As Qatar 2022 edges ever closer, football fans await world soccer’s (and world sport’s) premier competition with breathless anticipation. The excitement in the air is almost present. And while the object of the tournament is to determine which country deserves the crown of the best soccer team in the world, there’ll be plenty of other things to savor. Among those is the chance to behold world soccer’s most refined, brightest stars. The grandest names in soccer will grace those new pitches in Doha, each with the single-minded aim of taking the coveted cup to their respective country. Here are five remarkable players you must keep an eye out for in Qatar this year.
Kylian Mbappe (Age 23, France)
It’s official: Kylian Mbappe is no longer the future of football but the mesmerizing present. Long heralded as the bonafide heir to Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the French whizkid is seemingly not content to wait for his idols to retire before putting the soccer world firmly under his feet. Already a world cup winner by age 23, Kylian Mbappe scored a great goal to help France clinch 2018 final, aged just 19 at the time. The fearless Frenchman pays no attention to his age, which is, after all, just a number – a statistic. Spearheading France’s attack alongside other formidable attackers like Karim Benzema, he’ll hope to defend Les Bleus’ crown against all odds.
Robert Lewandowski (Age 33, Poland)
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Robert Lewandowski, aka LewanGOALski, the best center-forward of the last five years. The Pole is a player who has made the position his own, putting in evergreen performances for both club and country repeatedly. 2021 saw him end the year as world soccer’s top scorer, with a whopping 69 goals for Bayern Munich and Poland. Lewy is their talisman and one of a tiny handful of forwards in the world who can score an unlikely goal.
Kevin De Bruyne (Age:30, Belgium)
Kevin De Bruyne is probably the best midfield player in the world in 2022. The 30-year-old plays for Manchester City – one of the best club sides in the world – and Belgium – FIFA’s top-ranked team of the last four years – and is arguably the most critical performer for both teams. It’s hard to imagine anyone on a soccer pitch who can pass the ball better than him. De Bruyne makes teams tick. Blessed with outstanding vision, he can see things no one else can and before they can. He knows all the right decisions to make on the pitch and executes those decisions with machine-like precision. At Qatar 2022, Belgium realizes they have a genuine world-beater in their ranks and will look to make full use of his abilities.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Age: 37, Portugal)
Never, ever doubt Cristiano Ronaldo. Over the years, those who fall flat forcibly on their faces with shame. The Man United man is 37 ahead of the tournament in Qatar. It’s an age by which, barring goalkeepers and a few defenders, most footballers are comfortably retired, enjoying pressure-free forays into punditry or coaching badges. Not CR7! He doesn’t shy away from pressure. He seeks it, embraces it, and conquers it. Plucky Portugal was fortunate to make it to Qatar via the play-offs. Ronaldo played a considerable part, setting up the all-important opening goal of the 2-0 win over a spirited North Macedonia side. Now, the man with the most goals in men’s football (over 800!) will look to make sure he gives fans something to remember at the World Cup. Given that it’s probably his last major international tournament, Ronaldo will look to bow out in style.
Lionel Messi (Age: 34, Argentina)
When it comes to soccer, Leo Messi is a god. This unearthly status quo has been achieved through years of excellence on the pitch, starting from the day he made his debut for Barcelona aged 17. In 2022 he plies his trade for Paris St. Germain but left Catalunya as the most prominent player the club has ever had. The 34-year-old creates goals, scores goals, and inspires his teams. Despite nearing his twilight years as a player, Messi continues to show he’s the man to rely on for his country, case in point is his majestic 5-goal (!) romp in a recent clash against Estonia. The Argentine maestro produces such crazy skills on the ball that spectators are puzzled as to whether it was deliberate or accidental. Messi is the top scorer for Argentina, whom he also captains. He’ll be looking to drag them across the finish line in Doha and into the glory of a first World Cup triumph since Diego Maradona’s in 1986.