November 16, 2022 12:07 AM
Last modified date: November 16, 2022 2:08 PM
Alex Lawes

2022 FIFA World Cup Predictions: Group A

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FIFA ranking: 50

FIFA World Cup appearances: First entry

FIFA World Cup best: N/A

Manager: Felix Sanchez

Captain: Hassan Al-Haydos

Over the last few years, Qatar have entered international tournaments across the world. Under the management of Felix Sanchez, they reached the semi-finals of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup and also played in the group stages of the 2019 CONMEBOL Copa America.

The Qatari national side, driven by club teams such as Xavi’s former club Al-Sadd, has evolved a style of football that is intended to be easy on the eye. Their relationship with Barcelona off-the-field is clear to see on it with the aforementioned Sanchez having been a coach at La Masia in the Catalan capital.

There were serious improvements in their results and performances in the last couple of years, including winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. However, a quarter-final exit in the FIFA Arab Cup last winter, which they hosted, brought about a decline in results whereby they won just two of their next 11 matches. However, since their friendly defeat to Canada in September, they have gone unbeaten in six matches, winning five and sharing one 2-2 draw with a full-strength Chilean side.

A couple of weeks before being awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar hit their lowest ever FIFA ranking of 113th. Just last year, they hit their highest ranking of number 42 and currently sit 50th. Their improvement has been obvious.

Having said that, though, they head into a very tough group against the very impressive defence of Ecuador, African champions Senegal and, after failing to qualify in 2018, a Netherlands side hoping to challenge for glory.

Given that very difficult group, it would be unlikely to see Qatar pull too many surprises and it is expected the host country depart their tournament after just three matches.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage


FIFA ranking: 44

FIFA World Cup appearances: Fourth entry

FIFA World Cup best: Round of 16 (2006)

Manager: Gustavo Alfaro

Captain: Enner Valencia

As mentioned in the preview for Qatar, Ecuador’s recent defensive record is strong enough to rival and worry any team in the competition.

La Tri were frustrated by a goalless draw against Iraq at the Metropolitano in Madrid last weekend, especially missing a second-half stoppage-time penalty, but they kept up their impressive run of clean sheets. That result was their third successive 0-0 draw and they have now enjoyed six successive shut-outs, with three of those coming against fellow entrants in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Their defensive nous is built upon a fairly functional midfield three sitting in front of a solid back four. Moises Caicedo of Brighton is the standout name in their midfield, likely to be starting alongside LAFC’s Jose Cifuentes and Augsburg’s Carlos Gruezo.

Caicedo’s Seagulls teammate, Pervis Estupinan, is the star turn in their defence with the former Villarreal man also posing an important attacking threat to support the skipper, and former West Ham striker, Enner Valencia. Valencia is the only player in the Ecuadorian squad to have more than eight international goals and the 33 year-old will be heavily relied upon.

Whilst they have shown themselves to be very solid and difficult to break down, it must be noted that they are just as stubborn going forward. In their last 15 matches, they have scored more than one goal in a game on just two occasions.

Qualifying from South America is always a sign of a strong side and, whilst Ecuador are indeed a capable team, they are unlikely to go very far – though, as suggested, they may well frustrate their opponents in the group.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage


FIFA ranking: 18

FIFA World Cup appearances: Third entry

FIFA World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2002)

Manager: Aliou Cisse

Captain: Kalidou Koulibaly

When Senegal reached their first ever Africa Cup of Nations final in early 2002, the Lions of Teranga went on to equal the best performance of an African nation at a FIFA World Cup in the summer of that year when they reached the last eight of the tournament in Japan and South Korea; the first ever FIFA World Cup held in Asia. That run saw them progress via Group A… notice some similarities?

Aliou Cisse’s men were crowned champions of Africa at the start of 2022, 20 years on from their penalty shootout defeat to Cameroon in the final. This time, though, Senegal defeated Egypt on penalties to earn their long-awaited first major trophy.

With a spine that boasts a UEFA Champions League winning goalkeeper, one of the finest centre-backs in European football over the last decade, a midfielder with numerous Ligue 1 titles and appearances in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and a forward in Sadio Mane that has been in rated as one of the world’s best players for some time, the Senegalese head to Qatar hoping to emulate and even surpass their impressive showing in South Korea and Japan.

A major issue is, though, the potential absence of Sadio Mane for the entirety of the tournament. The Bayern Munich forward sustained an injury in the Bavarians’ penultimate match before the World Cup break and, whilst he has been named in the 26-man squad, the hope of him playing any minutes in either of their first two matches seem very slim.

Senegal are blessed with an array of attacking options but will surely be stung and hampered by the loss of their talismanic figure. They will be confident of edging their way through what could be a low-scoring group but a tough Round of 16 tie against the winner of Group B, should the Netherlands fulfil their potential and take Group A, might well be the end of the road.

TSZ Prediction: Round of 16


FIFA ranking: 8

FIFA World Cup appearances: 11th Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Runners’ up (1974, 1978, 2010)

Manager: Louis van Gaal

Captain: Virgil van Dijk

The Netherlands are returning to the FIFA World Cup after failing to qualify for the event four and a half years ago in Russia. The Oranje have had a troublesome time of it since they reached the semi-finals in 2014, failing to qualify for UEFA Euro 2016 and then being knocked out by the Czech Republic in the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2020.

However, since that failure against the Czech’s a year and a half ago, they have been much-improved and very impressive, following the return of van Gaal, who led them to that third placed finish in Brazil in 2014.

Since 1974, the Netherlands have played at eight FIFA World Cups and they have reached the semi-finals, at a minimum, on five occasions and they have never failed to make it out of the group stages.

With an impressive back-line that is expected to feature three centre-backs of immense pedigree in Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij, they will be extremely confident of controlling any team’s attack. However, it is a slick style of football that has caught the eye the most under van Gaal.

The former Manchester United boss is departing at the end of the tournament, to be replaced by Ronald Koeman, and has had a very difficult time of it, having suffered and recovered from prostate cancer whilst in charge of his nation.

This is an impressive squad playing an impressive style of football with a World Cup tradition and history to be proud of, without winning it. Winning it this time around seems a stretch but they will be confident of a good run in the competition.

TSZ Prediction: Quarter-finals

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