Friday, November 18, 2022

World Cup Is Here

The Premier League goes on pause until Boxing Day as 136 of its players head to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. The Premier League unsurprisingly has more players participating in this World Cup than any other league in the world. Twenty-five of the 26 players on England’s team play in their country’s topflight division. Nineteen year old Jude Bellingham, the latest Borussia Dortmund  wunderkind, is the only England player not currently in the Premier League though he’s rumored as a transfer target of several of the top English clubs.

Manchester City has the highest representation in Qatar with 16 players from its roster playing for their countries, five of whom will be playing for England Manager Gareth Southgate. Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will need to have an outstanding tournament if the “Golden Generation” of his native Belgium is to finally realize its cup winning potential with a now aging roster. Former Tottenham Hotspur center backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen now compete in the Belgian domestic league but continue to anchor the Belgian defense long past their Premier League primes.

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson is in a battle with Liverpool’s Allison Becker to start between the sticks for Brazil, a tournament favorites with a roster that includes 12 Premier League stars. Manchester United has 14 players headed to Qatar, three of whom (Casemiro, Fred, Antony) will play for the Brazilians.

United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is likely seeing his last World Cup for Portugal. Ronaldo’s club teammates Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot join him on the Portuguese roster.

Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen returns to the world stage for Denmark after his life-threatening cardiac event in the Euros. Chelsea’s eighth place position in the Premier League table belies the fact that it will have twelve of its players playing for their home countries in Qatar. Christian Pulisic, limited in his minutes this season for Chelsea, stars for a young United States team which will face England in a much-awaited match the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday. Pulisic will be facing Chelsea teammates Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Conor Gallager across the pitch that day. Despite being often referred to as Captain America, Pulisic could get competition for the captain’s armband from Tyler Adams of Leeds. The defensive midfielder is key to US hopes should they hope to advance against some of the elite attacks of some of the European and South American nations. Adams’s Leeds teammate Brenden Aaronson is also on the US roster.

Other Premier League sides sending large numbers to Qatar include north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur (11 players) and Arsenal (10 players). Spurs’ Harry Kane captains the England team while goalkeeper Hugo Lloris wears the armband for defending champion France. Arsenal’s Willian Saliba will join Lloris on a France roster which will look a bit different from that which triumphed in 2018. Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and former Manchester United player Paul Pogba will both be missing due to injury. Saliba’s Arsenal teammates Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli will both be in the mix for minutes on Brazil’s front line along with Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison.

Credit to Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe who has his Magpies sitting  third in the Premier League table despite having only five World Cup participants on his roster, one fewer than tenth place Brentford. Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes joins the loaded Brazilian squad in Qatar.

Injuries will keep several current and former Premier League stars from competing for their countries while others are racing the clock to recover in time to participate in all or some of their country’s matches. Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min plans to take the pitch for South Korea at some point in the tournament while wearing a mask to protect recently incurred facial fractures. Manchester City’s Kalvin Philips and Kyle Walker are both on England’s roster but are still question marks due to injury. Manchester United’s Raphael Varane and Wolverhampton’s Raul Jiminez, absent for an extended time from league play, still hope to compete for France and Mexico, respectively.

Unfortunately for Premier League fans, the countries of prolific goal scorers Erling Haaland (Norway) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt) didn’t survive the tournament’s qualification process and the two stars won’t be competing in Qatar. Brazil is a clear favorite to win its sixth World Cup. Argentina, however, is also a strong contender as Lionel Messi tries to capture his first World Cup trophy in what is probably his last try. If Messi is to be successful, he’ll need help from Argentine Premier League players such as goalkeeper Emiliano Matinez (Aston Villa), center backs Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United) and Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), midfielder Alexis Mc Allister (Brighton) and forward Julian Alvarez (Manchester City). South American rival Uruguay fields an aging roster featuring former Premier League players Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez represents the next generation strike force for the Uruguayans. England, France, Spain and Belgium are the European squads many expect to be in the mix for the championship.

The competition kicks off on Sunday as host nation Qatar plays an Ecuador side which includes three players from Premier League side Brighton Hove and Albion. and Albion. 


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