Qatar 2022, could be the last chance for football stars like Messi, Ronaldo and Luka Modric

Thinley Namgay 

Dubbed as the beautiful game, the football World Cup kicks off in two weeks in Qatar. With thousands of Bhutanese closely following the biggest sporting event, there is an interest in the 22nd  edition of the World Cup, the first in the Middle East.

The Qatar World Cup, despite the controversies surrounding labour laws, presents an opportunity to see some young and retiring players display their talents. The tournament, the first played in winter, will feature many young and senior footballers.

One of the youngest players is Ansu Fati, 20. A striker for the Spain national team and La Liga club Barcelona,  Ansu  is also the youngest La Liga debutant and Barca’s youngest goal scorer.  In the 2019-2020 La Liga season, he scored seven goals.  He is also the youngest goalscorer in Champions League history.

Other young Spanish players to watch at Qatar are 18-year -old Gavi and Pedri, 19. Both play for FC Barcelona.  Gavi is known for intercepting, recovering and tracking attackers back when required. Pedri is characterised by quick thinking and vision for goal scoring.

Canadian national player Alphonso Boyle Davies, 21, is another player to watch. The Bayern Munich winger’s insane pace and dribbling skills are expected to make a big impact on the team.  Alphonso helped lead Canada to its first World Cup qualification since 1986.

Brazil, a favourite to lift the World Cup,  will feature their 21-year -old Rodrygo Goes who currently plays for Real Madrid FC.  He had a good career with Real Madrid winning the Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Champions League and scoring nine goals and providing 10 assists.

Other promising young players are 21-year -old Takefusa Kubo from  Japan, Pape Matar Sarr, 20, from Senegal, Ricardo Pepi, 19, from the USA and Jamal Musiala 19, from Germany.

It is also an opportunity for Dušan Vlahovic, 22, from Serbia, Aurélien Tchouaméni, 22, from France, Phil Foden, 22, from England, and Vinícius Junior, 21 from Brazil to leave a mark on Qatar 2022.

Last chance?

Many famous  players like Cristiano Ronaldo, 37,  and Lionel Messi, 35, will probably be playing their last World Cup.

For Gianluigi Buffon, 44, the Italian goalkeeper, it surely is his last. Legendary Portuguese footballer Pepe, 39, is set to play in Qatar. He made 128 appearances for the national team since 2007.

One of the best midfielders in the world, Luka Modric, 37,  will lead Croatia again in the World Cup. The Croatia captain led his country to the 2018 world cup final in Russia. Mexico’s legendary goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will once again participate in the World Cup this year.  This will be the fourth world cup for the 37-year-old.

Other senior players in Qatar are Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, Thomas Muller of Germany, Gareth Bale of Wales, and Robert Lewandowski of Poland. Gareth Bale was the key player for Wales in the qualifying  stage to book the seat for the world cup after 64 years.

Of the 32 teams in the world cup, six teams are from Asia. They are the host Qatar, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

Messi’s last chance

The big question, as we wait for Qatar 22 is,  can Lionel Messi get his hands on the elusive trophy in the FIFA  World Cup swansong? Argentina are going to Qatar on a 35-game unbeaten run that includes their victory in last year’s Copa America.

Lionel Messi is considered the best footballer today and has been building up to this moment, aware that his fifth World Cup with Argentina almost certainly represents his last chance to get his hands on the trophy.

Back in Argentina, the nation has been holding its breath, hoping the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner does not succumb to an untimely injury. Messi first went to a World Cup as a teenager in 2006 and has scored a record 90 goals from a record 164 caps.

He captained Argentina to the final of the 2014 World Cup but 2018 was a desperate disappointment, with Jorge Sampaoli’s side losing in the last 16 to a France team featuring Kylian Mbappe, now Messi’s teammate in Paris.

Aged 35, Messi goes to Qatar fit and remarkably doing well at the club level. If Messi is to emulate Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to their last World Cup triumph in 1986, he can do it by winning his first World Cup.