Costa Rica claimed the final spot for the 2022 Qatar World Cup with a 1-0 win against New Zealand to complete the 32 finalists, so who are the ones to watch during the group stage?
France will strive to defend their second title at the tournament that commences at the Al Thumama Stadium on November 21. Senegal meet the Netherlands in the opening match, ahead of England facing Iran, host nation Qatar against Ecuador and the USA facing Wales.
Wales booked their flight to the Middle East after beating Ukraine in the UEFA Path A play-off final. Poland also sealed their place at the World Cup after beating Sweden in the Path B final and Portugal edged North Macedonia to emerge triumphant in Path C, unlike Italy.
Costa Rica last of the 32 nations to qualify for 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Costa Rica were the last nation to qualify for the World Cup via the intercontinental play-off after beating New Zealand. Los Ticos took an early lead during their showdown in Doha on June 14 when Joel Campbell put Luis Fernando Suarez’s side ahead in the third-minute.
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The result saw Costa Rica join Spain, Germany and Japan in Group E, while Wales entered Group B with England, Iran and the USA. Portugal are in Group H with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea, while Poland will contest Group C with Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
Qatar and Ecuador share Group A with the Netherlands and Senegal, while France will see in their World Cup title defence in Group D with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia. Croatia, who lost in the 2018 final in Russia, are in Group F against Belgium, Canada and Morocco.
Record five-time champions Brazil will go in search of their first title since 2002 in Group G against Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon. So, with all 32 spots now occupied for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, who is one player to watch out for from each nation in the group stage?
Ones to watch from Group A with Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Almoez Ali will be one to watch for host nation Qatar during the World Cup in 2022, having registered a prolific record in international football. The 25-year-old has scored 36 goals in 76-caps, and led his nation to the semi-final of the 2021 Gold Cup before losing to the USA.
Byron Castillo will strive to showcase his potential on the global stage when the footballing world heads to the Middle East. The 23-year-old has enjoyed 10-caps for Ecuador since his debut in 2021, and sealed a first move away from Ecuador this June to join Leon in Mexico.
Marseille midfielder Pape Gueye will hope to stand out during Group A with Senegal after making his international debut in 2021. The 23-year-old burst into Aliou Cisse’s squad and helped win the Africa Cup of Nations in February, and has gone on to reach 10-caps so far.
Noa Lang will be one to watch for the Netherlands at the World Cup in Qatar following his international debut in 2021. Louis van Gaal has held the 23-year-old to a squad role across the forward’s five-caps to date, but Lang scored his maiden goal against Wales this June.
Ones to watch from Group B with England, Iran, USA, Wales
Gareth Southgate handed Jarrod Bowen his England debut in June after a sensational term for West Ham. The 25-year-old scored 18 goals and assisted 13 in all competitions, and will now hope to maintain his output next season to also warrant a seat on the plane to Qatar.
Amirhossein Hosseinzadeh is one to watch for Iran at the 2022 Qatar World Cup after the 21-year-old’s debut in March. The midfielder forced his way into international recognition after offering eight goals from 30 Persian Gulf Pro League games with Esteghlal in 2021/22.
The first World Cup to be held in the Middle East could also be the global making of Dallas star Jesus Ferreira. He offers USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter a different and dynamic option at centre-forward than America’s other strikers, and boasts seven goals in 13-caps so far.
Neco Williams was one of the more under-the-radar yet integral players in Wales’ win over Ukraine. He was relentless at covering every blade of grass and made a crucial intervention to deny Andriy Yarmolenko. Rob Page will hope the 21-year-old is as productive in Qatar.
Ones to watch from Group C with Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Julian Alvarez is one to watch during the group stage as Argentina head to Qatar chasing a first World Cup since 1986. The 22-year-old made his Albiceleste debut in 2021 and has so far reached nine-caps, while his River Plate form saw Manchester City pay £14m in 2022.
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Firas Al-Buraikan will strive to announce his name to the world with Saudi Arabia in Qatar. The 22-year-old is yet to play domestic games outside of his native country. But the striker has shown he can offer a threat on the international stage with four goals from 15 games.
Marcelo Flores is one to watch for Mexico, as the Arsenal wonderkid continues to establish an international presence. The 18-year-old has three-caps since his debut in December and the midfielder was player of the tournament as El Tri’s U20s won the 2021 Revelations Cup.
Nicola Zalewski is proving wise beyond his years at Roma, and will now look to force a way into Poland’s squad. Jose Mourinho started the 20-year-old in the Conference League final after his debut in 2021, while the five-cap gem made his Bialo-czerwoni bow in September.
Ones to watch from Group D with France, Denmark, Tunisia, Australia
William Saliba will be one to watch with France during the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar. The centre-half made his Bleus debut in March as reward for his superb showings at Marseille on loan, where the 21-year-old displayed a strong ability in duels and great pace.
Rasmus Kristensen is the sole Denmark player who manager Kasper Hjulmand has debuted since 2020. The 24-year-old made his Rod-Hvide bow in September and has so far enjoyed eight appearances, while sealing a £10m move from RB Salzburg to Leeds United this June.
Hannibal Mejbri only made his Tunisia debut in June 2021, yet the Manchester United gem has already played 16 games. The 19-year-old also enjoyed his Red Devils bow during 2021 and returned to the fringes of the first-team at Old Trafford under Ralf Rangnick this April.
Nathaniel Atkinson earned his big transfer to Europe in January with Scottish Premiership side Hearts after impressing with Melbourne City. The 23-year-old also made his Australia debut in March and started as the Socceroos beat Peru to win in their World Cup play-off.
Ones to watch from Group E with Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica
Gavi is rapidly becoming more than one to watch, even though the Barcelona midfielder is just 17. He made his senior Blaugrana bow in August and finished the 2021/22 season with six assists in 47 games. The Seville native also played his first of 10 Spain caps in October.
Luis Enrique has started Gavi in eight of his Roja appearances, as well, and saw the teen net his first goal against the Czech Republic this June. It made him the youngest ever player to score, as well as feature, for Spain, after which Enrique was effusive with praise for Gavi.
“It’s an erupting volcano,” he said, via quotes by Goal. “It is very difficult not to fall in love with Gavi. Any fan wants to see him play… You know, he picks up everything very quickly.”
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Jamal Musiala is also becoming more than just one to watch with Germany, having made 15-caps at just 19. The midfielder made his Mannschaft bow last March after cementing a first-team role at Bayern Munich, for whom he has 15 goals and seven assists in 78 games.
At 25, Kaoru Mitoma is at a different stage of his club career than Gavi and Musiala. But on the international stage, the Brighton-owned forward had to wait until November 2021 for his Japan debut and is making up for lost time with four goals and two assists in seven-caps.
Meanwhile, Daniel Chacon has only plied his trade on the international stage for Costa Rica since January 2022. Yet the 21-year-old centre-half has already amassed seven-caps from nine possible games – including featuring in Los Ticos’ play-off win against New Zealand.
Ones to watch from Group F with Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Roberto Martinez gave Lois Openda his Belgium debut this June and saw the striker score in a Nations League win over Poland. He followed his bow up with minutes against Wales and Poland. The 22-year-old played as reward for scoring 23 goals in 49 games in 2021/22.
Tajon Buchanan joined New England Revolution through the MLS Draft in 2019 and thrived to earn a $7m (£6m) transfer to Club Brugge this January. The 23-year-old’s form also saw the forward make his Canada debut last June and has four goals, six assists in 24 games.
Azzedine Ounahi will be one to watch with Morocco at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The 22-year-old made his international debut this January after impressing in Ligue 1 with SC Angers, and has so far offered two goals through seven-caps across various midfield roles.
Borna Sosa is emerging as one of the Bundesliga’s most promising left-backs after offering the fourth-most crosses from open play (107) in 2021/22 for Stuttgart. Yet the 24-year-old had to wait until September for his Croatia bow, but has started all six of his outings so far.
Ones to watch from Group G with Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Gabriel Martinelli is already a star at Arsenal, but the 20-year-old is still one to watch with Brazil ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The forward only made his Selecao debut in March, and is still yet to start an international game through three-caps under coach Tite.
In contrast, Aleksa Terzic is still striving to establish himself at domestic level at Fiorentina yet the 22-year-old is already an international regular. Dragan Stojkovic gave the left-back his bow last June and has kept the Belgrade native in and around his squad for five-caps.
Meanwhile, Jordan Lotomba made his international bow for Switzerland in October 2020. Yet the 23-year-old has struggled to hold down a regular place in the A-Team line-up over the years since. The Nice right-back has just seven-caps, but returned to the fore in 2022.
As for Cameroon, Christopher Wooh is one to watch in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The 20-year-old made his international bow this June and is starting to forge a first-team career with RC Lens after enjoying 11 starts from 14 Ligue 1 games in 2021/22.
Ones to watch from Group H with Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Vitinha will be one to watch with Portugal during the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The 22-year-old enjoyed his Selecao debut during his nation’s play-off final win over North Macedonia this March, before earning two more caps in the Nations League in June.
Edmund Addo made his Ghana debut in November, and Otto Addo will now lean on the FC Sheriff midfielder in the Middle East. The 22-year-old has started four of his eight-caps so far, and has only missed one of four possible international squads since his breakthrough.
Manchester United paid Penarol £9m to sign Facundo Pellistri in October 2020 at 19-years-old. The winger later joined Deportivo Alaves on loan in January 2021 and for the 2021/22 season, and impressed for his Uruguay debut in January and first six-caps for three assists.
Wooyeong Jeong has featured for South Korea at U14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 and 23s levels and is now embarking on his senior career. The 20-year-old Freiburg striker made his bow last March, but is starting to hold a more regular role whilst offering two goals in six-caps.
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