With simply over a year to go till the World Cup kicks off, 12 groups have certified alongside hosts Qatar. All 4 semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, whereas latest European champions Portugal and Italy nonetheless have extra to do. With most of the massive hitters now capable of put together for the match, we assess the place they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins.
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The Netherlands boast some thrilling younger expertise, however the hole in high quality between their star gamers and the supporting solid might maintain them again. The backbone of the facet is extraordinarily robust. With Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries obtainable in defence, they need to be extraordinarily strong however, for one motive or one other, they’re nonetheless inclined to break down every now and then. They’ve conceded at the least two targets in video games towards Turkey, Scotland, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Montenegro this year. At the reverse finish of the pitch, they depend on Memphis Depay for inspiration. Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum are all key gamers for Louis van Gaal’s facet however the Barcelona ahead is their actual talisman. When he’s not on it, they have a tendency to underwhelm.
Denmark raced into the World Cup, qualifying after seven straight wins by which they didn’t concede a single objective. Their group may look beneficial, however it will not have been thought of a stroll in the park in years passed by. Kasper Hjulmand’s group has progressed rapidly in latest instances and Denmark are actually aiming to go one step additional than the semi-final they reached at Euro 2020. The unlucky lack of Christian Eriksen has galvanised a group that wanted an injection of unpredictability, and the likes of Mikkel Damsgaard and Andreas Skov Olsen have stepped up. The age profile of the squad is now way more encouraging and issues have clicked into gear at each ends of the pitch.
It may appear churlish to position the European champions in eighth – and beneath the groups they beat of their semi-final and the closing of Euro 2020 – however they don’t possess a squad that’s prone to dominate worldwide soccer. Worthy winners in the summer season, the Azzurri performed spellbinding soccer at instances however in addition they rode their luck a little in the knockout section. Roberto Mancini succeeded in making his group seem like a effectively drilled membership facet by excellent teaching however he doesn’t have the expertise or the rising younger gamers of lots of his opponents. Once more, writing off a defensive partnership that defied the doubters in the summer season could seem naive, however Giorgio Chiellini will probably be 38 subsequent year and cracks have already began to point out in the facet since their triumph at Wembley. Having gained the World Cup in 1982, Italy didn’t qualify for the subsequent Euros in 1984 and the reverse is a distinct risk now, as the Azzurri danger failing to qualify for consecutive World Cups.
There’s a rising sense that Belgium’s golden era has misplaced a lot of its sheen. A protracted senior profession seems to have caught up with Eden Hazard sooner than most – and definitely Actual Madrid – anticipated, whereas growing harm issues recommend that the good Kevin De Bruyne may have peaked. Romelu Lukaku stays rampant in entrance of objective however his understudies are uninspiring and a lack of rising expertise at the reverse finish of the pitch is the actual concern. Jason Denayer is their solely centre-back below the age of 32 with any significant worldwide expertise. Belgium’s likelihood could have come and gone.
On the topic of final possibilities, Lionel Messi will probably be aiming to comply with up successful the Copa América with a first ever World Cup in what could also be his swan track. Your complete Argentina squad appears motivated above all else to make sure the man many individuals take into account the best of all time can declare to be that when and for all. He has a strong if unspectacular assist solid, with the fast emergence of Emi Martínez giving Argentina one thing they’ve probably not possessed for a few years – an elite goalkeeper. In 14 caps, the Aston Villa stopper has now stored 9 clear sheets. The defensive resolve of the group is way improved, which is simply as effectively as a result of Messi is previous his peerless prime and can’t be relied upon to win video games singlehandedly.
Spain have performed a few of the most tasty soccer this year however their lack of a leading edge has value them when it has mattered most. They managed their Euro 2020 semi-final towards Italy and the Nations League closing towards France however couldn’t convert their dominance of the ball. They lack the expertise of earlier Spain sides. The typical age of the group has dropped dramatically with the introduction of Unai Simón, Eric García, Dani Olmo, Pau and Ferran Torres, however the teenage sensations Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati supply the most hope for the future. They’re extraordinarily thrilling however 2022 could come too quickly.
From crushed World Cup semi-finalists to crushed European Championship finalists, England will now be preventing towards a nearly-men fame, however their progress is obvious to see. The event of the partnership between Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips was pivotal in the summer season, turning what was one thing of a downside space into a place of energy. Rice and Phillips shield the defence effectively (and so they want it), however Gareth Southgate’s top precedence is now maximising his attacking expertise. He was accused of being too secure in the summer season and might want to at the least loosen the shackles if England are to fulfil their unquestionable potential.
Eradicated by England at the last-16 stage of Euro 2020 in July, Germany are already a completely different proposition altogether. The sense that Joachim Löw had taken the facet so far as he might was obvious years in the past and the return of his former assistant Hansi Flick brings hope aplenty. His report to date is exemplary; he has gained all seven of his video games to date with a objective distinction of +29. Whereas the opponents have been modest at greatest, that is a facet that was pumped 6-0 by Spain this time final year before dropping to North Macedonia in March. Flick’s front-foot soccer is a pleasure to observe and assault is certainly the greatest type of defence for his squad, which lacks a little energy in depth at the again.
France have been knocked out of Euro 2020 by Switzerland at the last-16 stage, however have remained loyal to Didier Deschamps after his triumph at the World Cup in 2018 – maybe making the similar mistake Germany did with Löw. The group fails so as to add as much as the sum of its enviable elements too usually, however can’t be written off given the enormity of its expertise. Karim Benzema’s return to the fold – very similar to Thomas Müller with Germany – was most likely too late however his partnership with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé ought to be much more fearful subsequent year. They want the more and more injury-prone N’Golo Kanté to be match to steadiness out Paul Pogba’s panache. They’ve all the instruments to retain their title.
Unbeaten in qualifying, with 11 wins in 13 video games, Brazil have a large mix of youth and expertise. With Fabinho and Casemiro anchoring the facet, their horrifying forwards can flourish. Neymar continues to be the star however Vinicius Junior, Antony and Raphinha are all having fun with glorious seasons. With two of the world’s greatest goalkeepers – Alisson and Ederson – protected by a defensive pairing of Marquinhos and Thiago Silva, the solely space that lacks star high quality is the full-back positions, which is one thing of a rarity for Brazil. With 50 wins and simply 5 defeats below Tite, Brazil are favourites for good motive.