The stage is set for what will likely be the final World Cup battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Manchester United player expected to be 41 by the time of the 2026 tournament.
However, alongside Messi and Ronaldo aiming for their first world title, reigning champions France will once again be led by Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé.
Add to that the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Luka Modric, Harry Kane, Pedri and Virgil van Dijk, and Qatar is shaping up to be an incredible spectacle.
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Who are the biggest stars of the 2022 World Cup?
Previous World Cups have provided a platform for established icons to shine and breakthrough players to take the world stage, and 2022 is set to be no different.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
Mbappe was superb for France when Didier Deschamps’s side won the world title in 2018, but the PSG star has gone to another level in the past two seasons and should be one of the standout performances defending champions.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Rumors of Messi losing power have been exaggerated in the past couple of years as the Argentine has shown his talent in a deeper role at PSG. All eyes will be on him to finally add a World Cup to his individual and collective record.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
De Bruyne will have the task of helping Belgium shed their ‘almost man’ label in Qatar, with a star-studded squad that has consistently underperformed in previous tournaments. However, the Manchester City player will be determined to prove he is the number one midfielder in world football.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Despite a troubled time at Manchester United, the anticipation will still be intense around Ronaldo in Qatar as he takes part in a record fifth finals, but Portugal had to do it the hard way via qualifying play-offs . They eventually beat North Macedonia to secure their place in the tournament and the 2016 European champions will once again rely on Ronaldo’s ability to spearhead their attack as a huge focal point.
Vinicius Jr. (Brazil)
Despite the pressure to establish himself as a key player for Real Madrid and Brazil over the past two years, Vinicius Jr. rose to the challenge in spectacular fashion. His association with Karim Benzema at Madrid is the deadliest pairing in Spanish football, and his world-class potential could see him become one of the stars of Qatar 2022.
Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Although he has always played the role of defensive rock for Liverpool, Van Dijk has never appeared in a World Cup with his country. The Netherlands are much stronger at full-back and in midfield than they have been in recent years, and much like Premier League rival De Bruyne, Van Dijk will be looking to cement his best player tag. to his position in world football.
The brash Brazilian continues to carry the weight of his country’s hopes on the biggest stage, and Qatar 2022 will be no different. A nation awaits every time Neymar puts on the jersey and he will be keen to lead the Selecao to their first world title since 2002. Neymar hasn’t reached the heights he could have hoped for with PSG lately, and injuries haven’t helped but he remains the focal point of the attack for the 2021 Copa América finalists.
La Roja star Pedri is the latest midfielder to come off the Spanish production line, which has already produced Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. However, there are suggestions at Camp Nou that Pedri could one day overtake his Barcelona predecessors and he will be looking to build on a fantastic breakthrough at Euro 2020.
Karim Benzema (France)
Deschamps’ decision to recall Benzema for Euro 2020 received a mixed reception in France, as Les Bleus were knocked out of the competition in the round of 16. However, the veteran striker has reminded everyone of his talents as a great player in 2021/22, notably in the Champions League, and he remains one of the best finishers on the planet.
Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric is likely to follow the example of Ronaldo, Messi and Benzema and end his international career after the World Cup, but the 37-year-old midfielder will be determined to lead Croatia to success in Qatar and, despite his advanced age, he remains a worthy opponent for anyone in world football.
Alphonso Davies (Canada)
Canada qualified for the World Cup for the first time since Mexico 1986, and they did so without their talisman for the final push. Davies was sidelined after suffering from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, following a COVID-19 infection. The Bayern Munich player’s emotional reaction on social media after Canada secured their place in Qatar showed how much it means to him and he will be ready to do anything to shine on the biggest stage.
Christian Pulisic (USA)
If the USMNT wants to go far in the tournament, they will need their talisman Pulisic to lead them. The Chelsea playmaker shone in the qualifying campaign, and he hopes his experience of big club games will allow him to step onto the world stage with Gregg Berhalter’s team, which is packed with talent. talents.
Son Heung-min (South Korea)
Son has shown time and time again throughout his career with Tottenham in the Premier League that he is capable of shining as an individual, scoring some of the most spectacular achievements the Championship has ever seen. At international level, he is equally ruthless, with more than 30 international goals to his name, and he will be one of the strikers who should shine in the Middle East.
Harry Kane (England)
England captain Harry Kane will be key man for Gareth Southgate’s side as the Three Lions seek to overshadow their Euro 2020 final loss to Italy. Kane returned to his best in the second half of the 2021/22 Premier League season and started the new campaign in a way that suggests he can once again thrive on the biggest stage.
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When will the 2022 World Cup in Qatar take place?
The World Cup begins with the group stages from November 20. Hosts Qatar lift the curtain on the competition at Al Bayt Stadium in the opening match against Ecuador in Group A.
The first World Cup to be played in the northern hemisphere winter will go through to the final at Lusail Stadium on December 18.
World Cup schedule:
- November 20: Opening Ceremony, Group A First Match (Qatar – Ecuador)
- December 2: Final group games
- From December 3 to 6: Eighth finals
- December 9-10: Quarter-finals
- December 13 and 14: Semi-finals
- December 17: Match for third place
- December 18: Final
Who are the best players not participating in the Qatar 2022 World Cup?
While Messi, Neymar, Kane and others will all be on the plane to the Middle East, several other stars will have to settle for watching the action from home.
Italy’s surprise exit to North Macedonia in UEFA qualifying means Jorginho, Marco Verratti and the rest of their Euro 2020 winning team-mates won’t be in Qatar.
Mohamed Salah will also be absent, as the Liverpool and Egypt talisman lost their battle to Senegal for a place in the African region, in a repeat of the AFCON 2022 final.
The list of confirmed absentees also includes other known names, Erling Haaland (Norway), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Naby Keita (Guinea) and Edin Dzeko (Bosnia) all staying at home after their countries failed. failed to qualify in their group.