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If Group A and B were easy ones to pick the top team going through to Round of 16 and very tough to name the second one, Group C and D will continue the trend. Full of talented players from Europe and South America, these two groups might also have in them the potential World Cup winner.
This could be the GOAT Lionel Messi’s last dance! It can be Messi's last appearance at the world cup level although no official announcement has been made by the Argentinean star so far. Messi and Argentina could not find a better moment than this to end their wait for the biggest glory in the world.
The form is on their side having remained unbeaten in the last 35 games. They won the Copa America 2021 and the Finalissima (vs European champion Italy) in 2022. They look ready to top Group C and move into the Round of 16 with the ultimate aim of completing the treble by winning the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Emiliano Martinez, Geronimo Rulli, Franco Armani.
Defenders: Nahuel Molina, Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, German Pezzella, Nicolas Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Marcos Acuna, Nicolas Tagliafico, Juan Foyth.
Midfielders: Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Alexis Mac Allister, Guido Rodriguez, Papu Gomez, Enzo Fernandez, Exequiel Palacios.
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez, Julian Alvarez, Paulo Dybala, Angel Correa, Thiago Almada.
Always a good performer at the World Cup level, have a serious shot this time. They are in a group that has Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia. However, the form of Mexicanos hasn't been up to the mark since their CONCACAF Gold Cup win in 2019.
Since July 2019, the Mexican team has played 47 games and won only 24 even while not playing top-quality sides. In the last 10 games, they have won only three and that too against Peru, Iraq and Nigeria. The main battle for Mexico would be against Poland since they are no match for Argentina.
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, Rodolfo Cota
Defenders: Kevin Alvarez, Nestor Araujo, Gerardo Arteaga, Jesus Gallardo, Hector Moreno, Cesar Montes, Jorge Sanchez, Johan Vasquez
Midfielders: Edson Alvarez, Roberto Alvarado, Uriel Antuna, Luis Chavez, Andres Guardado, Erick Gutierrez, Hector Herrera, Orbelin Pineda, Carlos Rodriguez, Luis Romo
Forwards: Rogelio Funes Mori, Raul Jimenez, Hirving Lozano, Henry Martin, Alexis Vega
Poland aren't the force they used to be when they finished third in 1974 and 1983 World Cup. The entire 90s were bad as they couldn’t even qualify for World Cup. In 2002 and 2006 they did make it to the World Cup but could not move ahead of the group stage.
In 2018, it seemed like Poland would finally break the deadlock and move to the Round of 16 for the first time since 1986. But they lost the likes of Senegal and Colombia. This time around, they again have a chance as they face Mexico and Saudi Arabia who don’t have some extraordinary players to fear about.
The talisman Robert Lewandowski leads a side that has given strong fights to the likes of Belgium, England and the Netherlands. With Lewandowski at 34, this might also be his last appearance in the world cup and he would surely look to make it count. The battle for second place in the group will be fought in the first game itself for Poland as they will play Mexico.
Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny, Bartlomiej Dragowski, Lukasz Skorupski
Defenders: Jan Bednarek, Kamil Glik, Robert Gumny, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Jakub Kiwior, Mateusz Wieteska, Bartosz Bereszynski, Matthew Cash, Nicola Zalewski
Midfielders: Krystian Bielik, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jakub Kaminski, Michal Skoras, Damian Szymanski, Sebastian Szymanski, Piotr Zielinski, Szymon Zurkowski
Forwards: Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Krzysztof Piatek, Karol Swiderski
The last team in the group are Saudi Arabia. Although they can’t be taken lightly in conditions similar to home, they don’t seem like a serious challenger to teams like Poland and Mexico, forget Argentina. Among the non-Asian sides that they have played in the recent past, the oil-rich nation have only been able to beat North Macedonia and Iceland.
Goalkeepers: Mohamed Al-Owais, Nawaf Al-Aqidi, Mohamed Al-Yami
Defenders: Yasser Al-Shahrani, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Abdulelah Al-Amri, Abdullah Madu, Hassan Tambakti, Sultan Al-Ghanam, Mohammed Al-Breik, Saud Abdulhamid
Midfielders: Salman Al-Faraj, Riyadh Sharahili, Ali Al-Hassan, Mohamed Kanno, Abdulelah Al-Malki, Sami Al-Najei, Abdullah Otayf, Nasser Al-Dawsari, Abdulrahman Al-Aboud, Salem Al-Dawsari, Hattan Bahebri
Forwards: Haitham Asiri, Saleh Al-Shehri, Firas Al-Buraikan
It is unclear which team will qualify from Group C with Argentina, but in Group D, the fight will be for the top position.
The Kangaroo nation had to play qualifiers for almost 1,000 days to make it to the World Cup final. They beat Peru on penalties to get qualify. But moving ahead from the group stage is going to be tugher for the team from Downunder.
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Andrew Redmayne, Danny Vukovic
Defenders: Milos Degenek, Aziz Behich, Joel King, Nathaniel Atkinson, Fran Karacic, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Keanu Baccus, Cameron Devlin, Riley McGree
Forwards: Awer Mabil, Mathew Leckie, Martin Boyle, Jamie Maclaren, Jason Cummings, Mitchell Duke, Garang Kuol, Craig Goodwin
Not considered by many as top contenders for the top prize, this team from north Europe could spring real surprises. In the run-up to the World Cup, Denmark made it to the semi-final of the Euro 2020, losing to England only in the extra time. Post that, Denmark have beaten France twice and lost only to England, Netherlands and Croatia. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up topping the group by beating France again.
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Oliver Christensen, Frederik Ronnow
Defenders: Alexander Bah, Simon Kjaer, Joachim Andersen, Joakim Maehle, Andreas Christensen, Rasmus Kristensen, Jens Stryger Larsen, Victor Nelsson, Daniel Wass
Midfielders: Thomas Delaney, Mathias Jensen, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Norgaard, Robert Skov
Forwards: Andreas Cornelius, Martin Braithwaite, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard, Jesper Lindstrom, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Skov Olsen, Jonas Wind
Defending champions France are ont shining as brightly. It would not be a big surprise if they continue the tradition of defending champs bowing out of the group stage. Even Tunisia seems like a side that might surprise the French.
There is no Pogba, no Kante and Dembele and Antoine Griezmann don’t look in their top form either. Thus, it is going to be Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe who must lead the charge if the French are to have any real chance of defending the title.
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda.
Defenders: Axel Disasi, Lucas Hernandez, Theo Hernandez, Ibrahima Konate, Jules Kounde, Benjamin Pavard, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane.
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga, Youssouf Fofana, Matteo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, Jordan Veretout.
Forwards: Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Thuram, Randal Kolo Muani.
Tunisian coach Jalel Kadri has made a bold comment that his team would qualify for the second round, or else he will quit. Kadri is not saying this out of haughtiness, but rather has results to back his statement. In their run-up to the World Cup, the African nation has beaten Chile, Japan, Egypt and UAE.
However, they have also broken up in crunch situations, losing to Alegria in the Arab Cup final and to Burkina Faso in the Africa Cup of Nations Quarter Final. Will they really be able to come up good against the likes of Denmark, France and Australia, is something for time to tell.
Goalkeepers: Aymen Dahmen, Bechir Ben Said, Mouez Hassen, Aymen Mathlouthi
Defenders: Ali Abdi, Dylan Bronn, Mohamed Drager, Nader Ghandri, Bilel Ifa, Wajdi Kechrida, Ali Maaloul, Yassine Meriah, Montassar Talbi
Midfielders: Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Ghaylane Chaalali, Aissa Laidouni, Hannibal Mejbri, Ferjani Sassi, Elyas Skhiri
Forwards: Anis Ben Slimane, Seifeddine Jaziri, Issam Jebali, Wahbi Khazri, Taha Yassine Khenissi, Youssef Msakni, Naim Sliti
The two teams going through from Group D, therefore, are Denmark and France unless Tunisia springs an upset.
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First Published: Fri, November 18 2022. 17:45 IST