The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is less than two months away. The chalking out of strategies and fine-tuning of set-ups is nearly complete as teams played their last set of international friendlies before the quadrennial event gets underway on November 21.
Although, a few teams play more friendlies before the tournament starts, this past week was the last chance for most teams to sort out any problems or work on their strengths.
We take a look at how teams placed in Group E to Group H in the 2022 World Cup performed in the latest round of international games.
Costa Rica’s last match before the FIFA World Cup was a 2-2 draw against South Korea. The South America side went shoulder to shoulder against South Korea with Sunderland player Jewison Bennette scoring a brace. The team even took a lead but getting reduced to 10-men saw it concede late and settle for a draw.
Spain was on an eight-match unbeaten streak when it faced Switzerland in the first of the two UEFA Nations League matches during the latest international break.
It suffered the familiar problem of lack of goals as it succumbed to a 1-2 defeat. The consolation goal for La Furia Roja came from Jordi Alba
Against Portugal, a late goal by Alvaro Morata sealed a semifinal spot in the Nations League.
In its last 10 matches, Spain has scored 17 goals. While this is a good number in its own right, one expects more from Spain. Only once, against Iceland, did it manage to score more than two goals.
Luis Enrique would want his side’s attack line, which boasts of promising young names like Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo, firing and producing more results in Qatar.
Germany started the latest international break with a 0-1 loss to Hungary which prevented it from making it to the last-four of Nations League.
In the next match, Germany took a comfortable two goal through Gundogan’s penalty and Havertz’s screamer. The game, however, turned on its head, with England scoring three goals in 12 minutes to take the lead.
A mistake by Nick Pope allowed Germany to save face and escape with a draw, but the team continued on its all too familiar path of not being able to close out games.
The team has drawn five of its last 10 matches and has often conceded late goals. Hansi Flick would hope for his side to click at the right time in Qatar and put the nightmare of the group stage exit in the 2018 World Cup to rest.
Japan’s first game in the international break was a 2-0 win over the higher ranked USA which will bolster its confidence ahead of the World Cup.
Though Spain and Germany will be the obvious contenders to make it to the knockout stages, Japan will try to emulate such performances in a bid to make it to the Round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup.
In the last game before the Qatar World Cup, Japan played a goalless draw against Ecuador.
Belgium was in contention to make it to the last-four of the Nations League after it started the international break with a 2-1 win over Wales. Kevin de Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi got on the scoresheet for the side.
It, however, squandered the opportunity to do so after it lost 0-1 to Netherlands with Virgil Van Dijk scoring the winner in the second half.
The runner-up from the 2018 World Cup ended its international break on a high with two successive wins to take its unbeaten run to five matches.
It first beat Denmark 2-1, thanks to goals by Sosa and Majer, and then sealed the semifinal spot of Nations League with a commanding 3-1 victory over Austria.
At the World Cup, Croatia will expect impressive performances from players like Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic if it hopes to emulate last edition’s performance.
Canada will be making its World Cup debut in Qatar and takes positive momentum to the tournament.
It won its first friendly 2-0 against the host nation with Cyle Larin and Jonathan David scoring first-half goals.
This was followed by a 0-2 defeat to a much higher ranked Uruguay. Despite the loss, Canada will take heart from the fact that it managed to place 11 attempts against the South American team.
Morocco, ranked 23th, beat Chile 2-0 in the first friendly game it was bolstered by the return of star forward Hakim Ziyech. But it was Boufal who won the plaudits on the day with his overall performance.
This was followed by a disappointing 0-0 draw against Paraguay, ranked 27 places below Morocco.
Brazil is peaking at the right time and brushing away opponents at will.
The South American team which had ended as the first placed team in South American qualifiers has won seven games on the trot.
During the recent friendlies, it first beat Ghana 3-0 with Richarlison’s brace being the highlight of the match.
Up next, Brazil marauded Tunisia 5-1 to set off for Qatar with a thumping win where it scored four goals in the first half.
Cameroon heads to the World Cup on a disappointing note after registering successive defeats in the international break.
It first lost 0-2 to Uzbekistan and then 0-1 to South Korea. Cameroon was clearly outplayed, especially against South Korea which converted just one out of the eight chances it got.
Serbia, with its power-packed attack line, will be a handful at the Qatar World Cup and it showed why, during its last two Nations League games.
It started with a 4-1 win over Sweden where Mitrovic scored a hattrick. Serbia took 14 shots and created 7 big chances in the match.
Days later, Serbia beat Norway 2-0. This time Vlahovic gave his team the lead and Mitrovic added the second goal. Serbia held the ball more, created more chances and converted better than its opponent to head to the World Cup with high hopes.
The Swiss team came into the last international break before the World Cup on the back of a 1-0 win against Portugal.
It built on that solid performance and defeated Spain 2-1. The contest started with Akanji giving the lead to Switzerland. Jordi Alba equalised for Spain in the 55th but Embolo fired home to make sure that Switzerland won the match.
Switzerland then won 2-1 against Czech Republic. It plays another friendly against Ghana before heading to the quadrennial event.
Ghana started off with a tame performance against Brazil and lost 0-3. It was always going to be tough against the high flying Brazil side but Ghana failed to even put up any fight. It conceded 21 shots while attempting only 7 off its own gives a glimpse of the team’s poor outing.
It, however, won the next match 1-0 against Nicaragua thanks to a goal by Abdul Issahaku. Ghana will play another friendly against Switzerland before its first match in Qatar.
Portugal started its international break with the aim of securing the last-four spot in the Nations League.
Things looked on track after the first match when it thrashed Czech Republic four goals to nil. The big names like Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes either scored or a got assists and ensured Portugal stayed top of its group.
Portugal, however, faltered 0-1 in the do or die match against Spain where La Roja outplayed the side and controlled the possession 68-32 during the match.
Portugal still has one more friendly against Nigeria before the main event in Qatar.
The Asian team started its international break with a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica which saw star forward Son score an 88th minute equaliser.
In its second friendly, Son again gave the lead to his side which was enough to settle the match in South Korea’s favour.
A wasteful Uruguay lost 0-1 to Iran in the first friendly. The South American team failed to find the net from 15 shots, while Iran managed to score in the 79th minute to snatch a victory.
Normal services resumed in the next match as it beat Canada 2-0 with Darwin Nunez and Nicolas de la Cruz scoring for La Celeste.