The Ups and Downs of International Soccer

By: Luca Muehlbauer

[Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The World Cup, which will be held in Qatar, is coming up. The tournament is set to start on the 20th of November, and just the past week we had the last international break- when club teams take an extended break for national teams to play matches, usually friendlies- before the World Cup. There have been many injuries, losses and wins during this two week span. Some things have been surprising while others have been more or less normal. In this article the biggest surprises of this past international break and which teams are looking the strongest coming into the World Cup will be reported on.

The Strong Teams:

Belgium: They have been in the top 10 for the past 4-6 years. They have some of the best players on their squad and this world cup will most likely be that last for many of them. Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois are the stars of the team. They will be the leaders for this wonderful team. However this past international break has not been so great. Lukaku has been out with an injury so he did not play and they only won one out of the two games. They lost to the Netherlands in their final game of the break. They are still a strong team and if they can get Lukaku back, they will probably still be a favorite to win. Many players will be putting everything they got in this world cup because it will most likely be their last. 

Brazil: Many say this could be their sixth world cup win. With the team they have this year, I don’t doubt it. They have an amazing attack starting with Neymar and Vinicius and Richarlison. But that isn’t all, they have plenty others who can do damage to the opposing team. Their defense is led by Thiago Silva and Marquinhos who are both very strong defenders and their midfield is led by Casemiro. Those are just the headline players but the whole starting eleven is scary to look at, they have a very strong team that could easily go all the way. This past international break has really shown that they are a favorite, with their last friendly being a 5-1 win vs Tunisia, it is hard not to choose them to win the world cup. 

Argentina: They are always a favorite and especially this year. This coming World Cup will most likely be Lionel Messi’s last world cup. He will be giving it his all to win it for his country, but that isn’t the only thing Argentina has. They have many other stars including Lautaro Martinez, Rodrigo De Paul, Paulo Dybala, and Lisandro Martinez. This past international break really showed it too, their record keeps on going as they have a 35 game unbeaten streak going into the world cup and they took two wins in the friendlies. They beat Jamaica and Honduras. Both games they won 3-0. They may have been simple games but  they did look really good and ready for this coming World Cup. 

Germany: Germany is always a frightful team to come against in any game. They always have great players and a great team. They just came off a decent international break with a tie and a loss. They weren’t the best results but they did show against England that they can be a great team. This coming World Cup will be tough for them with a young squad, but hopefully their veterans can help them get to where they want to be. Their last world cup did not go as planned but they want to avenge their performance in this coming World Cup, so they will be hoping to get to the knockout stage at least. 

The Interesting Teams:

Uruguay: Uruguay are not a favorite to win the world cup but they will definitely put on a fight for whoever comes across them. They do have a strong team but it won’t be enough. They have a very strong attack with Luis Suarez and Darwin Núñez, their midfield is a little weak but aggressive which helps them quite a bit. But they do lose possession quite a bit, their star is Valverde in the midfield but he plays more wide so in the middle they have trouble. Defensively, they are pretty strong in the central possession but now with an injury to Ronald Araujo everything can change and the backs are good but not great, they lack confidence and don’t have much experience. They are coming off a big win against Canada but they also lost to Iran, which was not very good. They will be in a tough group so they will have to give it their all to make it to the knockout stage this coming World Cup. 

Denmark: Denmark is a tough team, they have a great spirit when they play and they are known for some heroic runs in tournaments. Now, with Christian Eriksen back they could be making another huge run in this world cup. They are not a favorite to win it but they can win some big games and make it far into the knockout stage. They don’t have the best squad in the world but they have good leadership and they will do anything to win. They put it all on the field. This past international break they looked very good. They won a huge game against France, but then they lost to Croatia as well. So they could potentially make a big run in this coming World Cup. 

Netherlands: Netherlands are known for being a great team and almost winning it all . The Netherlands have the most final appearances (3) without winning a world cup. This world cup will not be different. They have a strong team especially on defense with Van Dijk and De Ligt in the center. Then they have Memphis Depay in the attack and if Frenkie De Jong comes back from injury they will have him in the midfield. Sadly Georginio Wijnaldum will not be able to participate in this coming world cup due to injury so they will have to rely on De Jong. They are coming off a very good International break. They beat Belgium and Poland. They are looking like a strong team but it is known that they have trouble winning the big tournaments so this coming World Cup they will try and bring the glory home and prove the doubters wrong. 

Spain: Spain is a favorite to win the world cup but many people have their doubts about them. They had a sketchy few games this past break with a loss to Switzerland  (but they did beat Portugal). They do look like a strong team with Alvora Morata and Ferran Torres in the attack. The midfield is really their strength where they have Pedri, Rodri and Sergio Busquets. On the defense they are quite weak. They are missing many of their stars including Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique from the last world cup. Both of them are older and most likely wouldn’t be able to lead them. They are missing players, they don’t have much depth on defense or attack. They must control the midfield if they want to win this World Cup. 

The Problematic Teams: 

United States: They are not looking good. They have come off a terrible display against Japan and Saudi Arabia where overall they only had 2 shots on target and both of those shots came against Saudi Arabia. They lost to Japan 2-0 and tied to Saudi Arabia 0-0. They lack depth in their squad. They will not go very far in the World Cup. They will most likely make it to the knockout stage but they will probably be out quickly. Giovanni Reyna is injury prone, he is always injured and doesn’t stay healthy. They have Christian Pulisic but he is very inconsistent and Weston Mckinnie and Ricardo Pepi just are on and off as well. They have plenty of other youngsters like Brenden Aaronson that have no experience so you can’t really trust them. It’s a very young team that won’t live up to the hope. They will be out early and they will have to hope for the next one in 2026.  

England: They are supposed to be one of the favorites but this past international break they did so poorly that they were dropped to Nations league B. They have not been playing well and the thing that is killing them is the lineup Gareth Southgate ( He is the manager for the England national team)  is choosing. He is starting players by pretty much his relationship with them. He has chosen Kieran Trippier over Trent Alexander-Arnold and he keeps starting Harry Maguire which hasn’t been working either. England has many problems and their main problem is that they are not choosing the right lineup. They have to make a lot of changes and doing it in the world cup is not smart. But when they are in a situation like this, they may have to. 

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t the answer anymore. They need to find someone they can rely on day in and day out. Portugal is having trouble on the attacking end because they rely on Ronaldo too much. He isn’t the player he used to be. He is still a great player but they need someone else. They may sometimes get a good game from Joao Felix or Bruno Fernandes but they are inconsistent. They have a strong midfield and defense that can hold them to a certain point but then they need options up top, which at the moment they don’t have. They need someone fast. This World Cup will be a tough one for them. 

Mexico: Mexico is a very young team, they are sort of like the United States but a little better. They overall want it more and they may be able to make it to the knockout stage and get an upset. But, overall they don’t have much on their team. They don’t have much talent in their attack, and their defense and midfield isn’t what it used to be. Diego Lainez and Raul Jimenez are their star players, they have to really step it up if they want to win a couple of games. They will be very nervous coming into the world cup and it will be tough for them to adjust. They will have to play big teams as well which may give them quite a bit of trouble in the World Cup.  

Other Teams:

Senegal: They have a strong team and are coming off a big tournament win in the African cup of Nations. They are considered the best African team at the moment. They also have many top players. For example, Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy. All these players are currently playing in Europe. Mendy and Koulibaly are on the same team in Chelsea, while Sadio Mane is in Germany with Bayern. This is a very strong team that is very courageous. They have a great bond with each other. They are always happy as well and if they stay together and work hard it is possible that they can make it to the knockout stage. 

South Korea: South Korea is a strong team but they have a very tough group. They have their star player in Son Heung-Min, who is a very good player and is always in top form. The team is very cheerful and they did have a huge upset against Germany in the last world cup to knock them out. This year they will be hoping to make it farther than the knockout stage. This team is now more experienced and they will be hoping to make a better run. 

This World Cup will bring out a lot of glory and pain. Many teams will succeed and many teams will not. This World Cup will not be the same as usual, but it will still have the competitive spirit from the teams and there will still be blood, sweat and tears every game. Each team will give it their all, making this World Cup one to remember.

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