The first World Cup took place nearly a century ago. Since then, it has showcased the greatest players ever to play the game. The premier international competition is considered the pinnacle of world football, and past winners include Pele, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane. Qatar 2022 will be no different and will feature some of this generation’s greatest players, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the players that most football fans look out for. Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, is one of the crossover athletes of the 21st century and is the most followed person on Instagram. His great footballing rival, Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi has eclipsed many of Ronaldo’s records and won more Ballon d’Or trophies. Unlike World Cups of previous years, Messi and Ronaldo are both in the final stages of their glistening careers. It will likely be the last World Cup for both, and it will be sad to see two of the greatest players in the history of the game no longer involved at the highest level of international football.
Other players we will be looking forward to seeing are players who will be looking to stamp their claim to greatness by going all the way this year. This includes Kylian Mbappe. The PSG forward is considered one of the players who will take over from Ronaldo and Messi once they have retired from the sport. He played for, scored and won the World Cup in 2018. He was the youngest player to score in the World Cup final apart from Pele, and he will be looking to join an extremely prestigious list of players who have lifted the trophy twice.
Other young players who will be ones to watch out for this year include Brazilian duo Vinicius Jr and Neymar. Neither player has won a World Cup, and they will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of their Brazilian idols by lifting the prize. Vinicius Jr is widely considered to be one of the top wingers in the world at the tender age of 22. His compatriot Neymar turns 30 this year but has cemented himself as one of the best strikers on the planet with his sensational strike rate for his club Paris St Germain. With Brazil being one of the favorites this year, both players will be ones to watch out for to see if they can rise to the occasion. The timing appears perfect for Neymar, as he will be 34 by the time the next World Cup happens and is considered to be in the prime of his career.
There is depth and quality in each position in the World Cup. Luka Modric came painstakingly close to lifting the trophy after losing to France in the final in 2018. He will also likely be participating in his final World Cup after winding back the years at club level for Real Madrid with a phenomenal performance in the Champions League final this year. The midfield maestro will be looking to replicate this form in Qatar. If he can take Croatia to another final, he will surely be in the running to get his hands on another Ballon d’Or.
Another midfielder who has shown himself to be one of the best in the world is Manchester City’s Phil Foden. The Englishman has begun the Premier League season in sensational form, including a hat-trick in the Manchester Derby in October. At 22, he will be looking to see if he can inspire a golden crop of English players to their first World Cup in over 50 years. Other fine talents in the English midfield include players such as Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka. Bellingham is the youngest of the trio and has been linked with several of the biggest clubs in England. Saka has also been linked to other European clubs after exploding onto the scene at Arsenal.
The squad came tantalizingly close to winning Euro 2022, losing out on penalties in the final to Italy. All these players could gel, and the England midfield is one to keep an eye on in this year’s tournament.
Phil Foden is a key player to watch, as he has won trophies and looks like he may be on his way to winning his first Champions League. Other players to look out for in the England setup include Manchester City central defender John Stones and Jordan Pickford, one of Europe’s top shot-stoppers.
(Cover image credit: History of Soccer)