As per usual practice, the FIFA World Cup host is drawn on Group A. Joining Qatar are Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands. They will play their matches on November 21, 25, and 29 in three different venues: Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha, Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, and Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Let us take a more detailed look of the teams that comprise the group.
FIFA rank (at time of draw): 51
Key players: Abdelkarim Hassan, Karim Boudiaf, Hassan al-Haydos
How they qualified: Host
Best FIFA World Cup performance: N/A
- Qatar is one of those competitive countries that are just a few steps away from qualifying. In the qualifiers for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, it came down to the last Group A match between The Maroon and Saudi Arabia, which the latter won with an Ibrahim Suwayed goal at the 61st minute.
- Félix Sánchez has been at the helm of the senior squad since 2017 and has been part of the Qatari age-group program since 2013. He is expected to bring this experience now that they are playing in the most prestigious team sports tournament in the world.
FIFA rank (at time of draw): 46
Key players: Enner Valencia, Pervis Estupiñán
How they qualified: CONMEBOL round robin fourth place
Best FIFA World Cup performance: Round of 16 – 2006
- La Tricolor practically coasted along at third behind powerhouses Brazil and Argentina for most of the CONMEBOL round robin qualifiers. However, it took a loss by Peru in the second to the last matchday to secure Ecuador’s place at the World Cup after the latter only had three points added to their tally on the table in their last four matches.
- Captain Enner Valencia and head coach Gustavo Alfaro are expected to lead a young but battle-tested roster this November.
FIFA rank (at time of draw): 20
Key players: Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mané, Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gueye
How they qualified: CAF third round winners
Best FIFA World Cup performance: Quarterfinals – 2002
- After dominating Group H in the second round of the CAF qualification stage, the highest ranked African country proceeded to eliminate Egypt via penalty shootout in the following phase.
- The Lions of Teranga would most likely field a roster of players with European club exposure, such as Sadio Mané and Abdou Diallo.
FIFA rank (at time of draw): 10
Key players: Memphis, Virgil van Dijk
How they qualified: UEFA Group G winners
Best FIFA World Cup performance: Runners-up – 1974, 1978, 2010
- There was a three-way battle for the top spot of Group G among the Netherlands, Turkey, and Norway heading into the last day of fixtures, as only two points separate the three. The Dutch advanced thanks to goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis, their win eliminating the Scandinavian team from contention.
- Louis van Gaal returns as Oranje’s mentor, his third stint in the seniors men’s team. He has at his disposal an interesting mix of players of various levels of age and experience. For example, the backline has team captain Virgil van Dijk as well as Matthijs de Ligt, the latter having accumulated more than 30 caps while still in his early 20s.
Senegal vs Netherlands, November 21, Al-Thumama Stadium
Ecuador vs Senegal, November 29, Khalifa International Stadium
The easiest call to make is that the Netherlands would reach the knockout round. The Orange have never been eliminated in the group stage. Senegal might have the most high-profile names among the three other teams, but that does not translate to a guaranteed slot to the next stage of the tournament.