Qatar World Cup Group A features the host nation Qatar, Ecuador, Netherlands and Senegal.
Let’s take a quick look at the dates and times these four teams will play each other, their chances of advancing into the knockout stage as well as details on their squads, records and the all-important group table.
World Cup Group A Fixtures & Schedule
Sunday, November 20 (16:00) – Qatar vs Ecuador
Monday, November 21 (16:00) – Senegal vs Netherlands
Friday, November 25 (13:00) – Qatar vs Senegal
Friday, November 25 (16:00) – Netherlands vs Ecuador
Tuesday, November 29 (15:00) – Netherlands vs Qatar
Tuesday, November 29 (15:00) – Ecuador vs Senegal
World Cup Group A: Teams & Preview
Back from missing the last tournament, the Netherlands, led by Barcelona stars Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong, have set their eyes on the prize, hoping to make amends for the ill-fated Euro 2020.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side should seize a place in the knockout stage as group winners, leaving Ecuador and Senegal to battle it out for a runner-up finish.
With all due respect to Qatar’s lavish infrastructure built over the last decade, it’ll take something special to make them competitive in the race for progression.
Qatar – Debutants with nothing lose
Manager: Felix Sanchez
Star Player: Akram Afif
Qatar may be having their maiden foray into the most prestigious international tournament. Yet they’ve been preparing for this moment from as soon as the country got awarded the hosting rights.
Having come through Barcelona’s coaching ranks with the youth, Qatar boss Felix Sanchez moved to the Middle East in 2006 for the now-famed Aspire Academy before taking charge of the Maroon in 2017.
Sanchez’s men have notably won four successive pre-tournament friendlies, bolstering their confidence ahead of the most significant battle in the nation’s football history.
The 36-year-old will rely on star forwards Akram Afif and Almoez Ali to deliver the goods, with the latter sitting third in the Qatari highest scorers list.
While Qatar’s chances of making it out of the group stage look slim, the only rookies at the tournament will have history on their side, with only South Africa failing to reach the knockout phase as the host nation.
Netherlands – Return of the Flying Dutchmen
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Star Player: Memphis Depay
Louis van Gaal, the man responsible for the Netherlands’ third-place finish in Brazil eight years ago, is back at the helm, looking to do one better this term and steer the Oranje into the final.
The former Manchester United manager has retooled the faltering squad that failed to qualify for ‘Russia 2018’ and bowed out of last year’s Euros at the hands of the Czech Republic.
Since taking charge of the Dutch side in September 2021, van Gaal has not lost a single international match, including a 4-1 thumping of FIFA’s #2 Belgium, showing how talismanic his men can be on a good day.
Expectations are not as high as in 2014, yet the 71-year-old, retiring at the end of the tournament, will have an exhilarating mix of veteran and young stars chasing the nation’s first-ever World Cup success.
Van Gal’s men caught a break when they were drawn to play Qatar and Ecuador in this group, which promises to pave the way for a smooth progression into the knockout stage.
Ecuador – Chaos factor
Manager: Gustavo Alfaro
Star Player: Enner Valencia
Ecuador’s fourth appearance at the World Cup finals, the first since 2014, comes on the back of the pre-World Cup drama that struck when Chile challenged La Tri’s tournament berth.
Though the controversy could fuel Gustavo Alfaro’s bid to navigate Ecuador’s World Cup group stage campaign for the first time since 2006, the South Americans are still underdogs.
However, Alfaro has the necessary tools to drive La Tri through to the round of 16, with several high-performing European stars forming the backbone of this exciting squad.
From Brighton & Hove Albion’s trio, Jeremy Sarmiento, Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan, through Bayer Leverkusen’s Piero Hincapie to Fenerbahce’s Enner Valencia, Ecuador boast a decent roster.
No strangers to defying the odds, Alfaro’s lads left the likes of Chile and Colombia in their wake en route to claiming a fourth-place finish in the CONMEBOL qualifying group, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Senegal – Penalty shootout kings
Manager: Aliou Cisse
Star Player: Sadio Mane
After captaining Senegal to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, Aliu Cisse has set the bar high as a manager, leading Lions of Teranga to their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year.
Only a few months after defeating Egypt on penalties to wrap up the most significant international title in Africa, Senegal won another shoot-out in the World Cup play-offs to reach the finals for the second tournament running.
Unlike the Netherlands, Senegal made it to Russia but were dealt a massive heartbreak in the group phase, as a yellow-card tie-break sent them home in favour of Japan.
With Sadio Mane seemingly ready to feature in Qatar, Edouard Mendy in goal and Kalidou Koulibaly at the heart of the defence, the African champions have every reason for optimism.
Cisse can rely on young blood in the form of Ismaila Sarr and Krepin Diatta to inject much-needed energy into this quite amusing group of players.
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