FIFA World Cup Group A Rundown: Tough Grouping for Host Qatar

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With just the intercontinental playoffs and one European playoff to be completed, we have set 29 of the 32 teams for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar. This year’s World Cup is unique for many reasons. First and foremost, you have the dates on which it is occurring.

FIFA deemed the Middle Eastern summer too severe for the competition to be played in the usual June/July time slot. The governing body of world football then decided, much to European football’s chagrin, to move the dates to the end of the year.

world cup qatar 2022

It has thrown many of the biggest European league schedules for next season into chaos. The other reason this World Cup will be unique is the Middle Eastern setting.

The tiny, but incredibly rich nation of Qatar has the privilege of hosting the biggest sporting competition in the world. 

With so much anticipation surrounding it, the draw has taken place and it has thrown up some tasty-looking fixtures. In this series, I am going to look at each group and give some context to each team.

Group A – Tough Group For Hosts Qatar

  • Qatar
  • Ecuador
  • Senegal
  • Netherlands

Group A is traditionally where the host team sits and this edition of the World Cup is no different. And some true heavyweights of international football join the Qatari men’s national team at their home World Cup.

African champions Senegal, European heavyweights Netherlands & South American surprise packets Ecuador join (The Maroon) in their debut appearance at the grandest stage of them all.

Qatar

For the first time, the World Cup hosts are debutants in the competition as well. Qatar appears for the first time by virtue of being the host nation. 

The Qataris had an unusual warm-up for the competition. FIFA placed them in UEFA Group A qualifying, with their fixtures not counting toward the official standings. The Qataris recorded two victories in their Group A fixtures, defeating Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. 

I don’t think the host nation has any genuine joy here. I see them going out in straight sets. Qatar’s hope for a point rests on their opening fixture against Ecuador, and that is a long shot.

Ecuador

Somewhat of a surprise auto-qualifier from the CONMEBOL sector of World Cup qualifying, La Tri isn’t expected to do a lot in this tough Group A.

The Ecuadorian men’s national team had an electric qualifying process that saw them finish above both Colombia and Chile. Traditionally, both sides would expect to finish above Ecuador. It wasn’t even really close in the end, with Peru the side that pushed them the most. 

Enner Valencia and Pervis Estupinan will be the principal men for La Tricolors. After missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they will hope to put their best foot forward.

And much like the host nation, a good showing is all they can really hope for. Outside of Valencia and Estupinan, their squad doesn’t have a lot of depth quality-wise. The opening fixture against Qatar will be their best hope to secure any points.

Senegal

Next, we have African champions Senegal qualified for the World Cup by defeating Egypt in their final qualifier. The same side they defeated to win the African Cup of Nations just a couple of months prior. They are front-runners for this group. If they can get a manageable draw in the knockout phase, they should go deep in this year’s World Cup.

The Senegal national team created a piece of unwanted history at the World Cup in 2018.

The African side became the first side in World Cup history to suffer elimination via the Fair Play tiebreaker.

This occurred after Senegal and Japan could not be separated using the five other methods FIFA uses to differentiate teams who finish on different points 

The Lions of Taranga have the best win percentage of any African side in this year’s competition. With world-class players such as Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy, and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal are well placed.

They should qualify for the knockout phase easily, perhaps even top their group with a victory over the Netherlands.

Netherlands

Finally, we have the Netherlands. After failing to qualify for the Russia World Cup in 2018, the Oranje qualified emphatically this time around. One qualifying stage defeat was as bad as it got for the Dutch. They completed the rest of their qualifying group without losing again.

They picked up some monumental victories on the way to securing automatic qualification following the completion of the UEFA qualifying.

Holland has a tricky history in the World Cup. Never short on star power, they sometimes struggle to back up powerful performances.

For example, they finished fourth in the ‘98 World Cup in France. They followed that up by failing to qualify for the following tournament in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

They then appeared in the final in 2010, and finished third in 2014, before failing to qualify again in 2018. 

With the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong, and Gini Wijnaldum at their disposal, the Dutch have a strong squad.

A top-four finish beckons for the Netherlands at the World Cup, yet again. 

Stuart Kavanagh is an up-and-coming sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Along with being the owner of the sports and entertainment website thepyrrhic.com, he is also the co-host of the ‘After Extra Time’ podcast.

Football mad, he is always down for debate and discussion at @stueyissickofit on Twitter.

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