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Monday, April 22, 2024

World Cup 2022: What does Qatar hold for the world?

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With Batou Saidy & Kalipha Jabbi

Barely fifty days before the world’s biggest football showpiece, football writers cum analysts Batou Saidy and Kalipha Jabbi walk you through a deep analysis and preview of the keenly anticipated tournament in Qatar. From tournament favourites to surprise packages, dark horses to debuting youngsters, alongside an assortment of young talents to watch, including potential top scorers and assisters en masse; the duo delve deeply into these menus as they debate over potentially, the main talking points in Qatar.

Karl: Twelve months ago, I wouldn’t hesitate to pin France down as the overwhelming favorites to retain their crown with a fully fit Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté available for Didier Deschamps. France wasn’t spectacular in Russia but the duo’s resilience in the middle was the driving force behind the success.

Other European footballing powerhouses will all be relishing their chances in Qatar including South American giants Argentina but I am not seeing any team outpacing Brazil for this title considering the array of attacking talents in Tite’s side. Portugal could be strongest challengers but the 2016 Euro winners are still struggling to find a balance in their new golden generation.

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Favorites: Brazil

BATOU: Brazil ranks number one in world football and not many people dispute their huge chances of taking the gold home for the first time in two decades. The Selecao have quite an outstanding array of talented stars to take to Qatar. From Neymar himself, Vinicius to every other current Samba Boy of headlines, Tite has this chance to restore the common Samba glory. This time around, they’re in a very good shape to amend their shortcomings in Russia 2018. But how much can they achieve this in the presence of formidable sides like Messi’s Argentina and Bamba’s Portugal that are probably even more determined to help their legends take what seems like a last dance around the coveted trophy – the only crown that eludes them in world football?

France will also be shooting at defending their title in Qatar but Les Bleus are often unpredictable. And considering the ‘curse of the Champions’, they may probably need to make it through the group stages first to amend their setback in 2002. Similar heartbreak happened to Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. Didier Deschamps is overconfident, and he occasionally tests his jujus. And him being at the helm of their affairs in Qatar, we’ll see how the Gallic title defence goes come November.

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 Favorites: Brazil

Surprise Packages

KARL: Every World Cup tournament gives fans a team that will become every neutral’s favorite because of either a surprise performance or it presents a player that will endear fans to the beautiful game. France ’98 had a Croatia of Davor Suker, South Korea of Park Ji-sung in 2002, Franck Ribéry in 2006 and Gyan’s Ghana of 2010 World Cup were some notable surprises of the World Cup and in 2018, Russia despite being the host, surprised many fans with a respectable performance. In 2014, it was James Rodríguez.

Considering how he is able to come back to the pitch after that cardiac arrest in June 2021 and how he is currently dictating plays for both Manchester United and Denmark, one cannot help but admire Christian Eriksen. He has been a key player for Denmark since he made his first appearance as the youngest player in South Africa 2010.

Surprise package: Christian Eriksen

BATOU: Every edition of the World Cup brings along a surprise package. El Hadji Diouf 2002, Thomas Müller 2010, Kylian Mbappé 2018 amongst many others are all unforgettable.

Denmark were literally robbed to a penalty in the Euro 2020 against the Three Lions. Given their reliability, strength and heroics, they’re too good to be surprise packages. Here, it has to be Canada. How they managed to qualify to Qatar is still inspiring and remarkable, but thanks to Alphonso Davies. We’ll see how far they can go in this tournament.

Surprise package: Alphonso Davies

Dark horses

KARL: Belgium for the last two World Cups has been regarded by many as the potential dark horses of the World Cup because of their so-called golden generation. Most of those players are in the twilight of their careers and anything less than a trophy would be regarded a failure for the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel etc. They are contenders for the title and not underdogs anymore.

Japan had a last minute heartbreak against Belgium in 2018 and will be ready to make amends in Qatar with the likes of Daichi Kamada,Takefusa Kubo,Takehiro Tomiyasu, Yasuhito End? and veteran Maya Yoshida all available for Coach Hajime Moriyasu. It will remain a debate between Japan, Senegal and Denmark but no team will want to play against Switzerland after an eight-match unbeaten run through UEFA qualifying Group C that consisted of Italy, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

Dark horses: Switzerland

BATOU: Senegal and Serbia are serious sides that can wow us all in Qatar. The African Champions have a strong squad mixed with experienced stars like Sadio Mané, Kalidou Koulibaly, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Ismaïla Sarr; alongside reliable youngsters like Krépin Diatta and Bamba Dieng. Serbia is another stronghold that qualified directly from their group that comprised Portugal and Switzerland, thanks to Fulham center forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. With support from Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Filip Kostic, they have a fearful side to terrorize opponents. The same is true for the Teranga Lions.

Dark horses: Senegal

Young talent to watch

KARL: England, Brazil and France have some of the finest young players to look up to in Qatar but none of them can match the Barcelona pair of Gavi and Pedri on their days. I would have gone for Mbappe or Jude Bellingham and I won’t be wrong either. Camavinga, Musiala, Saka, Foden, Kubo, Bamba Dieng, Vini Jr, Timber, Gakpo, are all there.

Young player: Pedri

BATOU: A handful of youngsters will be debuting in this tournament. Vinicius, Pedri, Saka, Rodrygo, Gavi, Musiala, Foden; Kudus, Krepin, Bellingham and Valverde will all be featuring in the World Cup for the very first time. And the football world waits to see their heroics. Well, can they impress us?  Previously, youngsters have impressed in this competition. James Rodriguez 2014, Neymar 2014, Thomas Müller 2010, Mario Götze 2014, Mbappé 2018; have all had remarkable tournaments in each of those editions. So we’ll see if these present day youngsters can have a similarly impressive breakthrough in Qatar. Where is Dele Alli?

Young player: Vinicius Jr

Top scorer

KARL: With no Erling Haaland in World Cup, the deadliest striker in Qatar will be Robert Lewandowski. The Barcelona forward is yet to replicate his club forms at the international stages but he has been a great scorer of qualifying goals. Lack of enough creativity in the Poland squad always hinders him. Both Ronaldo and Messi will be expecting to fire their respective teams but I don’t see them going home with the crown.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe

BATOU: Recent editions have refused to follow the scripts and descended into absolute madness, essentially in the top scorers’ side. We’ve had surprising top scorers, but maybe this time, we can see the expected top scorers winning it – ideally a traditional center forward. Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar are all capable of taking it home, but this is often not that easy. Messi and Ronaldo can still do it though, but we’ll rather fancy in-form forwards to take this home.

Top scorer: Neymar

Top assister

KARL: The natural heir to Mesut Ozil has been Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne. Expect him compete Bruno Fernandes, Antoine Griezmann, Muller, Kamada and Messi. But none will be able to compete Neymar playing behind strikers.

Top assister: Neymar

BATOU: There are many playmakers in the world right now but not many of them are capable of doing this consistently in Qatar. Messi, De Bruyne, Neymar, Eriksen, Müller, are all serious candidates.

Top assister: Messi

Thank you. We’ll often be doing more of this.

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