Captain: Hassan Al-Haydos
Nickname: The Maroon
One to watch: Akram Afif – A graduate of the now famous ‘Aspire Academy’ which is responsible for the development of Qatari football, Qatar are not the same without their most creative player on the pitch. A huge amount of the host nation’s fate depends on how well Afif turns up for the occasion.
Premier League fans will know: Not a single player- there aren’t any players with current or previous Premier League experience in the Qatar squad. Interesting.
How’s he still playing?: 32-year-old Saad Al-Sheeb will be the host nation’s starting goalkeeper.
An interesting quote: “It would be suicide for Qatar to try to take the initiative in games at the World Cup” – Don’t expect Manager Felix Sanchez’s Qatar team to start on the front foot.
Captain: Enner Valencia
Nickname: La Tricolor
One to Watch: Moises Caicedo – The 21-year-old midfielder has been superb for Brighton so far this season. Tough tackling and with brilliant defensive abilities, the midfielder is also technically gifted and looks to progress the ball as often as he can.
Premier League fans know: Brighton’s Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan and Jerry Sarmiento have all made the squad.
How’s he still playing?: Former West Ham forward Enner Valencia is still going strong at 33 with Fenerbahce.
An interesting quote: A simple hand covering a mouth laughing emoji – in response to Chile’s unsuccessful attempt to have them thrown out for fielding an ineligible player in qualifying.
Captain: Virgil Van Dijk
One to Watch: Cody Gakpo – The PSV winger was linked heavily with a move to one of Europe’s top five leagues this summer and he’s proved exactly why since. With 9 goals and 12 assists in 14 Eredivisie games, Gakpo could be the Oranje’s secret weapon in Qatar.
Premier League fans will know: As expected, a few familiar faces in Louis Van Gaal’s squad – Tyrell Malacia, Virgil Van Dijk and Nathan Ake.
How’s he still playing?: Due to a lack of top-quality goalkeepers, the Netherlands may well turn to 39-year-old Remko Pasveer of Ajax.
An interesting quote: “Well, that’s bull****. It’s about money and commercial interests. That’s the only thing that matters for FIFA.” – Louis Van Gaal on Qatar hosting the World Cup so far.
Captain: Kalidou Koulibaly
Nickname: Lions of Teranga
One to Watch: Boulaye Dia – Aside from the obvious picks, the Salernitana striker is someone who could have a huge impact on Senegal’s campaign. Dia tends to start down the middle of the front three and has really found his form again in Italy after a tricky spell with Villarreal.
Premier League fans will know: Despite Sadio Mane’s absence, fans will recognise Edouard Mendy in goal plus Nampalys Mendy and Idrissa Gueye in midfield too.
How’s he still playing? No obvious candidates in a young squad, perhaps Cheikou Kouyate at Nottingham Forest but that feels like a stretch.
An interesting quote: “We have no business at the World Cup if the plan is just to participate and go home after the group” – Confident talk from skipper Kalidou Koulibaly.
Captain: Harry Kane
Nickname: Three Lions
One to Watch: Phil Foden – Despite not reaching the levels he has for Manchester City in an England shirt, this World Cup looks the perfect stage for Foden to shine. Undeniably one of England’s most in-form players going into the tournament, he will likely start the first game against Iran.
Premier League fans will know: Everyone.
How is he still playing?: Kyle Walker is the senior statesman in the England squad, 32 years old now – having made his debut in 2011.
An interesting quote: “I think in this day and age, the squad is more important than ever. With five substitutes, you can have half of your team change during a game” – Gareth Southgate hints that he may be more open to the frequent use of substitutes than previous tournaments.
Captain: Ehsan Hajsafi
Nickname: Team Melli
One to Watch: Mehdi Taremi – With almost a goal once every two games for his national team, Taremi will be a genuine threat for Carlos Quieroz’s naturally defensive side. The forward will likely play in a wide role, unlike for his club side Porto, helping to lead counterattacks and providing danger at the back post.
Premier League fans will know: Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored a memorable bicycle kick for Brighton against Chelsea.
How is he still playing?: Iran’s youngest player at the tournament is 24, so there are plenty of old-timers to choose from. Vahid Amiri is now 34, having spent most of his career in Iran bar one season at Trabzonspor.
An interesting quote: “My shirt belongs to the people of Iran. It’s for all Iranians, not only one person.” – Iran star striker Sardar Azmoun.
Captain: Christian Pulisic
One to Watch: Weston McKennie – As important to the USMNT as anyone. The tireless midfielder will need to set the tone for others to follow if Gregg Berhalter’s inexperienced side are going to progress through the group stages. McKennie also offers an aerial threat in the box with his exceptional heading ability, something that could prove decisive in such a tough group.
Premier League fans will know: Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson are Fulham, while Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson ply their trade for Leeds United.
How is he still playing?: The second youngest squad at the tournament but Tim Ream could not be ignored, he’s in the form of his life at the age of 35.
An interesting quote: “Jesus [Ferreira] is a guy that we see has a very good overall understanding of our game model and has the ability to bring other players into the game as well” – Gregg Berhalter on his controversial decision to leave Ricardo Pepi out of his 26 man squad.
Captain: Gareth Bale
Nickname: The Dragons
One to Watch: Brennan Johnson – Obviously all eyes will be on the iconic Gareth Bale to provide the magic moments for Wales, but Brennan Johnson will be a great option off the bench. Despite having an inconsistent season with Nottingham Forest, the younger winger has excellent ball-carrying skills and the great habit of rising to the occasion.
Premier League fans will know: Almost everyone but Ben Davies is the Welshman in the Premier League in the best form – he’s at Spurs.
How is he still playing?: Despite being ‘only’ 33, Chris Gunter has 109 Wales caps and is now playing in League 2 with AFC Wimbledon.
An interesting quote: “On big occasions he’ll always turn up, thrive, and enjoy it. He’s already with the [Wales] staff, over in the country and raring to go. Gareth has proven in the past that without minutes he can deliver in important stages.” – Manager Rob Page backs Gareth Bale to perform even without match sharpness.
Captain: Lionel Messi
Nickname: La Albiceleste
One to Watch: Enzo Fernandez – River Plate academy graduate, the young box-to-box midfielder is already being chased by several of Europe’s top clubs after half a season at Benfica. An intelligent player with a lovely passing range who picks up good positions both defensively and when his side are in possession.
Premier League fans will know: Five players make the squad from the Premier League: Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Christian Romero (Spurs), Emi Martinez (Aston Villa) and Julian Alvarez (Manchester City).
How is he still playing?: Backup goalkeeper Franco Armani is still going strong at 36 – fans will likely remember his part in the memorable France vs Argentina thriller at Russia in 2018.
An interesting quote: “This is football, it is unpredictable and sometimes unfair. It makes no sense to promise people anything. But I’m simply telling all the fans that we are going to leave everything we have during this World Cup.” – Argentina Manager Lionel Scaloni.
Captain: Andres Guardardo
Nickname: El Tri
One to Watch: Hirving Lozano – Impossible to look past the man known as ‘Chucky’. It took him a while to adapt to life in Serie A but he’s now excelling in a thrilling Napoli side. Increasingly unpopular coach Gerardo Martino will need his star man to perform under pressure, especially in the all-or-nothing clash against Poland.
Premier League fans will know: Wolves’ Raul Jimenez makes the squad.
How is he still playing?: Plenty to choose from here, World Cup icon Guillermo Ochoa will play at his fifth world cup at age 37 but his backup, Alfredo Talavera, takes the crown at 40.
An interesting quote: “In the case of Chicharito, we are simply going with other centre forwards” – Controversial Manager Gerardo Martino remains tightlipped over Javier Hernandez’s absence.
Captain: Robert Lewandowski
Nickname: The White and Red
One to Watch: Jakub Kiwior – Arguably the freshest face in a very familiar Poland squad, Kiwior plays his club football with Spezia in Serie A. Supposedly wanted by AC Milan, the ball-playing centre-back will provide a contrast to those around him in a tight defensive unit.
Premier League fans will know: Matty Cash (Aston Villa) is off to his first World Cup.
How is he still playing?: Kamil Glik (34) isn’t the oldest in the squad but it will surely surprise a few that the Benevento man is still expected to start at the back for Poland.
An interesting quote: “The most difficult language in the world, but I’m doing my best” – New Poland star Matty Cash jokes about the Polish language on social media.
Captain: Salman Al-Faraj
Nickname: The Falcons
One to Watch: Salem Al-Dawsari – Often regarded as one of the best players in Asia over the last few years. A winger who possesses great speed and close control, Al- Dawsari will hope to build on his goal against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup.
Premier League fans will know: No one, unless they’ve been brushing up on their ‘Saudi Pro League’ knowledge.
How is he still playing?: Saudi fans were given a scare when Salman Al-Faraj injured his shoulder in a warm-up game, but Manager Herve Renard has since said the 33-year-old should be fine.
An interesting quote: “Trust the players, you know them well, but we must be patient because we are playing in a strong tournament, and the duty of players, and those on the technical and administration sides, is to make everyone proud of the team” – Manager Herve Renard’s message to the Saudi fans.
Captain: Mathew Ryan
Nickname: The Socceroos
One to Watch: Ajdin Hrustic – A real set-piece specialist, the Socceroos will look to the Hellas Verona man for inspiration in what looks a very difficult group on paper. The Australian attacking midfielder has cited David Beckham as an inspiration for his free-kick technique – Hrustic is another player who faces a race against time to be fully match-fit come the first game.
Premier League fans will know: Mat Ryan and Aaron Mooy have both previously played for Brighton.
How is he still playing?: Reserve keeper Danny Vukovic is 37, Newcastle’s Garang Kuol, also in the squad, is 19 years his junior.
An interesting quote: “Every group for Australia always has to be the group of death… For me, it’s a group of dreams or a group of opportunity, to show what we’re made of” – Manager Graham Arnold puts a positive spin on the draw.
Captain: Christian Eriksen
Nickname: Danish Dynamite
One to Watch: Christian Eriksen – Apologies if that’s a boring one. Everything in this very strong Danish side goes through the midfield talisman. There are, of course, expectations on those who had a great Euro 2020 to follow it up at the World Cup, the likes of Mikel Damsgaard, Joakim Maehle and Kasper Dolberg.
Premier League fans will know: A whole host of names, notably: Pierre Emile-Hjojberg (Spurs), Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace) and Mathias Jensen (Brentford).
How is he still playing?: Kasper Schmeichel (36) will start in goal for Denmark despite his patchy form at club side Nice.
An interesting quote: “I think one of the first conversations I had with the doctor was about it being my goal to play in the World Cup if everything went well” – Christian Eriksen on his recovery from the cardiac arrest he suffered at Euro 2020.
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Nickname: Les Bleus
One to Watch: Aurelien Tchouameni – The 22-year-old is likely to start in Qatar, having earned the notoriously difficult Didier Deschamps trust. The fact that Real Madrid have moved on so seamlessly from letting go of five-time Champions League winner Casemiro, is a testament to the level Tchouameni is operating at.
Premier League fans will know: Captain Hugo Lloris is at Spurs, William Saliba is with Arsenal and Raphael Varane is at Manchester United.
How is he still playing?: Olivier Giroud (36) is playing brilliantly for AC Milan and reportedly has a great relationship with Kylian Mbappe. Don’t be surprised if the veteran starts in Qatar.
An interesting quote: “A thought to my teammate Eduardo Camavinga, who has been unfairly targeted. The World Cup should be a moment of harmony, not of division” – Christopher Nkunku jumped to his teammate’s defence after he was ruled out of the World Cup with injury, allegedly from a tackle by Camavinga in training.
Captain: Youssef Msanki
Nickname: The Carthage Eagles
One to Watch: Hannibal Mejbri – There are plenty of neutrals as well as Tunisian fans looking forward to seeing Mejbri in action in Qatar. Slightly indisciplined but with an incredible work rate and a tenacious attitude it’s easy to see why he’s won so many Birmingham fans over in his current loan spell at the club.
Premier League fans will know: Wahbi Kazri will be remembered for an up-and-down spell at Sunderland during a troubled time for the club.
How is he still playing?: Aymen Mathlouthi, also known as Balbouli, is one of the oldest players at the tournament at 38.
An interesting quote: “So we have to question the youth development at the level of the Tunisian league and clubs. You can’t compare the Tunisian diaspora with the Algerian or Moroccan” – Manager Jalel Kadri queries the lack of Tunisian players in Europe.
Captain: Bryan Ruiz
Nickname: Los Ticos
One to Watch: Keylor Navas/Jewison Bennette – The legendary shot-stopper Navas has to appear simply because in such a tough group he will be asked to perform heroics to give Costa Rica a chance, which is exactly what he did in 2014. Bennette is only 18 years of age but already has two goals for his nation and is largely seen as the future of Costa Rican football.
Premier League fans will know: Bryan Ruiz sprinkled some stardust on the Premier League (just watch his chip against Everton) during his time at Fulham. Joel Campbell was at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.
How is he still playing?: Bryan Ruiz himself is now 37, the former Fulham cult hero is now playing back in his native Costa Rica.
An interesting quote: “Many people say we’re crazy to think we can advance and be champions. But crazy people do and achieve great things” – Defender Kendall Watson on Costa Rica’s chances.
Captain: Manuel Neuer
Nickname: DFB Team
One to Watch: Jamal Musiala – Arguably the most exciting young player in the world right now. Musiala is still only 19 but has unbelievable dribbling ability, a great eye for a pass and is a very decent finisher to cap it all. He might not necessarily start if Hansi Flick decides to opt for experience in Muller but there is no doubt Musiala will have a huge say in how far Germany go.
Premier League fans will know: Thilo Kehrer has had a shaky start to life at West Ham while Armel Bella-Kotchap has looked impressive for Southampton. Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz are both up the other end of the table for Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
How is he still playing?: It’s a youthful German squad with experienced players filtered in. The unmistakable figure of Manuel Neuer (36) will again hold onto his number-one spot ahead of Marc Andre Ter-Stegen.
An interesting quote: “It leaves you speechless that something like this can be said by a World Cup ambassador shortly before a World Cup” – Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka reacts to comments from former Qatari international Khalid Salman on LGTBQ+ rights.
Captain: Maya Yoshida
Nickname: The Samurai Blue
One to Watch: Takefusa Kubo – It’s taken Kubo longer than expected to adapt to European football but the diminutive attacker is really finding his feet with Real Sociedad. A versatile player, Kubo can play all across the three behind the striker but he will likely start on the left in Qatar.
Premier League fans will know: Takehiro Tomisyahu is the only current Premier League player in the Japan squad.
How is he still playing?: Yuto Nagatomo is a name that will ring a bell, the dynamic full back has earned a place in the world cup squad at 36 years of age.
An interesting quote: “Great players like recently retired Shunsuke Nakamura and Shinji [Kagawa], who I really respect, have worn it. I want to receive that baton and prove Japan’s No. 10 is special with my play.” – Takumi Minamino is eager to impress at his first World Cup.
Captain: Sergio Busquets
Nickname: The Red Fury
One to Watch: Pedri – Similarly to their Group E rivals Germany, Luis Enrique’s Spain squad doesn’t have one standout superstar. Pedri, however, appears to be a generational talent. A key member of Xavi’s Barcelona team, Golden Boy 2021 winner and having already starred at Euro 2020 – everyone is excited to see what Pedri will bring to Qatar 2022.
Premier League fans will know: Rodri and Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City) both feature. Two Premier League keepers in Robert Sanchez (Brighton) and David Raya (Brentford) are also in the squad alongside the experienced Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea).
How is he still playing?: Sergio Busquets (34) and Jordi Alba (33) are the most senior players in Luis Enrique’s youthful squad.
An interesting quote: “I couldn’t call up everyone who was looking forward to this World Cup, but I thank and honour everyone who has expressed a desire to represent Japan” – Manager Hajime Moriyasu answers as to why Celtic duo Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi didn’t make the squad.
Captain: Eden Hazard
Nickname: The Red Devils
One to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne – The magic man will have even more responsibility on his shoulders with both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku coming into the tournament struggling for form and fitness. A quick word for Leandro Trossard who has been phenomenal for Brighton this season and will surely have an impact off the bench for the Red Devils.
Premier League fans will know: Kevin De Bruyne of course, Leandro Trossard as mentioned above and then Leander Dendoncker from Aston Villa plus Wout Faes and Youri Tielemans from Leicester.
How is he still playing?: Take your pick from the backline.. Jan Vertonghen is now 35 with Belgian side Anderlecht whilst Toby Alderweireld is playing with Belgian side Royal Antwerp at 33.
An interesting quote: “I trust Eden so much as a footballer, as an individual and as a captain, and I’ve got no other reason to believe in that way” – Belgium Manager Roberto Martinez on question marks over Eden Hazard’s fitness.
Captain: Atiba Hutchinson
Nickname: The Canucks
One to Watch: Jonathan David – Canada’s biggest goal threat without a doubt. An instinctive finisher with a real sixth sense to seek out opportunities in the box, David will lead the line for the Canucks.
Premier League fans will know: Junior Hoilett has unfortunately been relegated from the Premier League four times with the likes of Blackburn Rovers, QPR and Cardiff City.
How is he still playing?: A real heartwarming entry for Canada. Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson (39) will finally get a chance to play at a World Cup having made his national team way back in 2003. However, Hutchinson faces a race against time to be fit for action in Qatar.
An interesting quote: “We knew this was a big opportunity to unite a country coast to coast, and the mission is to score that first goal, that’s it” – Manager John Herdman easing the pressure on his Canada side.
Captain: Luka Modric
Nickname: The Vatreni
One to Watch: Josko Gvardiol – The versatile 20-year-old defender represents the future of an ageing Croatia side. Brilliant passing ability and a willingness to play risky progressive passes combined with all the natural attributes of a solid defender mean Gvardiol looks set for a long successful international career.
Premier League fans will know: A fair few former Premier League players but only two currently: Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea and Ivan Perisic of Spurs.
How is he still playing?: Look no further than 2018 Ballon D’or winner Luka Modric, the Croatian legend will be commanding the midfield at age 37.
An interesting quote: “I am aware that I am of a certain age and that this is my last competition in the Croatian National team” – Luka Modric admits Qatar will be his last World Cup.
Captain: Romain Saiss
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
One to Watch: Achraf Hakimi – The poster boy of Moroccan football. Incredible under Conte at Inter and certainly hasn’t let anyone down since his move to PSG, Hakimi arrives in 2022 as one of the best in the world in his position. Walid Regragui will have only had his team for just over two months come the first game, so will likely look to his star man for a moment of individual brilliance.
Premier League fans will know: Nayef Aguerd from West Ham is the only Premier League player, although two Championship players also make the squad: Ilias Chair (QPR) is an established squad member but Anass Zaroury (Burnley) switched national allegiance for a last minute call up to replace the injured Amine Harit.
How is he still playing?: Munir El Kajoui (33) will play deputy to first-choice goalkeeper Bono at the tournament.
An interesting quote: “A dream since my childhood to play the most important competition in the world with my country. We will give it [our] all to make all the Moroccans of the world proud” – Nayef Aguerd celebrates his first World Cup with a nod to the Moroccan diaspora who will be supporting the team.
Captain: Thiago Silva
Nickname: Selecao Brasileira
One to Watch: Vinicius Jr – Staggeringly there are rumours he might not start, although the chance of Neymar playing in the 10 role to accommodate is now being discussed amongst Brazilian fans, whilst Tite keeps us guessing. Either way, anyone who’s watched the electric wide man in the last season and a half will be backing ‘Vini’ to leave a huge impression on the tournament.
Premier League fans will know: There are 11 Premier League players called up to the Brazil squad plus plenty who have previously graced the league such Raphinha, Danilo and Alex Telles.
How is he still playing?: Dani Alves. Who else? Tite’s surprise inclusion of the 39-year-old, who now plays for Mexican side ‘UNAM’, has attracted criticism in Brazil.
An interesting quote: “I believe the favourites are Argentina, Germany, Spain and France” – Neymar chooses his likely winner for the tournament.
Captain: Vincent Aboubakar
Nickname: Indomitable Lions
One to Watch: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa – He’s come a long way from fighting relegation in a disjointed Fulham side. The marauding central midfielder ticks a lot of boxes for a modern-day all action footballer. Excellent defensively, intelligent going forward – Anguissa will be very important for Cameroon.
Premier League fans will know: Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo is the sole representative of the league for Cameroon.
How is he still playing?: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is right at the top of his game heading into the World Cup, at 33 years old could he leave international football in style?
Best quote so far: “I’m not impressed by him. I can do what he does. I just don’t have the opportunity to play in a big club” – Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar isn’t sold on Mo Salah just yet.
Captain: Dusan Tadic
Nickname: The Eagles
One to Watch: Aleksandar Mitrovic – Serbia are stacked full of attacking talent: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Vlahovic and the commonly underrated Filip Kostic to name a few. But Mitrovic has 50 goals in 76 appearances for his country, which is simply a ridiculous record. In reality, the Eagles will look to utilise the target man and his unique aerial ability.
Premier League fans will know: Fulham’s Aleksandr Mitrovic, former Southampton man Dusan Tadic and perhaps ex-Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic?
How is he still playing?: Another slightly older player playing excellently. Dusan Tadic (33) has been a revelation since joining Ajax in 2018, he will play a key role for Serbia if they are to be the dark horse that many tip them to be.
An interesting quote: “Mitrovic will go to the World Cup without a leg. We can even shorten his head” – Serbia Manager Dragan Stojkovic jokes about Mitrovic’s recent injury concerns.
Captain: Granit Xhaka
One to Watch: Nico Elvedi – Possibly a surprising pick. Elvedi’s composed partnership with Manuel Akanji in central defence has been a driving force in the recent golden years the Swiss national team has been enjoying. An established Bundesliga defender at Gladbach, Elvedi was really solid at Euro 2020.
Premier League fans will know: Manuel Akanji (Manchester City), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Fabian Schar (Newcastle) and Denis Zakaria (Chelsea) but he has hardly featured for his club side.
How is he still playing?: Switzerland may well have to do without first-choice keeper Yann Sommer for the first couple of games, as he continues to recover from an ankle issue. Sommer (33) has a history of incredible international tournament form, most recently at Euro 2020.
An interesting quote: “We were spoiled for choice in some positions” – Manager Murat Yakin names four goalkeepers in his squad with injury concerns over Sommer.
Captain: Andre Ayew
Nickname: The Black Stars
One to Watch: Mohammed Kudus – Used in a variety of positions at club level, Kudus is expected to play on the front three in attack. The astronomic rise from Ghana, to Norway, to Ajax, will now continue to the World Cup. He scored 4 goals in 6 Champions League group games this season, finding the back of the net against Napoli, Liverpool and Rangers — keep an eye out for his emphatic finishing in Qatar.
Premier League fans will know: Mohammed Salisu is at Southampton, Tariq Lamptey is currently with Brighton, Thomas Partey is with Arsenal and Jordan Ayew remains at Crystal Palace.
How is he still playing?: The youngest squad yet again at a FIFA World Cup belongs to Ghana. Club Brugge’s adventurous right back Denis Odoi (34) will provide valuable experience.
An interesting quote: “We are the fourth seed in the group but this will be a different World Cup. Players will all have been playing for their clubs. England play eight days after the Premier League stops, for example” – Ghana Technical Director Chris Hughton hopes the lack of the break will benefit Ghana’s Premier League-based players.
Captain: Son-Heung Min
Nickname: Taegeuk Warriors
One to Watch: Son-Heung Min – A heart-stopping injury scare occurred for South Korea supporters when their superstar came off for Tottenham with what turned out to be a fractured eye socket. It has since become clear Son will be fit to play and will wear a protective mask.
Premier League fans will know: That man again – Son-Heung Min of Tottenham Hotspur is the only Premier League player in the South Korea squad.
How is he still playing?: Ulsan Hyundai’s Kim Tae-Hwan will be the oldest player in the South Korea squad at the age of 33.
An interesting quote: “Masked Tiger” – South Korean media have a creative new nickname for the eye protection Son-Heung Min will wear.
Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo
Nickname: Selecao Portuguesa
One to Watch: Rafael Leao – Last season’s Serie A MVP, the Portuguese winger is yet to really show it on the Champions League stage. That said he’s still played his part in AC Milan’s progression through the group stages. Lightning-quick with good footwork and constantly improving finishing, Leao is set to shine.
Premier League fans will know: Nine Premier League players feature in the Portugal squad, only two of the Wolves Portuguese contingent make the cut though – Ruben Neves and Jose Sa.
How is he still playing?: Pepe heads to his fourth World Cup just three months before he’s due to turn 40.
An interesting quote: “The headlines are always about him. For us, it is quite the same. So I don’t see a problem with the timing” – Joao Mario on Cristiano Ronaldo’s controversial Piers Morgan interview.
Captain: Diego Godin
Nickname: La Celeste
One to Watch: Giorgian De Arrasceata – Newly crowned Copa Libertadores champion, the Uruguayan attacker is one of the best playing in South America. Second top goal scorer in qualifying, De Arrasceata has become increasingly important for his nation.
Premier League fans will know: Rodrigo Bentancur (Spurs) and Darwin Nunez (Liverpool).
How is he still playing?: There are a few aging warriors in this familiar Uruguay side. Diego Godin and Fernando Muslera are 36, whilst Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will likely also play their last World Cup at 35.
An interesting quote: “You’ve been doing it all your life, every day, in the rain, any surface, playing barefoot, breaking a toe, wrapping it up and carrying on. I always say that in football it’s not the same to play as to compete.” – Edinson Cavani on the special Uruguayan attitude towards football.
By: Wilf Macdonnelll / @WilfMacdonnell
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Nelson Almeida – AFP