Now, you may not agree with the timing of the World Cup, but you cannot deny the excitement that comes with it.
The global showpiece of football is back again after its four-year break and the world is shaping up for an amazing event.
Host nation Qatar have done the work. They are ready for Senegal, Ecuador and The Netherlands. Even though there is no argument against the fact that The Netherlands are clear favorites in Group A, the group is sure to be representative of Qatar’s effort to provide a football experience like no other.
It is now up to the participating teams to bring the heat and make the 22nd edition of the World Cup, which is already going to be memorable for a number of reasons, even more memorable.
The heat we are talking about here is definitely football. The expression of culture from various fan groups is most welcome, but people will not travel several kilometres or reschedule their personal and professional lives just to watch cultural displays from the hosts or other teams.
Kicking things off will be the hosts Qatar, who will take on Ecuador after what has been promised to be the most iconic FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in its 92 years of existence. That match will also be the first match in Group A, who also have Senegal and The Netherlands.
In the rest of the article, we will preview the group and make a prediction on which teams will be ending their journey prematurely and which teams will live to fight in the knockout rounds.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Host nation Qatar possess the best ball playing and retention ability in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) thanks to their manager, Felix Sanchéz, who cut his teeth at Barcelona’s La Masia.
Sanchéz has also worked with many of the players who he will call you to the squad since their under-19 days. This is a strength for the team. The coaches and the players know themselves thoroughly which means that it will be easy to convey ideas and work on game plans.
Physicality and finishing are not their strongest suits and this could leave them vulnerable to being exploited by the other teams in the group.
Ecuador are the typical South American team: physical and fast, with players who have a knack for fancy football.
This strength of theirs will be useful against the system football of The Netherlands and Qatar, who are steeped in Spanish football philosophy, and against Senegal who are also a physical team.
Ecuador’s style allows them to play counter attacking football and with the wind in their sails (their pacy attackers), they can pose a genuine threat to the rest of the group.
Their finishing, however, leaves much to exploit. A swift counter attack and teams like Senegal and The Netherlands could punish them.
The African Cup of Nations champions’ strength lie in their physicality, and in their squad depth and versatility.
A lot of their players are comfortable in multiple positions while being able to cover a lot of ground and this is something that Aliou Cisse, Senegal’s manager, will definitely look to exploit.
However, positional discipline is something that they sometimes lack, especially in the midfield and full back positions. Teams could punish this greatly.
The Netherlands are the overwhelming group favorites, boasting players who play their trades in the top echelons of football.
Tactically sound, positionally astute and possessing the ability to not make wasteful movements, the Dutch are going to be hard to beat in Group A.
However, physicality is not their strong suit and in a group like theirs, it could become the thorn bush in their path to the knockouts.
Match previews and predictions
Qatar face Ecuador, then Senegal, then The Netherlands in that order in the group stage. Ecuador face The Netherlands and then Senegal after the World Cup opening game against the host nation.
Senegal and The Netherlands will open their campaign against each other, before the African champions go on to face Qatar and then Ecuador. Meanwhile, the Dutchmen will take on Ecuador before rounding up with the host nation Qatar.
Qatar may be playing in front of home fans but are unlikely to end the tournament with a single victory. If they do, however, it could come against Senegal, as their possession football is antithetical to Senegal’s style which focuses on directness and running.
Ecuador and Senegal are the teams most likely to finish in second place so it will both come down to their match to decide who takes the spot.
Three wins from three is expected for Netherlands. Senegal will present their toughest challenge in the group due to their physicality and stamina.
Final group places prediction
Netherlands and Ecuador will finish in first and second place. Senegal will narrowly miss out on second place and finish in third, while Qatar will finish in the bottom spot.