top of page

What You Need To Know About the 2022 World Cup

A Swift Kicks Guide to Qatar





Despite a much-maligned buildup to the first ever Winter World Cup, we are only a few days away from the world’s best 32 teams duking it out under the Qatari sun. If you’re curious about the U.S Men’s National team chances, wanting to make an informed bet or if this is your first time watching the World Cup; this is the Swift Kicks World Cup Preview! We’ll go group by group and team by team, groups A through H.

 

If you want to hear four uneducated individuals give their predictions for the 2022 World Cup, tune into our most recent podcast episode! Thanks for listening.

 

 

Group A:


Qatar

The host that was ‘chosen’ 12 years ago has had a long time to prepare a squad to compete with the world’s elite. Facing Ecuador in the opener gives them a chance to develop a solid footing before facing Senegal then the Netherlands. Many of these players have been together for years, being developed by the Aspire Academy in Doha under the supervision of current head coach Felix Sanchez. I wouldn’t count Qatar out just yet, 4 out of the 5 hosts since 2002 have progressed to the knockout stages.

 

Netherlands

A team falling short of World Cup glory in 2010 and 2014, they’re out for redemption having missed the 2018 World Cup entirely. It’s the first World Cup for star players like Virgil van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong but they add veteran experience to a squad along with great youth talent in Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons. The only possibility I see for a dropped points is in their first match against Senegal, but if Mane is absent for the opener, we could see Netherlands to a clean sweep in Group A.

 

Senegal:

The 2021 AFCON winners look for a change of fortune from the 2018 World Cup when they were knocked out in the group stage due to an accumulation of yellow cards, losing out to Japan despite being level on points. With 26 players plying their trade in 8 different leagues around the world, they’ll sorely miss Sadio Mane through injury and will instead look to Ismalia Sarr to provide the firepower up front. Gueye, Kouyate and Mendy will look to provide midfield stability and creativity with KalidouKoulibaly and Edouard Mendy aiming to lock the door and throw away the key. Don’t be surprised if we see a run from this experienced Senegalese team.

 

Ecuador:

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Ecuador has quietly crept into the World Cup spotlight. After just beating out Peru in CONMEBOL qualifying, they’ll look to a seasoned veteran in Enner Valencia to lead their frontline in the curtain raiser on Sunday against Qatar. There also some fresh faces in Moises Caicedo from Brighton and Gonzalo Plata from Valladolid but still have international experience with 54 caps between them. A win against Qatar is a must and picking up a point against Netherlands or Senegal could see them squeeze into the round of 16.

 

Group B:


USA

With all but one Swift Kicks member eliminating the USA in the group stages, doubt surrounds the USA men’s team this year. With some questionable pre-roster cuts and a manager with little to no international track record, many think the occasion may be too much for them. On the other hand, USA tends to perform well with their backs against the wall. Star players like Pulisic and Reyna up front can make something out of nothing, and Tyler Adams and Yunes Musah have impressed this year at Leeds and Valencia respectively. Be on the lookout for their matchup against England the day after Thanksgiving (this one writes itself), with that match setting the tone for the final match against Iran.

 

Iran

After listing their 26-man roster, news outlets reported that some Iranian players are protesting and potentially sitting out this World Cup due to political and societal tensions back home. One name mentioned, Sardar Azmoun, is their star player and one that Iran cannot afford to miss. Something to follow in the days to come. Former Brighton midfielder Alireza Jahanbaksh is another to watch for, as he’ll look to utilize his flair to supply Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi of Porto up top. They’re currently odds on to drop out of the group, but you can’t count them out yet in what is poised to be a tight group.

 

England

Off the back of a heartbreaking loss in the Euro final, Gareth Southgate has named a very similar roster to the one that participated in the EURO, with a few new faces to boot like Jude Bellingham, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Phil Foden. This should be relatively straight forward for the Three Lions, but they’ll hope to bring more goals to the party after only scoring 2 goals in the group stages in EURO 2020.

 

 

 

 

Wales

It has been 64 long years since we last saw Wales at a World Cup. Rob Page took over for Ryan Giggs over the summer, but the team looks very similar to the team that was knocked out of Euro 2020 by Denmark. Gareth Bale is the headliner, followed by familiar names such as Aaron Ramsey, Harry Wilson, Dan James and Ben Davies. But is it enough to take points off USA and England? Taking points off one of those teams is the bare minimum to achieve progression to the round of 16. Did I mention the Welsh Xavi?

 

Group C:


Mexico

Yes, I already know what your first question is. Ochoa is on the Mexican roster for the fifth time, which must be a record. Tata Martino is at the helm once again and can thank his lucky stars he has a fit Raul Jimenez to lead his line, along with Lozano, Alvares and Herrera as the supporting cast. But what can we expect from them? They finished second in CONCACAF qualifying ahead of the USA and behind Canada but will face a lively Polish team who only finished second in their qualifying group. And I haven’t mentioned the World Cup favorites Argentina yet.

 

Poland

This is a team who could be a dark horse contender. Without even mentioning one of the world’s most lethal goal scorers in Lewandowski, they also have Karol Swiderski to pair with him, coming off a red-hot season in MLS. The veteran Krychowiakretains his midfield spot along with Piotr Zielenski who’s made a huge impact for Napoli the last few seasons. The back half of the pitch is the ever-reliable Szczesny and the definitely PolishMatty Cash from Aston Villa. Most seem to think they won’t be able to edge Mexico for that second spot, but I think this could be a photo finish for second place in this group.

 

Argentina

The favorites to lift the trophy, I have little doubt they’ll top the group. This Argentina team we’ve seen the last few years is one that’s less reliant on Messi. He still the focal point of this team, but players like de Paul, Papu Gomez and Paredes offers more midfield depth and a fit di Maria will be the icing on the cake to pair with Messi, Dybala and Lautaro Martinez up top. With an impressive 35 match unbeaten streak for Argentina heading into the World Cup, they are THE team to beat.

 

Saudi Arabia

Due to all The Green Falcon’s players plying their trade in Saudi Arabia, I can’t speak to their strengths or weaknesses, or the ability of their players. But their coach Herve Renard has a proven track record on the international stage. He brought Morocco to their first World Cup in 2018 and is the only manager to win the Africa Cup of Nations with two different teams, Zambia and Ivory Coast. With the opponents they’re up against, tactics and guile to have any chance at getting out of this group.

 

Group D:


Denmark

Having proved some doubters wrong over the last four years, Denmark progressed to the knockout stage in the two most recent international tournaments, EURO 2020 and the 2018 World Cup. With Christian Eriksen back and healthy following a cardiac arrest in the EURO, a mostly unchanged squad from that tournament will take the field in Qatar. Losing to England in the semifinals that year, Denmark will look to build on that successand aim for qualification behind group favorites France. The spotlight was on Mikkel Damsgaard in 2020, who is a player who has slightly dropped off since joining Brentford in the summer. That slack can be picked up by a veteran front line of Braithwaite and Poulsen, supported by Eriksen in central midfield, with Christensen and Kjaer shoring up the defense and Kaspar Schmeichel completing the spine of Denmark.

 

France

Defending World Cup champions France has a squad that has been decimated by injuries. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are the most notable absences, while Nkunku and Kimpembe are also left off the 26-man roster. The missing Kante and Pogba leaves a gaping hole in the midfield, their most notableweakness and one we may see exposed later in the tournament. Despite their weakness in the middle of the park, France still maintains depth in their front and back lines. A star-studdedattack consisting of Benzema, Giroud, Mbappe and Griezmannwill most certainly pull them the group, while a returning cast of Upamecano, Pavard and Varane supplements the lack of security in midfield. With second best odds to defend their title, I expect a deep run.  

 

Australia

The Socceroos limped over the line into the World Cup after barely edging out Oman in AFC qualifying. They’ve got a mountain to climb to beat favorites Denmark and France to the round of 16, but there are a few players to keep an eye on. Riley McGree has impressed the last two seasons in the Championship with Birmingham City and Middlesbrough. Aaron Mooy, now playing his trade in Scotland after a move away from China will look to shore up the midfield behind another Aussie favorite, Matthew Leckie. He has the second most caps at 72 and his experience will be required to get Australia over the line.

 

Tunisia:

Another team I admittedly know little about is Tunisia. With only 3 World Cup match wins to their name, they’ll be looking to turn their fortunes around after beating Mali in qualifying with just an own goal after 180 minutes of play. They’ll look to take points off their first two opponents before facing France on the last day of group play.

 

Group E

 

Germany

The prodigal son Mario Goetze makes a surprise return to Die Mannschaft as he looks to help his team emulate their win over Argentina in the World Cup final in 2014. A back line without defensive marshals Philip Lahm or Mats Hummels, they’ll look to rely on Rudiger and Sule as the most senior to organize their back line. German fans can find comfort in old guards like Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer rejoining the national team, but this is very much a team in transition. Serge Gnarby is set to make his World Cup debut alongside Bayern Munich teammate Leroy Sane. Keep a close eye on England youth international turned German sensation Jamal Musiala as he looks to enforce his will in the German engine room.

Costa Rica

Another goalkeeper mainstay in the World Cup is returning in the form of Keylor Navas. Despite his limited gametime at PSG this year, he was the highlight of their quarterfinals run in 2014, conceding only 2 goals the entire tournament. Another few familiar faces return like Joel Campbell and Bryan Oviedo, looking to provide goals and defensive assuredness respectively. Luis Fernando Suarez is looking to lead a third different nation to a World Cup after guiding Ecuador and Honduras to the World Cup in 2006 and 2014. A defensive mindset guided Costa Rica to knockout glory before, but can they do it again?

Japan

Sporting arguably one of the best kits at this World Cup, Japan’sdiverse squad beset with youthful talent and veteran stabilitywill need all the goals they can get to get out of this group. A surprise omission of Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate (Sorry, Steve) allows their Celtic teammate Daizen Maeda to take their spot in the eleven. Former Liverpool FC and Carabao Cup superstar Takumi Minamino brings experience from his time in Englad to settle the midfield department. 21 year old TakefusaKubo will look to use his blistering pace on the wing to supplytheir strikers. Their must win game against fellow underdogs Costa Rica is sandwiched in between Spain and Germany,making it a must win game.

Spain

No de Gea? No Ramos? No problema. Despite the absence of a few veterans, the midfield maestro Busquets returns along with a host of young talent. Barcelona’s own Pedri and Gavi will vyefor central midfield spots, with Azpilicueta and Alba providing experience in the fullback positions. The main two causes for concern  is the lack direct firepower up top; Alvaro Morata never seems to be in form so they’ll have to rely on 20 year old Ansu Fati, Marco Asencio and Manchester City reject FerranTorres to provide the goals. The glory days of the mid 2008 and 2012 with a EURO and World Cup title seem a distant dream, but this spitfire group of Spaniards look to bring them back to the good old days.

 

Group F


Belgium

Belgium has arguably the greatest insurance policy in the world with Thibaut Courtois. Their compact 3-4-3 will add to the defensive formation of this team but can also add to their attacking prowess with Mertens and Hazard through the wide attacking lanes. It’s been tough going for Eden Hazard and Lukaku recently, neither player finding great success at club level. This could all be nullified by Kevin de Bruyne, arguablythe best midfielder on the planet and will look to supply goals on a silver platter for their front three. This is the last call for Belgium’s Golden Generation, can they leave the footballing world something to remember them by?

 

Canada

Another dark horse, the most exciting aspect of this team to me is not their start winger (left back?) Alphonso Davies or Jonathan David, who knows exactly where the goal is in Lille. I cannot wait to watch their goalkeeper, Milan Borjan, who likes to play in sweatpants. Unfortunately, due to the hot weather in Qatar, we may miss out on his billowy pantaloons inside the 18. But either way, this incredibly diverse squad will look to defy their critics in their second ever World Cup appearance.

 

Morocco

A titan in African qualifying for the World Cup, they thundered through their group with six wins and a plus 19 goal differential. They also sport a great showcase of European talent, with Achraf Hakimi at PSG, Hakim Ziyech at Cheslea and NoussairMazraoui from Bayern Munich. But is it enough? With a late coaching change last August with Vahid Halilhodzic being replaced by CAF Champions League winner Walid Reragui in the runup to the World Cup, it could prove strategic or disastrous as Morocco look to escape Group F.

 

Croatia

Like Belgium, it’s a swan song for one of football’s greats, Luka Modric. While Croatia has other threats across the pitch, this will be their midfield talisman’s last chance to take his country to World Cup glory after coming second in 2018. Three surprising omissions are Caleta-Car, Colak and Rebic, allplayers that are in form at their respective clubs. No Mandzukic or Rebic shoulders majority of the goal scoring responsibility on Andrej Kramaric.

 

  

Group G


Serbia

While Group G is slightly top heavy with Brazil, the fight for second spot will be a dog fight and I tip Serbia to make it through to the knockouts. Their only question mark is their defense, but the best way to make up for that is a buccaneering front line. Aleksandr Mitrovic is coming off a 43 goal season in the Championship last year and his goal tally is already at 9 in the Premier League. Jovic and Vlahovic haven’t hit their normal heights in Serie A this year but they’ve both proven to be goal machines in the past. Tadic is their de-facto leader and will look to drag Serbia out of what will be a tight group this year.

 

Brazil

Another World Cup favorite alongside Argentina, everywhere you look here is quality. The 5-time World Cup Champions will look to avoid repeating history after losing to European sides in the last 4 World Cups. But this is a team who scored 40 goals in World Cup qualifying and only conceded 5. From Alisson to Marquinhos, to Casemiro to Neymar, expect to see the classic Brazilian jogo bonito all the way through to the knockout stages.

 

Cameroon

Despite a dramatic last second winner by Cameroon to send them to the World Cup, they haven’t won a single friendly leading up to the World Cup. Their main talent, veteran Choupo-Moting leads the line along with Bryan Mbeumo from Brentford. But behind them, Cameroon looks quite flat. Andre Onana will surely be busy in between the sticks as Cameroon will have pull a 180 from their performances leading up to the World Cup if they want to get anything out of this group.

 

Switzerland

Prior to their most recent highlights being a 2-1 win over Spain and 1-0 win over Portugal in the UEFA Nations League, Switzerland was a very underwhelming side. They finished second bottom in their Nations League group and drew Kosovo and drew to England last spring. But their perpetual underdog status brings with them some underdog players. Granit Xhaka will act as their midfield maestro, a role he’s been familiar with this year, leading Arsenal to top of the league. The alpine Messi Xherdan Shaqiri will surely prove to be the lifeblood of this team once again and will look to supply goals to in-form strikersOkafor and Embolo up front. Nothing too flashy but look for this dogged team to cause trouble to some weaker backlines in this group.

  

Group H


Ghana

Newly appointed manager Otto Addo is facing his first major test as a head coach at this years World Cup. His brand newconvert Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in Spain and the Ayew brothers will lead the line of a youth-injected squad. Ghana fans and players alike will surely be relishing a rematch against Uruguay in the last group match, when Suarez’s goal-line clearance via a handball knocked Ghana out of the quarterfinalsin 2010.

 

Korea Republic

The most successful footballing country in Asian history, this will be South Korea’s tenth World Cup in a row, putting them among names like Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil. The man synonymous with South Korean football, Son Heung-min, will be doing his best impression of Batman this year while donning his protective mask due to a fractured eye socket. But his lack of support may cost South Korea, with midfield creativity being few and far between. Pace going forward isn’t a problem, with Hwang Hee-chan from Wolves looking to cause headaches for fullbacks. With a difficult home opener against Uruguay and ending their group stage against Portugal, South Korea has a mountain to climb.

 

Portugal

Continuing with the theme of this tournament’s major players, it’s last chance saloon for Cristiano Ronaldo. Like Messi, he’s being given more help than in World Cup’s past. There’s a host of Premier League experience in this squad in Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves, Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes, just to name a few. But which Ronaldo will we see at the World Cup? His topsy-turvy form at United which gave way to an interview with Piers Morgan criticizing everything at United from the jacuzzi to the owners. It seems to even have an effect his chemistry with the squad from videos we’ve seen from Portuguese training sessions. Will Portugal’s chosen one be their downfall?

 

Uruguay

Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, even in their later years, can cause fear to run through the minds of defenders. But add Darwin Nunez to the equation, and you get an amalgamation of chaos, speed, goal scoring and maybe a sprinkle of red card, too. And to complete their spine they have Federico Valverde, who is having the season of his life at Real Madrid and Ronald Araujo, who’s proven to be a defensive stalwart in Barcelona. Let’s hope he can get fit in time for their opener against South Korea. My advice: anytime Uruguay is playing, put down what you’re doing, crack a beer and enjoy.

 

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page