Biggest Names Playing in 2022 FIFA World Cup


Every four years, the World Cup draws in casual and devout fans alike for a global spectacle. The time has come in Qatar to welcome the 32 teams who will compete for a shot at international glory. 

While a whole swath of players has been sidelined in recent weeks with injuries, there’s no shortage of talent taking the field in Qatar. Many of the favorites, from Ronaldo to Messi to Lewandowski, are still around, but a new era of footballers is also being ushered in to take center stage. 

Here are some of the biggest names to know ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal 

Despite boasting a lineup headlined by one of the best players in the world, Portugal has struggled to punch at the same weight as its European counterparts in the World Cup. They’ve only finished in the top 10 twice, most recently finishing fourth in 2006 with a 21-year-old Ronaldo leading the way. 

At 37, it’s fair to assume Qatar could be Ronaldo’s swan song World Cup. Portugal is comfortably favored in Group H (Korea, Ghana and Uruguay), so this has all the makings for an impressive run by Ronaldo. 

Thomas Muller, Germany

Muller burst onto the scene at the 2010 World Cup and cemented his name in the record books ever since. He shocked the world in South Africa, winning the Golden Boot, awarded to the tournament’s top goalscorer, for his five goals — all while still shy of 21 years old. 

He followed his electric debut with another five goals in his second World Cup campaign. This 2014 performance was good for a silver boot as the second-highest goalscorer and silver ball, essentially a runner-up to the tournament MVP. Oh, and a World Cup victory. 

Muller hasn’t been as dominant on the World Cup stage as recent, with Germany crashing out in the group stage in 2018. However, if history is any indication, Muller has the clutch gene that could prove costly to any team that underestimates the German squad.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

It’s now or never for Messi. The legendary forward has nearly every award imaginable… except the elusive World Cup victory. He nearly secured a win in 2014 while playing in neighboring Brazil, but was thwarted in the 113th minute when German forward Mario Gotze found the back of the net for the game-winning goal. 

Luckily for the 35-year-old, the current roster is shaping up to be the strongest team Argentina has fielded in two decades. If teammates Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria can stay on track coming back from injury and remain healthy through the group stage, Messi is in a good position to make another run. 

Kylian Mbappe, France

Things have been all up for Kylian Mbappe since the last World Cup. In Russia, Mbappe joined Pele as the second teenager ever to score in a World Cup Final, contributing the fourth and final goal in France’s routing of Croatia. 

Since then, the 23-year-old PSG forward just continues to amaze. He recently signed a contract that’s rumored to make him the highest-paid player in the world and just made his third-straight FIFA cover appearance. 

With Mbappe playing alongside Karim Benzema, France boasts one of the most formidable offensive units up top. With injuries to both N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba leaving the midfield extremely sparse, Mbappe will be tasked with another incredible performance if France wants to defend its title and become the first team to repeat as champions since Brazil in 1962. 

Harry Kane, England

The reigning Golden Boot winner is back and exceptions have never been higher. Up until a matter of weeks ago, England hadn’t won a major international trophy in over half a century. They’ve finished in fourth place twice since that 1966 World Cup victory, most recently in 2018, but weren’t able to close the deal. Then, along came the Lionesses

The women’s team electrified a country with their UEFA victory last month and the jokes practically wrote themselves, with many quick to ridicule the men’s team that continues to struggle to execute under the brightest lights.

Kane has a chance to set the record straight in Qatar. England is currently ranked No. 5 in FIFA standings. This is only Kane’s second World Cup appearance, but the 29-year-old forward is in a good position to shoot up the leaderboard of all-time scorers with a deep tournament run.

Son Heung-min, South Korea

Son and Kane are usually a package deal, but the Tottenham duo will be splitting up — temporarily — come November.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who has had more of an individual impact on their team than Son. Under Son’s leadership and success in the Premier League, soccer continues to take off in South Korea. He’s coming off a Golden Boot campaign in which he and Liverpool’s Mo Salah led the Premier League in scoring with 23 goals.

Son’s World Cup hopes looked in jeopardy this past week after suffering a fracture near his left eye in a Champions League match. However, the 30-year-old underwent surgery and assured fans on Wednesday back home that he’ll be fit and cleared to compete in Qatar..

Korea drew a relatively easy group, with their toughest competition coming from Portugal. They’ll still need to get past Uruguay and Ghana, but there’s definitely a path for Son and Korea out of the group stage.

Neymar, Brazil

It’s hard to pick a standout on a team as stacked as Brazil, but Neymar continues to stand in a league of his own. 

The forward has the fourth-most caps in Brazilian history and trails only Pele himself for most international goals. At the club level, he is one of the most talented and sought-after talents. He’s teamed up with France’s Mbappe since 2017 when the Brazilian joined for a record €222 million transfer. 

Neymar is inheriting a tradition of Brazilian soccer that is almost as rich as the World Cup itself. While Brazil owns a record five championships, they haven’t won since 2002. This 20-year dry spell is the country’s second-longest in World Cup history. 

Christian Pulisic, United States

Despite not having any World Cup experience heading into Qatar, Pulisic’s legacy is well underway. For the better part of a decade, the Pennsylvania native has been heralded as the second coming of Landon Donovan and the much-needed savior for the USMNT. 

So far, he’s risen to extremely high expectations. He set nearly every benchmark throughout his early career, including becoming the youngest player to score for the U.S. in the modern era and being named the youngest captain in team history at age 20, earning him the nickname “Captain America.” At the club level, Pulisic is under contract with Chelsea for $73 million, the most – by a lot – for an American on the global stage.

While he’s giving fans of the U.S. plenty to cheer about so far, the pressure will be at an all-time high in Qatar as all eyes will be on the prodigy years in the making. He’ll have a chance to square off with plenty of his Premier League challengers in Group B, featuring England, Wales and Iran. 

Alphonso Davies, Canada

The journey to the World Cup for both Davies and Canada has been anything but easy. 

Davies was born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana. In 2005, his family moved to Canada where he picked up soccer. From a young age, he was a standout on the pitch but reportedly struggled with the language barrier as he worked to learn English. He remained a Liberian national until 2017 when he earned Canadian citizenship. 

Even after becoming a citizen, he’s had to wait five years to represent Canada on the world stage. Many Canadians, however, have waited for this day since well before Davies was born.

The one and only time Canada made the World Cup was in 1986 when they finished 24th out of 24 teams. 

Much like Son, Davies is the heart and soul of this national team. Canada’s World Cup chances, however, nearly took a nosedive last weekend when Davies came up lame in a Bundesliga match. After confirming that he injured his hamstring and would miss the next two club matches, the 22-year-old confirmed he’ll be ready to go in Qatar.

Canada will have its hands full with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco in the group stage, but it’s hard not to cheer for Davies and the Maple Leafs to pull an upset. 

Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium

De Bruyne – the latest in a long line of talented Belgian footballers — is tasked with bringing Belgium its first-ever World Cup victory. 

Throughout the last two World Cups, De Bruyne showed glimpses of what he’s capable of but typically fell into a more complimentary role. A lot has changed in four years and De Bruyne is ready to take the reins.

De Bruyne has proven he’s the complete package, coming off a Premier League season in which he led Manchester City to the best regular season record and was named Player of the Season for the second time in his career. 

Belgium is consistently one of the best teams in the world. Will De Bruyne be the answer to their prayer for a long-awaited title? 

Virgil van Dijk, Netherlands

Believe it or not, 2022 is the first World Cup featuring Virgil van Dijk. The 31-year-old Dutchman has been a staple of international soccer, often donning slicked-back hair and a low bun. But he’s still just as experienced as the next wide-eyed youngster making their World Cup debut. 

Despite posting top-three finishes in the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, the Netherlands failed to qualify in 2018, much to the shock of the entire soccer world. Meanwhile, van Dijk, who hadn’t made the team until 2015, was left waiting another four years to compete on the world stage. 

Van Dijk is known for his physical prowess and vocal leadership from the back line. Forwards and strikers from Messi to Norway’s Erling Haaland have all lamented the challenge van Dijk poses to any offense. 

Robert Lewandowski, Poland

Lewandowski is synonymous with Polish soccer at this point. Not only does he own the country’s record for most caps (132), but he also has the record for most international goals (76). 

Lewandowski is one of the most revered soccer players of the 21st century, known for his technical skills and ability to go undetected in the penalty box. Lewandowski has also played a key role in Bayern Munich’s eight-consecutive Bundesliga titles, leading the German league in scoring for a record seven of those seasons. 

Poland returned to the World Cup in 2018 after a 12-year hiatus and Lewandowski played every minute of the group stage. His efforts weren’t enough for his country to advance. 

Luka Modric, Croatia

Modric makes everyone around him better. He’s that special. 

The Croatian midfielder worked his way through the club league at home before jumping to the Premier League in 2008 where he led Tottenham to its first Champions League appearance in over four decades. From there, he moved to Real Madrid where he won five Champions League trophies and the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the best footballer in the world. 

On the national stage, Modric has led a rebirth of Croatian soccer. In 2018, Croatia shocked the world by making the finals where Modric was awarded the Golden Ball, given to the best player of the tournament, despite losing to France 4-2.

Age really is just a number for Modric. At 36, he continues to win at a high level and will be a major piece of Croatia’s attempt to return to the finals in Qatar.

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