By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just 100 days away, and the excitement surrounding the tournament is starting to feel palpable.
Here are 50 things, in no particular order, that we’re looking forward to or hoping to see when play begins in Qatar on Nov. 20.
1. Christian Eriksen to steal the show
An on-field heart attack during last summer’s Euros nearly cost the Danish midfielder his life, but Eriksen made a full recovery and is now back atop his game. He’s also the centerpiece of the most talented Denmark World Cup entry in decades, one capable of making a deep run.
2. Can Mexico finally win a knockout game?
El Tri has survived the group stage and advanced to the second round at seven straight tournaments. Seven straight times, Mexico lost their first knockout game. Will either streak end in Qatar?
3. Young USMNT to advance to quarterfinals
Getting to Qatar was Job 1 after the USMNT failed to qualify for 2018. Advancing is now the goal for the youngest team in the field. Christian Pulisic & Co. are aiming a lot higher, but reaching the last eight for the first time since 2002 would be a smashing success.
Christian Pulisic looks ahead to the World Cup
USMNT star Christian Pulisic talks with Doug McIntyre about his experience at Chelsea, getting ready for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the U.S. Women’s National Team going for a three-peat and more.
4. Lionel Messi to lift the World Cup
Unlike in 2018, the revamped Albiceleste is capable of winning it all this time. That would be some swansong for the GOAT; at 35, Messi is surely in his final turn on the global stage.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo to turn back the clock
Few players have a better sense of occasion than CR7. Don’t be surprised if the Portuguese superstar, even at age 37, manages to muster a few weeks of magic at his last World Cup.
6. Germany to contend for the title
Die Mannschaft has plenty to prove after going three-and-out as defending champs four years ago.
7. Senegal to make history
No African team has reached a World Cup semifinal. Headlined by Bayern Munich star Sadio Mane, the Lions of Teranga have the best chance of any of the continent’s entries this year.
8. Christian Pulisic to become a household name
The USMNT frontman was supposed to become a mainstream darling in his home country in 2018. He has had to wait four years, but his time is coming in November.
9. That massive U.S.-England match
The Black Friday matchup between the favored Three Lions and upstart Yanks promises to draw record viewership in the U.S.
Will the USMNT make it to the knockout round?
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter breaks down Group B opponents Wales, England and Iran.
10. Thanksgiving Day Fútbol
There are four Turkey Day matches: Switzerland-Cameroon, Uruguay-South Korea, Portugal-Ghana and Brazil-Serbia.
11. Qatar playing in the opener
The hosts should have had the World Cup opener from the beginning. Now they will, with FIFA officially deciding to move Qatar-Ecuador up a day, to Nov. 20.
12. The Iran-U.S. rematch
Team Melli shocked the Americans 2-1 back in 1998. Will the U.S. return the favor this time?
USMNT vs. Iran in Group Stage of the World Cup
Afshin Ghotbi, former Iran coach and United States assistant, talks with Doug McIntyre about the significance and history between the two nations at the World Cup ahead of their matchup in group play.
13. Iran’s fans
Besides the hosts, no team will be better supported by its fans in Qatar.
14. Canada‘s first appearance in 36 years
After topping CONCACAF qualifying, the Reds are looking to make noise at their second World Cup.
15. The Netherlands back where they belong
The three-time finalist Dutch finished third in 2014 before missing 2018 entirely. The World Cup is better with the Oranje in it.
16. Spain-Germany on Nov. 27
In terms of sheer soccer quality, this might be the best matchup of the Group Stage.
17. Robert Lewandowski‘s goals
Poland will go as far as their all-world striker will take them.
18. France‘s title defense
While Les Bleus have a habit of taking every other World Cup off, France might actually have a better team now than they did four years back.
19. Luka Modric‘s goodbye
The Croatian maestro still has it at 36, having just helped Real Madrid win the UEFA Champions League yet again.
20. A one-city World Cup
That’s basically what Qatar 2022 will be. With every team and its fans based either in the capital of Doha or its outskirts, this World Cup will have more of an Olympic feel.
21. No in-country flights
After enduring grueling travel in both Brazil and Russia, Qatar’s small size ensures that players and fans won’t have to get on a plane again until they leave.
22. Adidas’ Al Rihla match ball
Arguably the prettiest World Cup ball since the Jabulani in 2010.
23. Concussion spotters
While FIFA stopped short of approving concussion substitutions for 2022, officials will be on the lookout for head injuries.
24. The 26-player rosters
Three extra players per team will earn a World Cup trip this year. Who can argue with that?
25. The last 32-team event
The field will expand to 48 when Canada, Mexico and the United States co-host the 2026 World Cup.
26. Ghana‘s return
The Black Stars were so much fun to watch in 2006, 2010 and 2014. It’s good to see them back after missing out last time.
27. Five available substitutes
We’ve gotten so used to seeing five subs at club level over the past two years, it’s hard to believe this pandemic-inspired rule change will be in use at a World Cup for the first time.
28. Another first-time finalist
Two of the past three World Cup finals featured a team that had never been there before: Croatia in 2018 and Spain in 2010. Will we see another on Dec. 18?
29. Women referees
Never before has a woman officiated a men’s World Cup game. That will soon change, with Stéphanie Frappart of France, Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita among the 36 refs headed to Qatar.
30. Semi-automated offside technology
While VAR was a hit four years ago, reviewing offside decisions took too long. The new tech’s aim is to speed those checks up.
31. “Foot on the line” rule for keepers
The three-year-old requirement that goalies keep at least one foot on the line until a penalty is taken will make its debut at a men’s World Cup.
32. New iconic kits
It will be hard to top Brazil’s Jaguar-inspired shirts.
33. Brazil’s attacking combinations
With Gabriel Jesus, Neymar, Raphinha, Richarlison, Rodrygo, Vinícius Júnior and others to choose from, Brazil coach Tite can’t really go wrong.
34. Group E
With Costa Rica and Japan rounding out a foursome that also features European heavyweights Germany and Spain, this one has it all when it comes to different playing styles.
35. The chip on England’s shoulder
The Three Lions and their fans fancy themselves an elite team but lack the silverware to prove it. England haven’t even reached a World Cup final since their controversial lone win in 1966.
36. A proper sendoff for Belgium‘s Golden Generation
The Red Devils came close in 2018, reaching the semis before losing to eventual champ France. With Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard all now in their 30s, this could be their last, best chance.
37. A rebirth of Spain’s magic midfield
It’s not the Iniesta-Xavi duo of La Roja’s iconic title winning 2010 squad, but Pedri and Gavi have the potential to be the best combo since — and they still have Sergio Busquets cleaning up behind them.
38. Gregg Berhalter’s bounce passes
If you think the U.S. coach’s unorthodox method of throwing the ball to his players has gotten a lot of attention already, just wait.
Gregg Berhalter breaks down the bounce pass
Alexi Lalas and Dave Mosse get the scoop from Gregg Berhalter on his world-famous back pass to players.
39. A scrappy Serbian team
Don’t sleep on the Serbs, who could emerge from a difficult group that also contains Brazil, Cameroon and Switzerland.
40. An older Son Heung-min
The Premier League’s leading scorer last season is primed for huge tournament for the Taegeuk Warriors.
41. World Cup-worthy celebrations
Even without the Colombians, there are sure to be plenty of cellies worth remembering.
42. Darwin Nunez‘s first major international tournament
Liverpool’s $100 million man could be a breakout star for Uruguay.
43. World-class goalkeeping
Goals get most of the glory, but an otherworldly save can be just as important. A hot keeper can take a team deep (see Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas in 2014).
44. Breakout stars
Who will be this tournament’s Kylian Mbappe?
45. Wales at the World Cup
Led by LAFC star Gareth Bale, Wales will play their first World Cup game in 56 years when they meet the U.S. on Nov. 21.
46. World Cup commercials
More than four years later, the song from that ubiquitous Pepsi ad is still stuck in our heads.
47. Controversial calls
Just like at the 2018 World Cup, the use of VAR doesn’t mean there won’t still be decisions to gripe about.
48. The memes
Just be thankful you won’t see Joachim Löw picking his nose on the sideline this time around.
From the mazy solo runs by Pelé and Messi to bangers like Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick against Spain in 2018, the most amazing goals scored at World Cups live in the memory forever.
50. The unexpected
Everything about this World Cup is different. Don’t be surprised if what happens on the field is, too.
One of the leading soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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