It’s been over four years, but finally, the FIFA World Cup is back. As usual, footballing giants such as Brazil, France, Argentina, England, and Belgium will be the top competitors to win the tournament. Canada will also be competing in the tournament for the first time since 1986, their only previous World Cup berth. With 32 teams taking part, it can be hard to sort out where you should focus your attention, especially in a busy group stage. I will try to alleviate any stress you have about missing something important by detailing four teams to watch, as well as some of the group stage games you shouldn’t miss.
Argentina, another South American powerhouse, sits next to Brazil on many fans’ lists of potential World Cup winners. Lionel Messi will likely be the main reason for that high billing, but surrounding him is a very strong squad. Argentina’s attack is their biggest strength, which of course, Messi will lead, but he’s joined by fellow stars Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martínez, and Ángel Di María. Most teams will struggle to keep Argentina from scoring, so it’ll be up to their defense to keep the ball away from their net if they’re going to beat elite opponents. Like Brazil, Argentina ran through CONMEBOL Qualifying undefeated, and won the 2021 Copa America with a 1–0 win over Brazil in the final. That Copa America run has many people thinking this could finally be Messi’s year to win the World Cup, possibly cementing himself as the greatest footballer of all time.
⚽️ Most goals for Argentina National Team:
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi: 91 goals
🇦🇷 Gabriel Batistuta: 55 goals
🇦🇷 Sergio Aguero: 41 goals
🇦🇷 Hernan Crespo: 35 goals
🇦🇷 Gonzalo Higuain: 31 goals
🇦🇷 Diego Maradona: 29 goals
🇦🇷 Angel Di Maria: 27 goals
— Sholy Nation Sports (@Sholynationsp) November 20, 2022
By moving onto the Netherlands, we leave behind South America and the traditional favourites on this list, to whom the Netherlands is likely considered a tier below this year. However, they could be set for a deeper run than expected in this tournament. Their tier group contains Ecuador, Senegal, and their host, Qatar, which — barring disaster — should mean an easy run into the knockout stages. This could prove beneficial as other teams will have to dig deeper to make it that far. They’ll be led by defenders Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs De Ligt, as well as midfielder Frenkie De Jong, as they try to redeem missing the 2018 World Cup. These players will provide a solid base for the Dutch, but their fate will likely fall onto Memphis Depay. He’s their star attacker, and performed for them in World Cup Qualifying, but is little more than an afterthought at his club, Barcelona. His form is a big question mark going into the tournament; if the Dutch go far, it will likely result from Depay’s performance.
— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) November 18, 2022
Call me biased, but I think Canada is the most likely team to make a dark horse run into the knockout stages. A fantastic run through World Cup Qualifying has united the country behind the best group of players Canada has ever seen. They’ve drawn a group that will see them play Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco. To make it out of the group stage, a win against Morocco will likely be necessary. They would also need to take a point from one of the two games against Croatia and Belgium. The aging defense of both teams could allow younger Canadian stars Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, and Cyle Larin to score the goals necessary to get points out of matches against either. A run into the knockout stages would be a legendary moment in Canadian football history, but so would simply scoring Canada’s first-ever World Cup Goal.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) November 13, 2022
Games to watch
Here are a few games in the group stage that are worth skipping classes for:
England-USA — Friday, November 25; 2:00 pm ET: England is one of the favorites to win the tournament this year, and they’ll be facing a USA team with high expectations.
Spain-Germany — Sunday, November 27; 2:00 pm ET: Two European powerhouses with high hopes at the tournament face off in this group stage match.
Brazil-Switzerland — Monday, November 28th; 11:00 am ET: This will be Brazil’s toughest test in the group stage — a good chance to see if this team can live up to the hype.
Canada-Morocco — Thursday, December 1; 10:00 am ET: This is both teams’ last group stage matchup, and if either — hopefully Canada — wants to make a surprising knockout stage berth, it will be because they win this match.