After 12 years of build-up, controversy and debate, the 2022 World Cup is now just days away.
Can Brazil end 20 years of hurt? Will Lionel Messi finally lead Argentina to global glory in his last dance? Have England got what it takes to go all the way after making the semis and then final of the two most recent major tournaments? And can hosts Qatar spring a surprise or two? We are about to find out…
To help give you the inside track, The Athletic has produced team guides by local experts on the 32 teams competing in Qatar, profiling every manager involved in this World Cup, outlining the strengths and weaknesses of each team, naming each nation’s potential breakthrough player, and explaining exactly how much pressure each squad will be under from the media and fans back home.
Perhaps more importantly than that, they will tell you which manager always wears a pristine white button-down shirt for luck, which team have a fan who will walk through the desert to Doha, which country’s panicking president tweeted good wishes to his national team’s stricken star, which group of fans inexplicably revived a 1980s pop song along their way to the finals, and which goalkeeper is in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s longest throw…
Find the answers to all these questions and more in the 32 team guides below.
For an in-depth group-by-group breakdown of each team’s tactics and how they set up…
Group A guide: De Jong keeps Netherlands ticking and watch out for Ecuador’s set pieces
Group B guide: England’s control and the Iran goalkeeper’s javelin-style throws
Group C guide: Argentina’s fast starts, aging Mexico and possession-shy Poland
Group D guide: France’s high press, Denmark’s inverted wingers and an Australian giant
Group E guide: Spain’s young midfield stars and watch out for Germany’s triangles
Group F guide: Free-scoring Belgium, cross-heavy Croatia and Canada’s cutbacks
Group G guide: Tadic’s corners, Swiss pressing and a more complete Neymar
Group H guide: Bernardo Silva the orchestrator and Uruguay’s last dance
(In-copy artwork: Photos: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson. Top image: Getty Images)