Qatar World Cup: Decoding the best matches in Group A
The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is set to kick-off in less than a week's interval. The fervor surrounding the football bonanza will only increase with each passing day. Hosts Qatar will play the opener against Ecuador in a crucial Group A encounter on November 20. Netherlands and powerhouse Senegal complete Group A. We present the top two matches from Group A.
Netherlands vs Senegal, November 21
There's going to be plenty of fireworks on offer in this fixture. The Oranje are vying for their maiden WC title, after having finished runner-up thrice, with the most recent appearance being 2010 final. Meanwhile, Senegal have confidence up their stride. The Sadio Mane-powered side won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title at the start of the year.
Ecuador vs Senegal, November 29
Ecuador booked a place after finishing fourth in the CONMEBOL Qualifiers, holding Brazil and Argentina to 1-1 draws each. However, Ecuador are a fairly young side. They lack firepower up front, with their main strikers, Enner Valencia and Michael Estrada enduring a poor run of form. Besides, Senegal have a solid backline, comprising Abdou Diallo and Kalidou Koulibaly to shrug aside any threat.
Netherlands can be a force to deal
Louis van Gaal, who took charge in August replacing Frank de Boer, has done a solid job. Since taking over the reins in August 2021, he has had an unbeaten run in 15 games (W11 D4). He has helped Netherlands do well in the WC Qualifiers and Nations League 2022-23.
Here's how Senegal and Netherlands could line up
Senegal's Probable XI (4-3-3): Edouard Mendy; Fode Ballo-Toure, Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo, Youssouf Sabaly; Cheikhou Kouyate, Nampalys Mendy, Pape Gueye; Sadio Mane, Boulaye Dia, Boulaye Sarr. Netherlands' Probable XI (3-5-2): Justin Bijlow; Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake; Denzel Dumfries, Davy Klaassen, Frenkie de Jong, Steven Berghuis; Daley Blind; Vincent Janssen, Steven Bergwijn.
Ecuador's Probable XI for WC
Ecuador's Probable XI (4-3-3): Hernan Galindez; Angelo Preciado, Robert Arboleda, Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupinan; Alan Franco , Carlos Gruezo, Moises Caicedo; Angel Mena, Michael Estrada, Enner Valencia.
Caicedo, Virgil van Dijk can be a menace
Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo will feature in Ecuador's midfield. He is one of the rising prospects, with Real Madrid reportedly interested in the 21-year-old as Luka Modric's replacement. Liverpool ace Virgil van Dijk will be a rock at the heart of Netherlands' defense. Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong is another must-see prospect from Netherlands. He will dictate the pace and control in the midfield.
Key players to watch out for
Senegal's Sadio Mane is racing against time to recover from a tendon injury. While he may not feature in the opener, he is an asset. He has scored 15 goals across competitions in 2022-23. Ex-West ham striker Enner Valencia is Ecuador's most experienced forward. He has scored 13 goals in 12 Super Lig appearances this season.
Where to watch the Qatar World Cup in India?
Fans in India can watch the FIFA World Cup 2022 live on Sports18 and Sports18 HD. Fans can stream the matches on the Voot app and Jio Cinema (paid subscription).
Group A: Here's the schedule of matches
Qatar vs Ecuador: November 20 (9:30 PM IST). Senegal vs Netherlands: November 21 (9:30 PM IST). Qatar vs Senegal: November 25 (6:30 PM IST). Netherlands vs Ecuador: November 25 (9:30 PM IST). Ecuador vs Senegal: November 29 (8:30 PM IST). Netherlands vs Qatar: November 29 (8:30 PM IST).