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Top stars at World Cup 2022: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane among the big names in Qatar

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A World Cup is a showcase for the best footballers on the planet, but Qatar 2022 promises to be a mix of potential final appearances for a group of iconic stars, combined with the emergence of an exciting new generation of talent.

The stage is set for what is likely to be the final World Cup battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Manchester United man due to be 41 by the time of the 2026 tournament.

However, alongside Messi and Ronaldo aiming for their first world titles, defending champions France will once again be spearheaded by Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

Add into the mix the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Luka Modric, Harry Kane, Pedri and Virgil van Dijk, and Qatar is shaping up to be an incredible showpiece.

MORE: When will Cristiano Ronaldo retire? Portugal star addresses the question

Who are the biggest stars at World Cup 2022?

Previous World Cups have offered a platform for established icons to shine and breakthrough players to make their mark on the world stage, and 2022 should be no different.

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Mbappe was superb for France as Didier Deschamps’ side sealed the world title in 2018, but the PSG star has moved to another level in the last two seasons and should be one of the standout performers for the defending champions.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Talk of Messi’s powers waning have been exaggerated in the past couple of years, with the mercurial Argentine demonstrating his talents in a deeper role at PSG. All eyes will be on him as he looks to finally add a World Cup to his glittering list of individual and team accolade, in what he has already confirmed will be his last World Cup appearance.

Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)

De Bruyne will be charged with the task of finally helping Belgium to lose their ‘nearly men’ tag in Qatar, with a star-studded line-up having consistently underperformed in previous tournaments. However, the Manchester City man will be determined to prove himself as the No.1 midfielder in world football.

Kevin De Bruyne

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Despite a troubled time at Manchester United, expectation will still be intense around Ronaldo in Qatar, as he competes in a record-equaling fifth finals, but Portugal had to do things the hard way via the playoffs in qualification. They eventually beat North Macedonia to secure their place at the tournament and the 2016 European champions will look once again to Ronaldo’s ability to lead their attack as a huge focal point.

Vinicius Jr. (Brazil)

Despite the pressure of establishing himself as a key player for both Real Madrid and Brazil in the last two years, Vinicius Jr. has risen to the challenge spectacularly. His partnership with Karim Benzema in Madrid is the deadliest pairing in Spanish football, and his world-class potential could see him become one of the star names of Qatar 2022.

Takefusa Kubo (Japan)

At the age of only 21, Takefusa Kubo has already made quite the name for himself  — having emerged with a ‘wonderkid’ label in La Liga first with Barcelona and then at Real Madrid. The Japanese midfielder moved to Real Sociedad in the summer transfer window this year (although Real have retained 50% ownership of him, and can bring him back to the Spanish capital until 2025) and is proving consistently the potential that those in Asia always knew he had. He will likely be a pivotal figure for the Blue Samurai and could be set for a breakthrough tournament.

Takefusa Kubo

Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)

Despite playing the consistent role of Liverpool’s defensive rock, Van Dijk has never featured at a World Cup with his country. The Dutch are much stronger at the back and in midfield than they have been in recent years, and similarly to Premier League rival De Bruyne, Van Dijk will be aiming to solidify his tag as one of the best players in his position in world football.

Neymar (Brazil)

The mercurial Brazilian continues to shoulder the burden of his country’s hopes on the biggest stage, and Qatar 2022 will be no different. A nation expects whenever Neymar pulls on the shirt and he will be desperate to lead Selecao to their first world title since 2002. Neymar has failed to match the heights he might have expected with PSG in recent times, and injuries have not helped, but he remains the focal point of the attack for the 2021 Copa America beaten finalists.

Pedri (Spain)

La Roja star Pedri is the latest midfielder off the Spanish production line, which has previously produced Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. However, there are suggestions around the Camp Nou that Pedri could one day exceed his Barcelona predecessors and he will be looking to build on a fantastic breakthrough showing at Euro 2020.

Karim Benzema (France)

Deschamps’ decision to recall Benzema for Euro 2020 was met with a mixed public response in France, as Les Bleus bowed out of the competition at the Round of 16. However, the veteran forward has reminded everyone of his big-game talents in 2021/22, not least in the Champions League, and he remains one of the deadliest finishers on the planet.

Karim Benzema

Luka Modric (Croatia)

Modric is likely to follow those such as Ronaldo, Messi and Benzema in probably calling time on his international career after the World Cup, but the 37-year-old midfielder will be determined to lead Croatia to success in Qatar, and despite his advancing years, he remains a match for anyone in world football.

Alphonso Davies (Canada)

Canada have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since Mexico 1986, and they did so without their talisman for the final push. Davies was ruled out after suffering with myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, following a COVID-19 infection. The Bayern Munich man’s emotional reaction on social media to Canada securing their place in Qatar showed how much it means to him and he will be desperate to shine on the biggest stage.

Christian Pulisic (USA)

If USMNT are to go deep in the tournament then they will need their talisman Pulisic to lead them. The Chelsea playmaker has been the standout of their qualifying campaign, and he will hope to take his big-game experience at club level with him onto the world stage as part of Gregg Berhalter’s talent-packed roster.

Christian Pulisic of the United States

Son Heung-min (South Korea)

Son has shown time and time again throughout his career with Tottenham in the Premier League that he is capable of individual brilliance, scoring some of the most spectacular strikes the league has seen. At international level, he is just as ruthless, with more than 30 international goals to his name, and he will be among the strikers expected to shine in the Middle East.

Harry Kane (England)

England captain Kane will be the key man for Gareth Southgate’s side as the Three Lions aim to build on their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy. Kane edged himself back into top form in the second half of 2021/22 Premier League season and has started the new campaign in a fashion that suggests he can once again thrive on the biggest stage.

MORE: England top scorers of all-time: Kane ranked alongside legends

When is Qatar World Cup 2022?

The World Cup kicks off at the group stages from Nov. 20, with hosts Qatar raising the curtain on the competition at the Al Bayt Stadium in the opening game against Ecuador in Group A.

The first World Cup to be played in the Northern Hemisphere winter will run until the final at the Lusail Stadium on Dec. 18.

World Cup Schedule:

  • November 20: Opening Ceremony, Group A Opener (Qatar v Ecuador)
  • December 2: Final Group Games
  • December 3-6: Round of 16
  • December 9-10: Quarterfinals
  • December 13-14: Semifinals
  • December 17: Third-Place Match
  • December 18: Final

Who are the best players not at the Qatar 2022 World Cup?

While Messi, Neymar, Kane and others will all be on the plane to the Middle East, several other star names will have to be content with watching the action from home.

Italy’s shock exit to North Macedonia in the UEFA qualifiers means that Jorginho, Marco Verratti and the rest of their Euro 2020-winning teammates will not be in Qatar.

Mohamed Salah will be absent too, as the Liverpool and Egypt talisman lost out in his battle with Senegal for a qualification place in the African region, in a repeat of the 2022 AFCON final.

The confirmed absentees list also includes other household names, with Erling Haaland (Norway), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Naby Keita (Guinea) and Edin Dzeko (Bosnia) all staying at home after their countries failed to qualify from their groups.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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