QATAR 2022: The Big Countdown38 days to go…

-Ikenna Okafor

The most compact FIFA World Cup since 1930 and the very first edition to be held in the Middle East and Arab world will kick off on 20 November to 18 December, 2022. To get you up to speed, VIP Magazine’s IKENNA OKAFOR presents the big countdown with a weekly compilation of news, facts and figures.

Group G Preview

Every football fans know that it’s almost impossible to imagine a World Cup without Brazil.

They are the only country to have played in every tournament since it began in 1930. And are the most successful nation, having lifted football’s most prestigious trophy five times.

However, it has been 20 years since they or any South American nation won the World Cup. Despite their name being synonymous with winning football, they will travel to Qatar perhaps more in hope than expectation.

At this year’s games, Neymar will be 30 years old and is one of the squad’s veterans. The focus will most likely be on an upcoming superstar, 21-year-old Vinicius Jr.

Neymar and Vinicius Jr.

The Real Madrid forward has experienced a breakthrough year in Spain. His extraordinary displays have helped them win La Liga and the Champions League in June.

Serbia is also in focus and has experience in shocking a footballing heavyweight after beating Germany in 2010. Surprisingly they finished top of their World Cup qualifying group, above Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal that sealed that win in Lisbon. Last season, the striker has scored 43 league goals for his club Fulham, earning them the top spot in the Championship last season.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Cameroon brings back memories of the 1990 World Cup for those of a certain age. They stunned the footballing world with their star man, 38-year-old veteran striker Roger Milla.

Roger Milla

Diego Maradona and the Argentine team were beaten in the first game before the ‘super sub’ Roger Milla helped see off Romania and Colombia to the quarter-finals. They were within seven minutes of making the last four until Gary Lineker saved England with two late penalties.

Group G Fixtures

Thursday, November 24th
Switzerland v Cameroon
Brazil v Serbia
Monday, November 28th
Cameroon v Serbia
Brazil v Switzerland
Friday, December 2nd
Cameroon v Brazil
Serbia v Switzerland

Players to watch
Dusan Vlahovic (Serbia/ Juventus of Italy)
Dusan Vlahovic came onto the scene after absolutely bullying opponents in Serie A with Fiorentina. With the Lilies, Vlahović scored 49 goals and provided eight assists in 108 games.

In the season where he was snatched by Juventus as a response to Cristiano Ronaldo’s abrupt summer exit back to Manchester United, the striker had tallied 17 goals and four assists in 21 games for the Viola.
If he would have stayed with the Fiore that season, Vlahovic’s chances of competing for the European Golden Boot would have been high.

Dusan Vlahovic

Although he’s had a “slow” start at Juventus, the Serbian has shown that he can be one of Europe’s most lethal strikers for club and country.

He’s on the lips of football fans in his country and much is expected of him, at the World Cup in Qatar

Jude Bellingham (England/ Borussia Dortmund of Germany)

Jude Bellingham is so great he already retired a number. At 18, the midfielder was one of England’s most exciting talents – present and future.

After having impressive performances with Birmingham City in the English Championship, Bellingham earned himself a transfer to Borussia Dortmund, breaking the transfer record for Birmingham all while being a kid.

Jude Bellingham

At Dortmund, the midfielder has played 100 games and has scored 11 goals and provided 19 assists – with a goal contribution in every competition he’s played in.

There have been rumours about a potential move to another European giant, and if he’s able to showcase his talent at the world’s biggest stage, Bellingham might solidify his position in world football, bag another transfer and retire yet another jersey number somewhere else.

World Cup Facts
The first World Cup ever hosted in Asia was when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup. It was also the first time the two countries host the competition together.

Turkey’s Hakan Sukur scored the fastest-ever goal in the World Cup. He scored against South Korea after 10.89 seconds of play and this goal also helped Turkey beat South Korea and finish the World Cup as the third-best-placed team.

Hakan Sukur

Peter Shilton (England) and Fabien Barthez (France) hold the record for the most number of clean sheets with 10 each.

Fabien Barthez and Peter Shilton

Brazil and Italy are the only countries to win the World Cup twice in a row. Italy did it in 1934 and 1938, while Brazil achieved the same feat in the years 1958 and 1962.

Argentina vs Germany has faced each other the most times in the World Cup Final. These countries have played each other in the 1986, 1990, and 2014 World Cup Finals.

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