World Cup schedule, standings and groups

Each dot represents a game

Each dot represents a game

Each dot represents a game

Each dot represents a game


The 2022 World Cup is underway in Qatar, moved from its usual spot on the sports calendar to avoid the summer heat. The tournament began on Nov. 20, with the host nation dominated in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.

The U.S. men’s national team, led by Coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, is back on soccer’s biggest stage after a disastrous 2018 absence. The U.S. landed in Group B along with England, Wales and Iran.

England easily won its opener against Iran, while the U.S. and Wales played to a draw. England and the United States are set to meet in a high-profile clash on Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving.

The presence of host Qatar, a soccer minnow that has never qualified for the World Cup, as the seeded team threatened to produce an underwhelming Group A. But the draw managed to still serve up a pair of dark-horse contenders: the Netherlands and Senegal.

The Dutch, three-time World Cup runners-up, have re-emerged as a force in UEFA thanks to such world-class talents as Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong. Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations this year but will be missing Bayern Munich star Sadio Mané because of a leg injury. Although any nation that successfully navigates South American qualifying shouldn’t be underestimated, Ecuador looks like the group’s long shot.

Group A analysis

Its recent UEFA Nations League relegation aside, England has all the makings of a World Cup contender after claiming third place four years ago in Russia and advancing to the Euro 2020 final. Tottenham striker Harry Kane sets the tone up top, Chelsea winger Raheem Sterling keeps opponents off balance and rising stars like Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Mason Mount look ready for the global stage.

On paper, the United States should be the marginal favorite to join England in advancing: The Americans won both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup and boast an unprecedented wealth of young stars testing themselves in Europe’s top leagues, including Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Juventus’s Weston McKennie and AC Milan’s Sergiño Dest. But a rocky qualifying run and underwhelming September friendlies could open the door for veteran-heavy Wales — competing in its first World Cup since 1958 — and an Iran squad that dominated in Asia’s qualifying campaign.

Group B analysis

After Lionel Messi at last led Argentina to an international title last summer, when the Albiceleste topped rival Brazil for the Copa America crown, can the 35-year-old footballing icon cap his legacy with an elusive World Cup title? There are few — if any — more compelling narratives in Qatar.

The heavyweight Argentines are joined in the group by a Mexico team that has fallen on tough times — failing to win the Concacaf Nations League or Gold Cup or finish atop the region in World Cup qualifying — but is still looking to win its first knockout-round game since 1986. A Poland squad led by Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, winner of the past two FIFA men’s player of the year prizes, will also vie for a spot in the knockout round alongside underdog Saudi Arabia.

Group C analysis

After crashing out in the second round of last year’s European Championship, France will look to get back on track and become the first nation to repeat as World Cup champion since Pelé and Brazil did so in 1962. The French have the talent to pull it off: Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé, a teenage prodigy four years ago, has blossomed into a full-blown superstar, and the likes of Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann are still in the picture. But injuries to N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema will put France’s depth to the test.

The group’s sentimental favorite, however, is a Denmark team led by Manchester United playmaker Christian Eriksen — back on the field and thriving after suffering a traumatizing cardiac arrest in the opening game of the Danes’ Euro 2020 run. The group is rounded out by Tunisia and Australia, two teams that have combined to make it past the group stage just once and have never won a knockout round game.

Group D analysis

Only one group in Qatar includes multiple past World Cup winners, and it’s Group E. It so happens that the two past winners also aren’t all that far removed from their most recent victories: Spain was the champion in South Africa in 2010, while Germany took the crown in Brazil in 2014. Both squads have changed since those World Cup-winning campaigns, but these two European rivals will surely be vying for the top spot in the group.

The other two teams here have experience playing the spoiler against the perennial contenders on the biggest stage. Costa Rica, which went on a memorable run to the quarterfinals in 2014, was the last of the 32 teams to reach this year’s tournament, sealing its spot after a fourth-place finish in Concacaf qualifying and a playoff win. Japan reached the knockouts in 2018 and impressed in a shutout win over the United States last month.

Group E analysis

For most of the past four years, Belgium held the top spot in FIFA’s rankings. The Red Devils regularly feature some of the world’s best players — from star midfielders Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) and Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) to Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, who tied as the second-leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup. Despite all that talent, a major trophy has evaded the Belgians. In what will probably be the final run for their “Golden Generation,” they’ll try to change that in Qatar.

After finishing atop the Concacaf qualifying table, Canada is at its first World Cup in more than 30 years, led by a talented crop of young players. Morocco has seen some tumult following its quarterfinal exit at AFCON, but Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech is back after a spell away from the national team. Then there’s Croatia: Only four years removed from a trip to the World Cup final in Russia, this may also be the last major tournament for its own “Golden Generation.”

Group F analysis

Brazil isn’t just a favorite to win Group G. It’s a popular choice to win the whole tournament — and for good reason. The top-ranked Brazilians will contend for their country’s sixth World Cup (and first since 2002) with one of the deepest squads in Qatar. With stars like Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar and Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior, A Seleção enters the World Cup with just one loss — to rival Argentina in July 2021 — in its past 29 matches.

It will be hard to stop a team as talent-laden as Brazil from finishing first here, but the other three countries will battle it out for the group’s second place in the knockout stage. Serbia is a good candidate to challenge for that spot, arriving in Qatar on an impressive run of form behind strikers Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus). Switzerland made it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2020 in the summer of 2021 knocking out defending world champion France along the way, while underdog Cameroon will try to make its first trip past the group stage since 1990.

Group G analysis

This group is one of the harder to predict among the eight in Qatar. The favorite here, Portugal, needed two wins in the playoffs to even secure its spot at the World Cup. This could be the final major international tournament for Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo, the 37-year-old Manchester United star, and all eyes will be watching to see if he and Argentina’s Lionel Messi could renew their rivalry one final time somewhere in the knockout stage.

Uruguay has a talented cast of characters — fronted by entertaining yet controversial striker Luis Suárez — but it remains to be seen whether it can put the pieces together to make a deep run past the group stage. South Korea will ride on the strength of Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min, one of the world’s best scorers and biggest stars. After a rocky exit from AFCON earlier this year, Ghana will hope it can turn the corner toward a stronger performance in Qatar.

Group H analysis

The group stage will wrap Dec. 2, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout rounds beginning the next day. The round of 16 will pair teams that finished first in their group with teams that finished second in a corresponding group, so group A teams will face off with group B teams, C with D and so on. Once those matchups are confirmed and the bracket is set, each team’s potential path to the final becomes more clear. From here on out matches cannot end in a tie, so FIFA’s overtime and shootout rules will apply. To avoid too many rematches, teams from the same groups will be positioned on opposite sides of the bracket, so they won’t be able to meet again until the final or the third-place game should they lose in the semifinals.

The U.S. men’s national team will play in the most balanced World Cup group, Group B. According to the FIFA’s rankings, there are only 15 positions between the highest-ranked team in the group, England, which is fifth, and the lowest, Iran, which is 20th. Conversely, there are 52 positions between the two extremes in Group H, which contains Portugal, ranked ninth, and Ghana, ranked at a tournament-low 61st.

Eight groups of four teams will pull from the six FIFA confederations.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Eight groups of four teams will pull from the six FIFA confederations.

And Costa Rica (31) or New Zealand (101)

North, Central America and Caribbean

Eight groups of four teams will pull from the six FIFA confederations.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Eight groups of four teams will pull from the six FIFA confederations.

North, Central America and Caribbean

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