What to Know about 2022 FIFA World Cup

With the tournament in knockout stages, The Spokesman will analyze the on-the-field play for The 2022 World Cup.



he Spokesman will analyze the on-the-field play and other events in Qatar.

Alex Ederson, Contributing Writer

The FIFA World Cup is a soccer tournament between 32 nations every four years. 

Qatar is the first Arab country to hold the World Cup in the tournament’s history. The 2022 World Cup is also the first to be held in the winter due to concerns about players’ participation during Qatar’s hot summer months.

The World Cup is considered the most-watched sporting event, with almost three million fans watching in person and an estimated five billion viewers broadcasting games.

However, human rights abuses by the Qatari state and the death of over 6,500 migrant workers over the 11 years they took to build the $300 billion infrastructure required for Qatar to host the World Cup have marred this year’s tournament. 

Additionally, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar as the country is an Islamic theocratic dictatorship run by the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Captains of England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Wales teams planned to wear armbands reading “One Love” to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBT laws. However, FIFA banned their protest under threat of suspension.

Thirty-two teams will participate in the World Cup, with eight groups of four. Each group will have two teams advance to the knockout rounds until there is a winner. 

The World Cup is now in the knockout stages with a few weeks left. The Spokesman will analyze the on-the-field play and other events in Qatar.

We will also pick the following

  • Golden Boot: the top scorer of the tournament
  • Golden Ball: the best player of the tournament
  • Golden Glove: the best goalkeeper of the tournament
  • FIFA Young Player: the best young player in the tournament. 

Ecuador, Qatar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Wales, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Tunisia, Germany, Costa Rica, Canada, Belgium, Cameroon, Serbia, Ghana, and Uruguay did not advance to the knockout rounds. 

Round of 16 matchups were Netherlands vs. the United States, England versus Senegal, Argentina versus Australia, France versus Poland, Japan versus Croatia, Spain versus Morocco, Brazil versus Switzerland, and Portugal versus South Korea.

The tournament is now in the quarterfinals stage, with the matches set to start Dec. 9. The matchups are Brazil versus Croatia, England versus France, Portugal versus Morocco, and the Netherlands versus Argentina.

The Teams:


e – eliminated 

* – qualified for the Round of 16

** – qualified for quarterfinals

Group A 

#8 Netherlands – 7 points** 

  • Players to watch: Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong,Cody Gakpo 
  • Road to Qatar: Union of European Football Associations Group G winners
  • 5 Words: Dangerous attackers, controlling midfielders, Virgil.

The Netherlands lulled their opponents to sleep before striking with quick scoring moves and staying compact on defense. 

They won 3-1 over the U.S. in Round of 16 and will face Argentina Friday.

e #18 Senegal – 6 points*

  • Players to watch: Forward Ismaila Sarr, DefenderKalidou Koulibaly, Midfielder Idrissa Gueye
  • Road to Qatar: Confederations of African Football third-round winners

Without star forward Sadio Mane, Senegal had a chance of becoming the first African team to make the semi-finals but fell short of reaching the milestone.

Senegal qualified for Round of 16 after losing their talisman before the tournament, but England defeated them 3-0 on Dec. 3.

Senegal was the only team to concede a goal to Qatar.

e # 44 Ecuador – 4 points 

  • Players to watch: Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincappie, Enner Valencia
  • Road to Qatar: South American Football Confederation fourth place 

As one of the youngest teams, Ecuador pressed through the South American Football Confederation and was one of the surprises in CONMEBOL.

It surprised World Cup fans, but Ecuador’s failure to Senegal eliminated them on Nov. 29. 

e #50 Qatar – 0 points 

  • Players to watch: Forward Almoez Ali, Midfielder Akram Afif, Defender Saad Al-Sheeb
  • Road to Qatar: As the host nation, Qatar did not have to qualify

Qatar was the first Host nation to lose their opening game and only scored one total goal.

But Fans expected Qatar’s performance since they did not have the infrastructure for soccer before 2011.

Though they lived up to fans’ low expectations, Qatar did manage to quiet some of the noise surrounding their country.

Qatar’s failure to record a single point through their three matches eliminated them.

Group B

#5 England – 7 points**

  • Players to watch: Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Kieran Trippier
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group I winners

England came into the tournament with high expectations from fans after being semi-finalists at the 2018 World Cup and runner-ups at Euro 2020.

It is the highest-scoring team in the tournament and has kept three consecutive clean sheets. 

It beat Senegal 3-0 in the Round of 16 on Dec. 3 and will play France in the quarterfinals on Dec.10

e # 16 USA – 5 points*

  • Players to watch: Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Tim Ream
  • Road to Qatar: Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football third round, third place

Forward Christian Pulisic hoped to lead the United States in a World Cup for the first time in 3,065 days.

His game-winning goal against Iran on Nov. 29 sent the United States to the knockout stages for the first time in 8 years.

However, the U.S. lost 3-1 to the Netherlands in Round of 16 on Dec. 3.

The U.S. controlled possession in games against top opponents like England and the Netherlands and secured a tough win when it mattered most. This could give them the experience they need when the U.S. hosts the tournament in 2026.

e #20 Islamic Republic of Iran – 3 points

  • Players to watch: Medhi Taremi, Midfielder Alireza Jahanbaksh, Forward Sardar Azmoun
  • Road to Qatar: Asian Football Confederation third-round Group A winners

The death of Masha Amini in police custody has caused a rift between the fans and the Iranian team, as there is more at stake than soccer. 

In Iran’s opening game, they refused to sing the national anthem as a silent protest against the theocratic Islamic regime.

The Islamic Republic of Iran lost 6-2 to England on opening day. They later failed to qualify after losing to the United States 1-0 on Nov. 29.

e #19 Wales – 1 point

  • Players to watch: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Brennan Johnson
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA playoff Path A winners

Wales had their First World Cup appearance since 1958 and has surprised at the past two European Championships. 

However, they lacked talent and only managed to scrape a draw off the United States after Forward Gareth Bale’s penalty.

Wales’ loss to England 3-0 eliminated them. 

Group C

#3 Argentina – 6 points**

  • Players to watch: Emi Martinez, Lionel Messi, Enzo Fernandez
  • Road to Qatar: South American Football Confederation runners-up

Argentina is a heavy favorite in the final due to their swaths of depth at every position.

Argentina topped their group even after they lost their opening match to Saudi Arabia. Argentina beat Australia 2-1 in Round of 16 on Dec. 3 and will play the Netherlands Friday.

e #26 Poland – 4 points*

  • Players to watch:Robert Lewandoski, Piotr Zielinski,Matthew Cash
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA playoff Path B winners

Star forward Robert Lewandowski is on a mission after missing out on receiving the Balon D’Or, club soccer’s top award, due to it being canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lewandowski has not been able to replicate his club form at the international level but was able to score his first World Cup goal in a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Nov. 26.

Keeper Wojciech Szczęsny helped Poland advance out of Group C group with his 24 saves in 4 games.

However, Poland lost to France 3-1 in the Round of 16 on Dec. 4 and was eliminated.

e #13 Mexico – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Edson Alvarez, Guillermo Ochoa
  • Road to Qatar: CONCACAF third-round runners-up

During the tournament, Mexico wanted to overcome the “quinto partido,” or fifth-game curse. Dating back to 1994, the Mexican National team has been unable to qualify for the quarterfinals.

However, with a team full of older players, Mexico played worse than they have in decades.

 Mexico failed to find the energy in their 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia to score another goal and qualify Mexico for Round of 16. 

Ultimately, they were eliminated and failed to qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time since 1978. 

e #51 Saudi Arabia – 3 points

  • Players to watch: Salman Al-Faraj, Saleh Al-Shehri, Abdulelah Al-Amri
  • Road to Qatar: AFC third-round Group B winners

The players all play in the Saudi Pro League and have great chemistry. Where Saudi Arabia fails athletically, they make up for in defense and counterattacks.

Saudi Arabia lost momentum after shocking Argentina 2-1 in their opening match.

They lost to Mexico 2-1 in late November and were eliminated.

Group D

#4 France – 6 points**

  • Players to watch: Kylian Mbappe, Dayot Upamecano, Aurelian Tchouameni
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group D winners

After their forward Karim Benzema, midfielder Paul Pogba and midfielder N’golo Kante were injured, France was left trying to find replacements for their star players.

The sporting world wondered if France could overcome injuries and the European World Cup winner’s curse after winning the 2018 World Cup.

France silenced the doubts and qualified for Round of 16 with a 2-1 win over Denmark. 

France will play England in the quarterfinals on Dec. 10.

e #38 Australia – 6 points*

  • Players to watch: Forward Matt Leckie, GK Matt Ryan, Midfielder Aaron Mooy
  • Road to Qatar: AFC versus CONMEBOL playoff winners

Australia had a tough road to get to the World Cup. They finished third in the AFC qualifiers and had a demanding playoff schedule, qualifying for the final intercontinental playoff spot.

However, Australia played well defensively, keeping two clean sheets in their three group stage games and qualified for the Round of 16 over dark horses Denmark. 

Ultimately, they lost 2-1 to Argentina on Dec. 3 in their Round of 16 match and were eliminated.

e #30 Tunisia – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Wahbi Khazri, Hannibal Mejbri, Dylan Bronn
  • Road to Qatar: CAF third-round winners

During African qualifiers, Tunisia allowed three goals in eight games but found themselves in a tough group.

They have been solid defensively, conceding once the entire tournament in a 1-0 loss to Australia. However, in the tournament, Tunisia only scored once, finding the back of the net in a 1-0 win against France.

Tunisia’s 1-0 Australia win over Denmark eliminated them.

e #10 Denmark – 1 point

  • Players to watch: Christain Eriksen, Simon Kjaer, Mikkel Damsgaard
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group F winners

After a heart attack on the field at Euro 2020, midfielder Christian Eriksen is in fine form, just in time to help control the strings of Denmark’s attack.

Eriksen’s passing accuracy and range- aided by the defense of midfielder Poerre-Emile Hojbjerg- helped Denmark control the tempo of games.

However, Denmark was a disappointment for many this tournament and finished last in their group after fans expected them to make a deep run.

Denmark’s 1-0 loss to Australia eliminated them.

Group E

e #24 Japan – 6 points*

  • Players to watch: Daichi Kamada, Wataru Endo, Takehiro Tomiyasu
  • Road to Qatar: AFC third-round Group B runners-up

Japan’s technical ability and blistering pace on counterattacks could have helped them displace the soccer giants in this tournament. 

But even after they killed giants Spain and Germany and topped their group, their 3-1 loss to Croatia Monday eliminated Japan.

e #7 Spain – 4 points*

  • Players to watch: Pedri, Ansu Fati, Jordi Alba
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group B winners

This team is full of Barcelona players and combines a mixture of youth and experience.  

Spain was drawn into the “Group of Death,” a group that is impossible for fans and experts to predict the outcome.

They started the tournament with a bang, beating Costa Rica 7-0 before drawing Germany 1-1 in late November. However, Spain began to fall behind after their 2-1 loss to Japan 2-1 on Dec. 1.

Spain’s 3-0 loss to Morocco eliminated them.

e #11 Germany – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Jamal Musiala, Antonio Rudiger, Thomas Muller
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group J winners

After faltering in 2018, Germany returned with an exuberance of youth plus key veterans from their win in 2014. They came into the tournament as the team to fear.

However, Germany did not make Round of 16 after having a +1 goal differential- much lower than Spain’s +6.

Germany accused Spain of purposely losing their game to Japan 2-1 to prevent Germany from a knockout play. 

e #31 Costa Rica – 3 points

  • Players to watch: GK Keylor Navas, DefenderBryan Oviedo, Forward Joel Campbell
  • Road to Qatar: Intercontinental playoff winners

Costa Rica hoped that the strategy that led them to the quarterfinals in 2014 could help them again, but their chances of getting a win were tough, even with the elite goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas helped Costa Rica snatch a win for Costa Rica. The team also conceded seven goals in their game against Spain in late November.

Their 4-2 loss to Germany cut Costa Rica’s journey to Qatar short and eliminated the team.

Group F 

#22 Morocco – 7 points**

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Hakim Ziyech, DefenderAchraf Hakimi, Midfielder Sofyan Amrabat
  • Road to Qatar: CAF third-round winners

Morocco fired their coach, Vahid Halilhodžić, two games before the World Cup after he fell out with midfielder Hakim Ziyech.

Despite the drama, the historically-overlooked Morocco remained a well-rounded team on paper due to top talents playing in the top five European leagues. 

Morocco impressed fans this tournament with their compact defensive play and entertaining style of play.

They were tied for first in the group stages with the best defense in the World Cup, conceding their only tournament goal in a 2-1 win over Canada on Dec. 1. 

They beat Spain 3-0 on penalties and will play Portugal on Saturday. They are one win away from being the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. 

#12 Croatia – 5 points**

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Luka Modric, DefenderJosko Gvardiol, Forward Andrej Kramaric
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group H winners

Croatia knows what it takes to get to the World Cup finale since they were runners-up in the 2018 World Cup.

The veteran leadership that led them to the 2018 World Cup Final was on display as they qualified out of an evenly balanced group. 

They beat Japan on Dec. 5 in a game that was decided 3-1 on penalties. Croatia will play Brazil in the quarterfinals on Dec. 9.

e #2 Belgium – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Forward Romelu Lukaku, GK Thibaut Courtois 
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group E winners

After Belgium reached the semi-finals in the 2018 World Cup, fans had I hopes for the team.

However, they drew their “win or go home” game 0-0 against Croatia, missing chance upon chance. The draw eliminated them on Dec. 1.

Belgiumvmutually parted ways with their coach, Roberto Martinez, after they lost their match against Croatia.

e #41 Canada – 0 points

  • Players to watch: Forward Jonathan David, DefenderAlphonso Davies, Midfielder Stephen Eustaquio
  • Road to Qatar: CONCACAF third-round winners

In Canada’s first World Cup appearance since 1986, the team stormed through their qualifiers while being touted as potential dark horses to make a deep run. 

They failed to tally any points but played attractive and expansive soccer.

Their 4-1 loss to Croatia eliminated the team in late November. 

Group G 

#1 Brazil – 6 points**

  • Players to watch: Forward Neymar, Midfielder Casemiro, DefenderMarquinhos
  • Road to Qatar: CONMEBOL winners

With some of the best goalkeepers, defenders and forwards in the world, World Cup fans expect Brazil to win the World Cup.

Brazil topped their group with ease, only losing to Cameroon on Dec. 2, the final day of the group stage, after fully rotating their starting 11. 

Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 on Monday and will play Croatia in the quarterfinals Friday.

e #15 Switzerland – 6 points*

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Granit Xhaka, GK Yann Sommer, Forward Breel Embolo
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group C winners

Switzerland stunned France in Euro 2020 but did not recreate that magic this year against Brazil.

Switzerland beat rivals Serbia 3-2 on Dec. 2 to qualify for Round of 16. At the end of the match, the Swiss captain, Granit Xhaka, made a vulgar gesture toward the Serbian bench.

Switzerland’s 6-1 loss to Portugal eliminated them Tuesday.

e #43 Cameroon – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Vincent Aboubakar, Andre Onana, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
  • Road to Qatar: CAF third-round winners

Cameroon had their work cut out in what was considered a tough group.

They advanced to the World Cup on away goals after securing a draw with a last-minute goal from forward Karl Toko-Ekambi. 

Cameroon played well in their group, showing that they had the attacking firepower to keep up with the big teams in their group. 

They had the joint second-most goals in their group, but their inconsistent goalkeeper play held them back.

Forward Vincent Aboubakar scored the winning goal against Brazil in the 94′ minute, making for one of the tournament’s most memorable moments.

Their victory was the first time an African team beat Brazil in World Cup tournaments. 

They were eliminated ultimately.

e #21 Serbia – 1 point

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Defender Nikola Milenkovic, Forward Dusan Tadic
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA Group A winners

Ethnic tensions have the potential to flare up when they play Switzerland due to the Swiss having players of Albanian descent. 

The last time these teams met, fans wore shirts with the face of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, the “Butcher of Srebrenica.”

Serbia has two ongoing investigations into their behavior after violent and politically motivated events surrounding the Serbian national team.

Serbia failed to make an impact in their group after having some media hype heading into the tournament. They were still looking for a winning formula, drawing one game and losing two. 

Serbia’s 3-2 loss to Switzerland eliminated them on Dec. 2., but they would have qualified for Round of 16 if Brazil had secured a win over Cameroon.

Group H

#9 Portugal – 6 points**

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Bruno Fernandes, Forward Cristiano Ronaldo, DefenderJoao Cancelo
  • Road to Qatar: UEFA playoff Path C winners

Forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive interview has overshadowed Portugal’s talent this tournament.

Portugal looked lethargic in their first three games when they played with forward Cristiano Ronaldo up top.

The team looked more fluid after dropping him for forward Goncalo Ramos in their Round of 16 fixture. 

They beat Switzerland 6-1, helped by a Ramos “hat trick.” Portugal will play Morocco in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

e #28 South Korea – 4 points*

  • Players to watch: Forward Son Heung-Min, DefenderKim Min-Jae, Midfielder Lee Kang-In
  • Road to Qatar: AFC third-round Group A runners-up

South Korea shocked the world by finishing second above the likes of Uruguay and Ghana. Forward Son Heung-Min picked up an injury with his club team during the run-up to the World Cup. Good graf!!!

Though they had strong players like forward Son Heung- Min and defender Kim Min Jae, Son’s injury hampered South Korea’s chances of advancing deeper into the tournament.

Brazil dismantled South Korea 4-1 in Round of 16 on Dec. 5.

e #14 Uruguay – 4 points

  • Players to watch: Midfielder Fede Valverde, Defender Ronald Araújo, Forward Darwin Nunez
  • Road to Qatar: CONMEBOL Third place  

They had a poor start to qualifying before pushing for third place in qualifiers, looking to run the gauntlet as their players found form.

Uruguay had a phenomenal run even to make the World Cup, led by a talented crop of players such as forward Darwin Nunez and midfielder Fede Valverde. 

Uruguay won their final game against Ghana 2-0 on Dec. 2 but did not make it out of their group due to scoring fewer goals than South Korea; South Korea scored four goals compared to Uruguay’s two.

e #61 Ghana – 3 points

  • Players to watch: Thomas Partey, Mohammed Salisu, Inaki Williams
  • Road to Qatar: CAF third-round winners

Ghana was to convert dual nationals fullback Tariq Lamptey and forward Inaki Williams in time for the tournament.

They looked to seek revenge against Uruguay after they prevented Ghana from being the first African team to make the semi-finals in 2010.

Ghana was given their chance at avenging their 2010 loss but could not get their “get back,” losing to Uruguay 2-0 on the final day of the group stage play in what was a “win or go home” game for them.

They were eliminated after losing 2-0 to Uruguay on Dec. 2.

The Spokesman’s Predictions

Now here are the Spokesman’s predictions for awards: 

Team of the Group Stage

  • Goalkeeper – ​​Wojciech Szczesny (Poland) 
  • Right back- Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) 
  • Center Back – Romain Saiss (Morocco) 
  • Center Back – Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)
  • Left-back – Theo Hernandez (France)
  • Defensive Midfielder – Casemiro (Brazil)
  • Right Center Midfielder – Frenkie De Jong (Netherlands)
  • Left Center Midfielder – Jude Bellingham (England)
  • Right Winger – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
  • Striker – Enner Valencia (Ecuador)
  • Left Winger – Kylian Mbappe (France)

Team of the Round of 16

  • Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford (England)
  • Right back – Denzel Dumfies (Netherlands)
  • Center back – Romain Saiss (Morocco)
  • Center back – Harry Maguire (England)
  • Left back – Noussair Mazraoui (Morocco)
  • Defensive Midfielder – Adrien Rabiot (France)
  • Center Midfielder – Lucas Paqueta (Brazil)
  • Attacking Midfielder – Neymar (Brazil)
  • Right Winger – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
  • Striker – Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)
  • Left Winger – Kylian Mbappe (France)

Golden Boot – Kylian Mbappe, Forward, France

Golden Ball – Bruno Fernandes, MF, Portugal*

Golden Glove – Emi Martinez, GK, Argentina

FIFA Young Player – Jude Bellingham, MF, England

*Before his injury in the game against Serbia on Nov. 24, Neymar was the initial choice


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