Brazil legend Cafu believes anything other than winning the World Cup in Qatar will be deemed as a failure for the Selecao.

Tite's side breezed through World Cup qualifying as they topped the South American group after going unbeaten through their 17 games, winning 14 and drawing three.

The world's number one ranked side and five-time winners have been labelled by many as favourites to lift the World Cup come December.

Brazil, who boast the likes of Liverpool pair Alisson and Fabinho, along with Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Marquinhos, have been drawn into a group with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.

However, the Selecao have not appeared in a World Cup final since 2002, when they won the competition, with the last four editions seeing European teams triumph.

Cafu – the only man to appear in three consecutive finals, winning in 1994, losing in 1998 and captaining in the 2002 win – believes it is time for Brazil to claim a sixth World Cup.

"Every competition that Brazil steps into there is the pressure to win it. They are a huge country in the world with a huge history," Cafu told BBC Sport.

"The pressure to win is always there in any game, not just the World Cup. We have a very good generation of Brazilian footballers coming through so the expectation is there as usual.

"It is about time we won, it is clear if we don't win the World Cup it will be a failure. We all have the expectations and hopes that we can do it."

Gareth Southgate's England must negotiate a group with Iran, the United States and one of either Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

England are on the opposite side of the draw to Brazil, meaning the two sides cannot meet before the semi-final stage.

Cafu, who is his country's most-capped player after making 142 appearances, suggested a meeting between the two nations would be a dream for Brazilian fans.

"For the Brazilian people it would be considered a dream final because of the historical weight of the two nations in football," he said.

"This match would carry huge emotion and it would be beautiful not only for the fans of England but also for football in general."

Pep Guardiola would be an ideal coach for Brazil as his style of play would benefit the likes of Neymar and Vinicius Junior, according to Julio Cesar. 

Brazil are on the hunt for a new boss with Tite leaving the role after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and Guardiola has been linked with the position.

The Catalan is under contract at Manchester City, who he could lead to Premier League glory on Sunday, until June 2023 but has previously expressed a desire to move into international management.

Julio Cesar thinks he would be a great fit for the Selecao as his possession-based approach would help Brazil's most talented players.

"He has all the qualities to do it. He is one of the best in the world, his style of play is very Brazilian," Julio Cesar told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. 

"Everyone knows that Brazilian players love to keep the ball; the majority of them also play in Europe and they are learning to play better on the pitch.  

"We have so much quality on the Brazilian national team: Neymar, Raphinha, [Lucas] Paqueta, Vinicius Junior. All these players are very talented and having a manager like Guardiola would give these players the opportunity of playing the ball more. 

"Every player would love to work with a manager like him. It wouldn't be a bad idea, although we also have really good managers in Brazil. He is a big name in the football world and it wouldn't be a bad thing having him representing our national side. I like the idea." 

Tite's only previous World Cup campaign with Brazil ended in a quarter-final defeat to Belgium in Russia four years ago. 

He steered the Selecao to Copa America glory in 2019 but they were unable to defend their title two years later, with Argentina defeating them in the final. 

Julio Cesar already believes Tite will leave a lasting legacy but has no doubt that leading Brazil to glory in Qatar would achieve him an even higher status. 

"This is what the World Cup gets you, it will level you up. If you can bring the World Cup to Brazil, you can leave with your head held high, you have done your job," he said. 

"He won the Copa America in 2019, he got to the final again against Argentina. He did very well so far, even in the [World Cup] qualifiers he got first place ahead of Argentina.

"He can leave with his head held high, but winning a World Cup with Brazil will take him to the top." 

Palmeiras midfielder Danilo has been granted his first call-up to the Brazil squad, while Tite selected Fabinho for the upcoming friendlies in June despite injury concerns over the Liverpool star.

Brazil announced a 27-man squad on Wednesday for friendlies against Korea Republic, Japan and South American rivals Argentina next month.

Fabinho is one of 13 Premier League players called up, despite the midfielder limping off in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday after suffering a muscle injury.

Reports suggest Fabinho will miss the upcoming FA Cup final against Chelsea, along with league games against Wolves and Southampton, as he faces a race against the clock to feature in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28 as Liverpool hunt an unprecedented quadruple.

Fellow midfielder Danilo was the other notable inclusion by Tite, with the Palmeiras man earning his maiden call-up after impressing at the Club World Cup, where his side were defeated in the final by Chelsea.

On Danilo's inclusion, Tite told reporters: "Danilo is one of those players that we have been following, we are always attentive to players that are emerging. 

"Danilo played well at the Club World Cup in games that we followed live and made visits to the club. We were looking at a series of things on how he performs so we could justify his selection."

Fabinho's Liverpool team-mate Alisson also made the list, along with fellow goalkeeper Ederson, while Manchester United duo Alex Telles and Fred were named alongside Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes.

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes was again selected by Tite and will look to add to his six caps, but there was no room for Magpies team-mate Joelinton, who has impressed since dropping into midfield under Eddie Howe.

Casemiro could partner Guimaraes in the middle alongside Lyon's Lucas Paqueta, while Weverton and Guilherme Arana were the only other two players to feature from Brazil's domestic league.

Tite will have vast experience in the backline to call upon as well, with the likes of Alex Sandro, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos to select from.

Up top, Gabriel Jesus will look to carry over his scoring form from his exploits with Manchester City, with Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid's Champions League hero Rodrygo part of a star-studded attacking line-up.

The upcoming friendlies are part of Brazil's penultimate preparations for the 2022 World Cup, where Tite's side are placed in Group G alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Alex Sandro (Juventus), Alex Telles (Manchester United), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Danilo (Juventus), Guilherme Arana (Atletico-MG), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain) and Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Danilo (Palmeiras), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon) and Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa); Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Raphinha (Leeds), Richarlison (Everton), Rodrygo (Real Madrid) and Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

FIFA has confirmed Brazil and Argentina will have to replay last September's abandoned World Cup qualifier after rejecting appeals from both countries' football federations. 

The original fixture in Sao Paolo was abandoned after just five minutes when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch, with players Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso accused by the Brazilian government of providing false information on their immigration forms and breaking the nation's Covid-19 laws.

FIFA's original ruling on the matter was announced in February, ordering the fixture to be replayed with all four of those players suspended and handing fines to both sides.

Both countries' federations subsequently lodged appeals against those measures, but FIFA has now confirmed the fixture will be replayed at an as-yet unspecified date and venue.

A statement from world football's governing body on Monday said: "The FIFA Appeal Committee has taken decisions on the appeals lodged by the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) and the Argentinian Football Association (AFA).

"After analysing the submissions of both parties and considering all circumstances of the case, the Appeal Committee confirmed that the match would be replayed and also upheld the fine of CHF 50,000 that was imposed on both associations as a result of the abandonment."

Brazil and Argentina have both qualified for the tournament in Qatar in comfortable fashion, with Brazil sitting top of the CONMEBOL qualification group with 45 points after an as-yet unbeaten campaign, and Argentina second with 39 points, meaning the replayed fixture will have no impact on the final standings.

Brazil legend Dani Alves is dreaming of winning the World Cup for the first time in Qatar to leave a legacy in the twilight of his career.

Alves turned 39 on Friday but the veteran Barcelona full-back is still going strong at the highest level.

The veteran has won an incredible haul of medals during his illustrious club career, while he helped his country win the Copa America twice and captained Brazil to Olympic glory in Tokyo last year.

It is 20 years since the Selecao last won the World Cup and Alves missed the 2018 tournament in Russia due to injury.

The Barca great says he has given plenty of thought to what might happen if he lifts the World Cup and hopes to realise that ambition this year.

He told Marca: "This is a question I have been asking myself since I started playing. After I win, what happens? The answer is always the same. We don't live for trophies, we live for legacy.

"But, not for the legacy we leave for people, but for the legacy we leave in people. This is the most important title I'm going to win.

"Is winning the World Cup a dream? Of course it is, but it is the same for all the teams that participate and for everyone who strives to be better every day."

Brazil have been drawn in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Qatar.

Rodrygo has been congratulated by Brazilian legend Pele for his role in Real Madrid's incredible 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

Having replaced Toni Kroos as a 68th-minute substitute shortly before Riyad Mahrez's goal put Madrid 5-3 down in the tie, Rodrygo scored an astonishing last-gasp brace to force a thrilling second leg to extra-time, where Karim Benzema's penalty sent Los Blancos to the final. 

The 21-year-old became the first ever player to score two 90th-minute goals in a Champions League knockout game, and just the second substitute to score a semi-final brace in the competition, after Georginio Wijnaldum for Liverpool against Barcelona in 2018-19.

After changing the course of the tie with two goals in a dramatic 91 seconds, Rodrygo, who has five caps for Brazil, received high praise from an iconic compatriot of his on social media. 

"I always knew the day to congratulate you would come, my friend," Pele wrote in an Instagram post, alongside a photo of himself and Rodrygo wearing the Selecao's famous yellow shirts.

"There is no other way for those who work hard and love what they do. You are enlightened and you will still bring us many joys, congratulations. I can't wait to watch the final!"

Rodrygo scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over Paraguay in February, and has recorded eight goals and eight assists in a successful season with Madrid, for whom he has started 21 times in all competitions.

Madrid will face Liverpool in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month. Los Blancos have now made the final at least six times more than any other club, and defeated the Reds on their last such appearance in 2018. 

 

Pep Guardiola says he will happily manage Manchester City for the rest of his career as he shut down speculation linking him with the soon-to-be-vacant Brazil job.

With head coach Tite set to step down after the World Cup, reports from Spain earlier this week suggested Brazil have already reached out to Guardiola.

According to Marca, Brazil are willing to pay Guardiola a salary of €12million (£10m) a year through until after the next World Cup in 2026.

However, asked about the rumours on Friday, Guardiola made clear that he cannot see himself managing any side other than City.

"Not today, come on," he told a news conference.

"I'm under contract here and I'm so happy. I'm willing to stay forever here. There cannot be a better place to be [than City]. 

"I'd extend the contract ten years but I could not extend the contract ten years. Now is not the moment. I don't know where it's come from."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Sunday's huge showdown with Premier League title rivals Liverpool, with City holding a one-point lead over Jurgen Klopp's team.

The ex-Barcelona coach was also questioned about another article published this week, in German outlet Der Spiegel, alleging City are being investigated over illegal payments.

Among other allegations, Der Spiegel reported that City pressured young players "to sign contracts through monetary payments, in violation of the rules".

City have yet to officially comment on the matter and Guardiola did not want to discuss it any further when probed on the topic.

"It's come from outside," he said. "When you understand the important win we had a few days ago [against Atletico Madrid], and the games ahead, I don't spend one second on it.

"In fact, I have spent 50 seconds talking about it now, so next question."

After a number of false dawns since Alex Ferguson's retirement from coaching, Manchester United are reportedly looking to make a splash with Erik ten Hag.

West Ham's Declan Rice has emerged as one of Europe's premier defensive midfielders and is seen as a key piece in a potential rebuild.

According to reports, this off-season might be the time West Ham and Rice's representatives look to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TO MAKE RECORD PLAY FOR RICE

Manchester United are ready to break their transfer record and make him a marquee signing under new boss Erik ten Hag, according to 90Min.

It is understood West Ham made an offer to extend Rice's contract last year, but ultimately, the Hammers would be unable to compete with likely wage offers elsewhere.

For Rice, United appear willing to break their transfer record set in 2016 for Paul Pogba, a midfielder who has never really found a set position or provided a return on sizeable investment.

They would face stiff competition from Manchester City and Chelsea, who are also keen on the 23-year-old England international.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are preparing a deal to sign Leeds United and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, per the Manchester Evening News.

Brazil are willing to offer Manchester City manager Josep Guardiola a substantial salary to follow on from Tite as the country's national team manager, according to Marca.

Everton boss Frank Lampard has the confidence of club owner Farhad Moshiri and the board, despite the Toffees' relegation battle, the Daily Mail reports.

– The Athletic has reported RB Leipzig and Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol has emerged as a target for Tottenham .

The dust is settling following the 2022 World Cup draw, which has provided a number of subplots and talking points aplenty to discuss between now and the opening set of games on November 21.

France, placed in a group that contains Denmark, Tunisia and one of Peru or Australia, will look to avoid becoming the fifth defending champions in the past six tournaments to exit at the first hurdle.

Spain and Germany, the winners of two of the past three World Cups, face off in arguably the pick of the group games in what will be their fifth meeting in the competition and the first since La Roja's 2010 semi-final triumph.

There are some good omens for England, who are in action on the opening day of the tournament – the last time that was the case they went on to lift the trophy on home soil in 1966.

As the debate rumbles on as to which is the most interesting group this time around, and supporters of participating nations plot out their route to the latter stages, Stats Perform picks out a key stat for each team.

GROUP A – Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Qatar are competing in their first World Cup and will aim to avoid becoming only the second host nation to be knocked out in the first round after South Africa in 2010.

They will begin their campaign against Ecuador, who have not faced a nation from outside of the UEFA or CONCACAF regions in their previous 10 World Cup matches.

Senegal are participating in the event for a third time and are the third African Cup of Nations title holders to qualify this century after Cameroon in 2002 and Nigeria in 2014.

However, the heavyweights of the group are the Netherlands, who have won 11 of their last 14 World Cup matches when not factoring in penalty shoot-outs. Three times Oranje have reached the final; three times they have been beaten. They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, of course.

GROUP B – England, Iran, United States, Scotland/Wales/Ukraine

England have progressed past the quarter-finals just once since 1966, although the most recent occasion came four years ago when losing in the semi-finals.

First up for England are Iran, who have scored nine goals in 15 World Cup matches – that goals-per-game average of 0.6 the lowest of any side to have played at least 10 times.

Back involved after missing Russia 2018, the United States will be looking to reach the knockout stages for a fourth time in their past five participations in a World Cup.

Should Wales reach the finals, the gap of 64 years between their only two finals appearances will set a record.

Scotland, who meet Ukraine in a play-off for the right to face Wales, have made more World Cup appearances (eight) without making it past the first round than any other nation.

 

GROUP C – Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

One of three South American teams to have lifted the trophy, Argentina have made it past the first round in 12 of their past 13 appearances, the only exception being in 2002.

It would be an understatement to say that Saudi Arabia have had less success in the finals, having won only three of their previous 16 World Cup matches – albeit one of those coming against Egypt in the 2018 edition.

Mexico have reached every World Cup since missing out in 1990 and tend to do well in the group stage, having advanced to the last 16 in each of their last eight appearances.

Whereas Mexico have won five of their past six opening games, first opponents Poland have won just one of their previous eight curtain-raising fixtures and have lost the last three.

GROUP D – France, Peru/Australia/UAE, Denmark, Tunisia

France are out to become the third team, after Italy (in 1938) and Brazil (in 1962) to retain the trophy. However, the last three defending champions have fallen in the group stage.

Denmark boasted the best defensive record of any side in European qualifying and have made it out of the group stage in four of their five World Cup appearances.

That is in contrast to Tunisia, who have not made the knockout rounds in six previous attempts. The Eagles of Carthage have also not beaten a European side in 10 World Cup games (D3 L7).

Tunisia have lost 60 per cent of their World Cup games, the third-highest by a team to have played 15+ games behind Saudi Arabia (69 per cent) and possible Group D opponents Australia (63 per cent).

 

GROUP E – Spain, Costa Rica/New Zealand, Germany, Japan

Spain won the World Cup in 2010, but that is the only occasion they have reached the semi-finals in their last 13 participations. However, they have won the group in four of their last five appearances.

Germany, champions in 2014, were the first side to reach Qatar 2022 aside from the hosts, and have made it to the semi-finals in four of the five World Cups this century – the best record of any side.

After reaching the last 16 in 2018, competition regulars Japan will aim to book a place in the knockouts in back-to-back editions for the first time.

Completing arguably the toughest group is either Costa Rica or New Zealand, who meet in a play-off in June. Costa Rica have appeared at five previous World Cups, while the All Whites have made it to the finals twice before.

GROUP F – Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

Belgium have qualified for more World Cups without winning it than any other European team, with this their 14th appearance. With much of their 'golden generation' either 30 or close to it, however, this is realistically the final chance for that batch of players to cement their names in the history books, after a third-place finish in 2018.

Roberto Martinez's team might meet Spain or Germany in the last 16 but should have little trouble in getting out of their group.

Canada are competing in the global showpiece for the first time since 1986, when they lost all three matches and failed to score.

Morocco have won just one of their last 10 World Cup games, with that coming against Scotland in 1998, while their last knockout-round appearance was in 1986.

Beaten finalists in 2018, Croatia have had a mixed time of things in the finals, having been eliminated in the group stage (three times) or reached the semis (twice) in their past five appearances.

 

GROUP G – Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

Brazil are the competition's most successful side with five trophies and are unbeaten in their last 15 World Cup group games, winning 12 of those. Their last such defeat was against Norway in 1998.

The next side with a chance to end that long run are Serbia, who have lost seven of their last nine World Cup matches, which is the most of any European nation since 2006. They also met Brazil in the 2018 group stage.

Another team to have been drawn with Brazil and, indeed, Serbia in Russia was Switzerland. History has repeated itself this time around. The Swiss finished above Italy in qualifying to make it to their fifth successive finals. Including the European Championships, they have reached the knockout stages in their last four major tournaments, a record only Belgium and France can match.

Cameroon make up Group G. They have played more matches at the World Cup than any other African nation (23), but they have lost the last seven of those – only Mexico (nine) have ever lost more in a row.

GROUP H – Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

Heavyweights they may be, but Portugal have won only three of their last 14 World Cup matches, each of those in the group stage. Their last knockout-round win was in the last 16 against the Netherlands in 2006. 

All being well, Cristiano Ronaldo will be featuring in a record-equalling fifth World Cup. It will almost certainly be his last, though.

Ghana's quarter-final appearance in 2010 remains the joint-best finish for an African side, alongside Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon in 1990, and they have scored in their last five World Cup games.

Uruguay controversially eliminated Ghana in the quarter-finals 12 years ago but the Black Stars have a chance for revenge here in the final round of fixtures.

First up for Uruguay, meanwhile, are South Korea, but the South American side have won their opening match at just one of their last seven World Cups.

That is good news for Son Heung-min and Co. as South Korea look to win successive finals matches for just the second time ever, having knocked out Germany four years ago.

Tite says Brazil were dealt with neither the group of "death nor of life" after they were drawn to face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in the 2022 World Cup.

The Selecao faced Switzerland and Serbia in the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, so there was a sense of deja vu when the draw was made in Doha on Friday.

As the top-ranked side in the world, Brazil will be expected to win Group G, which also includes Cameroon.

But Brazil boss Title says there will be no room for complacency.

He told reporters: "It is neither [the group] of death nor of life. Everything is the same [as Brazil’s group at Russia 2018] – all that was missing was Costa Rica!

"We're talking about Switzerland and Serbia, the teams who stopped Italy and Portugal, and also a Cameroon team that is very strong in Africa.

"We will have to raise our own game."

All three of Brazil's opponents qualified for the tournament as group winners, but Tite is focused on ensuring his side are in the best possible condition to take the tournament by storm.

"That is part of the chapter of a book. Now it's another reality, another moment," he said.

"We have to consolidate this work now. There are eight, nine more months until the end of the year. We have to confirm an evolution of the team, to affirm the quality of the team, that the athletes individually can be in their best condition.

"We have to do an invisible job of monitoring them, which for the fans maybe do not see, but it's the medical follow-up, the physical follow-up, the follow-up of the technical commission with the athlete himself.

"All this [while] respecting their clubs. We have to have all the follow-up and guidance so that they can be in the best conditions, apart from the preparatory games that we will have until the World Cup. This is the most important thing for me."

Brazil will face Serbia in their opening game of the tournament on November 24.

Tite says Brazil were dealt with neither the group of "death nor of life" after they were drawn to face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in the 2022 World Cup.

The Selecao faced Switzerland and Serbia in the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, so there was a sense of deja vu when the draw was made in Doha on Friday.

As the top-ranked side in the world, Brazil will be expected to win Group G, which also includes Cameroon.

But Brazil boss Title says there will be no room for complacency.

He told reporters: "It is neither [the group] of death nor of life. Everything is the same [as Brazil’s group at Russia 2018] – all that was missing was Costa Rica!

"We're talking about Switzerland and Serbia, the teams who stopped Italy and Portugal, and also a Cameroon team that is very strong in Africa.

"We will have to raise our own game."

All three of Brazil's opponents qualified for the tournament as group winners, but Tite is focused on ensuring his side are in the best possible condition to take the tournament by storm.

"That is part of the chapter of a book. Now it's another reality, another moment," he said.

"We have to consolidate this work now. There are eight, nine more months until the end of the year. We have to confirm an evolution of the team, to affirm the quality of the team, that the athletes individually can be in their best condition.

"We have to do an invisible job of monitoring them, which for the fans maybe do not see, but it's the medical follow-up, the physical follow-up, the follow-up of the technical commission with the athlete himself.

"All this [while] respecting their clubs. We have to have all the follow-up and guidance so that they can be in the best conditions, apart from the preparatory games that we will have until the World Cup. This is the most important thing for me."

Brazil will face Serbia in their opening game of the tournament on November 24.

Italy may have been absent from Friday's 2022 World Cup draw, but they can at least provide recent examples of the pitfalls of forecasting the finals this far in advance.

At South Africa 2010, as defending champions, the Azzurri would have expected to top an apparently kind group, drawn alongside New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia. Remarkably, Marcello Lippi's side finished bottom.

Four years later, at Brazil 2014, Italy entered the 'group of death' and fared little better, coming in third ahead of fellow big-name failures England – but predicted Group D whipping boys Costa Rica sensationally topped the standings.

It is surely too early then to form firm opinions, but where is the fun in taking such a measured approach on draw day, rather than plotting potential paths to the Lusail final?

France fans will likely be doing the latter this weekend, with Les Bleus having been handed perhaps the pick of the groups, starting against one of the United Arab Emirates, Australia or Peru before facing Denmark and then Tunisia.

Of course, France are the defending champions and four of the past five holders have bowed out at the group stage, including the most recent three in a row, while Brazil in 1962 were the last team to win consecutive tournaments.

But France's title-winning campaign in 2018 saw them grouped with Australia, Peru and Denmark, giving Didier Deschamps' men some confidence they can negotiate this task, too. In the last 16, they would then face a team from Argentina's group – Lionel Messi and Co. having provided France's second-round opponents in Russia.

Brazil might also be suffering from deja vu, again meeting Serbia and Switzerland in the group stage, with Cameroon taking Costa Rica's place this time around. Like France, the Selecao topped their pool four years ago – as every eventual champion since 1986 has.

Crucially for both, in coming up against Denmark and Switzerland, they avoided Germany – surely the biggest threat in pot two. Rejuvenated under Hansi Flick, the 2014 champions provide a complication for both Spain and Belgium.

Germany followed Spain into Group E, where Japan might pose enough problems to ensure a top-two finish is no guarantee. Or perhaps Costa Rica could spring another surprise, as they will be the fourth team in the pool should they get past New Zealand in their inter-confederation play-off.

Bookmakers downgraded Germany's hopes in the minutes after the draw, but they were always likely to face elite opposition given their place in pot two. Spain were not.

And Belgium's kind group – Canada, Morocco and Croatia are their opponents – matters little given they will likely face either Spain or Germany in the second round.

England, on the face of it, have a simpler path to the quarter-finals. The Three Lions should be able to advance through a group that also includes Iran, the United States and Scotland, Ukraine or Wales – although those make for some tasty fixtures.

In the last 16, following a good period of rest, England would face opponents from Qatar's group, which was surely the result every pot one team hoped for.

Gareth Southgate would likely welcome a meeting with Qatar, but the host nation – the only debutants in 2022 – will do well to make it that far, with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands each surely fancying their chances in a very even group.

South Africa in 2010 are the only hosts not to have progressed from the first round in World Cup history, but they could soon have company.

 

WINNERS

France – The defending champions face familiar opponents in the group and potentially in the second round, too, while they are in the same quarter of the draw as Qatar's pool and will avoid Spain, Germany, Belgium and Brazil early on.

Brazil – The tournament favourites should have no problems in the group so can settle into their campaign nicely while possible heavyweight opponents face titanic early tests.

England – The Euro 2020 finalists have been given thorough examinations by the USA, Scotland and Wales in past tournaments, but Southgate's side should advance and will back themselves again in the knockout stage.

LOSERS

Spain – La Roja have not won their World Cup opener since 2006 but simply cannot afford a slow start this time, with Germany and perhaps Belgium to play after that. From pot one, Spain's draw could not have been much worse.

Belgium – The odds for Roberto Martinez's men to go all the way drifted on Friday, as initial optimism around their group-stage draw was followed by greater inspection of a daunting path to the final.

Qatar – The hosts may be the Asian champions, but only Germany were perhaps feared more than the Netherlands from pot two, while Senegal in pot three are the African champions and have a world class operator in the form of Sadio Mane.

The draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar took place on Friday, and there are some tantalising fixtures to look forward to before the knockout rounds even begin.

Spain and Germany, two of the tournament's past three winners, are in the same group, while hosts Qatar now know they will kick things off against Ecuador on November 21.

Three teams are still to be determined, with two inter-confederation play-offs and a European play-off to be staged in June – potentially meaning an all-British affair for England, who will open up their campaign against the United States.

Reigning champions France face Denmark, Tunisia and one of Peru, the United Arab Emirates or Australia. Brazil should be confident of progressing from Group G, while Belgium, Portugal and Argentina, similarly, should have the quality to make it through.

Below is the full group-stage draw, with kick-off times and venues for each fixture yet to be confirmed.


DRAW IN FULL

Group A - Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Group B - England, Iran, United States, Wales or Scotland/Ukraine

Group C - Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

Group D - France, Peru or United Arab Emirates/Australia, Denmark, Tunisia

Group E - Spain, Costa Rica or New Zealand, Germany, Japan

Group F - Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

Group G - Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

Group H - Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

Spain will face Germany in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, while Qatar were given a tough draw as the hosts will come up against the Netherlands and Senegal.

Luis Enrique's Spain and their fellow European heavyweights Germany will do battle in Group E along with Japan, while the winner of a play-off between Costa Rica or New Zealand will be their other opponents.

Qatar will take on Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 21 before coming up against African champions Senegal and the Oranje in Group A.

The ceremony in Doha on Friday saw holders France drawn to lock horns with Denmark, Tunisia and either Peru, Australia or the United Arab Emirates in Group D.

 

Five-time champions Brazil, the top-ranked side in the world, will fight it out with Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon in Group G.

England, semi-finalists in Russia four years ago, could face neighbours and fierce rivals Wales or Scotland in Group B, although Ukraine are also in contention to qualify via the play-offs. 

Gareth Southgate's side will definitely take on the United States and Iran in Group B.

 

Copa America champions Argentina, captained by the mercurial Lionel Messi, will be expected to advance from a Group C that will see them face Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

The 2018 runners-up Croatia and Belgium were drawn in Group F along with Morocco and Canada, who qualified for a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana will be in Group H.

 

The draw is out, and the World Cup suddenly feels a lot closer, with the elite preparing to go for glory at Qatar 2022.

A likely last hurrah on the World Cup stage awaits superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, while new names will break through and rising talent will be put to the test.

Eight nations have been champions of the tournament that was first staged in 1930, and it will be France looking to defend the title this time.

Many of us pride ourselves on remembering World Cup trivia from past tournaments, but just how good is your knowledge?

These Opta-assisted 20 questions should sort the group-stage flops from the champions of World Cup quizzing. The answers are below, but don't cheat!

The first...

1. Name the English boss who at Qatar 2022 will become the first to coach a team at both the men's and women's World Cups?

2. Gregg Berhalter will become the first man to serve as player and manager of the USA at the World Cup. He appeared at the 2002 tournament and is now boss of the American side. To which present-day Premier League club did Berhalter then belong, becoming their first World Cup player?

3. Who became the first player to score a Golden Goal winner at the World Cup when he netted for France against Paraguay in a 1998 last-16 clash?

4. In the 2018 showdown between France and Croatia, who became the first player in World Cup final history to score for both teams?

5. Qatar will attempt to become the first nation from the AFC confederation to win their first World Cup finals match. Ten of the previous 11 have lost (including Israel in 1970), but who were the team who in 1982 managed a 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia?

 

The last...

6. There have been 52 hat-tricks in the tournament's history, but who was the last player to score a treble in the knockout stages of the World Cup?

7. A goalkeeper won his 159th and final international cap at the 2018 finals, when he became the oldest player to appear at the World Cup, at the age of 45 years and 161 days. He saved a penalty in a 2-1 defeat for his team against Saudi Arabia. Who was that goalkeeper and what team did he play for?

8. Ghana reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010 and Senegal did so at the 2002 finals. But who were the first team from Africa to make it to the last eight, doing so at the 1990 finals in Italy?

9. Brazil last lost a group game at the World Cup in 1998, since when they have won 12 and drawn three games at the first-round stage. Which team beat them in that 1998 tournament?

10. Cameroon have lost each of their past seven games at the World Cup (between 2002 and 2014). Only one team have ever lost more games in a row in the competition's history – nine between 1930 and 1958. Who were that team?

The most...

11. Just Fontaine scored his 13 World Cup goals in just six games for France. The competition's all-time record scorer is Germany's Miroslav Klose, who netted 16 times for his country in how many appearances: 22, 23 or 24?

12. Who will become the only team to have appeared at all 22 editions of the World Cup when they take part in Qatar 2022?

13. Iran will be making their sixth appearance at the World Cup and have never gone beyond the group stage. Which country has made the most appearances (eight) without making it past the first round?

14. Which forward had the most goal involvements of all players in European qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, scoring 12 and assisting six times in 10 games?

15. Since 1966, only three players have completed more than 12 dribbles in a single World Cup game, with Brazil's Jairzinho achieving 13 against Paraguay in 1970 and Paul Gascoigne matching that total for England against Cameroon in 1990. Who managed the most – 15 in a game against Italy at the 1994 tournament?

 

The GOATs...

16. Which superstar, who scored eight times and provided eight assists in 21 World Cup games, also holds the record for the most handball decisions given against a player at the tournament (seven) since records began?

17. Who holds the record for the most minutes played in World Cup history, having featured in 2,216 minutes of finals action?

18. Portugal great Cristiano Ronaldo is one of only four players to score in four different World Cup tournaments. He will attempt to go one better this year, but Ronaldo currently sits alongside Pele, Klose and which other player?

19. Between them, Ronaldo (seven) and Lionel Messi (six) have managed 13 World Cup goals. How many of those goals came in the knockout rounds?

20. Ronaldo is one of just two European players to have either scored and/or assisted a goal in each of the last five major international tournaments (World Cup/European Championship). Who is the other player to have managed the feat?

 

Answers:

1. John Herdman (Canada – he managed Canada Women at the 2015 Women's World Cup)
2. Crystal Palace
3. Laurent Blanc (France)
4. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
5. Kuwait.
6. Tomas Skuhravy (for Czechoslovakia against Costa Rica, last 16, 1990)
7. Essam El Hadary (Egypt)
8. Cameroon
9. Norway
10. Mexico
11. 24
12. Brazil
13. Scotland
14. Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
15. Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria)
16. Diego Maradona (Argentina)
17. Paolo Maldini (Italy)
18. Uwe Seeler (West Germany)
19. Zero
20. Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

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