The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place this month. Host nation Qatar will hope to start the competition on a winning note as they welcome Ecuador on Nov. 20 at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Initially, FIFA had planned to start the World Cup on Nov. 21, in a game featuring Senegal and the Netherlands. FIFA later moved Qatar’s game forward to follow the WC’s tradition of the home nation playing the first match.
This year’s FIFA World Cup fixtures promise action galore. There are some old rivals, underdogs hoping to surprise the world and some games everyone can predict the winner.
Here are some of the most anticipated matches in the first round of this year’s World Cup:
Group A: Senegal vs Netherlands on Nov. 21
Africa Cup of Nations’ Champions Senegal have a mountain to climb when they face the Netherlands in Group A’s first match. Senegal has a host of world class players in Sadio Mane and Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy.
Despite that, the Netherlands are favorites to win this fixture. Their star-studded roster includes the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Matthijs De Light, Tyrell Malacia and Nathaniel Ake.
Although the bookies are favoring the Dutch to win, Senegal can’t be counted out. The African Champions have been dominating their opponents left, right and center. And with Mane and Mendy in excellent form, it will be interesting to discover how Senegal fairs against the Netherlands.
Group B: USA vs England on Nov. 25
Christian Pulisic will go head-to-head against some of his Chelsea teammates when the USA face England for a Group B match. Pulisic will be joined by Arsenal’s Matt Turner as they faceoff Harry Kane, Reece James, Mason Mount and company.
England are the clear favorites in this fixture. However, history shows anything can happen at the World Cup. The USA once defeated England in Brazil in 1952. In 2010, the Pulisic led side also settled for a draw against the three Lions in South Africa.
Can the USA beat England in a soccer match this November? It seems unlikely given the quality of England’s players. But time will tell.
Group B: Wales vs England on Nov. 29
Wales have waited for 64 years to get back to the World Cup. On Nov. 29, the Dragons will have their toughest match as they head on against the three Lions in a Group B fixture.
Wales will count on Aaron Ramsdale, Gareth Bale and Ben Davis to fire from all cylinders to defeat a Harry Kane-led England. Unfortunately, numbers show England will have the upper hand in this game.
Barring a miraculous victory, the three Lions are favored to defeat Wales and top Group B. Of course, Wales also have a chance to advance to the round of 16 if they can get wins against the USA and Iran.
Group C: Argentina vs Mexico on Nov. 26
Old rivals Argentina and Mexico have a lot to prove when they meet on Nov. 26. Argentina will hope not to lose to former manager Tata Martino, who led them to the 2015 and the 2016 finals of Copa America.
Martino is now Mexico’s head coach and will want to prove Argentina wrong at football’s biggest tournament. It won’t be easy for him, though. One of football’s greats—Lionel Messi—is in excellent form as he prepares for what will probably be his last World Cup.
Messi has a talented supporting cast in Angel Di Maria, Manchester United’s Lautaro Martinez and Rodrigo De Paul. By comparison, Mexico will be counting on Raul Jimenez, Jesus Manuel and Hirving Lozano to get them a win against Argentina.
Group C: Argentina vs Poland on Nov. 30
The football world believed Poland’s Robert Lewandowski was the rightful winner of the 2021 Ballon D’Or award. In fact, Messi also stated the same after getting the trophy.
Although Lewandowski initially said Messi deserved to win, he later cried foul for losing the award. On Nov. 30, Lewandowski will have two things to prove: he deserved to have won the 2021 Ballon D’Or. Secondly, Poland shouldn’t have left him out of the 2018 WC squad.
Group D: France vs Denmark on Nov. 26
Defending Champions France are plagued with injuries a few weeks to the World Cup. Both Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are expected to miss the competition. Still, Le Bleus are talented enough to win another WC Championship.
France’s strength lies in its attacking line: Kyle Mbappe, Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. Additionally, Les Bleus have a deep squad with tremendous talent in almost every position.
With that in mind, Denmark has aways been a dark horse in major football competitions. They’re often underrated but they fight hard regardless of their opponents.
A case in point: Denmark held France to a tie at the 2018 WC Group stages. More importantly, they defeated France in both encounters at this year’s Nations League games.
Group E: Spain vs Germany on Nov. 27
Two former World Cup winners will be contending for the Group E leaders when they meet on Nov. 27. Spain last won the World Cup in 2010 while Germany lifted the trophy in 2015.
This year, Spain will leave behind familiar faces in Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos and will instead pick a young squad led by Barcelona’s Pedri. Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, and Atletico’s Alvaro Morata will also be joining Pedri in Qatar.
Likewise, Germany is prioritizing form over fame. The Hansi Flick-led side will star Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, and Kai Havertz, to name a few. Although Germany and Spain are both favored to advance, they will have stiff competition from Costa Rica and Japan.
Group H: Ghana vs Uruguay on Dec. 2
Ghana will want revenge when they meet Uruguay on Dec. 2. For the initiated, Luis Suarez notoriously made a handball during their quarter final match against Ghana during the 2010 WC in South Africa.
This prevented Ghana from becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semifinals. Now, Ghana has a chance to avenge the defeat and hopefully advance all the way to the finals.