Saka, Sargent climb; Hazard falls

The days are counting down to the start of the World Cup in Qatar, with the host nation kicking it all off on Nov. 20 when they take on Ecuador.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

All 32 finalists are making their closing plans for the tournament, hoping that star players don’t get struck down by injury and head into the World Cup in top form. Away from that, there are plenty of players who are desperately hoping to break into their countries’ 26-man squads, which have to be named by Nov. 13.

Each week, we’ll take a look at the favourites to see how they are shaping up and also check in with other nations as their players either shine or struggle.

– World Cup bracket and fixtures schedule

JUMP TO: United States | France | Germany | Spain | Belgium | Portugal | Netherlands | Argentina | Brazil | Mexico | Australia | Senegal | Morocco | Cameroon | Ghana | IR Iran | Japan

ENGLAND
Fixtures: IR Iran (Nov. 21), United States (Nov. 25), Wales (Nov. 29)

STOCK CLIMBING

Phil Foden & Bukayo Saka: All things being equal, England will play 3-4-3 in their World Cup opener against Iran with Harry Kane starting at centre-forward and Raheem Sterling occupying one of the advanced positions next to him. Foden and Saka are the frontrunners competing for the other attacking spot, and after Foden’s super hat trick for Manchester City against Manchester United last weekend, Saka delivered a similarly influential performance as Arsenal beat Liverpool 3-2 at Emirates Stadium. Saka scored twice, the second of which came in the form of a match-winning penalty — the biggest spot kick he has taken since missing for England in the Euro 2020 final shootout against Italy.

STOCK FALLING

Trent Alexander-Arnold: This isn’t the first time Alexander-Arnold has appeared here, but another chastening experience in a big game will do little to win over coach Gareth Southgate, who is already sceptical about the 24-year-old’s defending. He was substituted at half-time in Liverpool’s loss at Arsenal with an ankle problem which, if anything, put him out of his misery, after being caught out for both goals his team conceded in the opening 45 minutes. The second was particularly embarrassing, drifting out of position with no hope of getting the ball, vacating Liverpool’s central defensive area as Arsenal counter-attacked and Gabriel Martinelli crossed for Saka to score.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

News that Kyle Walker is a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing groin surgery will be a huge blow to Southgate. Walker was a certain starter for England, most likely on a the right side of a three-man defence, where Southgate relies heavily on Walker’s recovery pace to snuff out potential counter-attacking dangers. He has not yet been ruled out, however, and Southgate will surely give him every chance to make the squad. Without him, England’s already suspect defence is weaker. — James Olley


blank

UNITED STATES
Fixtures: Wales (Nov. 21), England (Nov. 25), IR Iran (Nov. 29)

STOCK CLIMBING

Josh Sargent: Sargent continued his strong start to the season with Norwich City, scoring his seventh goal of the season in the Canaries’ 3-2 loss to Preston North End at the weekend. With Ricardo Pepi bagging another two goals for Groningen, Sargent needed to do his bit to remind manager Gregg Berhalter that he should be on the final roster, and he did just that with a outstanding run and finish to score Norwich’s first goal.

STOCK FALLING

Chris Richards: With just under a month to go until Berhalter names his roster, Richards is still on the mend from a hamstring injury. Not only did Richards not play in Crystal Palace’s 2-1 win over Leeds United, he hasn’t even begun training with the first team yet. If healthy, Richards is a near lock to be included, but Berhalter will need to see that the defender is back to full fitness in order for that to happen.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

The sight of Christian Pulisic getting on the scoresheet for Chelsea was most welcome given his importance to the U.S. attack. But long-term, the most notable part of the weekend was the return to health of several players. Fulham defender Antonee Robinson, Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah, Lille’s Timothy Weah and Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers all got on the field, with Robinson and Carter-Vickers going the full 90 minutes. The first three in that list are thought to be vital to the U.S. team’s chances of getting past the group stage. — Jeff Carlisle


blank

FRANCE
Fixtures: Australia (Nov. 22), Denmark (Nov. 26), Tunisia (Nov. 30)

STOCK CLIMBING

Adrien Rabiot: Just when he needed it the most, Rabiot produced his best performance in a while last week against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League. The Juventus midfielder scored twice and was very dominant in a must-win game for Juve. He was good against Milan too despite the defeat and he is showing that he is almost back to his best. With coach Didier Deschamps unsure which of his midfielders will be ready for the World Cup, Rabiot scored some brownie points.

Antoine Griezmann: Finally, the striker will be a normal footballer again. On Monday, Atletico Madrid officially announced that he had signed permanently for them from Barcelona after weeks of only being allowed to play 30 minutes per match! Now, Diego Simeone will be able to play him as much as he wants, which is a big relief for Griezmann with the World Cup around the corner.

STOCK FALLING

Anthony Martial: Deschamps has been really patient with Martial throughout the year. It has been a on and off relationship between the Manchester United forward and the France team but he was a candidate for the World Cup. However, his new injury setback, only a few days after making his return with a goal at Omonia last week and an assist against Everton on Sunday, is a massive blow and diminishes his chances to go to Qatar.

Lucas Hernandez: It looks like a race against time for the Bayern Munich defender to be ready and fit for the World Cup. His thigh injury has kept him out for a month already and he is still not back on the pitch. He should start running again this week and hopefully play by the end of the month. Will that be enough for Deschamps? Time will tell.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

There are still some problems for Deschamps as he is still monitoring the progress of his injured players, especially N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, who are two big concerns for France. Kylian Mbappe reportedly being unhappy at PSG at the moment is also a worry for Deschamps. — Julien Laurens


blank

GERMANY
Fixtures: Japan (Nov. 23), Spain (Nov. 27), Costa Rica (Dec. 1)

STOCK CLIMBING

Niclas Fullkrug: There’s a big clamour for the inclusion of the in-form Werder Bremen striker, to give coach Hansi Flick a genuine centre-forward option. Fullkrug at 29 hasn’t represented Germany beyond under-20 level but leads the Bundesliga scoring charts with eight goals, helping catapult Bremen into the top five. He netted the late penalty winner away to Hoffenheim on Friday while also setting up the opener for striking partner Marvin Ducksch. — Derek Rae


blank

SPAIN
Fixtures: Costa Rica (Nov. 23), Germany (Nov. 27), Japan (Dec. 1)

STOCK CLIMBING

Brais Mendez: The Real Sociedad midfielder is banging in the goals after a summer move from Celta Vigo; could he be making a late run for inclusion? He has four caps, but none since November 2021.

STOCK FALLING

Ferran Torres: A regular for Spain but struggling for minutes with Barcelona. He did not take advantage of his start against Celta Vigo at the weekend. — Sam Marsden


blank

BELGIUM
Fixtures: Canada (Nov. 23), Morocco (Nov. 27), Croatia (Dec. 1)

STOCK CLIMBING

Kevin De Bruyne: There is no surprise here. De Bruyne is the Belgium international who is most in form. Week-in, week-out, he is delivering for Manchester City and he is even getting rested at times by Pep Guardiola (against Copenhagen, and he only came on for 21 minutes against Nottingham Forest), which is great so close to the World Cup.

Leandro Trossard: The Brighton forward is giving Roberto Martinez a headache. Trossard’s performance in scoring a hat trick at Liverpool 10 days ago was exceptional. He is in great form and, unlike Eden Hazard, he is fit, plays regularly and shines. He is certainly pushing for a place in Belgium’s starting XI at the moment..

STOCK FALLING

Eden Hazard: There’s still not much game time for him at Real Madrid. He hasn’t played a single minute for Los Blancos for a month, since Sept. 11 against Mallorca where he started and was taken off after 59 minutes. And that was while Karim Benzema was out! Now that Benzema is back, it is really time to worry for Hazard. He will arrive at the World Cup with very few minutes on the pitch under his belt.

Charles De Ketelaere: He is taking longer to adapt to life at AC Milan than was hoped. He was benched by coach Stefano Pioli for the big clash against Juventus at the weekend, and the team did really well without him. His 65 minutes against Chelsea last week were very poor and he still hasn’t scored since making the move to Italy.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

The big worry of course is the form of Hazard. The Belgium captain doesn’t play at Madrid and Coach Martinez is concerned. He has other optionsm, but Hazard is a huge player for him. For the rest, things are looking good. — Julien Laurens


blank

PORTUGAL
Fixtures: Ghana (Nov. 24), Uruguay (Nov. 28), South Korea (Dec. 2)

STOCK CLIMBING

Cristiano Ronaldo: He may not have started against Everton on Sunday, but his introduction off the bench for the injured Martial gave Manchester United a spark and resulted in him scoring the winner, and his 700th career goal. United’s No. 7, who pushed to leave throughout the summer and who manager Erik ten Hag said was “pissed off” with a lack of game time, could be in line for a prolonged spell in the team amid ongoing concerns over Martial’s injury record.

STOCK FALLING

Pedro Neto: Bad news for the Wolves winger, who has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering an ankle injury against West Ham United. — Dale Johnson


blank

NETHERLANDS
Fixtures: Senegal (Nov. 21), Ecuador (Nov. 25), Qatar (Nov. 29)

STOCK CLIMBING

Frenkie de Jong & Arnaut Danjuma: Good news from Spain, where De Jong and Danjuma have recovered from their injuries. De Jong appeared as a 63rd-minute substitute after more than two weeks out as Barcelona beat Celta Vigo. Danjuma started for Villarreal against Austria Vienna last week and scored immediately, but was substituted at half-time against Real Sociedad at the weekend after a below-par performance.

Matthijs de Ligt: He has started a fourth consecutive match for Bayern Munich because of the injury to Lucas Hernandez. Against Borussia Dortmund (2-2), talented Dutch striker Donyell Malen also came on in the 70th minute, but Ryan Gravenberch, who played his first 90 minutes against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League, stayed on the bench the whole game.

Cody Gakpo: The PSV Eindhoven star continues to impress. After 75 minutes, he scored the only goal of the game against Heerenveen, the second time this season that he has proved to be the difference-maker. He is unquestionably the MVP in the Eredivisie this season with nine goals and six assists in just nine games. In all competitions, he has been involved in 23 goals — as many as Erling Haaland, although Gakpo has featured in three extra matches.

Jeremie Frimpong: He scored two goals in Xabi Alonso’s first game as coach of Bayer Leverkusen, his second brace of the season. Together with Ramy Bensebaini (Borussia Monchengladbach, also four goals) he is the top-scoring defender in the Bundesliga. He is performing very well but isn’t likely to be part of the group who are going to Qatar. Louis van Gaal only wants players who he knows, or has got to know — meaning any player not selected up to the last international break is unlikely to make it to the World Cup.

STOCK FALLING

Remko Pasveer: After Ajax suffered their biggest European loss when losing 6-1 to Napoli, many players came in for criticism. Daley Blind and Pasveer showed their weaknesses, but a few days later Pasveer didn’t play at all well against FC Volendam, who are at the bottom of the table but scored twice. Pasveer has conceded 13 goals in his last five games. — Max Toemen


blank

ARGENTINA
Fixtures: Saudi Arabia (Nov. 22), Mexico (Nov. 26), Poland (Nov. 30)

STOCK CLIMBING

Enzo Fernandez: In this long, 35-game unbeaten run, Argentina’s midfield trio have been firing together wonderfully well. Leandro Paredes gets the moves going, Rodrigo De Paul adds thrust and Giovani Lo Celso plays subtle passes, bringing Lionel Messi into play close to the opposing goal. But what would happen if one of the trio were to be out of action? Exequiel Palacios has long been the next in line, but has run into injury problems — making the rise of Fernandez very interesting. Last week, Fernandez was applauded off the field by Benfica fans when he made a late exit against Paris Saint-Germain. As he has done on a regular basis since joining from River Plate, Fernandez put in a solid shift, involved in all phases of the play and setting up his side’s goal in a 1-1 draw. He has looked equally at home after his recent promotion to the senior Argentina side. Coach Lionel Scaloni can rest relieved that he has a ready-made midfield reinforcement.

STOCK FALLING

Paulo Dybala: Sunday’s bizarre injury, when he suffered a muscular problem in scoring a penalty for AS Roma, was bad news indeed for a player who has consistently flattered to deceive for his national team. There is speculation that he will not be fit in time for Qatar. Argentina would like to have him in reserve, but they have got this far without him. Dybala hardly featured in World Cup qualification, was not in Brazil for last year’s Copa America triumph and has scored a very disappointing three goals in 34 appearances for his country. His hopes of improving that record in the World Cup have taken a blow. — Tim Vickery


blank

BRAZIL
Fixtures: Serbia (Nov. 24), Switzerland (Nov. 28), Cameroon (Dec. 2)

STOCK CLIMBING

Gabriel Martinelli: With another splendid display at the weekend, Martinelli is making life hard for Brazil coach Tite with so many attacking options. Even with 26 squad slots available, it is hard to see how Martinelli can get himself on the plane. Assuming that Tite takes one reserve for each defensive and midfield position, that leaves him with nine slots left for front players. Neymar is guaranteed, as are wingers Raphinha, Vinicius Junior and Antony, plus almost certainly Rodrygo. Richarlison will go as a central striker, backed up by Pedro and, surely, Gabriel Jesus. It is probably the case that Roberto Firmino is battling with Olympic hero Matheus Cunha for a slot, with advantage Firmino — the Liverpool man is the closest they have to a Neymar substitute. And that’s the nine slots all gone.

Barring injuries, there is one alternative — repeat what Brazil did last month. That would mean leaving out Daniel Alves, having Danilo as the sole right-back, with Eder Militao supplying cover, thus freeing up an extra space. To take 10 front players in a squad of 26 could appear an exaggeration and it could be a risk — but Martinelli is playing so well that the thought might well be flickering through Tite’s mind. — Tim Vickery


blank

MEXICO
Fixtures: Poland (Nov. 22), Argentina (Nov. 26), Saudi Arabia (Nov. 30)

STOCK CLIMBING

Hirving Lozano: After a slow start to the 2022-23 Serie A campaign with Napoli, it was encouraging to see Lozano score in the 4-1 win against Cremonese last Sunday. The goal was the first of the season for the 27-year-old and came just two weeks after he scored the lone goal for Mexico in a friendly vs Peru.

STOCK FALLING

Alfredo Talavera: Not the best performance from Mexico’s second-choice goalkeeper. The goals weren’t entirely his fault, but veteran Talavera didn’t cover himself in glory in FC Juarez’s 3-0 loss to Toluca in the first round of the Liga MX playoffs. With no games left to play before the World Cup, Talavera will now prepare for the tournament after a sour end to his season.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Lozano’s Serie A goal will provide relief for Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who recently noted that there are no guarantees that key injured attackers like Jesus Corona or Raul Jimenez will be fit for the World Cup. Lozano will be an invaluable member of El Tri‘s frontline in Qatar, and will therefore need to gain more momentum and minutes before the tournament. — Cesar Hernandez


blank

AUSTRALIA
Fixtures: France (Nov. 22), Tunisia (Nov. 26), Denmark (Nov. 30)

STOCK CLIMBING

Mitch Langerak: His decision to end his retirement from international football last month suddenly turned the Socceroos’ goalkeeping stocks from one of its most settled positions into one of its most intriguing. And while he might not have played in the recent games against New Zealand — coach Graham Arnold opting to start Andrew Redmayne in Auckland because the A-League Men’s (ALM) offseason had denied him recent minutes — the 34-year-old continues to rack up minutes with Nagoya Grampus in the J1 League and was impressive in their 1-1 draw with Kyoto Sanga.

Langerak has twice broken the season clean-sheet record of the Japanese top-flight since signing for Nagoya in 2018 and arguably would have had considerably more than his current tally of eight Socceroos caps had he not stepped away from the national team because of family reasons during the pandemic. Now back in the fold, he’s putting his best foot forward in an unlikely push for Australia’s No. 1 shirt in Qatar.

Chris Ikonomidis: After an injury ravaged 2021-22 ALM campaign — not helped by a long stint in quarantine after representing his country — Ikonomidis largely fell off the radar of the Socceroos heading into this campaign, overshadowed by the likes of Awer Mabil and Craig Goodwin on the wing. His barnstorming appearance off the bench in Melbourne Victory’s 3-2 win on the opening day of the Australian top-flight’s 2022-23 season, though, demonstrated that the attacker can’t be discounted for a late push for a spot on the plane to Qatar. Introduced as a 62nd-minute substitute in the Big Blue, the 27-year-old grabbed a goal and an assist in Victory’s win — at the very least giving himself a platform to build on before Arnold names his squad next month.

STOCK FALLING

Mat Ryan: At the exact time that Langerak is making moves in Japan, the Socceroos’ incumbent between the posts has found himself suddenly consigned to the bench at his Danish club FC Copenhagen just weeks out from the World Cup. Returning from a long-term injury, Kamil Grabara has replaced Ryan in Copenhagen’s XI in recent fixtures. Ryan’s form with the Socceroos has always been exemplary and he remains an integral leader for the team. But if he’s going to continue to watch from the sideline while Langerak performs well, it’s inevitable that questions are going to be asked.

Marco Tilio: He began the ALM season with Melbourne City needing to put together a strong run of form to reinforce a case for selection, so starting on the bench in his side’s opening 2-1 win over Western United and being forced to wait until the 73rd minute to enter the contest was hardly what he needed. Even more unfortunate for his hopes of reaching Qatar, none of those ahead of him in the pecking order at City — including fellow Socceroos Mat Leckie and Jamie Maclaren — put in the type of performances that would suggest coach Patrick Kisnorbo needs to make a change ahead of their coming meeting with Brisbane Roar. Tilio also missed a late chance to grab his side a third. — Joey Lynch


blank

SENEGAL
Fixtures: Netherlands (Nov. 21), Qatar (Nov. 25), Ecuador (Nov. 29)

STOCK CLIMBING

Habib Diallo & Boulaye Dia: After being criticised for their profligacy during the international break, Senegal’s attacking options now seemingly can’t stop scoring as the World Cup approaches. Diallo of Strasbourg and Salernitana’s Dia were both among the goals this weekend — a major boost for coach Aliou Cisse — while Famara Diedhiou, who led the line in the Africa Cup of Nations final, returned to action for the first time since suffering an injury in June.

STOCK FALLING

Pape Abou Cisse: The AFCON-winning defender was cut from the Olympiakos squad ahead of their meeting with OFI Crete after clashing with supporters following a 3-0 humbling by Qarabag in midweek. The club publicly criticised the defender’s behaviour after he confronted fans, and it remains to be seen whether he still has a future at the club.

Edouard Mendy: The goalkeeper continues to be out of Chelsea’s Premier League side as new boss Graham Potter puts faith in Kepa Arrizabalaga, and his inactivity is a growing concern.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Chelsea have lost faith in Mendy at exactly the wrong time for Senegal, and a month has now passed without playing at all for the Blues. He’s such an important player for the Teranga Lions, so his place isn’t in doubt, but this is far from ideal preparation. By contrast, Kalidou Koulibaly’s strong return to action under Potter is encouraging news. — Ed Dove


blank

MOROCCO
Fixtures: Croatia (Nov. 23), Belgium (Nov. 27), Canada (Dec. 1)

STOCK CLIMBING

Imran Louza: Injury-hit since arriving at Watford in a £9m move last year, Louza’s start to the season has again been overshadowed by fitness problems. Returning from five months without a game, he made his third appearance in six days for the Hornets as they were defeated at Blackpool, scoring the visitors’ consolation goal with a delicious curling free kick. His goal followed on from a recent assist in the 4-0 mauling of Stoke City — on current form, Louza should be pushing for a Morocco return.

STOCK FALLING

Romain Saiss: The Morocco skipper was withdrawn with injury 13 minutes into Besiktas’ 1-0 victory at Giresunspor. He’s expected to miss the weekend’s derby with Trabzonspor, but his setback isn’t expected to affect his World Cup participation. With Nayef Aguerd still sidelined, the Atlas Lions cannot afford another key defensive absence.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Hakim Ziyech has the potential to be a key player for Morocco after ending his international exile, and even though he only made a four-minute cameo as Chelsea defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers, his return to Premier League action will bring cheer to coach Walid Regragui. It was the playmaker’s first league appearance since Aug. 30, and he now needs to feature more regularly to ensure that he’s match sharp for the World Cup. Ziyech has come down with illness ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League game at AC Milan. — Ed Dove


blank

CAMEROON
Fixtures: Switzerland (Nov. 24), Serbia (Nov. 28), Brazil (Dec. 2)

STOCK CLIMBING

Andre Onana: Before this weekend, Onana’s failure to unseat Samir Handanovic at Inter Milan had been a concern for Cameroon fans, leaving their No. 1 goalkeeper short of match sharpness. Following some underwhelming displays by Handanovic, coach Simone Inzaghi opted to hand Onana his first Serie A start against Sassuolo at the weekend, and while it wasn’t a flawless display — the ex-Ajax man conceded — it now appears that he’ll be given the chance to impress in the weeks to come. Midfielder Samuel Oum Gouet also returned to action for KV Mechelen, having missed the previous three fixtures.

STOCK FALLING

Martin Hongla: He remains benched at Hellas Verona, and hasn’t featured since Sept. 4, while Rigobert Song will surely be hoping for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to get a little more playing time than the eight minutes he was afforded in Der Klassiker.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Onana’s “promotion” at Inter is a major boost, while the rest of the squad is looking healthy. Song will watch on with intrigue to see how new Lyon head coach Laurent Blanc uses Karl Toko Ekambi in the coming weeks, while ambitious FA president Samuel Eto’o should pull out the stops to attempt to convince Youssoufa Moukoko, who became the youngest goal scorer in Der Klassiker, to ditch Germany for Cameroon in time for the World Cup. — Ed Dove


blank

GHANA
Fixtures: Portugal (Nov. 24), South Korea (Nov. 28), Uruguay (Dec. 2)

STOCK CLIMBING

Daniel-Kofi Kyereh: The SC Freiburg player has blossomed into a valuable element in the Ghana squad since making his first start for the national side, and is reaching the best form of his career just in time for the World Cup. His delightful goal against Hertha Berlin on Sunday helped the Breisgau-Brazilians to an away draw, and he’s now scored three goals in his last three matches. Considering this is his first campaign in a top division, Kyereh ought to be considered among Africa’s breakout stars of the season.

STOCK FALLING

Daniel Amartey: Wout Faes’s arrival at Leicester City has resigned Amartey to a bench role for Brendan Rodgers’ beleaguered Foxes. He was introduced in the 67th minute with Leicester leading 1-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday, with Rodgers looking to preserve the visitors’ advantage. They lost 2-1.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Kyereh’s emergence as a goal threat from midfield comes as a boost to a Black Stars side who have scored just three goals in their last five matches. However, Thomas Partey remaining injury-free and continuing to prove influential as Arsenal maintain their strong start to the season is Ghana’s real positive of the week. — Ed Dove


blank

JAPAN
Fixtures: Germany (Nov. 23), Costa Rica (Nov. 27), Spain (Dec. 1)

STOCK CLIMBING

Takehiro Tomiyasu: After his own fitness issues at the start of the season saw him lose his place in the Arsenal side, Tomiyasu benefitted from an injury to Oleksandr Zinchenko to reclaim his place in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI. And the versatile defender certainly acquitted himself admirably, holding his own against the fearsome Mohamed Salah in an impressive 3-2 win for the Gunners.

STOCK FALLING

Kaoru Mitoma: There is no denying Mitoma’s raw talent, and the Brighton hierarchy — as well as the fans — look to hold him in high regard, with the anticipation that he will eventually establish himself in the Premier League. Yet, every game that he sits on the sidelines and is restricted to substitute appearances is another week gone where one of the Samurai Blue’s X-factor players fails to garner any meaningful and valuable minutes ahead of the World Cup.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Tomiyasu was always going to be a lock for Japan in the backline, but the fact that he could potentially get more playing time for an Arsenal outfit who are flying high bodes well for the Samurai Blue, especially given captain and centre-back partner Maya Yoshida is facing a far less happy time in the Bundesliga with Schalke at the moment. But Mitoma’s inactivity could start being a concern for coach Hajime Moriyasu, especially given others like Takumi Minamino at Monaco and Vissel Kobe’s Yuya Osako are struggling to make an impression and competing for their clubs at the wrong end of the table respectively. — Gabriel Tan


blank

IR IRAN
Fixtures: England (Nov. 21), Wales (Nov. 25), United States (Nov. 29)

STOCK CLIMBING

Karim Ansarifard: Only earlier this year, it looked like Ansarifard — a seasoned campaigner with 94 caps to his name — might not even be headed for the World Cup, given rumoured unrest between him and then-Iran coach Dragan Skocic. With Skocic now replaced by Carlos Queiroz, the 32-year-old Ansarifard has returned to the fold and just last week showed the kind of predatory instincts that will come in handy for Team Melli with a clinical finish in Omonia’s narrow loss to Manchester United in the Europa League.

STOCK FALLING

Sardar Azmoun: A trying year for Azmoun got worse for when he tore a right calf muscle ahead of Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-0 Champions League loss to FC Porto. Although Azmoun has struggled for goals recently, he would have still been expected to play an important role in attack for the Iranians but, with an estimated six-to-eight week recovery period, could miss out altogether.

HOW ARE THEY LOOKING?

Ansarifard finding form is a bonus, but he is unlikely to be able to fully fill any potential void should Azmoun be unavailable. The double act of Azmoun and Porto striker Mehdi Taremi is one that would have caused problems for any opposition defence. The Iran faithful will now have their fingers crossed that the Leverkusen man recovers in time to make Queiroz’s squad, even if he has to miss the first game or so. — Gabriel Tan

https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4767476/world-cup-stock-watch-saka-and-sargent-climb-as-martial-and-hazard-fall Saka, Sargent climb; Hazard falls

Emma Bowman

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button