate

Captain – Harry Kane

Key Player – Harry Kane

One to watch – Phil Foden

Fun Fact – Despite being a global powerhouse and the self-acclaimed founders of football, the English only have one major tournament win to their name in their entire history. That came controversially with a World Cup win in 1966.

 

  • Iran – Iran have successfully made it to their fifth World Cup in the last six editions, and would be hoping to cause an upset this campaign with a dangerous front pairing of Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun.

Nickname – Princes of Persia

Coach – Carlos Queiroz

Captain – Ehsan Hafsaji

Key Player – Mehdi Taremi

One to watch – Sardar Azmoun

Fun Fact – Porto star Mehdi Taremi won the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League Goal of the Season for his spectacular overhead kick against eventual champions Chelsea.

 

  • USA – The US finally look to have the golden generation they longed and worked so hard for. Young stars Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Giovanni Reyna, Tyler Adams and many more would look to use this campaign to make a statement to the world of football that the United States should be taken very seriously indeed.

Nickname – The Stars and Stripes

Coach – Gregg Berhalter

Captain – Christian Pulisic

Key Player – Christian Pulisic

One to Watch – Giovanni Reyna

Fun Fact – The United States would be one of the hosts for the next World Cup to be held in 2026, along with North American neighbours Canada and Mexico.

 

  • Wales – For a country which has had iconic players such as Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale represent them, it is rather surprising that this would only be Wales’s second-ever World Cup appearance and their first since 1958. Legendary forward Gareth Bale would look to help them make up for lost time with an impressive showing in Qatar.

Nickname – The Dragons

Coach – Rob Page

Captain – Gareth Bale

Key Player – Gareth Bale

One to Watch – Ethan Ampadu

Fun Fact – This would be the last tournament where Wales would be playing under the name ‘Wales’, as they have been given permission by FIFA to switch to Cymru in 2023.

 

Group C

  • Argentina – Tipped by many to go all the way this year, Argentina finally look to have put together a team capable of winning Messi his long awaited World Cup trophy. With Emi Martinez in goal, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Romero in defense, Enzo Fernandes and Rodrigo De Paul in midfield, Angel Di Maria and Leo Messi himself on the wings, and Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez in attack, Argentina will prove a force to be reckoned with this campaign.
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Nickname – Albicelieste

Coach – Lionel Scaloni

Captain – Lionel Messi

Key Player – Lionel Messi

One to Watch – Enzo Fernandes

Fun Fact – Generational superstar Lionel Messi is yet to score a knockout goal for his country in 4 previous attempts.

 

  • Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia would be hoping to stun the world and emulate the great Al-Owairan-led team of 1994 by qualifying from their group this campaign. They might fancy their chances playing in a familiar climate, despite the strength in quality of their opponents.

Nickname – Green Falcons

Coach – Herve Renard

Captain – Salman Al-Faraj

Key Player – Salem Al-Dawsari

One to Watch – Firas Al-Buraikan

Fun Fact – Head coach Herve Renard became the first coach to win the African Cup of Nations with different teams, achieving this feat with Zambia and Ivory Coast in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

 

  • Poland – The Poles would be heavily reliant on legendary centre forward Robert Lewandowski to break his World Cup duck and be at his best if they are to match their best ever World Cup finish of third place in 1974 and 1982.

Nickname – The Eagles

Coach – Czesław Michniewicz

Captain – Robert Lewandowski

Key Player – Robert Lewandowski

One to Watch – Nicola Zalewski

Fun Fact – Aston Villa right back Matty Cash has lived in England all his life, but has Polish ancestry roots from his maternal lineage and switched allegiance to the Poles last year upon receiving his Polish passport.

 

  • Mexico – Q. What do the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups all have in common? A. Mexico have been knocked out in the round of 16. Consistently reaching the World Cup and consistently being able to make it out of their groups is never quite enough for the Mexicans as they always seem to falter at the second hurdle. Will they be able to make it to the quarters for the first time since 1986?

Nickname – El Tri

Coach – Gerardo Martino

Captain – Andres Guardado

Key Player – Raul Jimenez

One to Watch – Diego Lainez

Fun Fact – Captain Andres Guardado is the current joint appearance record holder, meaning he only needs an appearance at the World Cup to make him clear at number one.

 

Group D

  • France – Champions of the World and with the 2022 world’s best player Karim Benzema leading their attack, France are as threatening a proposition on paper as they often are. But with injuries to key players and the old ‘Champion’s Curse’ which has seen four of the last five World Cup winners eliminated in the group stages of the next competition, Les Bleus should be wary of complacency.

Nickname – Les Bleus

Coach – Didier Deschamps

Captain – Hugo Lloris

Key Player – Kylian Mbappé

One to Watch – Aurélien Tchouameni

Fun Fact – Veteran striker Olivier Giroud is only three goals away from becoming France’s all time top scorer.

 

  • Australia – Asian powerhouses Australia are a team in transition. They have struggled to recapture the days of their golden generation that included Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer and saw them finish in the Round of 16 in 2006. They would be hoping to put on a good showing with their new team in Qatar this year.

Nickname – The Socceroos

Coach – Graham Arnold

Captain – Matt Ryan

Key Player – Aaron Mooy

One to Watch – Garang Kuol

Fun Fact – Garang Kuol is one of the few players born in 2004 who could potentially make his debut at the World Cup in Qatar.

 

  • Denmark – The Danes are feeling great again, after a Euros performance that saw them take Europe by storm and finish in the semifinals and a near-perfect World Cup qualification record. They would be looking to qualify from the group and potentially spring an upset or two in the knockout rounds of the competition.

Nickname – Danish Dynamite

Coach – Kasper Hjulmand

Captain – Simon Kjaer

Key Player – Christian Eriksen

One to Watch – Mikkel Damagaard

Fun Fact – Team captain Simon Kjaer won the UEFA President’s Award in 2021 for helping to save the life of star player Christian Eriksen on the field in a Euros group stage game against Finland.

 

  • Tunisia – The North African side would be looking to make more of an impact on this tournament after getting knocked out in the group stages of each of the last six World Cup tournaments they have featured in.

Nickname – Carthage Eagles

Coach – Jalel Kadri

Captain – Youssef Msakni

Key Player – Wahib Khazri

One to Watch – Hannibal Mejbri

Fun Fact – Manchester United wonderkid Hannibal Mejbri (on loan at Birmingham City) naturalised for the Carthage Eagles in May last year.

 

Group E

  • Spain – La Roja are looking to bounce back from a disappointing Round of 16 exit in the last World Cup. They are one of the teams in the midst of a rebuild, with veteran players David de Gea, Sergio Ramos and Thiago all dropped from the team. With the likes of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi though, there is a new wave of Spanish football ready to make a name for themselves on the world stage.
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Nickname – La Roja

Coach – Luis Enrique

Captain – Sergio Busquets

Key Player – Pedri

One to Watch – Gavi

Fun Fact – Athletic Bilbao youngster might be one of a select few players to face his brother at a World Cup, with his elder brother Iñaki Williams representing the Black Stars of Ghana.

 

  • Costa Rica – With Spain, Germany and an enterprising Japan side in their group, football fans might be forgiven for thinking Costa Rica would be pushovers. But history would tell you not to write them off. In 2014, the Central American outfit not only qualified from a group including a much fancied Italy, England, and Uruguay, but topped it unbeaten with seven points. Who’s to say lightning can’t strike twice ?

Nickname – Los Ticos

Coach – Luis Fernando Suarez

Captain – Bryan Ruiz

Key Player – Keylor Navas

One to Watch – Jewison Bennette

Fun Fact – At 37, seasoned captain Bryan Ruiz is one of the oldest players at the tournament

 

  • Germany – What a horrific tournament Die Mannschaft had in Ukraine. From Lozano’s neat front post finish in their opener to iconic goalkeeper Neuer getting stranded in midfield in their final game against South Korea, everything that could go wrong for the Germans did as they found themselves victims of the ‘Champion’s Curse’. After a substantial rebuild that has seen the likes of Jamal Musiala and Youssoufa Moukoko called up to the side, the Germans would be looking for a much better campaign this time round.

Nickname – Die Mannschaft

Coach – Hansi Flick

Captain – Manuel Neuer

Key Player – Thomas Muller

One to Watch – Jamal Musiala

Fun Fact – With 10 goals, Thomas Muller is 6 goals away from equalling countryman Miroslav Klose’s record as the all time top scorer at FIFA World Cups

 

  • Japan – It’s an exciting time to be Japanese. With the likes of Tomiyasu, Mitoma, Minamino, and Kubo, it is no surprise to see Japan tipped as one of the dark horses for the competition. Can they gel well enough to upset the odds and become the first Asian team to go all the way?

Nickname – Samurai Blues

Coach – Hajime Moriyasu

Captain – Maya Yoshida

Key Player – Takehiro Tomiyasu

One to Watch – Takefusa Kubo

Fun Fact – Despite making it to each of the last seven World Cups, Japan have never made it past the Round of 16.

 

Group F

  • Belgium – How Belgium’s golden generation have not even made it to a major tournament final would forever be one of football’s greatest mysteries, as well as one of its greatest disappointments. A squad littered with legends like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Dries Mertens and many many others have failed to reach their potential time after time. For some of them, their time is already up, but others like the aforementioned Hazard, De Bruyne and Courtois have one last shot at international glory with this World Cup.

Nickname – Red Devils

Coach – Roberto Martinez

Captain – Eden Hazard

Key Player – Kevin De Bruyne

One to Watch – Charles De Ketelaere

Fun Fact – Belgium’s third place finish at the last World Cup was their best ever.

 

  • Canada – It has been a long, long wait for the Canadians. Not since 1986, where they were promptly knocked out of the group stages after losing all three group games, have they qualified for a World Cup tournament. With the likes of young stars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, they would be looking to give a much better account of themselves this time round.

Nickname – The Maple Leaves

Coach – John Herdman

Captain – Atiba Hutchinson

Key Player – Alphonso Davies

One to Watch – Jonathan David

Fun Fact – Star player Alphonso Davies was born to Liberian refugee parents in Budumburam, Ghana.

 

  • Morocco – Forever blessed with skilful dribblers, the Atlas Lions would be looking to add some substance to their style at this year’s World Cup. The return of maverick midfielder Hakim Ziyech coupled with the threat of Achraf Hakimi and Youssef El-Nesyri would do their group qualification chances the world of good.

Nickname – Atlas Lions

Coach – Walid Regragui

Captain – Romain Saiss

Key Player – Achraf Hakimi

One to Watch – Abde Ezzalzouli

Fun Fact – Morocco would be seeking to become become the first North African team to make it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

 

  • Croatia – Everything seemed to click for the Croats in 2018 as all their stars delivered and they made it all the way to the final of the FIFA World Cup, only to be overpowered by the French. The team has undergone something of a mini rebuild since then, but the midfield is still jam packed with quality with the likes of Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic seeking to dominate the middle of the park.

Nickname – Vatreni

Coach – Zlatko Dalic

Captain – Luka Modric

Key Player – Luka Modric

Fun Fact – Midfield maestro Luka Modric was adjudged to be the Player of the Tournament at the last World Cup.

Group G

  • Brazil – “Indo Para Seis” (Going For Six) is the motto for the almighty Brazilians this campaign as they seek to remind the world of why they are widely considered to be the greatest national team of all time with a sixth World Cup trophy in their sites. With indomitable leaders Neymar and Thiago Silva possibly playing their last tournament this year, the Brazilians would be giving their all to make sure they leave Qatar as champions.
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Nickname – Samba Boys

Coach – Tite

Captain – Thiago Silva

Key Player – Neymar

One to Watch – Vinicius Junior

Fun Fact – Neymar is only three goals away from becoming Brazil’s all time top scorer, surpassing the late great Pele if he does so.

 

  • Cameroon – Speaking of ‘indomitable’, Cameroon would be looking to give a much better account of themselves in this tournament after a string of disappointing performances. The likes of Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting and Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa would be looking to invoke the footballing spirits of legends in years past such as Roger Milla and Francois Omam-Biyik in Qatar this year.

Nickname – Indomitable Lions

Coach – Rigobert Song

Captain – Vincent Aboubakar

Key Player – Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa

One to Watch – Bryan Mbuemo

Fun Fact – Cameroon coach Rigobert Song has featured as a player in 4 World Cups, playing in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010.

 

  • Serbia – After their exploits in World Cup qualification, it is no surprise to see many fans tip Serbia to be one of the potential tournament dark horses. Coming into this tournament on the back of finishing first in a group containing a much fancied Portugal side, Serbia will be looking to veteran stars Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Alexander Mitrovic, as well as young sensation Dusan Vlahovic, to work their magic for them in Qatar.

Nickname – The Eagles

Coach – Dragan Stojkovic

Captain – Dusan Tadic

Key Player – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

One to Watch – Dusan Vlahovic

Fun Fact – Despite the wealth of talent at their disposal, Serbia have never made it to the knockout stages of the World Cup since they were recognized as Serbia in 2006.

 

  • Switzerland – Switzerland are one of the World Cup teams that seem to always qualify but never make a substantial impact. With the likes of Granit Xhaka, Yann Sommer and Manuel Akanji, they would be looking to change that narrative this campaign.

Nickname – Red Crosses

Coach – Murat Yakin

Captain – Granit Xhaka

Key Player – Granit Xhaka

One to Watch – Noah Okafor

Fun Fact – Mercurial midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri is only ten games away from equalling the record of the most appearances for the Swiss national team (108).

 

Group H

  • Portugal – All time national team appearance record holder. All time national team (and world) record scorer. But there is one thing the greatest goal scorer of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo, does not have. And that is the World Cup trophy. In what will surely be his last World Cup tournament at the age of 37, can Rafael Leao, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and co help him claim what would be the greatest trophy in his long catalogue?

Nickname – Selecao

Coach – Fernando Santos

Captain – Cristiano Ronaldo

Key Player – Cristiano Ronaldo

One to Watch – Rafael Leao

Fun Fact – Just like his long time counterpart Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is still yet to score a knockout goal in the World Cup after four attempts.

 

  • Uruguay – Although their golden generation has aged now with a number of them no longer playing for the national team, Uruguay’s rebuild is going very smoothly. In Fede Valverde, they have arguably the most complete midfielder in the world right now, and he together with Ronald Araujo, Rodrigo Bentancur and the zany Darwin Nunez would be looking to wreak havoc on the opposition this winter.

Nickname – La Celeste

Coach – Diego Alonso

Captain – Diego Godin

Key Player – Fede Valverde

One to Watch – Facundo Pellistri

Fun Fact – Legendary forward Luis Suarez could be making his fourth straight World Cup tournament appearances this year. Remember him, Ghanaians?

 

 

  • South Korea – The Koreans have quietly put together one of their best ever teams on paper and would fancy their chances of making it out of a group where qualification spots are up for grab and even making an impact further down in the tournament. With an inform Kangin Lee, Hwang Hee Chan, and the greatest footballing export from Asia, Son Heung Min, South Korea have a lethal attack that could rival the very best the competition has to offer.

Nickname – Taegeuk Warriors

Coach – Paulo Bento

Captain – Son Heung-Min

Key Player – Son Heung-Min

One to Watch – Kangin Lee

Fun Fact – The Koreans would be looking to emulate their remarkable exploits in 2002 where they made it all the way to the semifinals.

 

  • Ghana – Coming of the back of a torrid African Cup of Nations in January and having won twice all year with those victories coming against Madagascar and Nicaragua, it is safe to say Ghana are not in a good place heading into arguably the most dangerous group in the tournament. But as we have seen time and again in football, anything can happen, and with talent like Thomas Partey, Mohammed Kudus and Iñaki Williams, the Black Stars might yet spring a surprise in Qatar.

Nickname – Black Stars

Coach – Otto Addo

Captain – Andre Ayew

Key Player – Thomas Partey

One to Watch – Mohammed Kudus

Fun Fact – Charismatic Ghana captain Andre Ayew is no stranger to playing in Qatar as he plies his trade for Qatari powerhouse Al-Sadd.

 

So there you have it, a mini go-to guide on all 32 teams featuring at this World Cup. What are your predictions? Who would be the young star of the tournament? Player of the tournament? Unsung hero? Golden boot winner? Fallen Giants? Champions? Let us know in the comments.

 

By Nene Afadzinu