Group A: A Few Surprises
Who escapes Group A? Tough call. Likely, it’ll be Netherlands and Qatar. However, Senegal and Ecuador will provide tough challenges.
Essentially, Ecuador (featuring Valencia) and Senegal (led by Mane) are the same level teams. Athletic, a boost, some charm. However, each will have a hard time escaping this group. Is there hope for each side? Netherlands, a program that has come so close to winning the World Cup in previous attempts, could be a flop. With a few breaks here and there, Senegal and Ecuador could upset the Dutch, and make big news in the process. However, in all likelihood, the leaders should be Netherlands and Qatar.
Netherlands is the standard of world-class technique. With Memphis, its dynamic attacking midfielder, and a strong supporting cast, this team should fly high, as expected.
Host-nation Qatar is a dark horse contender for this World Cup. With tons of money poured into coaching by oil-rich soccer zealots who want the national team to excel, Qatar is a formidable squad, with Barcelona-esque tendencies, that will catch you by surprise. High-scoring defender, Khoukhi, midfielder Assadalla, along with forwards Afif, Al-Haydos, and Ali are key members that might not be household names but are ready to change your mind about Qatari soccer. If you thought little-known Iceland shocked the world in the 2016 Euro, keep an eye on Qatar for much of the same.
This isn’t to say Ecuador and Senegal are lost causes. This group is very wide open. Netherlands is the easy choice to advance. Qatar is the key. If Qatar can keep its focus with possession, while keeping Ecuador and Senegal at bay, then you should see the host nation earn a place in the Round of 16.