tThe 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday, and France will be hoping to become the first team to successfully defend the title since Brazil 60 years ago.
Here are six of the world’s best players who will compete in the tournament:
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Arguably the greatest player of all time, Messi has yet to oust former legends Pele and Diego Maradona by winning football’s biggest award. He finally won a major international trophy with Argentina when he was the driving force behind their victory in the Copa America last year. The 35-year-old said this will “probably” be his last World Cup and he will be desperate to go one better than 2014, when Argentina lost the final to Germany in extra time. Lionel Scaloni’s side have high hopes of winning a third world title, heading into the tournament on a 36-match unbeaten run. Messi scored his 91st international goal in a 5-0 friendly win over the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)
Messi’s long-time rival for World Player of the Year status, Ronaldo is certain to appear in his final World Cup finals, at the age of 37. The goal of his career. Ronaldo won an impressive title at Euro 2016 with Portugal, but his best effort with him on the world stage remains a semi-final exit in 2006. He is expected to score in his fifth consecutive World Cup, overtaking Pele, Miroslav Klose. and Uwe Seeler. Ronaldo will have to make a rocky start to the season with Manchester United behind him, having struggled for form before accusing the club of “betraying” him.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
– His French team-mate Karim Benzema is the current Ballon d’Or holder, but Mbappe remains the most important player in the world in more than four years since he starred in the 2018 World Cup. The Paris Saint-Germain striker became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele thanks to his goal In France’s 4-2 win over Croatia. Mbappe, now 23, has denied reports he is trying to leave Paris Saint-Germain mid-season just months after signing a lucrative new contract. Having won the Russian Young Player of the Year trophy, he will set his sights on the top prize this time around.
Brazil heads into the tournament as favorites to win a record-extending sixth World Cup. Neymar’s strong form this season with Paris Saint-Germain will be a big plus for coach Tite after a difficult period for the 30-year-old. Neymar heads to Qatar with just two goals short of equaling the record set by Pele in Brazil, albeit he has already played 29 more matches. Silicao lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals four years ago, which made Neymar wait for compensation in 2014, when he missed Germany’s 7-1 semi-final victory due to injury.
Edouard Mendy (Senegal)
The Chelsea goalkeeper has lost his place as first-choice goalkeeper under Graham Potter this season after a series of costly mistakes but will be crucial to Senegal’s hopes of becoming the first African to reach the World Cup semi-finals. And Mendy, the 2021 Champions League winner, saved a penalty when Senegal beat Egypt on penalties in the Africa Cup of Nations final earlier this year. The 30-year-old started Chelsea’s last two Premier League matches before this tournament after Kepa Arrizabalaga was injured. Senegal, who lost star striker Sadio Mane to injury, will be desperate for Mendy to rediscover the form that made him select FIFA 2021’s best goalkeeper at the other end of the field.
Son Heung-min (South Korea)
The Tottenham forward is undoubtedly Asian football’s biggest star and will carry South Korea’s hopes into the tight-looking Group H if he can recover from a broken eye socket. Son shared the Golden Boot award in the English Premier League last season with Salah, the Liverpool player, despite not being subjected to penalty kicks with Tottenham. He has scored 35 goals in 104 international matches, including the second goal of Korea Republic’s stunning 2018 win over Germany that knocked the reigning champions out at the group stage. —AFP