Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on August 12, 2018. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and football fans across the world could not be more excited.

Although it's a bit different with the tournament being held in the middle of a season, the stakes are as high as ever as 32 countries battle it out to be world champions.

With the tournament getting so close now - here are the predictions for Group A. 

Qatar

Key player/s: Almoez Ali

Almoez Ali will undoubtedly be Qatar's most important player at the upcoming World Cup. The Sudanese-born attacker has 39 goals in 76 appearances for his country and has also scored the winner in Qatar's last two friendlies.

Player/s to watch: Akram Afif

The 25-year-old pacey winger will definitely be one to keep an eye on this World Cup. Although his most recent Asian Champions League campaign with Al-Saad was quiet, Akram Afif put together 30 G/A in just 18 games in the Qatar Stars League last season, proving himself as one of the most dangerous Qatari players for this World Cup.

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Prediction: Last in group

Whilst Qatar do have some dangerous attacking players, they simply do not have the quality to compete at this level. Will comfortably finish bottom of the group without managing to win a single point. 

Ecuador 

Key player/s: Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan

This key Ecuadorian-Brighton duo have been tearing up the Premier League this season and have thus established their status as the most important players for the Ecuador national team.

Their club sits in seventh spot in the Premier League and without them both it would be a completely different story.

Caicedo has been brilliant through the middle of the park, creating plenty of chances and making game-saving tackles, whilst Estupinan has been crucial as a left-wing back.

Expect both to be heavily involved in this year's World Cup campaign.

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Player/s to watch: Piero Hincapie

Ecuador's Piero Hincapie has been previously hailed as one to look out for in the future and he can really announce himself to the world later this month.

The 20-year-old centre-back has already played 20 times for his country and has been one of Bayer Leverkusen's most important players this season and last.

Hincapie is a very quick and composed defender who can also play as a left-back and possesses an impressive passing ability. He will be brilliant to watch this World Cup.

Prediction: 2nd in group

Ecuador are a bit of a dark horse for this tournament, having plenty more players who are more than capable of playing a vital role to get them past the group stage. 

Captain Enner Valencia is very familiar with finding the back of the net, and there are plenty of Ecuadorians in the MLS that had brilliant seasons, which include LA FC's Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios.

It's very hard to pick between Ecuador and Senegal, but I think Ecuador will sneak through to the knockout stages this year.

Senegal

Key player/s: Sadio Mane

Despite his injury cloud, it's no doubt that Sadio Mane is the most important player to this nation and is quite possibly the best African player in the world right now. 

The former Liverpool man needs no introduction, having been named player of the tournament at the most recent African Cup of Nations, which Senegal won, as well as becoming his nation's all time top scorer in June this year.

A once-in-a-generation-type player who will be delightful to watch at the World Cup.

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Player/s to watch: Nicolas Jackson

21-year-old forward Nicolas Jackson is yet to be capped for his country but will more than likely get game time at the upcoming World Cup due to his recent form with Villarreal.

Jackson can play any position in a front three and has featured 13 times in La Liga this season, scoring twice and assisting twice.

An exciting young attacker to keep an eye on for the group stages. 

Prediction: 3rd in Group

The AFCON champions have been dealt a very tough group to make it out of, and unfortunately, I can't see them getting out this year.

Apart from Sadio Mane, they really don't have a lot of players that are in form. Koulibaly has had a tough start to his Chelsea career and has found himself benched for Trevoh Chalobah, whilst Ismaila Sarr is stuck in the championship with Watford.

Even goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy has found himself dropped for Kepa Arrizabalaga this season.

Whilst it's possible these players find form at the World Cup, Ecuador's players have the better form heading into the tournament and I think we will see an underwhelming performance from Senegal, leading them to be eliminated in the group stages.

Netherlands

Key player/s: Virgil Van Dijk

A man that needs no introduction. Virgil Van Dijk is a man mountain and quite easily the most important player for the Netherlands. 

Although the 6'4 centre-back hasn't had the easiest start to his season with Liverpool, he has hit his strides recently and looks to be in prime form leading up to the tournament. 

Van Dijk is one of the best defenders in the world and will be key to the Netherlands' success at this World Cup.

Player/s to watch: Cody Gakpo

Cody Gakpo has quickly risen into to contention as one of the most promising players in the world, and is almost the #1 player to keep an eye on this World Cup.

The 23-year-old winger has 21 G/A in just 13 games for PSV this season as they sit top of the league in the Eredivisie. He is quickly attracting interest from multiple big clubs but that interest could go through the roof if he has a quality World Cup campaign.

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He is almost guaranteed to start in this Netherlands side and it will be interesting to see if he can bring his Eredivisie form to the world stage.

Prediction: Group Winners

The Netherlands ooze too much quality to not top this group. They will win all three of their group games and easily progress to the knockout stages.

Gakpo, Van Dijk, De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong will be the standouts as they progress comfortably through their group.

The only worry for the Dutch is that they lack a complete striker, and 20-year-old Brian Brobbey may be the player that takes the #9 role. 

Nevertheless, the Netherlands will be comfortable Group A winners.

Matchday Picks

MD1:

Qatar 1-3 Ecuador

Senegal 1-2 Netherlands

MD2:

Qatar 0-3 Senegal

Netherlands 2-0 Ecuador

MD3:

Ecuador 2-1 Senegal

Netherlands 4-0 Qatar

Table

                            W       D       L        P

 

  • Netherlands     3        0       0         9
  • Ecuador            2        0        1        6
  • Senegal            1        0        2        3
  • Qatar                0       0        3        0