World Cup team guides from Brazil to Qatar: Manager, star player and predictions


    France lift the 2018 World Cup
    Get the low-down on the teams vying for the World Cup trophy – can France lift it again? (Picture: Shutterstock)

    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!

    GROUP A

    Qatar

    Almoez Ali
    Almoez Ali is the star player of the host nation’s team (Picture: Ryan Pierse – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

    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.

    Ecuador

    Gustavo Alfaro
    Gustavo Alfaro has had two years to whip this young team into shape (Picture: Raul Arboleda/ AFP via Getty Images)

    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.

    Senegal

    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.

    Netherlands

    Virgil van Dijk
    Virgil van Dijk’s going to have to do some serious defending to help his team (Picture: Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP B

    England

    Gareth Southgate
    Gareth Southgate will have high hopes for his team, but can the Three Lions deliver? (Picture: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

    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.

    Iran

    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.

    United States

    Christian Pulisic
    Many US players such as Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic play in Europe’s top leagues (Picture: Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

    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.

    Wales

    Gareth Bale
    All eyes will be on star player Gareth Bale (Picture: Adam Pretty – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP C

    Argentina

    Lionel Messi
    The legendary player has one last chance to help Argentina win the World Cup (Picture: Elsa/Getty Images)

    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.

    Saudi Arabia

    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.

    Mexico

    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.

    Poland

    Robert Lewandowski
    Can Robert Lewandowski help Poland reach the knockout stages for the first time in 36 years? (Picture: Mateusz Slodkowski/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP D

    France

    Kylian Mbappe
    With talent like Kylian Mbappe, will France lift the trophy again? (Picture: Michael Regan – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

    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.

    Australia

    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.

    Denmark

    Christian Eriksen
    Christian Eriksen’s miarculous return following a major health inicident in 2020 is a boost to Denamrk’s hopes (Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

    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.

    Tunisia

    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.

    GROUP E

    Spain

    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.

    Costa Rica

    Uruguay team photo
    Many of the core players from Uruguay’s 2014 success remain on the team (Picture: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

    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.

    Germany

    Jamal Musiala
    Expectations are low for Germany, but could teen star Jamal Musiala change the game? (Picture: Thomas Eisenhuth – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

    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.

    Japan

    Daichi Kamada
    Daichi Kamada is a top goal-scorer for Japan (Picture: Mark Metcalfe – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP F

    Belgium

    Kevin De Bruyne
    Can Kevin De Bruyne help his ailing team out of the knockout stages? (Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

    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.

    Canada

    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.

    Morocco

    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.

    Croatia

    Luka Modric and Lovro Majer
    Croatia, with star player Luka Modric (left), will be hoping to go one better than 2018’s storming performance (PIcture: Goran Stanzl/Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP G

    Brazil

    Neymar
    Neymar’s skill and a solid defence make Brazil the favourites going into the competition (Picture: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

    Coach: Tite

    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.

    Serbia

    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.

    Switzerland

    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.

    Cameroon

    Vincent Aboubakar
    Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar will be hoping to score for his team (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

    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.

    GROUP H

    Portugal

    Bernardo Silva
    Bernardo Silva makes up part of a very talented squad for Portugal (Picture: Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

    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.

    Ghana

    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.

    Uruguay

    Darwin Nunez
    Darwin Nunez is Uruguay’s star player (Picture: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

    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.

    South Korea

    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:

    MORE : World Cup: Which players will likely be making their last appearance in Qatar?

    MORE : World Cup 2022 kit ratings: the best and worst on display in Qatar

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