Qatar World Cup: Your information to the 13 European groups competing at soccer extravaganza

BELGIUM

How did World Cup qualification go?

Belgium didn’t lose any of their qualifying video games for the World Cup, coming prime of a bunch containing Wales and the Czech Republic. 

What sort of kind is Belgium in?

On the World Cup 4 years in the past, Belgium beat England in a play-off match to return third, their best-ever match. 

Since then, the crew has misplaced a few of its prime gamers who had been nicknamed the “golden era”, equivalent to ex-Manchester Metropolis star Vincent Kompany. 

However there’s nonetheless high quality and the crew’s pleasant in opposition to Egypt in Kuwait on Friday will likely be a chance to get some good outcomes earlier than the World Cup.

Who’s Belgium’s star participant?

Midfielder Kevin de Bruyne is a genius, he can do all the pieces with a ball quicker than his opponent. Nevertheless, the actual fact he can do all the pieces additionally places a variety of strain on his shoulders. 

Who’s Belgium’s shock package deal?

Leandro Trossard is in nice form. He has scored targets in opposition to Manchester Metropolis and Chelsea this season, in addition to a hat-trick in opposition to Liverpool.

What three phrases would you employ to explain Belgium’s nationwide soccer crew?

Wall. Expertise. Creativity.

Wall, as a result of now we have Thibaut Courtois from Actual Madrid in objective, who’s unattainable to get previous. Expertise, as now we have eleven gamers who’re over 30 years previous. And at last, I might say creativity.

How properly do Belgians suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

There isn’t an excessive amount of strain on the crew, which results in barely much less ambition and expectations. This sentiment can be linked to the truth that the crew is getting older.

[Words: Belgium football journalist Sven Claes, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien]

CROATIA

What sort of kind is the Croatian crew in? How did World Cup qualification go?

The qualifiers had been wobbly and the pinnacle coach, Zlatko Dalić, was trying to find the suitable formation. However qualification for the World Cup was by no means existential, regardless of an surprising loss to Slovenia. Croatia is quietly optimistic and there aren’t a variety of query marks surrounding the crew.

Who’s Croatia’s star participant?

I might say Luka Modrić. He’s 37 and nonetheless in nice form. He’s the captain and chief of the crew.

Who may very well be Croatia’s shock package deal?

The crew is an effective mix of recent faces and older extra skilled ones. Defender Josip Šutalo may very well be a shock, he’s a teen from Prva HNL membership Dinamo Zagreb.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Croatia’s nationwide soccer crew?

For techniques, let’s go along with: direct as potential. Croatia is present process a slight transition when it comes to techniques. In 2018 they had been fairly a counter-attacking crew, now they’re extra inclined to seize the ball due to some tactical tweaks.

How properly do Croatians suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

The hangover from the 2018 silver medal is gone and that is very uncommon for Croatia. They’re fairly real looking and the primary milestone will likely be to get out of the group stage. After that, because the 2018 World Cup confirmed us if the draw is beneficial you then would possibly anticipate one thing. Nevertheless, the primary objective is basically to get out of the group stage. 

[Words: Croatian football journalist Juraj Vrdoljak, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien]

DENMARK

What form is the Danish crew in? How did World Cup qualification go?

The Danish crew is in an excellent scenario, they had been near-perfect in qualification till they misplaced to Scotland. The truth that they received to the semi-finals within the European Championships actually lifted the nation.

Who’s Denmark’s star participant?

Christian Eriksen is the mind of the crew. He’ll play a extra superior function for Denmark than he does for Manchester United. He’s a extremely artistic participant.

Who’s Denmark’s shock package deal?

I’m undecided how a lot of a shock he’s, however Jesper Linstrom. He’s the Danish offensive participant in the perfect form, having been incredible these days for Frankfurt. My concern is he could not get sufficient recreation time to point out his expertise.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Denmark’s nationwide soccer crew?

The crew is versatile, mature and optimistic. There are a variety of senior gamers with worldwide caps. The crew can be now not seen as “little Denmark” – rivals are conscious that the times the place they may flip up and simply beat Denmark, are over.

How properly do Danish followers suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

The one strain is to get out of the group phases. I feel everybody expects Denmark to complete second behind France, while beating Tunisia and Australia. The draw has been unkind, nonetheless, I feel the Danish gamers turn into higher as quickly as they placed on the nationwide shirt. In different international locations equivalent to England, this isn’t the case.

[Words: Sports journalist Liam Barker, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien

ENGLAND

How did World Cup qualification go?

After the frustration of shedding to Italy within the closing of Euro 2020, England picked themselves as much as breeze by their World Cup qualifying group, which included groups of various high quality, from Poland and Hungary to Andorra and San Marino.

What kind is the English facet in?

World Cup qualifying could have been stress-free, however England’s kind since reserving their place in Qatar has been massively worrying.

They crashed out of the Nations League prime group, the place they misplaced 4-0 at residence to Hungary.

Supervisor Gareth Southgate argued that he was experimenting along with his crew forward of the way more necessary World Cup, however followers are involved concerning the crew’s kind and the health of a few of their prime stars. Striker Harry Kane, for instance, has began 13 video games in 43 days for his membership Tottenham Hotspur, a fixture schedule condensed to make room for a winter World Cup.

Who’s England’s star participant?

Harry Kane is England’s star participant and the person followers anticipate to ship on the massive stage. Two extra targets in an England shirt in Qatar will see him equal Wayne Rooney’s file whole of 53 for the nationwide facet.

Who may very well be England’s shock package deal?

It will not be a shock to followers of Borussia Dortmund, however 19-year-old Jude Bellingham may very well be England’s shock package deal

He has been the star performer in current matches, regardless of the crew’s poor kind.

One other wildcard may very well be Leicester Metropolis midfielder James Maddison, whose targets and assists in a struggling Premier League crew propelled him into Southgate’s squad on the final minute.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain England’s nationwide soccer crew?

Conservative. Pragmatic. Passionate.

How properly do English followers suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

The current poor kind has seen unrest amongst some England followers over Southgate’s techniques, which they see as conservative and unlikely to achieve the larger matches.

Others although would argue current outcomes are only a blip in what has been a profitable interval in cost for Southgate, who, in stark distinction to his predecessors, has succeeded in making a membership ambiance when gamers flip up for England obligation.

If England does fail to triumph in Qatar, it will not be as a result of the gamers aren’t enjoying for the supervisor.

[Words: Chris Harris]

FRANCE

How did World Cup qualification go?

The qualifying marketing campaign went properly. France completed unbeaten and prime of their group with a six-point lead over second-placed Ukraine.

What sort of kind is France in?

Coach Didier Deschamps has solely chosen 11 gamers from France’s World Cup-winning 2018 squad for the match in Qatar. 

Some, equivalent to Blaise Matuidi, have retired from worldwide soccer. Others — Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté — are injured.

Prolific striker Karim Benzema has not featured a lot for Actual Madrid in current weeks amid “a couple of little health points”. 

Replace: Benzema has now withdrawn from the match.

Who’s France’s star participant?

Much more than in 2018, the star of the French crew is Kylian Mbappé. Season after season, the PSG striker is breaking information. This 12 months, he grew to become the youngest participant in historical past to achieve 40 targets within the Champions League.

Who may very well be France’s shock package deal?

The shock is extra in how the crew will likely be arrange. Within the absence of full-backs Jonathan Clauss and Lucas Digne, it’s doubtless France will most likely not play with three defenders.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain France’s nationwide soccer crew?

Defending. World. Champions.

How properly do the French suppose your nation will do in Qatar?

As in lots of international locations, the query of a boycott of the World Cup in Qatar has turn into extra urgent in current weeks. Many main cities have introduced that they won’t arrange an enormous display to point out the video games. However a current ballot confirmed that 60% of French individuals would watch the World Cup. 

As for his or her crew’s efficiency, the French are divided, with essentially the most pessimistic imagining a return residence within the group stage. On this respect, the statistics are inclined to level in that route, since solely Brazil (in 1962) and Italy (in 1938) have managed to retain their title. 

Cautious, French president Emmanuel Macron introduced that he would solely go to Qatar if France reached the semi-finals.

[Words: Vincent Coste]

GERMANY

How did World Cup qualification go?

The qualification went properly. Germany completed first of their group with just one defeat and 9 factors forward of North Macedonia.

What sort of kind is Germany in?

Their kind has fluctuated to some extent. With the brand new nationwide coach, Hansi Flick, they managed a commanding qualification, however within the UEFA Nations League, they solely completed third. 

Within the final qualifying match earlier than the World Cup, they managed a laborious 1-0 win in opposition to Oman.

Flick must do with out the injured Timo Werner and Florian Wirtz. The weak point stays the defence, the place solely defender Antonio Rüdiger appears to be in good kind.

Who’s Germany’s star participant?

The DFB crew doesn’t have an actual star participant in its ranks. Goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer is enjoying his fourth World Cup match. The crew additionally depends on the expertise of “oldie” Thomas Müller. In whole, seven Bayern Munich gamers make up the crew’s axis.

Who may very well be Germany’s shock package deal?

In assault, 17-year-old Yossoufa Moukoko of Borussia Dortmund has been nominated; he’s the youngest participant within the DFB crew since Uwe Seeler. If all the pieces goes properly, he may presumably make his worldwide breakthrough.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Germany’s nationwide soccer crew?

One. Event. Group. [a reference to Germany often going into a tournament struggling but always seeming to perform above expectations]

How properly do the Germans suppose your nation will do in Qatar?

In Germany, many individuals are boycotting the match: they are saying they won’t watch the World Cup in any respect or will watch it in a really restricted manner.

On the final two tournaments (World Cup 2018, Euro 2021), Germany solely carried out quite mediocrely. 

The followers don’t see the crew as the massive favourites, however they hope that they will return to the glory of earlier occasions. 

[Words: Sebastian Zimmermann]

NETHERLANDS

What sort of kind is the Dutch crew in? How did World Cup qualification go?

The Dutch head into the World Cup in higher kind than another main European nation. 

Since supervisor Louis van Gaal returned in the summertime of 2021, the crew have received 11 and drawn 4 of their 15 matches, with the highlights being a 4-2 win in opposition to Denmark and a 4-1 win in opposition to Belgium.

They topped their World Cup qualification group forward of Turkey and Norway. 

Who’s the Netherlands’ star participant?

An important participant within the crew is Frenkie de Jong. He is been wonderful since Van Gaal took over and has regarded higher than ever at membership degree for FC Barcelona lately. 

Virgil van Dijk and Memphis Depay are additionally key gamers, however De Jong is the heartbeat of the facet in midfield and might management matches on his personal.

Who’s the Netherlands’ shock package deal?

Cody Gakpo wasn’t well-known outdoors of the Netherlands in the beginning of 2022, however that’s shortly altering. Taking part in for PSV Eindhoven, the 23-year-old ahead has straight contributed to extra targets than another participant in Europe’s main leagues this season and appears set to hitch one of many world’s greatest golf equipment.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain the Netherlands’ nationwide soccer crew?

Thrilling. In-form. Underrated.

How properly do Dutch followers suppose the nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

There may be actual optimism surrounding this crew. The squad is filled with thrilling younger abilities equivalent to Gakpo and Xavi Simons and is led by arguably the nation’s greatest-ever supervisor. 

Nevertheless, if all the pieces pans out as anticipated, the Netherlands will face maybe the one two groups in higher form than them, Argentina and Brazil, within the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively. 

If they will get previous the South Individuals although or keep away from them altogether, there is not any different crew the Dutch concern and there’s no motive why they cannot turn into World Champions for the primary time.

[Words: Dutch football expert Finley Crebolder, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien]

POLAND

How did World Cup qualification go?

Poland got here second in England’s World Cup qualification group, which noticed them drawn in opposition to Russia of their first play-off match to achieve Qatar. 

However, in gentle of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a rustic bordering Poland, Warsaw refused to play the sport.

Soccer world governing physique FIFA later disqualified Russia from the match. 

Poland had been then drawn in opposition to Sweden, who they beat 2-0 to achieve Qatar, regardless of having a brand new coach, Czesław Michniewicz, following Paulo Sousa’s resignation.

Who’s Poland’s star participant?

Robert Lewandowski, who performs for FC Barcelona, is Poland’s all-time prime goalscorer and standout star. However the 34-year-old, who spent eight years at Bayern Munich earlier than shifting to Spain, just isn’t surrounded by the identical calibre of participant on the nationwide degree. 

Who may very well be Poland’s shock package deal?

Central defender Jakub Kiwior who performs for Spezia Calcio in Italy has solely made 4 appearances for Poland’s nationwide crew however he’s much more skilled than his age reveals.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Poland’s nationwide soccer crew?

It is a tough one, however I might go along with: hardworking, missed and unpredictable.

How properly do Polish followers suppose the Polish nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

Expectations are at all times comparatively excessive and the massive hope is to beat Mexico within the first recreation of the group stage. Most individuals hope the crew will get into the second spherical but it surely’s doubtless that they received’t get a lot additional. 

[Words: Polish football writer and journalist Ryan Hubbard, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien]

PORTUGAL

How did World Cup qualification go?

Not nice. After a clumsy 0-0 draw with the Republic of Eire, Portugal wanted only a draw at residence to Serbia to qualify. However they misplaced and needed to qualify by way of the playoffs, beating Turkey and North Macedonia, who had earlier knocked Italy out. 

What sort of kind is Portugal in?

Portugal, among the finest groups in Qatar, are aiming to win the match in what is extremely more likely to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup. 

Their kind just isn’t nice however the majority of the squad performs in the perfect European leagues, together with the Champions League. Many have been enjoying properly, together with the trio from Manchester Metropolis — Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva — and AC Milan’s Rafael Leão.

It is also unclear what influence Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive interview can have on his kind – and Portugal’s possibilities — in Qatar.

Who’s Portugal’s star participant?

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most important identify however at 37 years previous, he’s clearly on the downward trajectory of his profession. Bernardo Silva is the opposite one that may have a great match if the coach lastly understands profit from his expertise behind the strikers.

Who may very well be Portugal’s shock package deal?

Rafael Leão, João Palhinha (Fulham) and Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton) may all be large surprises.

Striker Leão, who stars for Italian champions AC Milan, was voted the perfect participant in Serie A final 12 months, proving to be deadly along with his velocity, clear assists and targets. 

Palhinha is a typical quantity 6 enjoying within the Premier League, the place he is displaying defensive aggressiveness, good passing abilities and the power to attain targets. 

Nunes is a midfielder that may flip a defensive situation into an attacking play in only one physique transfer. He is sturdy in possession and intense in defence.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Portugal’s nationwide soccer crew?

Gifted. Balanced. Skilled.

How properly do the Portuguese suppose your nation will do in Qatar?

Portuguese individuals are by nature optimistic in terms of soccer. We now have among the finest groups on the earth — if not the finest — if we take a look at it place by place. 

However there’s additionally the inconsistency of the crew performances, in a position to present nice performances or to frustrate the supporters with performances far under the extent these gamers have proven at their golf equipment.

Nonetheless, profitable each a European Championship and a Nations League since 2016 is what counts in the long run. 

Ronaldo is the massive star however he’s additionally generally seen by supporters as the massive drawback as teammates at all times look to him when issues go flawed. Sadly, he isn’t the participant he was 10 years in the past. 

Individuals are not so assured concerning the nationwide coach and rather a lot suppose Fernando Santos shouldn’t be the supervisor. That is as a result of in some matches he’s making an attempt to make sure the crew does not lose, quite than take advantage of its attacking riches. 

[Words: Francisco Marques]

SERBIA

How did World Cup qualification go?

Serbia certified unbeaten in a bunch containing Euro 2016 champions Portugal. They received six occasions, together with 2-1 in Lisbon.

What sort of kind is Serbia in?

After qualification, Serbia took their good kind into the Nations League, topping their group and profitable their final 5 matches. 

Dragan Stojković, nicknamed Pixi, a legend of Serbian soccer, grew to become coach in 2021 and reworked the nationwide crew’s recreation. 

Serbia began to turn into extra offensive and rating extra targets, permitting the likes of striker Aleksandar Mitrović to hit prime kind. 

He scored eight targets within the World Cup qualifiers and 6 within the Nations League.

Who’s Serbia’s star participant?

A number of gamers stand out: Fulham ahead Aleksandar Mitrović, Juventus striker Dušan Vlahović and captain Dušan Tadić, who performs for Ajax. They’re the engine of the crew. With fifty targets in simply 76 video games, Mitrović is Serbia’s most prolific-ever striker. 

Nevertheless, followers are anxious about accidents to Mitrović and Vlahović.

Who may very well be Serbia’s shock package deal?

Srđan Babić, 26, and 21-year-old Strahinja Eraković — the one participant from the Serbian nationwide league in Serbia’s World Cup squad — may very well be the shock packages. 

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Serbia’s nationwide soccer crew?

Offensive. Assured. Combative.

How properly do Serbians suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

There may be euphoria and an actual “soccer fever” within the nation. That is right down to qualifying for Qatar, the current performances on the pitch and the fashion of play launched by supervisor Dragan Stojković. 

Regardless that Serbia has been drawn in the identical group as Brazil, followers are optimistic.

Stojković stated this was regular.

“The gamers are conscious of their accountability, and we’re going to Qatar utterly relaxed,” he stated. “In a particularly sturdy competitors, we certified for the match with fashion. 

“Solely malicious individuals can discover flaws. It’s what it’s. I do not like pointless delight, however I do like vital modesty.”

[Words: Aleksa Boljanović]

SPAIN

What sort of kind is Spain in? How did World Cup qualification go?

Spain booked their place on the Qatar World Cup by ending prime of their qualification group. 

Nonetheless, an surprising defeat to Sweden put Spain’s first-place place in danger proper till the final second. 

It was an analogous situation within the Nations League, the place Spain completed prime of their group however solely on the final minute due to a late winner in opposition to Portugal, within the closing fixture. 

Who’s Spain’s star participant?

Essentially the most proficient participant is Pedri adopted by rising star Gavi.

Spain has a bunch of actually proficient gamers however lacks a world star, in comparison with the previous after we had gamers like Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Casillas, Villa and Puyol.

The actual star of the crew is the coach Luis Enrique. He has constructed a crew in line with his fashion the place he is the primary determine. Typically he is been criticised for selecting gamers that he likes independently of their kind or if there are different gamers enjoying in the identical place and performing higher. 

Nonetheless, regardless of all of this, Luis Enrique managed to take the crew to the ultimate of the final Nations League regardless of the crew’s youth, one thing that gave him a variety of credit score amongst Spanish followers.

Who may very well be Spain’s shock package deal?

Ansu Fati may actually be the distinction. He missed a couple of matches due to an harm originally of the season along with his membership FC Barcelona. He was additionally not known as as much as play for Spain in current video games, a call that noticed some criticise supervisor Luis Enrique. That solid doubt on Fati being within the World Cup squad, however in the long run, he made the minimize. He is a “completely different” participant with the expertise to turn into a world-class ahead. He is received the power to vary the course of a match, to attain targets the place no person sees an opportunity. All in all, he is received the expertise wanted to be a brand new star, however no person can assure it.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Spain’s nationwide soccer crew?

Possession. Posssesion. Possession.

How properly do Spaniards suppose your nationwide crew will do in Qatar?

No one is bound. Seeing the gamers now we have, lets say that Spain is a step behind different favourites, equivalent to Brazil and France. However we additionally know that now we have sufficient expertise to even win. We noticed how we made it to the ultimate of the Nations League and we had been crushed solely due to a controversial objective. Due to that, followers don’t rule out the potential of making simply an “common” World Cup nor the potential of changing into World Champions. We actually suppose we are able to win. 

[Words: Manuel Terradillos]

SWITZERLAND

How did World Cup qualification go?

Switzerland completed prime of their qualifying group, forward of Italy, who needed to undergo the playoffs to achieve Qatar. In an enormous shock, the Euro 2020 winners misplaced to North Macedonia.

What sort of kind is Switzerland in?

Nearly all of the group is in fine condition besides for 2 essential gamers, goalkeeper Yann Sommer and midfielder and captain Granit Xhaka. The primary is recovering from a foot harm and the second a abdomen drawback. 

There may be additionally a query mark over striker Xherdan Shaqiri, who has not performed for the reason that elimination of his Chicago Hearth crew from the playoff race for the US soccer championships, Main League Soccer, final October.

Who’s Switzerland’s star participant?

Captain Granit Xhaka, who has as soon as once more turn into indispensable for his English membership Arsenal, is the star of this group. Different prime performers are AS Monaco striker Breel Embolo and Noah Okafor, the rising star of Swiss soccer.

Who may very well be Switzerland’s shock package deal?

Swiss coach Murat Yakin has surprisingly known as up 4 goalkeepers for Qatar. With Yann Sommer and Jonas Omlin not 100% match, Fabian Rieder, 20, from Younger Boys Bern, may very well be thrown in on the deep finish. 

How properly do the Swiss suppose their nation will do in Qatar?

Switzerland is in a tough group, with Brazil, Cameroon and Serbia. For a lot of Swiss supporters, it could be good to qualify for the subsequent spherical, the rest can be a “bonus”.

[Words: Vincent Coste]

WALES

What form is the Welsh crew in? How did the World Cup qualification go?

Wales completed second in a qualifying group together with Belgium and the Czech Republic, which means they needed to undergo the play-offs to achieve the Qatar World Cup.

After beating Austria, Wales performed their final qualifying match in opposition to Ukraine. The strain was loopy. On the one hand, Wales hadn’t certified for the World Cup since 1958, and on the opposite, the whole world was on Ukraine’s facet, due to the warfare. 

By way of gamers, there have been a couple of accidents within the Welsh camp for the reason that begin of the season, together with Gareth Bale and Harry Wilson. Midfielder Joe Allen made the squad regardless of not having performed since September due to a hamstring harm.

Who’s Wales’ star participant?

I must say Gareth Bale. When you ask Welsh followers they’ll say the identical factor. He is aware of lead the crew, and even though he’s 33 years previous, he nonetheless manages to do issues on the pitch that no person else can.

Who may very well be Wales’ shock package deal?

It is dependent upon how carefully you observe Welsh soccer, however for the skin world, I might say Brennan Johnson. He performs for Nottingham Forest within the Premier League and is a incredible expertise.

Which three phrases would you employ to explain Wales’ nationwide soccer crew?

Counter-attack, courageous and resolute. They’re a crew who places their our bodies on the road to win.

How properly do Welsh followers suppose the crew will do? What are expectations?

We haven’t been to a World Cup in 64 years, simply getting there for some individuals is totally huge. However, we’ve managed to get out of the group stage on the final main tournaments we’ve been at. 

[Words: Glen Williams, Cardiff City correspondent at Wales Online, as told to Estelle Nilsson-Julien]