Wait no more. The FIFA World Cup 2022 is here. As national teams battle through the group stages for one of two qualifying spots, the world watches in exhilaration, and fans will cheer.
For the tactically astute, what matters most is perhaps not the ultimate winner of the tournament, but rather more the quality and style of football displayed on the pitch. Will we see state-of-the-art high pressing, defense via attack, build-up from the back, and ultra-high defensive lines? The evidence tends to disappoint. More likely, it’ll be the same old tight defensive lines and grinding of results that have characterized previous national tournaments..
The Teams that Are Making Headlines..
The French have made headlines after Karim Benzema was ruled out due to muscular fatigue. England is yet another contender, with some of the highest-calibre cadre of players and thus a chance to finally bring it home. As for Robert Lewandowski, he will lead a largely under-dog Polish side with hopes to clinch that second qualifying position in the group. Germany will tweak formations and false nines to grind results, given they’re totally lacking a classical striker. Nevertheless, don’t bet against the Germans. And finally in Europe, Portugal’s Ronaldo almost overshadowed the World Cup with drama related to his break-up with Manchester United. Nonetheless, he will try to prove his critics wrong and lead a talented, experienced side to the Finals.
Away from Europe, Senegal, the tournament’s ultimate dark horse, possesses exciting, modern European football which has been years in the making. Despite Sadio Mane’s tragic absence, this Senegalese side can produce balance, defensive solidity, and attacking threat.
Argentina and Brazil- Something is Brewing in Latin America
If he wins this edition of the World Cup, Leonel Messi will cement his place as the all-time best football player ever. He’ll be the GOAT, across the times and places. As a bonus, he’ll get to spend lots of time with Tom Brady. Also worth pointing out that this Argentinian side doesn’t really depend on Messi the way it used to, with the ball not having to touch base with Messi each time the side is in possession of the ball.
As for Brazil, imagine a side with an attacking front of Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Raphinia and Gabriel Jesus. This Brazil side is destined for greatness. If they do indeed play to their strengths, then it’s all about out-scoring your opponent. Recently, Latin sides have tended to converge their game to the European standard of football, which is in part due to their under-performance in recent World Cups. And still, that strategy did not bring better results, with Brazil and Argentina both not achieving Gold since 2002, when Brazil won the tournament ever-famously against a disciplined German side. So yeah, Brazil should express that Latin flare if it intends to go far in the tournament.
Not much can be said about the Netherlands. When all else fails, you stick to what you know best. A 4-3-3 adapted formation. And, of course, Louis Van Gaal. If you lose, you can always say you used a fan-favourite Dutch 4-3-3. Happy?
Elsewhere, Belgium’s “golden generation” has one more chance at it. Their captain, Eden Hazard, is all but finished on the club football stage. However, Kevin De Bruyne offers some optimism, given he’s reaching the tournament at peak form and fighting spirit. Lukaku and Courtois demand respect as well. The Belgian players are impressive at all positions, but somehow they always manage to blow it when it really counts.
There Is Much More
The Balkans have produced tough sides in Croatia and Serbia, and cannot be discounted. Croatia had reached the finals last time around in Russia, thanks to a hard-core midfield. Maestro Luca Modric looks fit and ready to direct games, even when his side is not particularly the most talented. Serbia, on the other hand, has plenty of players with experience at the highest level, and is an especially rugged opponent.
Do Not Expect Quality Football
Do not expect much of this tournament in terms of quality football and innovative tactics. This is national-level football, after all. These players go through highly congested match schedules at club-level and arrive to their national training camps in bad physical shape. Moreover, there isn’t much time for the national coaches to actually train their players around specific, sophisticated tactics given that so many players end up injured- and thus the roster changes constantly. What we’re left with is a super-imposing realist approach, in which no side is willing to concede, and everyone playing for a 1-0 win. Fitness is key in this regard, favoring European teams that tend to cover the most ground. We’re talking 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 derivative formations across the board. That pretty much sums up World Cup 2018 in Russia, for instance.
So who will grind out a World Cup this year? While our desire for more than just pale football will likely not be fulfilled, a World Cup remains a World Cup. People from all over the world will enjoy this festive ceremony, bridging languages, cultures and people and reminding us that humanity is well and alive.
Check our article about footballers’ diets here.