How much do you know about the Saudi Arabian football team? What about the national side of Tunisia? Or Morocco?
One of the brilliant things about international football tournaments is the exposure it gives us to players from around the world. But the sheer number and variety of teams can be intimidating.
That’s where this guide comes in. Every side is here, broken down into an analysis of their prospects, manager, and star player.
This is the perfect fuel for dinner table debates and pub arguments. But it will also allow you to sound cleverer than ever while watching matches. You’ll be able to say ‘Naturally, Ecuador looks a lot better structurally, now that Gustavo Alfaro has tightened up the defence’, while your mates look on in awe.
Check out our full guide below, and happy watching!
Coach: Felix Sanchez
Star player: Almoez Ali
Finals best: Debut
The 2019 Asian Cup winners face a major challenge to avoid becoming only the second host nation to be eliminated at the first hurdle. Qatar’s entire squad has been together since June to prepare for their big moment.
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Star player: Moises Caicedo
Finals best: Second round 2006
The 2019 South American U20 champions have a youthful side – including Brighton trio Caicedo, Jeremy Sarmiento and Pervis Estupinan – which is suited to counter-attacking. Argentine boss Alfaro took charge in 2020 and has tightened the defence, but goals have dried up.
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Star player: Sadio Mane
Finals best: Quarter-finals 2002
Qualified by beating Egypt on penalties, a repeat of the Africa Cup of Nations final. Have class and experience in record-scorer Mane – fitness permitting – and Chelsea pair Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Star player: Virgil van Dijk
Finals best: Runners-up 1974, 1978, 2010
Van Gaal came out of retirement for a third spell in charge but has had limited time to implement his methods. Star striker Memphis Depay’s lack of club action is not ideal, while leaving out NEC Nijmegen’s Jesper Cillessen means the three goalkeepers in the squad have just eight caps between them.
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Star player: Harry Kane
Finals best: Winners 1966
Semi-finalists in 2018 and Euro 2020 runners-up, England should be full of confidence. But the road to the Middle East has been littered with setbacks: six games without a win, five without a goal and a 4-0 home defeat to Hungary en route to Nations League relegation.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Star player: Mehdi Taremi
Finals best: First round 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018
Queiroz was reappointed in September, having led Iran to the 2014 and 2018 tournaments. Avoiding a hat-trick of early exits is the goal and a squad with plenty of European experience could spring a surprise.
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Star player: Christian Pulisic
Finals best: Third place 1930
Berhalter is blessed with more talent than his predecessors. Many of his squad operate in Europe’s top leagues and fans expect them to make it out of the group – as they did in 2010, when also drawn with England.
Coach: Robert Page
Star player: Gareth Bale
Finals best: Quarter-finals 1958
Wales ended a 64-year wait for a second World Cup by overcoming Ukraine in a play-off. No other nation has gone so long between appearances. The fitness of talismanic Bale is central to their hopes but a decent draw provides optimism.
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Star player: Lionel Messi
Finals best: Winners 1978, 1986
Messi has won everything at club level and, with the 2021 Copa America, finally lifted silverware with Argentina. Now aged 35, he gets one last shot at football’s ultimate prize, surrounded by an industrious and gifted team who are unbeaten in 35 games.
Coach: Herve Renard
Star player: Salem Al-Dawsari
Finals best: Second round 1994
The Green Falcons cruised through qualifying but make the short trip to Qatar as one of the major underdogs. They picked up their first tournament win since 1994 by defeating Egypt in their final group game in Russia four years ago.
Coach: Gerardo Martino
Star player: Edson Alvarez
Finals best: Quarter-finals 1970, 1986
Have suffered last-16 exits at the last seven tournaments. Emulating that modest if remarkably consistent record may prove tricky. Many fans – dismayed by three successive defeats to the USA in 2021 – are frustrated with an ageing side.
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Star player: Robert Lewandowski
Finals best: Third place 1974, 1982
Lewandowski will be critical to Polish hopes of reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 1986. Michniewicz, whose side includes Aston Villa’s Matty Cash, secured qualification in just his second match after Paulo Sousa’s shock resignation.
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Star player: Kylian Mbappe
Finals best: Winners 1998, 2018
Packed with talent, including Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, and enviable strength in depth even without the injured Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. The defending champions are among the favourites.
Coach: Graham Arnold
Star player: Aaron Mooy
Finals best: Second round 2006
Expectations are low following an underwhelming qualifying campaign, which ended with a surprise penalty shoot-out success over Peru. Few of the squad play in major leagues.
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Star player: Christian Eriksen
Finals best: Quarter-finals 1998
Denmark won nine of ten games in qualifying, scoring 30 goals and conceding three. Eriksen’s return after his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 is both miraculous and a major boost to their hopes.
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Star player: Wahbi Khazri
Finals best: First round 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018
Play-off winners Tunisia are tactically cautious and a 5-1 warm-up thrashing by Brazil emphasised their shortcomings. Former assistant coach Kadri was promoted in March.
Coach: Luis Enrique
Star player: Pedri
Finals best: Winners 2010
Enrique is developing a talented young team as Spain emerge from the shadow of the squads which won the 2010 World Cup and successive Euros. A run to the Euro 2020 semis renewed belief.
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Star player: Keylor Navas
Finals best: Quarter-finals 2014
The final nation to secure a spot in Qatar overcame a dismal start to qualifying. Many of the veterans who helped eliminate England and Italy in 2014 remain, with the ageing core supplemented by a host of inexperienced youngsters.
Coach: Hansi Flick
Star player: Jamal Musiala
Finals best: Winners 1954, 1974, 1990 (as West Germany), 2014
Aside from the hosts, Germany were the first country to qualify but travel with subdued expectations. They suffered the ignominy of finishing bottom of their group four years ago and still look light in key areas.
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Star player: Daichi Kamada
Finals best: Second round 2002, 2010, 2018
Japan are appearing at a seventh consecutive finals but Moriyasu, who prefers a quick-passing, hard-running game, has 19 World Cup debutants in his squad. Kamada hit five goals as Eintracht Frankfurt won last season’s Europa League.
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Star player: Kevin De Bruyne
Finals best: Third place 2018
Cruised through qualifying yet their golden generation is past its best. De Bruyne is arguably at the peak of his powers but Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku have endured long struggles with form and fitness.
Coach: John Herdman
Star player: Alphonso Davies
Finals best: First round 1986
Canada return from the wilderness having finished pointless and goalless in 1986. Topped their qualifying group ahead of 2026 co-hosts Mexico and the United States and produced some scintillating football along the way.
Coach: Walid Regragui
Star player: Hakim Ziyech
Finals best: Second round 1986
Vahid Halilhodzic secured qualification but was sacked in August after overlooking star man Ziyech. Regragui is tasked with injecting positive energy into a side who have won only two of 16 World Cup games.
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Star player: Luka Modric
Finals best: Runners-up 2018
Results have been mixed since storming to the 2018 final but Croatia remain a dangerous proposition, as shown by June’s 1-0 win over France. Veteran skipper Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic form a strong midfield.
Star player: Neymar
Finals best: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002
Defensively rock-solid and with an awesome array of attacking options easing the burden on Neymar, the World Cup’s most successful nation are the favourites but haven’t made the final since winning 20 years ago.
Coach: Dragan Stojkovic
Star player: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Finals best: First round 2010, 2018.
Former playmaker Stojkovic has the talent for his attacking philosophy, including Mitrovic, Dusan Tadic, Dusan Vlahovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luka Jovic. But their defence may not be up to the job.
Coach: Murat Yakin
Star player: Granit Xhaka
Finals best: Quarter-finals 1934, 1938, 1954
Topped their qualifying group ahead of European champions Italy. A memorable 18 months in which they were also a penalty shoot-out away from the semi-finals of Euro 2020 gives realistic hopes of a first quarter-final in 68 years.
Coach: Rigobert Song
Star player: Vincent Aboubakar
Finals best: Quarter-finals 1990
Africa’s most frequent World Cup visitors have not won a match at the finals for 20 years. Former defender Song replaced Toni Conceicao in February but his squad are in transition and may struggle to end the winless run.
Coach: Fernando Santos
Star player: Bernardo Silva
Finals best: Third place 1966
Santos has been in charge since 2014 but has exhausted his credit for winning Euro 2016. His squad is brimming with talent, such as Bruno Fernandes and Silva, not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo who, at 37, remains the most reliable goalscorer.
Coach: Otto Addo
Star player: Thomas Partey
Finals best: Quarter-finals 2010
Ghana bounced back from the humiliation of finishing bottom of their Africa Cup of Nations group by upsetting Nigeria in a play-off. Interim coach Addo has a hungry, young group but has enjoyed just one 90-minute win as manager.
Coach: Diego Alonso
Star player: Darwin Nunez
Finals best: Winners 1930, 1950
Alonso took over last year after Oscar Tabarez’s 15-year reign ended in the axe. He must blend the old and the new, with Diego Godin, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani preparing for their final hurrahs in Qatar.
Coach: Paulo Bento
Star player: Heung-min Son
Finals best: Fourth place 2002
Reaching a tenth consecutive World Cup is an enviable record only bettered by Brazil and Germany, but South Korea are perhaps overly dependent on captain Son. The Tottenham forward, who has 35 scored goals in 104 caps, is touch-and-go due to a fractured eye socket.
In-depth team guides
Want the full low-down on the teams competing in the 2022 World Cup? Check out our in-depth team guides:
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