Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

As Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, few surprises are expected in the mega event. The Asian contingent is stronger in the recent edition both in terms of number and quality. The current edition will witness as many as six Asian teams Among those teams, Iran, Japan and South Korea are in the top 30 World Ranking. 

Meanwhile, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Australia (an Asian Football Confederation member) are good enough to be competitive in their groups. Hosts Qatar with a World Ranking of 50 are in a difficult group with the Netherlands and Sadio Mané’s Senegal. The team can hope for a result in the tournament opener against Ecuador. For Saudi Arabia with World Ranking 51, things look bad. The team is in Group C with Argentina, Mexico and Robert Lewandowski-led Poland.

On the other hand, Wales would fancy its chances. The team, which rose from its lowest ranking of 117 to its highest ranking of eight in four years (2011-2015), now sit comfortably at 19th spot. However, with strong teams like England (5), the US (16) and Iran (20) in Group-B, things will not be that much easy for the team. England are favourite to win the group. But the English team is currently struggling with form. Meanwhile, Iran, with its current form, are a dangerous opponent. A good performance in the first match against the US will be key to Welsh’s fortune.

Canada will play in the World Cup after a hiatus of 36 years. The team with World Rank 41, will start their campaign against Belgium, which is ranked second and finished third in Russia. It will then play last edition’s runners-up Croatia (rank 12) before facing Morocco (rank 22) in its final group stage match. Coach John Herdman has high expectations from his team.

Ghana (61) is the lowest-ranked team at Qatar 2022 and the Black Stars are in one of the toughest groups in the tournament with Portugal (9), Uruguay (14) and South Korea (28). Ghana are capable enough to create an upset or two.  Their first match is against Portugal. If they manage to get a result, Group H will truly become the group of death.

Ecuador have a good number of quality players, led by record goalscorer Enner Valencia. Real Valladolid midfielder Gonzalo Plata, Bayer Leverkusen defender Piero Hincapié and the Brighton trio of Pervis Estupiñán, Moisés Caicedo and Jeremy Sarmiento are all great players to spring a surprise or two in the mega event.