Photo by: Rhett Lewis
For the first time since 1986, Canada is participating in the FIFA World Cup. With the tournament already underway, here is a breakdown of the most dangerous teams to watch.
Group A: Netherlands
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, Netherlands makes their return to the biggest tournament in football. With captain and centre-back Virgil van Dijk returning for his third World Cup, his squad and him are ready to raise some eyebrows. Van Dijk stands at 6’4, his poise on the back end, mixed with his speed, strength and ability to move the ball up field sets up the team for success on both ends of the field. The Netherlands also brings a deadly offense with attackers Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwign as the front two in manager Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation.
Projected 2nd place in Group A: Ecuador
Group B: England
“It’s coming home” was England’s slogan in what turned out to be a heartbreaking Euro cup loss to the Italians in 2021. However, just over 16 months later, England is set for what they hope can be another run at an international title. England Striker Harry Kane is having a terrific start with Tottenham this season as he is on pace for 24 goals in 38 games, which would be his highest totals since the 2017-18 campaign. The three lions also have young wingers Marco Rashford and Bukayo Saka, who have both been excellent with their clubs and in international games this season. Rashford’s pace on the counter attack and his ability to send the ball into the box combined with Saka’s goal scoring ability on the counter is a deadly duo that a lot of teams will have to look out for.
Projected 2nd place in Group B: Wales
Group C: Argentina
Messi is back for what he said will be his final World Cup. Argentina, having one of the greatest to ever play the game on their squad makes them a team to watch. Their Manager; Scaloni, has assembled a 4-3-2-1 formation, which allows Messi to play wherever he wants on the pitch, confusing opponents and messing up their game plan. Argentina has another weapon in Lautaro Martinez. As of the last transfer window, Martinez had the highest transfer fee of any South American in the world. Martinez has performed in all international games to date, having 21 goals and seven assists through 40 games, five of the goals coming in Argentina’s championship run in the Copa America.
Projected 2nd place in Group C: Mexico
Group D: France
When healthy, France is one of the top teams in the world. But with injuries to N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba, and Raphael Varane the French team will be without five of their starting eleven. Despite all the injuries they are still a top five team in the tournament. France is set to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation with striker Kylian Mbappe manning the top. Mbappe, just 23 years of age, is set for his second World Cup after dominating as a teenager in Russia. His ability to finish has drastically improved his football IQ. France’s pace up front on top of Mbappe with Kingsley Coman, Antoine Griezmann will prove difficult for opposing teams backlines.
Projected 2nd place In Group D: Denmark
Group E: Germany
Under new manager Hansi Flick, the Germans will look to continue their international success, having gone 15-1 in matches with Flick. The German group has many veteran stars returning from their 2014 World Cup Championship. 36 year old goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is competing in his fourth and likely last world cup. Neuer has been one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and continues to outperform his age, sitting in the 95th percentile in both goals against and PSxG-GA in the past calendar year. Veteran forward Thomas Müller is also making his fourth appearance at the World Cup. He currently leads all active German’s with 10 World Cup goals and with the change in manager to Flick, who Müller excelled under during Bayern Munich’s Champions League title in 2020. This could be the boost that Müller needs to return to full form.
Projected 2nd place in Group E: Spain
Group F: Belgium
Although Belgium has not been able to rise to the occasion in recent international tournaments, they are still a team to watch out for. Competing in what is arguably the toughest group in the tournament with Canada, Croatia and Morocco standing in their way, Belgium should still manage a 3-0-0 record in the group stage. Like many of the other top teams in the tournament, Belgium’s three attackers are their strong point. Ramalu Lu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are world class players.
De Bruyne has 12 points through 14 matches played this season with Manchester City and is in 99th percentile of non-penalty goals and progressive passes recieved. Hazard has been injured for most of the 2022-23 campaign thus far and has only played six matches this season but still ranks in the 99th percentile for shots-creating actions. Expect Hazard to come into form throughout the tournament. Lukaku has also dealt with injury this year but has scored three goals in just four matches, played in Serie A. He is projected to still play a significant role for team Belgium.
Projected 2nd place in Group F: Canada
Group G: Brazil
Brazil is currently the favourite to win the tournament. Led by Neymar Jr., Richarlison and Vinicious Junior, Brazil will look to make the finals for the first time in two decades. In Brazil’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Neymar Jr. will play at the 10, as he has taken on more of a playmaking role with Brazil throughout the World Cup Qualification and International friendlies. Richarlison is the striker for the squad scoring three goals in his last two international appearances and he will look to continue that momentum into Qatar. The manager, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, thinks that 22 year old Vinicious Jr. can be a weapon that other teams will undermine.
“The third asset could be Vinicius Jr. If one is looking for an attacking player we could even call a differential for the World Cup. He is just so explosive, skilled and can score many goals and assists,” said Bacchi.
2nd place in Group G: Serbia
Group H: Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to complete the Trophy case with a World Cup victory. Ronaldo has been having both on-field and off field troubles this year with Manchester United, so he looks to silence the haters in what could be his last World Cup. In 17 appearances for Portugal, Ronaldo has seven goals and two assists, averaging a goal a game in the 2018 World Cup.
But Portugal is not just a one-man show, Portugal has world class defenders in João Cancelo and Pepe. Cancelo has the ability to play through balls to either side of the pitch and the speed to join the counter attack when needed, but should not leave his team a man down when defending. Pepe is now 39 years old. He brings poise and strength to the back line as he too has won every international title except for the World Cup.
2nd place: Korea Republic
The World Cup will be televised on TSN and CTV and can be streamed on TSN.ca or the TSN app and CTV.ca or the CTV GO app.