World Cup Group A: Spotlight on hosts Qatar who find winning results thin on the ground

World Cup 2022 team-by-team guide

Qatar

Manager: Felix Sanchez

World Cup history: First appearance

The world will be watching the host nation amid one of the most controversial World Cups ever. The Qataris may have home advantage, but have found good results thin on the ground, failing to beat a World Cup-standard opponent in the two years heading into the tournament. A 4-0 thrashing at the hands Stephen Kenny’s Ireland back in October 2021 sticks in the mind.

Star man: Hassan Al-Haydos. Captain of the Qatari side, forward Al-Haydos is the most capped Qatari footballer and has scored 32 times for his country.

READ MORE

Ecuador

Manager: Gustavo Alfaro

World Cup history: Fourth appearance. Best result – Last 16 in 2006

Ecuador’s place in the World Cup became shrouded in controversy after confusion over the eligibility of right-back Byron Castillo due to nationality issues. The problem has been cleared, but the South American side have not been in great form but benefited from their home ground being at altitude and visitors struggling during qualifying.

Star man: Moisés Caicedo. The Brighton midfielder was a target of Manchester United and the talented 20-year-old will surely end up playing at the highest level.

Senegal

Manager: Aliou Cisse

World Cup history: Third appearance. Best result – Quarter-finals in 2002

Twenty years ago Senegal shocked the world by beating defending champions France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. Success for Senegal this time is more expected as arguably the best African team in the competition, having won the African Cup of Nations in February. Will expect to get out of the group.

Star man: Sadio Mané. Recently voted second best player in the world in the Ballon d’Or awards, the dynamic Bayern Munich forward’s recent injury leaves a nation praying for his fitness.

Netherlands

Manager: Louis van Gaal

World Cup history: 11th appearance. Best result – Runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010

Netherlands have been in a good place heading into the World Cup in van Gaal’s third spell as manager. Before missing out in 2018, the Dutch reached the semi-finals in 2014 and will fancy another run deep into the tournament. A strong defence is led by captain Virgil van Dijk, who will look to rekindle his best form.

Star man: Frenkie De Jong. The Barcelona midfielder is the brains of the Netherlands operation. Unflappable under pressure, his technical quality will be key to their prospects.

David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times