World Cup: Group A preview and best bets

By Nigel Seeley  (VSiN.com) 

November 17, 2022 02:25 PM
USATSI_19444365

The 2022 World Cup is finally here, and VSiN's soccer handicapper Nigel Seeley has picks, predictions and best bets for every group as part of the VSiN World Cup Guide.

Here is his Group A preview for The Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar:

Odds to win the group

The Netherlands -280

Senegal +450

Ecuador +500 

Qatar +1000 

Ecuador

Ecuador is without doubt one of the weakest teams in the World Cup. You can bet them at 200-1 at some shops to be crowned World Cup winners, and even that price doesn’t get me interested.

In its defense, Ecuador arrives at the World Cup in good form as it is on an unbeaten run of six, including impressive results against Nigeria (win) and Argentina (draw). It finished fourth in South America behind the big three qualifiers (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay), which was a good performance. Ecuador certainly has earned its place in these finals qualifying behind those Major powers in the game.

Key Players

Moses Caicedo

No stranger to EPL followers, Brighton’s Caicedo has made a great start to the season, playing in every game so far this season. He was not an expensive purchase, just £3.6 million from Indipendiente in August 2021. He has been so impressive for Brighton since arriving that it must rank as one of the best pieces of business the club has ever done.

It is easy to forget that Caicedo is still only 20, but he has already collected 25 caps and scored 2 goals for his country. Ecuador will be hoping he can continue his strong form into the Tournament itself.

Enner Valencia

An attacking player who now plays for the Turkish Giants Fenerbahce. He is better known from his time in the EPL from 2014-17 with West Ham. During that time, he was also loaned out at Everton during the 2016-17 season. His time in England was not exactly prolific. He only netted 11 goals in his 75 games with both clubs, so it is probably no surprise he left the League and ended up in Turkey.

Valencia, who has always been one of the main strikers for his country, has a much better goal ratio in the international game. His 74 International Caps have netted a healthy 35 goals since 2012.

Prediction

I have a real concern with Ecuador: The pressure of playing in the Opener of the whole tournament against Qatar will be too much for them. If they fail to win that opening game, which I fear is likely, then I can see them finishing at the bottom of this group.

Senegal 

Senegal arrives here in 18th place in the overall rankings after beating Egypt 3-1 on penalties to qualify for the finals. This was the second dose of heartbreak Egypt received from Senegal because it was also defeated by Senegal 4-2 on penalties in the Afcon competition.

In both games, former Liverpool and now Bayern Munich star Sadio Mane scored the winning penalty for Senegal, defeating his former Liverpool teammate Mohammad Salah. For Senegal to do well, Mane will have to really come to the World Cup party.

Key Players

Sadio Mane 

We must start with that man Mane, who is one of the most talented and exciting players in the world. He was second recently in the Ballon D’or to the Champions League-winning striker Karim Benzema.

He has had a slow start to his career with new club Bayern Munich, but he has landed 5 goals in his 10 appearances.

Edouard Mendy

For the last few years, Mendy has been undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers anywhere around the globe. He has made great saves and was always a commanding presence behind the Chelsea defense.

He does arrive at the World Cup with a big problem: New Chelsea manager Graham Potter is currently preferring the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, Kepa, over him. Mendy will be desperate for a strong tournament not just for his beloved Senegal, but to catch his manager’s eye and try and wrestle his place back in the Chelsea team.

One thing for sure: He is one of the first names written down on the team sheet alongside his Chelsea teammate Kalidou Koulibaly.

Prediction

This Senegal side is strong enough to make it out of the Group stage. I believe it is likely to finish second, which may well set up a fascinating last 16 clash with England.

The Netherlands 

The Netherlands goes into this World Cup in fine form and in are worthy favorites to win this group at a general price of -225. This impressive and consistent team is unbeaten in 15 games and last tasted defeat in the Euros. That was in a round-of-16 game against the Czech Republic. Since that disappointment, it has put together a run of 11 wins and 4 draws and enters the competition as a live contender to win it. There is money coming for the Dutch to lift their first World Cup and they have shortened to around +120 to finally do it after so many near misses in finals and semifinals.

Key Players

Virgil Van Dijk

The Dutch talisman has proven over several years now to be the best center back in the world. Like many players on the Liverpool side, he is struggling for top form at the moment.

He is vital for this Dutch team because of his ability to drive the team forward from the back as much as his commanding defensive presence in the air defending and attacking corners. His nation’s chances of winning surely depend on him having a strong tournament as other players feed off him in terms of confidence.

Frenkie de Jong

De Jong is another player struggling with his club side, in his case Barcelona. He is not featured every week under Xavi, which will be a source of great frustration. The former Ajax star is a technically gifted midfielder who also has an eye for goals. He will look to cause opposition defenses problems in this group and can create his own chances by running at defenses as well as creating scoring opportunities for others.

Memphis Depay

Depay, the former Man United star now with Barcelona, has scored 42 goals in 81 appearances since his debut in 2013. Like his teammate De Jong, he has struggled to hold down a regular place in the starting lineup, which is hardly a surprise given his rival for a start is the great Robert Lewandowski!

If a fit Depay is in the Dutch starting 11, he will be hoping a strong World Cup could fire him back into the Barca team more regularly. This Dutch team create a lot of chances, and he will have his supporters to be top tournament scorer

Prediction

I take this strong Dutch team on a long unbeaten run to push Senegal into second place and go through to the knockout stages as Group winners.

Qatar  

Qatar will be the first country in World Cup history to make its tournament debut as the host nation.

There has been a great deal of controversy and non-soccer concerns surrounding the World Cup taking place here, but now the event has arrived, and we will see the host nation in action.

As the 50th ranked team in the world, Qatar’s main aim will be to get out of the group stages and reach the knockout, but this is a difficult group to get through.

Key Player

Almoez Ali

Qatar beat Japan in 2019 in the Asia Cup Final, and Almoez Ali scored an impressive 9 goals in the tournament. He is closing in on becoming Qatar’s greatest goal scorer with 39 goals in just 76 games. If Qatar is to realize its dream of qualifying from this group, then a great deal rests on the star striker’s shoulders.

This level of opposition will be several notches above what he and his teammates have played against before, and that must be a concern.

Prediction

It is always difficult to face a tournament host in the opening game, so I cannot see Qatar losing to Ecuador. The home team will be used to conditions and will have 99% of the crowd roaring them on in a white-hot atmosphere.

That is where the good news ends as I do not see Qatar getting anything from its next two games against Senegal or The Netherlands. I believe Qatar will give a good account, but ultimately face elimination and will finish third in the group.

Best Bets

Netherlands and Senegal to qualify from Group A at +120

Ecuador to finish bottom of Group A +300

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