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Football fans are gearing up for the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar tomorrow. Work commitments rearranged, drinks and snacks organised, and vocal chords twanging in anticipation of many shouty moments of exaltation and perhaps even despair as the tournament thrusts fans into the tumult of emotion that is world-class football. Thirty two national teams will participate during the 29-day tournament, which will culminate in the final on 18 December. England and Wales start their journeys through the tournament stages next week with England vs Iran on Monday at 1pm and Wales playing USA at 7pm on the same day.
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The Premier League and La Liga have provided a high proportion, almost 30%, of the 829 participating players in the tournament, with German leagues accounting for a smidge under 10%. In total the players participate in 52 leagues within 42 countries, a truly diverse and global representation which will rightly be celebrated during the World Cup.
The Premier League is the stand-out source of players, providing 163 footballers, almost 20% of the total. England captain and Tottenham Hotspur striker, Harry Kane, is tipped to be top goalscorer at the World Cup with best odds from bookie SBK at 43/5. Kylian Mbappe (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Neymar (Brazil) and Karim Benzema (France) are sure to provide him with stiff competition and much will depend on how deep their respective teams can progress into the tournament’s later stages.
Brazil are one of the hot World Cup tips to be tournament winners, with odds of 4/1 from BetFred, and Argentina, France and Spain are also all ahead of England in the reckoning, with England tipped at 8/1 by Paddy Power. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation, and Premier League players Antony (Manchester United), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Gabriel Marinelli (also Arsenal) and Richarlison (Tottenham) will be striving to deliver for their country, which last won the World Cup in 2002, defeating Germany in the final at Yokohama, Japan.
Argentina is second favourite to win the World Cup with odds of 11/2 from SkyBet. Manager Lionel Scaloni has chosen five Premier League players to feature in the 26-man squad. Striker Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Christian Romero (Tottenham), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Alexis MacAllister (Brighton) will be playing alongside Paris St-Germain’s Lionel Messi. The 35-year old superstar is participating in his fifth and final World Cup and his team are on a run of 35 matches unbeaten. Argentina last won the World Cup in 1986 and finished runners-up in 1990 and 2014.
Both South American sides will face a stiff challenge from 2018 World Cup winners, France. Few will forget the pulsating brilliance of the French team as they defeated Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win their second World Cup. Can France now win a third World Cup title? It’s a big ask as the feat has not been achieved since 1962, by Brazil, but the bookies reckon France are in with a shout, with betting odds of 15/2 from Unibet making France third favourite to win. Manager Didier Deschamps has selected 5 Premier League players for his squad – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool) and William Saliba (Arsenal).
Luis Enrique, manager of Spain, has also had rich pickings from the Premier League. His team includes Robert Sanchez (Brighton), David Raya (Brentford), Cesar Azpiliceuta (Chelsea), Aymeric Laporte and Rodri (both Man City). Despite Spain being rated fourth favourites to win in Qatar, with odds of 9/1 from bookie William Hill, La Roja fans will be biting their nails during the group stage matches, as the memories of their team’s disastrous performance in the 2018 World Cup refuse to fade. Spain, winners of the World Cup in 2010, won only one of four games and departed the tournament following defeat at the hands of Russia in the last-16 stage.
So, eighteen Premier League players feature in the teams of the top four fancied sides in the World Cup, joined of course by the 26-man English national squad selected by manager Gareth Southgate, all of whom play in the Premier League (*is this the case, david?). Every one of the twenty Premier League clubs are fielding at least two players in the World Cup with Manchester City sending 16 players to Qatar, Manchester United 14 players, 12 from Chelsea and 11 from Tottenham.
The participation of so many Premier League players, nigh on one in five of the 829 players in Qatar, will make the World Cup 2022 even more compelling for fans. But, back in Blighty, Premier League managers will be watching with some trepidation as returning players may be both fatigued (the heat, the intensity of the tournament) and injured. A World Cup in the middle of the domestic season is far from ideal, and all twenty clubs will need to accommodate the impact of the tournament on returning players.