Let’s call a spade a spade, the country will make headlines for the next month with issues not related to football
Their government will line up examples of the progress it has made, the only reason the Middle East are paying millions to host these events. It’s called sports washing.
Unfortunately, there will be horror stories along the way of how people are treated.
Of course, that’s not the fault of the 26 players who are rightly proud to be representing their nation.
It’s an experienced squad, a few players with over 100 caps and who all play domestically, so this is a tight group.
They have experienced success in the Arabian Gulf Cup and Asian Cup since they won the rights to host this event.
For political reasons a lot of money has been invested in improving the standards of the game so Qatar don’t embarrass themselves in their first ever World Cup.
The group’s soft enough where they can be at least competitive, although a step up from the region they play in.
What they don’t have is the fanatical support of a 2002 South Korea or 2018 Russia which inspired those hosts to punch above their weight.
Locals will be more interested in the stars from the Premiership that they watch on TV.
South Africa are the only hosts in the history of the competition to be eliminated at the group stage.
Qatar is expected to join them with that unwanted record.
Stranger things have happened though.
Predicted finish – Group stages
The other three teams in the group while respecting Qatar’s home advantage will be delighted to get them over the big names seeded in Pot 1.
In terms of confidence, Ecuador should respect but not fear their three opponents.
This is a team who qualified by finishing in the top 4 of the South American section, above the likes of Colombia and Chile.
Chile have tried to challenge this in court claiming their rivals have been fielding a player who is Colombian.
This is a big story in South America and overshadowed what Ecuador have achieved.
In all of South American qualifying they fielded the youngest team who went on to score 27 goals, more than any of their peers before them.
So, a youthful team with full of self-belief.
Predicted finish – Group stages
Their continent’s best chance of getting to the knockout stages.
Their debut at the World Cup in the 2002 when they got to the last eight was seen as a fairytale but now, they are a nation with expectation behind them.
Lifting this year’s African Cup of Nations has given them that winning feeling, as has the manner of how they qualified for the WC at the expense of Egypt.
If you look at their spine, Mendy, Koulibaly and Mane… .that’s impressive.
In what could be three tight games, having someone with the X Factor like Mane might be the difference. It’s something the rest in Group A don’t have.
With the players they have you might be shocked to know that Senegal is quite pragmatic. Happy to stay organized knowing they have the player who can snatch something with a moment of magic.
The margin of success and failure will be so small in their three fixtures. It will be decided by small details.
Those details could be that while Qatar are not used to this stage and Ecuador are youthful, Senegal are experienced and have been successful together.
Predicted finish – Last 16
The Dutch missed the World Cup in Russia, which was unforgivable given their reputation as one of the greatest to never lift the trophy.
It means last time they played in this competition was under Louis Van Gal in 2014.
Back then in Brazil, the veteran manger was the master of hiding the negatives, highlighting the positives.
He didn’t trust his defence, so would sacrifice the attacking talent he had to make them hard to beat.
8 years later it’s the other way round. Holland’s best players are in defence and in midfield and outside of Depay, they don’t have the attacking options they are famous for.
Seeded in Pot 2 this group could have been a lot harder. They know if they win it, they will face the runner up of England’s section.
A kind draw but over the years the Dutch don’t fare well when the expectation is on them.
They will make things harder than it has to be
Predicted finiah – Quarter Finals
Let me know your predictions for Group A
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