Everything you need to know about Group A at the World Cup

Qatar

Netherlands

Ecuador

Senegal

Netherlands

Qatar

Ecuador

Senegal

Qatar

Netherlands

Ecuador

Senegal

Qatar

Netherlands

Ecuador

Senegal

There is little arguing that Group A produced the softest draw of the 2022 World Cup, with Ecuador and host Qatar representing two of the four lowest-ranked teams in the 32-nation field. Even the Netherlands, a traditional contender, is coming off a slew of disappointments on the international stage, while African champion Senegal makes for an enticing but unproven dark horse option.

Here’s a closer look at Group A, which kicks off Nov. 20 when Qatar meets Ecuador in Al Khor for the tournament’s opening match.

Qatar

There may be no bigger enigma in this tournament than Qatar, which has never played its way into the World Cup — or come particularly close — but will make its debut in soccer’s showcase event after automatically qualifying as the host.

Qatar

in the World Cup

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup before. This time it qualified as hosts.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Qatar

in the World Cup

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup before. This time it qualified as hosts.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Qatar

in the World Cup

Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup before. This time it qualified as hosts.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Qatar’s most recent World Cup qualifying campaign, for the 2018 tournament in Russia, ended with a thud as the Maroons went 2-7-1 in the final round. But the newfound investment in the men’s national team has started to pay dividends in recent years, as it won the 2019 Asian Cup — having previously never made it past the quarterfinals — and advanced to the semifinals as a guest as the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

In lieu of playing qualifiers for this World Cup, Qatar joined one of UEFA’s qualifying groups — featuring Serbia, Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan — and scheduled a pair of friendlies against each opponent. That exercise emphasized how far Qatar still has to go, as it went 2-5-3 with a minus-14 goal differential.

Coach

Félix Sánchez

Projected lineup

H. Ahmed

A. Hatem

A. Hassan

A. Ali

B. Khoukhi

K. Boudiaf

S. Al Sheeb

A. Afif

B. Al Rawi

H. Al-Haydos

P. Miguel

Coach

Félix Sánchez

Projected lineup

H. Ahmed

A. Hatem

A. Hassan

A. Ali

B. Khoukhi

K. Boudiaf

S. Al Sheeb

A. Afif

B. Al Rawi

H. Al-Haydos

P. Miguel

Projected lineup

H. Ahmed

A. Hatem

A. Hassan

A. Ali

B. Khoukhi

K. Boudiaf

S. Al Sheeb

A. Afif

B. Al Rawi

H. Al-Haydos

Coach

Félix Sánchez

46 years old

P. Miguel

Coach Félix Sánchez’s squad is entirely composed of players who ply their trade in the Qatari Stars League, with defending champion Al Sadd and runner-up Al-Duhail dominating the roster. Among Qatar’s most influential players: goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, left back Abdelkarim Hassan, defensive midfielder Karim Boudiaf and winger Hassan Al-Haydos, the squad’s captain.

The star

Almoez Ali

26 years old, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

National

team stats

73

games

33

goals

The star

Almoez Ali

26 years old, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

National

team stats

73

games

33

goals

The star

Almoez Ali

26 years old, Khartoum, Sudan

Al-Duhail SC

National

team stats

73

games

33

goals

The player to watch, though, is 26-year-old Almoez Ali. The Sudan-born striker, who plays for Doha’s Al-Duhail, could soon surpass Mansour Muftah’s record of 44 goals to become Qatar’s all-time leading scorer. His nine goals at the 2019 Asian Cup were more than twice as many as any other player, and he also was the top scorer at the 2021 Gold Cup with four tallies.

Netherlands

The Oranje has returned to the global stage after an unthinkable absence four years ago in Russia, having advanced to the 2010 final and 2014 semifinals. And it wasn’t the Netherlands’s only recent embarrassment: It also failed to qualify for the 2016 European Championship, even though that was the first edition played with an expanded 24-team field.

Netherlands

in the World Cup

The Netherlands has never won a World Cup, despite reaching three finals.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Netherlands

in the World Cup

The Netherlands has never won a World Cup, despite reaching three finals.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Netherlands

in the World Cup

The Netherlands has never won a World Cup, despite reaching three finals.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Those shortcomings were stunning for a nation that, despite having a population of just 17 million people, has long endured as a global power with outsize influence on footballing culture. Although the Netherlands has never won the World Cup, it has finished as the runner-up three times — in 1974, 1978 and 2010. The Dutch won the 1988 European Championship and have finished third on five occasions. Their “Total Football” philosophy has become synonymous with free-flowing, attractive soccer, and Johan Cruyff — a three-time Ballon d’Or winner in the early 1970s — is considered one of the greatest to play the game.

The Netherlands returned to major tournament play at Euro 2020, winning all three group stage games before crashing out with a stunning loss to the Czech Republic in the round of 16. The Oranje booked its ticket to Qatar with an impressive qualifying campaign, going 7-1-2 and edging Turkey for first place in UEFA’s Group G.

Coach

Louis van Gaal

Projected lineup

D. Blind

N. Aké

S. Bergwijn

F. de Jong

V. van Dijk

C. Gakpo

R. Pasveer

T. Koopmeiners

M. Depay

M. de Ligt

D. Dumfries

Coach

Louis van Gaal

Projected lineup

D. Blind

N. Aké

S. Bergwijn

F. de Jong

V. van Dijk

C. Gakpo

R. Pasveer

T. Koopmeiners

M. Depay

M. de Ligt

D. Dumfries

Projected lineup

D. Blind

N. Aké

S. Bergwijn

F. de Jong

V. van Dijk

C. Gakpo

R. Pasveer

T. Koopmeiners

M. Depay

M. de Ligt

D. Dumfries

Coach

Louis van Gaal

71 years old

Louis van Gaal is back for a third stint in charge of the Netherlands, having previously managed his native nation from 200o to 2001 and 2012 to 2014 — including the run to the World Cup semifinals. The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager left the national team to take over Manchester United in 2014, retired following his 2016 firing, then returned to the program last summer.

Van Gaal will boast a talent-laden squad. Matthijs de Ligt, a 23-year-old who signed with Bayern Munich this past summer, is one of the world’s most polished young center backs. Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong is as complete as box-to-box midfielders come. PSV midfielder Cody Gakpo will be all the more integral after Roma’s Georginio Wijnaldum suffered a broken leg. And Barcelona forward Memphis Depay tied with England’s Harry Kane to lead UEFA’s World Cup qualifying campaign with 12 goals.

The star

Virgil van Dijk

31 years old, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

National

team stats

49

games

6

goals

The star

Virgil van Dijk

31 years old, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

National

team stats

49

games

6

goals

The star

Virgil van Dijk

31 years old, Breda, Netherlands

Liverpool

National team stats

49

6

games

goals

If the Netherlands is going to make another run deep in the World Cup, it will lean on Liverpool center back Virgil van Dijk. Arguably the world’s top defender, with a hulking 6-foot-4 frame and the ability to ping a 70-yard ball on a dime, van Dijk will be eager to leave his mark on the international stage after sitting out Euro 2020 with a torn ACL.

Senegal

At No. 18, Senegal enters the tournament as Africa’s highest-ranked nation. With the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in tow and Bayern Munich star Sadio Mané leading the front line, the Lions of Teranga emerged as a trendy pick to make a deep run in Qatar — until Mané was ruled out with a right fibula injury suffered shortly before the tournament.

Senegal

in the World Cup

This will be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third overall.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Senegal

in the World Cup

This will be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third overall.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Senegal

in the World Cup

This will be Senegal’s second consecutive World Cup, and third overall.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

In Senegal’s World Cup debut, it upset defending champion France in the opening game of the 2002 tournament and made a run to the quarterfinals. After missing out on the next three tournaments, Senegal returned to the World Cup four years ago but failed to get out of the group stage in Russia.

Senegal has recently established itself as the class of Africa, beating Egypt for the Cup of Nations crown earlier this year and going 5-0-1 in the World Cup qualifying group stage. But the region’s punishing format saw Senegal drawn against Egypt in a two-game clash for a spot in the World Cup. Senegal emerged with that ticket to Qatar, as Mané converted the clinching shot in a tense shootout victory this past March — just as he did in the Cup of Nations final the month before.

Coach

Aliou Cissé

Projected lineup

F. Ballo-Touré

I. Gueye

B. Dieng

A. Diallo

N. Mendy

B. Dia

É. Mendy

K. Koulibaly

C. Kouyaté

I. Sarr

Y. Sabaly

Coach

Aliou Cissé

Projected lineup

F. Ballo-Touré

I. Gueye

B. Dieng

A. Diallo

N. Mendy

B. Dia

É. Mendy

K. Koulibaly

C. Kouyaté

I. Sarr

Y. Sabaly

Projected lineup

F. Ballo-Touré

I. Gueye

B. Dieng

A. Diallo

N. Mendy

B. Dia

É. Mendy

K. Koulibaly

C. Kouyaté

I. Sarr

Y. Sabaly

Coach

Aliou Cissé

46 years old

Aliou Cissé, Senegal’s former captain who has coached the team since 2015, has the most decorated collection of players in program history at his disposal. Goalkeeper Édouard Mendy was between the posts for Chelsea’s 2020-21 Champions League title. Defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye was a steady contributor for Paris Saint-Germain the past three seasons before recently returning to Everton. Ismaïla Sarr, a 24-year-old winger for Watford, is a rising star.

The star

Kalidou Koulibaly

31 years old, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France

Chelsea

National

team stats

64

games

0

goals

The star

Kalidou Koulibaly

31 years old, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France

Chelsea

National

team stats

64

games

0

goals

The star

Kalidou Koulibaly

31 years old, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France

Chelsea

National team stats

64

0

games

goals

Senegal will rely heavily on the poise and precision of captain Kalidou Koulibaly. The former Napoli defender, who made a $40 million move to Chelsea this past summer after eight standout seasons in Serie A, offers a physical presence and knack for reading the game in central defense. Plus his smooth distribution allows Senegal to unlock the opposition in a way that will be all the more important without Mané — Senegal’s all-time top scorer — creating danger.

Ecuador

If home-field advantage gives Qatar a shot at making it out of the group (South Africa in 2010 was the only host to not advance), then Ecuador represents Group A’s long shot.

Ecuador

in the World Cup

Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Ecuador

in the World Cup

Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Ecuador

in the World Cup

Ecuador qualifies for its fourth World Cup, all coming since 2002.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

La Tri is making its fourth World Cup appearance and first since 2014, with its only knockout round appearance coming at the 2006 tournament in Germany. When it comes to regional competition, the Ecuadorans have a history of struggling at the Copa América, having advanced out of the group stage just four times in the 18 tournaments played since 1975. But they surprised with a fourth-place finish in South America’s grueling World Cup qualifying campaign, going 7-6-5 to beat out Peru, Colombia and Chile for the region’s final ticket to Qatar.

Coach

Gustavo

Alfaro

Projected lineup

P. Estupiñán

M. Caicedo

E. Valencia

P. Hincapié

S. Méndez

M. Estrada

A. Domínguez

F. Torres

C. Gruezo

G. Plata

Á. Preciado

Coach

Gustavo Alfaro

Projected lineup

P. Estupiñán

M. Caicedo

E. Valencia

P. Hincapié

S. Méndez

M. Estrada

A. Domínguez

F. Torres

C. Gruezo

G. Plata

Á. Preciado

Projected lineup

P. Estupiñán

M. Caicedo

E. Valencia

P. Hincapié

S. Méndez

M. Estrada

A. Domínguez

F. Torres

C. Gruezo

G. Plata

Á. Preciado

Coach

Gustavo Alfaro

60 years old

Bayer Leverkusen center back Piero Hincapié holds down the defense for Argentine coach Gustavo Alfaro, who also leans on Villarreal left back Pervis Estupiñán and Augsburg defensive midfielder Carlos Gruezo. The attack is sparked by 21-year-old Valladolid winger Gonzalo Plata and striker Michael Estrada, the team’s leading scorer in qualifying who is coming off the early termination of an underwhelming loan with D.C. United.

The star

Enner Valencia

32 years old, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

National team stats

74

35

games

goals

The star

Enner Valencia

32 years old, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

National team stats

74

35

games

goals

The star

Enner Valencia

32 years old, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Fenerbahçe

National team stats

74

35

games

goals

For Ecuador to find its way out of the group, however, it may need a turn-back-the-clock performance from 32-year-old striker Enner Valencia. The program’s all-time top scorer, Valencia has scored 19 goals in his first two seasons for Turkish power Fenerbahçe and is off to a hot start this year. Previously, he played for Premier League clubs West Ham and Everton and Mexico’s Pachuca and Tigres.

Loading...
Loading...