If FIFA want us to focus on the football, they’ll have to do better than a World Cup opener of no consequence and featuring little jeopardy.
As the sun started to set in the middle of this cold, autumn Sunday afternoon, the 2022 World Cup finals slowly started to creak to life. But notably, the opening ceremony for the tournament was not covered at all by the BBC’s television channels, instead being squirreled away on iPlayer (with the only accompaniment coming from a simultaneous feed from Radio Five Live) while the BBC’s coverage was unlike anything seen before for the start of a sporting event on the television in this country.
BBC One only cut over to the tournament at all with just an hour to go before kick-off. And then when they did, they only spent a couple of minutes on the football itself before handing over to half an hour on the human rights and corruption issues that have left this tournament so far beyond the pale for so many people in the first place, featuring correspondents such as Ros Atkins and a particularly scathing Alan Shearer.
And no, you you didn’t miss much, if you couldn’t face the idea of getting all the way into iPlayer just to watch an opening ceremony which passed by with a slickly-produced display of 21st century light entertainment banality. It was nice to see some old tournamnt mascots again, though Naranjito’s stare seems to become increasingly thousand-yard and his grin more rictus as the years go by, while World Cup Willie loitered almost entirely out of sight and out of mind at the back of the stage. Presumably getting too vigorous is not recommended at his age.
From just watching the game itself, the Qatar World Cup could be hosted anywhere in the world, but this is a process of homogenisation of the game’s culture that started decades ago rather than in the last few weeks or months. If anything, with the heartfelt belting out of the national anthems and handshakes between all the players and its infantilising countdown to the kick-off, the build-up felt essentially like Generic Football Experience #29, one of those optimistic-looking drawings that usually accompany the announcement of a new stadium come to life.
We all know what we all know about Qatar, about how they’ve had to build a national team in just over ten years, as well as having a go at building a football culture at the same time. They don’t seem to have been very successful at either. There was nothing for the commentary team to talk about, throughout much of the match. No history or narrative, nothing for them to sink their teeth into. It’s context-free football. It feels like we’re watching two people play a video game rather than the opening match of a tournament which until this year had felt as though it was part of my circadian rhythm.
And of course, within three minutes of the start we had another reminder of the ways in which the joy is so routinely sucked out of the game these days, an Ecuador goal varred from the record books in record time. It says a lot about the level of bad faith surrounding this tournament that social media went straight for the assumption that the match had been rigged, and it didn’t help that the broadcasters seemed extremely coy about either showing a replay of it or offering any explanation for what had happened, either.
After two minutes of deliberation, they called the goal back. Across the world, eyebrows raised in unison. Ten minutes later, a graphic which may have been produced using a Commodore Amiga flashed briefly across the screen confirming the decision, with a little graphic representation of two footballers. It took until the BBC’s half-time analysis for the incident to be shown again in full. The decision to rule the goal out may have been technically correct, but the timing was unfortunate for those who had to rule it out so early in the game, but the decision to barely show any replays of the incident was perplexing.
Qatar never looked like making the most of that early escape. All the conditioning in the world, the very best facilities and all the money that can be thrown behind you isn’t worth very much if you just haven’t got very good players. It didn’t help that they occasionally resembled rabbits trapped in a car’s headlights. Their nerves were very evident. Ecuador were better on every level; quicker, fitter, better organised and more clinical. Enner Valencia, who’d had the very early goal disallowed, popped up with a further two before half-time and Qatar had nothing of substance to offer in return. They’re the first host nation to lose an opening game in the World Cup.
The second half became a 45-minute long exercise in game management, as Ecuador rolled the ball around the pitch amongst themselves under little to no pressure from the hosts. They’d done enough with their first half blast, and they knew it. And it felt as though the home crowd knew that this particular jig was up, too. Crowd shots became increasingly thin on the ground in the second half but empty seats, presumably vacated by Qatar fans who decided they had better things to do than sit there and watch that, were visible on some of the longer shots. By the closing stages, they were much more visible.
So… that then, is it? An evening that started out with at least of a veneer of controversy ended up… pretty boring, really. Perhaps the point is that you can’t just transplant football to the middle of the desert, build a handful of enorm-o-domes and expect it to be an authentic-feeling football experience in any realistic way.
And this causes FIFA a major headache, because their big out on all the other stuff – all the bizarreness of Infantino’s pre-tournament pronouncements, the issues over the sales of beer, the deep, deep unease at this tournament being held in this country in the first place – is the football itself. Stop talking about the things that make us uncomfortable and focus on the football, has been their pre-tournament message. The football is going to have to be better than this, guys.
Slightly unreal and fundamentally boring; perhaps this was an entirely appropriate opening to a tournament that feels like nothing so much as an imposition.
-World Cup squads: Every final 26-man squad for Qatar as Benzema and Mane are ruled out
Group A Ecuador
World ranking: 44 Coach: Gustavo Alfaro Confirmed 26-man squad: Moises Ramirez (Independiente del Valle), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Hernan Galindez (Aucas), Piero Hincapie (Bayer Leverkusen), Robert Arboleda (Sao Paulo), Pervis Estupinan (Brighton), Angelo Preciado (Genk), Jackson Porozo (Troyes), Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders), Diego Palacios (Los Angeles FC), Felix Torres (Santos Laguna), William Pacho (Royal Antwerp), Carlos Gruezo (Augsburg ), Jose Cifuente (Los Angeles FC), Alan Franco (Talleres), Moises Caicedo (Brighton), Angel Mena (Club Leon), Jeremy Sarmiento (Brighton), Jhegson Mendez (Los Angeles FC), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna), Gonzalo Plata (Real Valladolid), Romario Ibarra (Santos Laguna), Djorkaeff Reasco (Newell's Old Boys), Kevin Rodriguez (Imbabura), Michael Estrada (Cruz Azul), Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce).
Premier League representation comes exclusively from Brighton, with Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan and Jeremy Sarmiento all making the cut.
World ranking: 8 Coach: Louis van Gaal Confirmed 26-man squad: Justin Bijlow (Feyenoord), Remko Pasveer (Ajax), Andries Noppert (sc Heerenveen), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Jurrien Timber (Ajax) Denzel Dumfries (Internazionale), Stefan de Vrij (Internazionale), Mathijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) , Steven Berghuis (Ajax), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta Bergamo), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Marten de Roon (Atalanta Bergamo), Kenneth Taylor (Ajax), Xavi Simons (PSV), Memphis Depay (FC Barcelona), Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Vincent Janssen (Royal Antwerp FC), Luuk de Jong (PSV), Noa Lang (Club Brugge), Wout Weghorst (Besiktas)
There will be no Giorginio Wijnaldum, Tim Krul or Bruno Martins Indi, a weakness maybe a relative lack of experience. Newcastle defender Sven Botman has also missed out.
World ranking: 50 Coach: Felix Sanchez Confirmed 26-man squad: Saad Al Sheeb (Al-Sadd), Yousef Hassan (Al-Gharafa), Meshaal Barsham (Al-Sadd), Ro-Ro (Al-Sadd), Abdelkarim Hassan (Al-Sadd), Boualem Khoukhi (Al-Sadd), Ismaeel Mohammad (Al-Duhail), Bassam Al-Rawi (Al-Duhail), Tarek Salman (Al-Sadd), Musab Kheder (Al-Sadd), Homam Ahmed (Al-Gharafa), Jassem Ghaber (Al-Arabi), Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Abdulaziz Hatem (Al-Rayyan), Ali Assadalla (Al-Sadd), Assim Madibo (Al-Duhail), Salem Al-Hajri (Al-Sadd), Mohammed Waad (Al-Sadd), Mostafa Tarek (Al-Sadd), Hassan Al-Haydos (Al-Sadd), Akram Afif (Al-Sadd), Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail), Mohammed Muntari (Al-Duhail), Ahmed Alaaeldin (Al-Gharafa), Khalid Muneer (Al-Wakrah), Naif Al-Hadrami (Al-Rayyan).
Captain Hassan Al-Haydos has an astonishing 169 caps.
World ranking: 18 Coach Aliou Cisse Confirmed 26-man squad: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Seny Dieng (QPR), Alfred Gomis (Rennes), Youssouf Sabaly (Real Betis), Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea) and Abdou Diallo (RB Leipzig). Pope Abou Cisse (Olympiacos), Formose Mendy (Amiens), Fode Ballo-Toure (AC Milan), Ismail Jakobs (Monaco), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyaté (Nottingham Forest), Nampalys Mendy (Leicester). Gueye (Marseille), Pape Sarr (Tottenham), Moustapha Name (Pafos), Mamadou Loum (Reading), Krepin Diatta (Monaco), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Ismaila Sarr (Watford), Bamba Dieng (Marseille) and Boulaye Dia Famara Diedhiou (Alanyaspor), Nicolas Jackson (Villarreal), Iliman Ndiaye (Sheffield United)
AFCON champions Senegal look well-placed to thrive in Qatar, with Cisse in his seventh year as manager with an experienced squad, a third of whom play in the Champions League, already used to success. Despite being included in the initial squad, Sadio Mane has now been ruled out of the World Cup with a right fibula injury, in the biggest possible blow ahead of the World Cup.
World ranking: 5 Coach: Gareth Southgate Confirmed 26-man squad: Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester City), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are in despite their recent injury issues. Ben White, Callum Wilson, Marcus Rashford and James Maddison have been recalled. Ben Chilwell and Reece James miss out through injury.
World ranking: 22 Coach: Carlos Queiroz Confirmed 25-man squad: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Payam Niazmand (Sepahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina), Ramin Rezaeian (Sepahan), Abolfazl Jalali (Esteghlal), Hossein Kananizadegan (Al Ahli SC), Shoja Khalilzadeh (Al Ahli SC), Mortza Pouraliganji (Persepolis), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb), Milad Mohammadi (AEK), Ehsan Hajisafi (AEK), Saeid Ezatolahi ( Vejle Boldklub), Ahmad Nourollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Ali Karimi (Kayserispor), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Ali Gholizadeh (Charleroi), Saman Ghoddos (Brentford), Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen), Karim Ansarifard (Omonia), Mehdi Taremi (Porto)
Iran are the underdogs of Group B but, ranked 20th in the world, they are only one place below Wales and heading to their third-successive finals. Sixteen of the players in their most recent squad played in Russia in 2018. The players recently voiced their support for protests over the death of Mahsa Amini while she was being held by ‘morality police’. It remains to be seen if the squad will continue those protests in Qatar.
World ranking: 16 Coach: Gregg Berhalter Confirmed 26-man squad: Matt Turner (Arsenal), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Sergino Dest (AC Milan), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville), DeAndre Yedlin, (Inter Miami), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Tim Ream (Fulham), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Shaq Moore (Nashville), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (Leeds United), Luca De La Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKinnie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Tim Weah (LOSC Lille), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor)
Zach Steffen missed the recent friendlies and is not included in the Qatar squad, with Arsenal keeper Matt Turner taking the reins as No. 1.
Premier League stars Turner, Antonee Robinson, Tim Ream, Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, and Christian Pulisic are in.
World ranking: 19 Coach: Rob Page Confirmed 26-man squad: Wayne Hennessey (Nottingham Forest), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City), Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Joe Rodon (Rennes, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ethan Ampadu (Spezia, on loan from Chelsea), Chris Gunter (AFC Wimbledon), Connor Roberts (Burnley), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town), Aaron Ramsey (Nice), Joe Allen (Swansea City), Harry Wilson (Fulham), Joe Morrell (Portsmouth), Dylan Levitt (Dundee United), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City), Jonny Williams (Swindon Town), Matthew Smith (Milton Keynes Dons), Sorba Thomas (Huddersfield Town), Gareth Bale (Los Angeles FC), Dan James (Fulham, on loan from Leeds United), Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth), Mark Harris (Cardiff City), Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest).
Joe Allen has not played for Swansea since September due to a hamstring problem but is in the squad. Tom Lawrence misses out thanks to a knee injury that has kept him out of Rangers action since August. The good news is that Aaron Ramsey is at least playing (sparingly) for Nice while Gareth Bale looked in fine fettle in the MLS Cup final.
World ranking: 3 Coach: Lionel Scaloni Confirmed 26-man squad: Franco Armani (River Plate), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), German Pezzella ( Real Betis), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Lionel Messi (PSG) , Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan)
Martinez is pushing Otamendi and Romero for their starting spots at (possibly) Messi’s final World Cup. Alvarez and MacAllister got the nod after featuring in the recent friendlies, but Emi Buendia missed out.
Dybala and Di Maria have overcome injury issues to be named in the squad.
World ranking: 13 Coach: Gerardo Martino Confirmed 26-man squad: Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Alfredo Talavera (Juarez), Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Jorge Sanchez (Ajax), Kevin Alvarez (Pachuca), Nestor Araujo (Club America ), Johan Vasquez (Cremonese), Hector Moreno (Monterrey), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Gerardo Arteaga (Genk), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Hector Herrera (Houston Dynamo), Charly Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Erick Gutierrez (PSV Eindhoven), Luis Chavez (Pachuca), Edson Alvarez (Ajax), Orbelin Pineda (AEK Athens), Luis Romo (Monterrey), Alexis Vega (Guadalajara), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Raul Jimenez ( Wolves), Roberto Alvarado (Guadalajara), Uriel Antuna (Cruz Azul), Henry Martin (Club America), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey).
Mexico’s biggest concerns are in attack, with Raul Jimenez struggling to stay fit, while Sevilla’s Jesus Corona has been ruled out. This will be El Tri’s 17th appearance at the finals – only Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina have participated in more.
World ranking: 26 Coach: Czesław Michniewicz Confirmed 26-man squad: Bartlomiej Dragowski (Spezia), Lukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus), Jan Bednarek (Aston Villa, on loan from Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Kamil Glik (Benevento), Robert Gumny (Augsburg), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Jakub Kiwior (Spezia), Mateusz Wieteska (Clermont), Nicola Zalewski (Roma), Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City) , Przemyslaw Frankowski (Lens), Kamil Grosicki (Pogon Szczecin), Jakub Kaminski (Wolfsburg), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Al-Shabab), Michal Skoras (Lech Poznan), Damian Szymanski (AEK Athens), Sebastian Szymanski (Feyenoord), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Szymon Zurkowski (Fiorentina), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Arkadiusz Milik (Juventus), Krzysztof Piatek (Salernitana),Karol Swiderski (Charlotte FC).
England-born right-back Cash is heading to his first major tournament after switching allegiance last year. He is likely to start for a team who will once again be reliant on Robert Lewandowski.
World ranking: 51 Coach: Hervé Renard Confirmed 26-man squad: Mohamed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Al-Yami (Al-Ahly), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al -Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr), Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab), Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr), Mohammed Al-Breik (Al-Hilal), Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal), Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Riyadh Sharahili (Abha), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal) ), Abdulelah Al-Malki (Al-Hilal), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Abdulrahman Al-Aboud (Ittihad), Salem Al -Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Shabab), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahly), Saleh Al-Shehri (Al-Hilal) Firas Al-Buraikan (Al- Fateh).
Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest ranked team at the tournament, have been drawn in a desperately difficult group with Argentina, Mexico and Poland. Renard looks set to pick an entirely domestic-based squad for the World Cup finals.
World ranking: 38 Coach: Graham Arnold Confirmed 26-man squad: Mathew Ryan (FC Copenhagen), Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC), Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners), Aziz Behich (Dundee United), Milos Degenek (Columbus Crew), Thomas Deng (Aibirex Niigata), Joel King (Odense Boldklub), Nathaniel Atkinson (Hearts), Fran Karacic (Brescia), Harry Souttar (Stoke City), Kye Rowles (Hearts), Craig Goodwin (Adelaide United), Aaron Mooy (Celtic), Jackson Irvine (St Pauli), Ajdin Hrustic (Hellas Verona), Bailey Wright (Sunderland), Cameron Devlin (Hearts), Riley McGree (Middlesbrough), Keanu Baccus (St Mirren), Awer Mabil (Cadiz), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City), Martin Boyle (Hibernian), James Maclaren (Melbourne City), Jason Cummings (Central Coast Mariners), Mitchell Duke (Fagiano Okayama), Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners)
Newcastle new boy Kuol features for the Socceroos before moving to Tyneside in January despite being yet to start a game for Central Coast Mariners in the A-League. Keeper Mitch Langerak came out of international retirement just in time for the final friendlies and the finals in Qatar, only to miss out on the final squad.
World ranking: 10 Coach: Kasper Hjulmand Confirmed 26-man squad: Kasper Schmeichel (Nice), Oliver Christensen (Hertha Berlin), Frederik Rønnow (Union Berlin), Simon Kjaer (AC Milan), Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace), Joakim Maehle (Atalanta), Andreas Christensen (Barcelona), Rasmus Kristensen (Leeds United), Jens Stryger Larsen (Trabzonspor), Victor Nelsson (Galatasaray), Daniel Wass (Brondby), Alexander Bah (Benfica), Thomas Delaney (Sevilla), Mathias Jensen (Brentford), Christian Nørgaard (Brentford), Christian Eriksen (Manchester United), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham), Andreas Skov Olsen (Club Bruges), Jesper Lindstrom (Eintracht Frankfurt), Andreas Cornelius (Copenhagen), Martin Braithwaite (Espanyol ), Kasper Dolberg (Sevilla), Mikkel Damsgaard (Brentford), Jonas Wind (VfL Wolfsburg), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Robert Skov (Hoffenheim).
The first 21 players picked by coach Kasper Hjulmand were named last week before the final round of European fixtures. The newcomers include Brentford midfielder Christian Nørgaard and set-piece specialist Robert Skov.
World ranking: 4 Coach: Didier Deschamps Confirmed 26-man squad: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Raphaël Varane ( Manchester United), Axel Disasi (Monaco), William Saliba (Arsenal), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Théo Hernandez (Milan), Ibrahima Konaté (Liverpool), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Mattéo Guendouzi (Marseille), Jordan Veretout (Marseille), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid ), Olivier Giroud (Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach).
No Paul Pogba or N’Golo Kante for France at this tournament but there is still an embarrassment of riches, despite Karim Benzema also dropping out of the squad on the eve of the tournament. Varane’s hamstring injury has not kept him out, while Presnel Kimpembe has been replaced in the squad by Disasi due to an injury. Marcus Thuram was named late to take the squad to full capacity. And then Randal Kolo Muani was brought into the squad for the injured Christopher Nkunku.
Manchester United youngster Hannibal, currently on loan at Birmingham, is the only English-based player in Kadri’s crew for the finals.
World ranking: 31 Coach: Luis Fernando Suárez Confirmed 26-man squad: Keylor Navas (PSG), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Patrick Sequeira (Club Deportivo Lugo), Francisco Calvo (Konyaspor), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millionarios), Kendall Waston (Saprissa), Óscar Duarte (Al-Wehda), Daniel Chacón (Colorado Rapids), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Carlos Martínez (San Carlos), Bryan Oviedo (Real Salt Lake), Ronald Matarrita (Cincinnati), Yeltsin Tejeda (Heredian ), Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Youstin Salas (Saprissa), Roan Wilson (Greece), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Douglas López (Herediano), Jewison Bennette (Sunderland), Álvaro Zamora (Saprissa), Anthony Hernández (Puntarenas), Brandon Aguilera (Nottingham Forest), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense), Joel Campbell (León), Anthony Contreras (Herediano), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense).
Sunderland’s Bennette is the only English-based player in Los Ticos’ squad for a tournament in which they have been handed a desperately touch draw alongside the 2010 and 2014 champions. Former Arsenal striker Campbell, only just turned 30, is on 118 caps.
World ranking: 11 Coach: Hansi Flick Confirmed 26-man squad: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Frankfurt), Armel Bella-Kotchap (Southampton), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Christian Gunter (Freiburg), Thilo Kehrer (West Ham), Lukas Klostermann (Leipzig), David Raum (Leipzig), Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Nico Schlotterbeck (Borussia Dortmund), Niklas Sule (Borussia Dortmund), Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund), Niclas Fullkrug (Werder Bremen), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Mario Gotze (Frankfurt), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Monchengladbach), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich) , Karim Adeyemi (Borussia Dortmund), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Youssoufa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich),Leroy Sane (Bayern Munich)
Germany can’t do much worse than the 2018 finals when they failed to make it out of the group, especially while Flick has such a strong squad. Timo Werner and Marco Reus have been ruled out. Mario Gotze is in the squad for the first time since 2017.
World ranking: 2 Coach: Roberto Martínez Confirmed 26-man squad: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Leander Dendoncker ( Wolves), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Arthur Theate (Stade Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund) , Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Amadou Onana (Everton), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Leandro Trossard (Brighton), Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Lois Openda (Lens), Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Jeremy Doku (Stade Rennes), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
The Red Devils landed a cushy-looking draw as they look to better their third-place finish in 2018. Martinez has a number of young players coming through, Everton’s Onana among them, but Belgium look set to retain an experienced first XI.
World ranking: 41 Coach: John Herdman Confirmed 26-man squad: Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade), James Pantemis (CF Montreal), Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United), Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor), Derek Cornelius (Vancouver Whitecaps – Panetolikos), Alistair Johnston (CF Montreal), Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest), Kamal Miller (CF Montreal), Steven Vitoria (Chaves), Joel Waterman (CF Montreal), Stephen Eustaquio (FC Porto), Liam Fraser (Deinze), Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Toronto FC), Ismael Kone (CF Montreal), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (CF Montreal), David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone), Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jonathan David (Lille), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Junior Hoillett (Reading), Cyle Larin (Club Brugge), Liam Miller (FC Basel), Ike Ugbo (Troyes).
Herdman’s biggest concern, one of the things “keeping him awake at night”, was the fitness of captain Atiba Hutchinson, Canada’s most-capped player, who missed the friendlies due to a bone bruise suffered in pre-season with Besiktas.
World ranking: 12 Coach: Zlatko Dalic Confirmed 26-man squad: Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivica Ivusic (Osijek), Ivo Grbic (Atletico Madrid), Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Dejan Lovren (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Josip Juranovic (Celtic), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Borna Sosa (Stuttgart), Josip Stanisic (Bayern Munich), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Josip Sutalo (Dinamo Zagreb), Luka Modric (Real Madrid) , Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mario Pasalaic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Rennes), Kristijan Jakic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Luka Sucic (Red Bull Salzburg), Ivan Perisic (Tottenham ), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split)
Dalic is likely to pick a familiar-looking XI, with Modric, Kovacic, Brozovic, Perisic and Lovren all still key players for the 2018 runners-up. Kovacic and Perisic have been joined by Old Firm rivals Barisic and Juranovic as British-based representatives.
World ranking: 22 Coach: Walid Regragui Confirmed 26-man squad: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Munir El Kajoui (Al Wehda), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Casablanca), Achraf Hakimi (PSG), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich), Nayef Aguerd (West Ham), Romain Saiss (Besiktas), Achraf Dari (Brest), Badr Benoun (Qatar SC), Yahia Attiyat Allah (Wydad Casablanca), Jawad El Yamiq (Real Valladolid), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Azzedine Ounahi ( Angers), Belil El Khanouss (Genk), Abdelhamid Sabiri (Sampdoria), Ilias Chair (QPR), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege), Yahya Jabrane (Wydad Casablanca), Amine Harit (Marseille), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Zakaria Aboukhlal (Toulouse), Walid Cheddira (Bari), Sofiane Boufal (Angers), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), Abde Ezzalzouli (Osasuna), Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al-Ittihad)
The second-best team in Africa, according to FIFA rankings, will face two of 2018 semi-finalists in Qatar. Morocco look strong in the full-back areas, with Mazraoui and Hakimi, while Regragui has plenty of options up front to supplement a forward line likely to consist of Ziyech, Boufal and En-Nesyri.
World ranking: 1 Coach: Tite Confirmed 26-man squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras), Dani Alves (Club Universidad Nacional), Danilo (Juventus), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Alex Telles (Manchester United), Bremer (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Casemiro (Manchester United), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool ), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham United), Antony (Manchester United), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Neymar (PSG), Pedro (Flamengo), Raphinha (FC Barcelona), Richarlison (Tottenham Hotspur), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid).
Head coach Tite has decided to leave out Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino and Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes. Gunners duo Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus have made the cut, though.
World ranking: 43 Coach Rigobert Song Confirmed 26-man squad: Devis Epassy (Abha Club), Simon Ngapandouetnbu (Marseille), Andre Onana (Inter Milan), Jean-Charles Castelletto (Nantes), Enzo Ebosse (Udinese) Collins Fai Christopher Wooh (Rennes Stadium), Martin Hongla (Verona), Pierre Kunde (Olympiakos) and Oliver Ntcham (Swansea City). Gael Ondoua (Hannover 96), Samuel Oum Gouet (Mechelen), Andre-Frank Zambo (Napoli), Vincent Aboubakar (Al Nassr), Christian Bassogog (Shanghai Shenhua), Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting (Bayern Munich) Souaibou Marou (Coton Sport), Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford), Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu (Young Boys), Jerome Ngom (Colombe Dja), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (Besiktas), Jean-Pierre Nsame (Young Boys),Karl Toko Ekambi (Lyon)
Brentford forward Mbeumo switched allegiance from France to the Indomitable Lions in August in time to make the squad for the September friendlies and the World Cup finals. Mbeumo will be scrapping with Ekambi, Choupo-Moting and Aboubakar for a starting role in Song’s side.
World ranking: 21 Coach: Dragan Stojković Confirmed 26-man squad: Marko Dmitrović (Sevilla), Predrag Rajković (Mallorca), Vanja Milinković-Savic (Torino), Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Filip Mladenovic (Legia Warsaw), Strahinja Erakovic (Red Star Belgrade), Srdjan Babic (Almeria), Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Sasa Lukic (Torino). , Marko Grujic (Porto), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Uros Racic (Braga), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Hellas Verona), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona), Dusan Tadic (Ajax) , Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Filip Duricic (Sampdoria), Luka Jovic (Fiorentina), Nemanja Radonji (Torino).
Serbia look primed to surprise a few people in Qatar. Stojkovic’s side were superb in their Nations League wins, with Mitrovic taking his Premier League form to the international stage by scoring a hat-trick against Sweden. His and Vlahovic’s firepower will give Serbia a great chance to get through the group, especially with Mitrovic resting an ankle injury before the tournament.
The third matchday meeting between Serbia and Switzerland could be vital in deciding who joins Brazil in the knockout stages. The Swiss have plenty of experience, with Shaqiri and Xhaka both in possession of over 100 caps, while Embolo is expected to be the key man in attack.
Lawrence Ati-Zigi (St Gallen), Danlad Ibrahim (Asante Kotoko), Manaf Nurudeen (Eupen), Joseph Aidoo (Celta Vigo), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) Abdul-Rahman Baba (Reading), Alexander Djiku (Racing Strasbourg), Tariq Lamptey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Gideon Mensah (Auxerre), Denis Odoi (Club Bruges), Mohamed Salisu (Southampton). Kudus (Ajax), Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (Freiburg), Elisha Owusu (Gent), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Salis Abdul Samed (Lens), Daniel Afriyie (Hearts of Oak), Andre Ayew (Al Sadd) Crystal Palace, Osman Bukari (Red Star Belgrade), Issahaku Abdul Fatawu (Sporting Lisbon), Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City), Kamal Sowah (Club Bruges), Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes), Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao)
Ghana will be without first-choice goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott at the World Cup after he suffered a finger injury before his final club game ahead of the tournament. Thomas Partey is one of five Premier League players.
World ranking: 9 Coach: Fernando Santos Confirmed 26-man squad: Diogo Costa (Porto), Rui Patricio (AS Roma), Jose Sa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Nuno Mendes (Paris St-Germain), Pepe (Porto), Danilo Pereira (Paris St-Germain), Antonio Silva (Benfica), William Carvalho (Real Betis), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Mario (Benfica), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Otavio (Porto), Joao Palhinha (Fulham), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Vitinha (Paris St-Germain) , Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Ricardo Horta (SC Braga), Rafael Leao (AC Milan), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Andre Silva (RB Leipzig)
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of ten Premier League players included in Portugal’s 26-man squad. Naturally, Wolves feature heavily for a nation who are without Liverpool’s Diogo Dalot through injury.
World ranking: 28 Coach: Paulo Bento Confirmed 26-man squad: Kim Seung-gyu (Al Shabab), Jo Hyeon-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), Song Bum-keun (Jeonbuk Motors), Kim Min-jae (Napoli), Kim Jin-su (Jeonbuk Motors), Hong Chul (Daegu FC), Kim Moon-hwan (Jeonbuk Motors), Yoon Jong-gyu (FC Seoul), Kim Young-gwon (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Tae-hwan (Ulsan Hyundai) , Kwon Kyung-won (Gamba Osaka), Cho Yu-min (Daejon Citizen), Jung Woo-young (Al Sadd), Na Sang-ho (FC Seoul), Paik Seung-ho (Jeonbuk Motors), Son Jun-ho (Shandong Taishan), Song Min-kyu (Jeonbuk Motors), Kwon Chang-hoon (Gimcheon Sangmu), Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Jae-sung (Mainz), Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Hwang In-beom (Olympiacos), Jeong Woo-yeong (Freiburg), Lee Kang-in (Real Mallorca), Hwang Ui-jo (Olympiacos), Cho Gue-sung (Jeonbuk Motors)
Son Heung-min has been included despite suffering a fractured eye socket playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League earlier this month.
World ranking: 14 Coach: Diego Alonso Confirmed 26-man squad Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Sergio Rochet (Nacional), Sebastian Sosa (Independiente), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Diego Godin (Velez Sarsfield), Martin Caceres (LA Galaxy), Ronald Araujo (Barcelona), Guillermo Varela (Flamengo), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Nacional), Mathias Olivera (Napoli), Matias Vina (Rome), Lucas Torreira (Galatasaray), Manuel Ugarte ( Sporting CP), Matias Vecino (Lazio), Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham Hotspur), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Facundo Pellistri (Manchester United), Nicolas De La Cruz (River Plate), Agustin Canobbio (Athletico Paranaense), Facundo Torres ( Orlando City), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Maxi Gomez (Trabzonspor), Luis Suarez (National), Edinson Cavani (Valencia), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool)
Alonso is yet to find the right blend since he replaced Oscar Tabarez last year. Uruguay can call upon Suarez, Cavani and Nunez but time is running out to find a formula to get the best out of the trio – it certainly didn’t work in the shock defeat to Iran.