Photo by Connor Coyne on Unsplash
One of the world’s largest sporting events is weeks away with 32 countries competing in this year’s FIFA World Cup, here is what the group stage will look like.
The group stage starts on Nov. 20 and ends Dec. 2. Knockout rounds will then begin with the round of 16 which leads to the quarter-finals being played on Dec. 9 and 10. Semifinals will be played on both Dec. 13 and 14; the playoff for third place on Dec. 17 and the final on Dec. 18.
Group A – Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands
The hosts kick off the tournament facing Ecuador, who has recently become a strong contender among South American countries and will prove a challenge among the two favourites in the group. The favourites of course being, Senegal, the recent African Cup of Nations winner, and the Netherlands, the orange giants who are always among the favourites and continue to have one of the strongest squads in the tournament.
Group B – England, USA, Iran, Wales
On paper, this group promises an entertaining competition, but recent international games show a weak England squad that previously thought the cup was theirs. However, a rampant number of alarming injuries among English players seems to be the last blow on their hopes this year. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up and what happens with this squad. The United States, another strong contender, has also had disappointing international results recently, but could likely turn it around easier than England. Wales and Iran seem to be the underdogs in this category, but both could easily surprise against two currently weak giants.
Group C – Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland
Argentina is the one to watch with this possibly being Messi’s last World Cup, as he will be 39 years old by the time the next one comes around. Being one of the best countries in South America, they’re not only favorites in their group, but in the tournament itself. On the other hand, Mexico is not the powerhouse they were years ago, but still one to watch out for as they come out with everything during World Cups.
Group D – France, Australia, Denmark, and Tunisia
France, another of the World Cup’s favourites, suffers two possible huge losses in the midfield as Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are at risk of missing out due to injuries. While that is unfortunate for the team, France is another country with a huge roster full of talent, so they will certainly find quality replacements in hopes of retaining their title. The other three contestants in the group are fair game, meaning they are all equally matched which will prove to be a competitive group.
Group E – Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, and Japan
Arguably the “group of death” of the World Cup, or in simple terms the toughest group. The exit of any one of these countries would be an unfortunate loss to the World Cup, Spain and Germany being World Cup giants, and Costa Rica and Japan proving strong underdogs in the past will make for the most competitive group stage in the tournament.
Group F – Belgium, Canada, Morocco, and Croatia
The last time Canada was in a World cup was in 1986 and they lost all three group stage games and didn’t score a single goal. This time around, they are better equipped but are still against some tough teams. Not only are they facing Croatia, one of the finalists last time around, but they’re also facing Belgium, the second-best-ranked team in the world.
With the recent injury of Alphonso Davies, one of the squad’s best players, Canada’s chances of moving forward seem to be slim, however, not entirely hopeless. Belgium is always marked as favourites to win tournaments but always falls short, and with an aging Croatian team, Canada has the opportunity to make the difference as a fierce underdog, just as many underestimated countries do during world cups.
Group G – Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon
Brazil is currently the top-ranked country in the world and is lining up to be the most entertaining country to watch as their attack of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Raphinha, and not to mention Neymar Jr., are at the best they’ve ever been, making them undeniably amongst the strongest contenders as they look to bring the sixth World Cup title to their country. That’s not to say the other three countries in the group don’t stand a chance, their level is evenly distributed which makes for a strong group, but Brazil will certainly stand out.
Group H – Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Another group to watch as Cristiano Ronaldo is making his last World Cup appearance and Ghana has the opportunity for justice after their controversial elimination back in the 2010 World Cup against Uruguay.
In the last minutes of the quarter-final game, Luis Suarez stopped a ball from going in with his hands, which would have meant a victory for Ghana and advancement to the semi-finals. Suarez was shown a red card and dismissed from the game, but then Ghana missed the penalty that was awarded for the hand ball. Suarez has been heavily criticized and ironically it’s not even the worst thing he’s done on the pitch; we all remember (one of) his biting incidents, the last one in the 2014 World Cup. Whether he will pull another crazy stunt or an impeccable performance, we will see soon enough.
To keep up with all World Cup-related news, visit the FIFA page here.