December 4, 2022

How this weekend’s football has impacted the 2022 World Cup

The World Cup is now only 13 days away. We repeat: the World Cup is…

The World Cup is now only 13 days away.

We repeat: the World Cup is now only 13 days away.

The decision to move the tournament in Qatar to November and December has been known since 2015, when FIFA abandoned its original plans to stage the event in the summer months because of concerns over player welfare. But it still feels exceptionally odd for a World Cup to be starting in less than two weeks’ time, while European domestic football is in full flow, and the MLS season has only just drawn to a close.

The World Cup taking place in the middle of the European club season has already caused a number of problems, with virtually all of the 32 nations suffering from a number of injury and fitness headaches. And so coaches and fans alike will have anxiously watched this weekend’s club football, praying for their players to emerge unscathed ahead of the tournament in Qatar, whose selection as host nation has proven controversial for the following reasons.

With attention now beginning to turn from club football to the World Cup, we wanted to round up all of the big news in the Premier League, Europe and MLS this weekend, to let you know how the last two days have impacted the biggest tournament in sport.

Which is now only 13 days away, by the way. Just in case you missed that.


The Premier League

Nottingham Forest 2-2 Brentford

Wales duo Brennan Johnson and Neco Williams returned to the Nottingham Forest side with good timing, with the pair playing an important role as their side drew 2-2 with Brentford. Rob Page will be pleased as they played well, helping Steve Cooper’s side to secure a point with a late leveller.

Remo Freuler will also hope to be heading to Qatar with Switzerland as he continues to pin down his place in the Forest starting XI with some steady performances.

Orel Mangala spoke last week about his hopes of earning a place in the Belgium squad but he had to be happy with a substitute role for Forest, which won’t have helped his chances.

Cheikhou Kouyate continues to impress in the Forest midfield and has a better chance of making the Senegal squad than Moussa Niakhate, who continues his recovery from a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be fit.

Renan Lodi may need to pin down his Forest place if he is to be certain of a place in the Brazil squad.

Paul Taylor

Brentford were hopeful Christian Norgaard would finally return from an Achilles injury for their match against Forest, but he failed to even make the bench. The 28-year-old has not played since their 1-1 draw with Everton on August 27 and Denmark’s head coach, Kasper Hjulmand, will be seriously concerned about his fitness.

Mathias Jensen should be in Demark’s World Cup squad, however, and his magnificent pass set up Yoane Wissa’s goal against Forest. Mikkel Damsgaard, who scored a free-kick against England in the European Championship semi-final, came off the bench but struggled to make an impact.

Ivan Toney missed out on the chance to impress Gareth Southgate because he was suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 26-year-old’s weekend wasn’t improved when news later broke that the FA are investigating him over allegations of historical match betting.

After switching his eligibility from France to Cameroon earlier this year, Bryan Mbeumo is set to be a key member of Rigobert Song’s squad. He scored a penalty against Forest but showed a lack of cutting edge from open play.

David Raya strengthened his claim to represent Spain at the World Cup with an impressive performance and he made several crucial saves to deny Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White.

Jay Harris

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 Brighton & Hove Albion

The absence of Matheus Nunes with the shoulder problem he suffered last week at Brentford was the most notable issue for Portugal boss Fernando Santos, who keeps a keen eye on events at Molineux for obvious reasons. But Wolves expect their record signing to regain full fitness soon, possibly in time to face Arsenal on Saturday, so Matheus will be hopeful of making the tournament if selected.

Nelson Semedo’s outside chances of making the Portugal squad surely ended with a horror show against Brighton while Goncalo Guedes gave his own slim hopes a slight boost with an improved display.


Guedes got on the scoresheet for Wolves (Photo: Getty Images)

Elsewhere, Raul Jimenez missed out again but is closing in on fitness and could be ready in time to join Mexico’s campaign in Qatar.

Steve Madeley

Kaoru Mitoma celebrated his place in Japan’s 26-man squad for Qatar with his first goal for the club and a part in the other two goals on his first away start in the Premier League.

Alexis Mac Allister resisted the temptation to collect a fifth booking, a ban and a rest from the last league game at home to Aston Villa on Sunday before linking up with Argentina.

Belgium’s Leandro Trossard added an assist for Adam Lallana’s opening goal to the five goals he’d scored in the previous six games. Trossard came through the match unscathed, together with Ecuador duo Pervis Estupinan and Moises Caicedo, and Spain goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

Unused subs Jeremy Sarmiento (Ecuador), Tariq Lamptey (Ghana) joined other players in the matchday squad that didn’t get minutes for an impromptu gym session in a corridor outside the dressing rooms next to the media mixed zone after the game.

Andy Naylor

Manchester City 2-1 Fulham

The biggest development did not come on the pitch as City beat Fulham but in the post-match press conference.

Pep Guardiola revealed that Kalvin Phillips will be back on the bench for the Carabao Cup game against Chelsea on Wednesday. He is a key player for Gareth Southgate and his shoulder surgery had put his participation in Qatar in doubt, but with two weeks to go before England’s first game he has given himself a big chance of regaining his match fitness.

Kyle Walker is a little further behind in his recovery, however, so there are still question marks there. In terms of those who are fit, John Stones had a superb game and has been playing well of late. Phil Foden, curiously, has been on the bench for the last three Premier League games, including Saturday’s clash with Fulham. Jack Grealish started but would not have made much of an impression on Southgate. He’s playing solidly enough but is missing a bit of spark.

Sam Lee

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s fitness remains an issue. He just can’t seem to shake off an ankle injury. He picked it up on international duty with Serbia last month and while he has featured since, he has only trained infrequently and has also taken painkillers to help manage it.

This week, he felt pain after facing Everton and was not deemed fit enough to face Manchester City. Marco Silva does not believe the issue is serious, but it will cause lingering concerns in the Serbia camp the longer it persists.

Portugal’s Joao Palhinha managed another 90 minutes unscathed against City while USMNT duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream continued their good form. Robinson was excellent before conceding a stoppage-time penalty, while Ream continues to ask questions of Gregg Berhalters selection choices.

Elsewhere, Harry Wilson added 75 minutes to the tank after his recent injury lay-off but did seem to limp off when substituted. He did not though head down the tunnel and no issues were raised after the game. Dan James (Wales) and Kevin Mbabu (Switzerland) also took minutes from the bench, while outside hopes Bernd Leno (Germany) and Kenny Tete (Netherlands) all played well.

Peter Rutzler

Leeds United 4-3 Bournemouth

Patrick Bamford is a long way past the point of an England call-up for Qatar but any lingering chance of a last flash for Gareth Southgate was scuppered by a hip injury on Friday. By the time Bamford is back, he will have gone a calendar year without scoring — and knocking on for 18 months since his last full 90 minutes.

Likewise, Jack Harrison’s middling form seems highly unlikely to snatch him a late call. Otherwise, those who expect to travel are in good physical shape.

Phil Hay

After starting every league game for Bournemouth this season, Chris Mepham picked up his fifth booking in the dramatic 4-3 loss to Leeds on Saturday and will now have a bit of a rest before seeing if he makes Rob Page’s 26-man squad for Wales on November 9. His compatriot Kieffer Moore got his seventh start of the season at Elland Road but missed a glorious chance to give Bournemouth a three-goal lead in the first half to put them out of sight. But the striker played the full 90 minutes without issue.

Philip Billing’s thunderous close-range finish against Leeds means he has now scored four goals in 14 Premier League games this season, more than his first three seasons as a player in the competition before this (three goals in 77 appearances). The Dane also came through the game unscathed.

Billing did his Denmark chances no harm (Photo: Getty Images)


Billing did his Denmark chances no harm (Photo: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Argentina international Marcos Senesi got off to a horrid start against Leeds, needlessly conceding a penalty inside 55 seconds after a foul on Crysencio Summerville. But the centre-back soon found his feet and was instrumental in the build-up to Bournemouth’s first two goals to spark a rapid turnaround. Despite being substituted towards the end of the game, Senesi remains in good shape for World Cup selection.

Ahmed Shooble

Everton 0-2 Leicester City

Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye will all be assessed after picking up injuries in the 2-0 home defeat against Leicester on Saturday.

Gueye was replaced at half-time after suffering a quad injury, with Calvert-Lewin (hamstring) and Onana (ankle) also limping off in the second period. All three will be assessed by Everton’s medical team on Monday and face an anxious wait to determine whether their participation in Qatar is at risk.

Elsewhere, Jordan Pickford was powerless to stop a dominant Leicester side from taking three points at Goodison. The England No 1 made a string of impressive saves, most notably from Patson Daka, but was eventually beaten by Youri Tielemans’ fine volley and Harvey Barnes’ late second on the counter.

Anthony Gordon, a regular at England Under-21 level, appears to be running out of time to stake a case for inclusion in Southgate’s squad. He was replaced in the starting line-up by Dwight McNeil on Saturday, appearing from the bench as a second-half substitute as Everton searched in vain for a way back into the match.

Patrick Boyland

James Maddison enhanced his claims for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, while Harvey Barnes, with a stunning strike to seal the 2-0 win at Everton, didn’t do his cause any harm either. James Justin is also coming into form at the right time when Southgate is losing full-backs to injury.

Youri Tielemans, Timothy Castagne and Wout Faes all strengthened their claims for a place in the Belgium squad, but Dennis Praet was missing after the birth of his child.

Danny Ward kept his fifth clean sheet in seven games as he looks to become Wales’ number one, while Daniel Amartey continues to hold down the centre-back position, which will delight Ghana manager Otto Addo. Senegal’s Papy Mendy didn’t get any game time, however.

Rob Tanner

Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal

The good news is that Chelsea came through Sunday without any fresh injuries. The bad news is that they did so in part by rarely getting close enough to Arsenal to risk getting hurt.

Mateo Kovacic got just 12 minutes off the substitutes’ bench as he continues to be managed carefully through a lingering calf issue. Kalidou Koulibaly was not risked despite declaring himself “much better” after a knee problem that had sidelined him against Manchester United, RB Salzburg and Brighton.

Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Conor Gallagher all came through the match unscathed, though none on the fringes of their country’s World Cup plans did their causes any good with a torrid individual and collective showing.

Christian Pulisic continues to be used primarily from the bench but while he couldn’t impact the match against Arsenal, he has shown enough in recent cameos to suggest he will be fresh and firing for USMNT in Qatar.

Pulisic was given little time to impress (Photo: Getty Images)


Pulisic was given little time to impress (Photo: Getty Images)

Hakim Ziyech may need time to re-find his rhythm with Morocco before the World Cup; he has played a grand total of 26 minutes under Potter, never looked likely to get on the pitch against Arsenal and it would be a surprise if he featured against Newcastle next weekend, though the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City could provide a rare opportunity.

Ben Chilwell has already been ruled out of England duty during the World Cup, while Wesley Fofana and Reece James are continuing their rehabilitation from knee injuries in Dubai. James has not yet given up hope of inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s final squad for Qatar.

Liam Twomey

The Arsenal team news showed that, as expected, Takehiro Tomiyasu was not fit enough to make the squad. The Japan international suffered a muscular injury during the win over FC Zurich on Thursday night. Arsenal have not yet provided a significant update on his fitness — given the proximity of the World Cup, the Japanese football association will be worried.

The US will have been relieved to see Matt Turner fit again and back on the bench. He is expected to start Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup tie against Brighton.

There was some pre-match drama when Bukayo Saka briefly departed the warm-up to disappear down the tunnel. However, he returned showing no ill effects and made it through the game OK — despite a couple of alterations with Marc Cucurella.

William Saliba’s man-of-the-match performance earned him rave reviews in France. In this form, he may be in line for a starting spot in their World Cup team. Fellow centre-back Gabriel also did his chances of international selection no harm. At the moment, team-mate Gabriel Jesus looks likely to make the Brazil squad, with the participation of the other two Gabriels — Maghalaes and Martinelli — in more doubt.

James McNicholas

Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United

Let’s start with the positives for any international managers who tuned into Sunday’s game at Villa Park. Lucas Digne made a goalscoring return to the starting line-up and Boubacar Kamara came off the bench for his first appearance in two months. Both are now in contention to make the France squad.

Matty Cash, Leander Dendoncker and Emi Martinez all came through the game unscathed. So Poland, Belgium and Argentina will be happy.

Tyrone Mings — a player still in contention to make the England squad — showed that in the big games, when the pressure is on, he can hold his own.

Team-mate Ollie Watkins was also excellent for Villa against Manchester United, as was Jacob Ramsey, but both are still likely to miss out on the Three Lions final cut.

Jan Bednarek was an unused substitute – and he’s cup-tied alongside Dendoncker for Thursday’s game – so he’ll be well-rested when he links up with Poland.

The bad news, however, is that any slim hopes Philippe Coutinho had of making the World Cup are now over. He’s going to be sidelined with a quad injury for some time.

Gregg Evans

Harry Maguire could only make the substitute bench for United’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the weekend. The centre-back is not in Erik ten Hag’s immediate plans as a starter, will be of concern to Southgate.

Maguire remains short of game time (Photo: Getty Images)


Maguire remains short of game time (Photo: Getty Images)

Any window of opportunity for Jadon Sancho to make the England squad is surely close to closing. He missed Sunday’s game through injury, as did Brazilian winger Antony, who remains a potential squad option for Tite.

Anthony Martial made a 25-minute cameo at Villa Park, increasing his slim chances to be considered by Didier Deschamps for France.

Diogo Dalot meanwhile collected a fifth booking in a dreary team performance. He will now be suspended for United’s final game before Qatar 2022, and looks to be a squad option for Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo may be a starter for Fernando Santos’ side, but has been in poor form as of late and there are questions over whether he is the best choice to lead the line for the Portuguese National Team.

Carl Anka

Southampton 1-4 Newcastle United

Initial optimism at St Mary’s was emboldened by Armel Bella-Kotchap and Romeo Lavia returning to the squad, with both in contention to feature at the World Cup for Germany and Belgium respectively. Bella-Kotchap started before being replaced in the 72nd minute for Duje Caleta-Car.

An injury to Juan Larios in the first half gave Lavia, who had started on the bench, a swift introduction back into the fold. He came through the defeat unscathed following a two-and-a-half-month hamstring injury.

James Ward-Prowse failed to impress England boss Southgate, who was watching on. The Southampton captain was omitted from Southgate’s most recent squad and is likely to only stand an outside chance of going to Qatar. Ward-Prowse was among a handful of World Cup hopefuls who endured difficult afternoons, with Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu unable to stop the rot as Newcastle scored four.

Jacob Tanswell

Southgate was watching his second Newcastle match in succession, which must represent unchartered territory (but why not – the Premier League’s third-place team had seven Englishmen in the starting line-up), and after a couple of nervy moments, the head coach left St Mary’s with a sense of relief.

After playing a part in Miguel Almiron’s opening goal, Callum Wilson did not return for the second half. The forward has a patchy fitness record but he has been suffering from a cold and was “feeling a bit lightheaded,” at half-time, according to Eddie Howe. “He’s fine physically.”

Kieran Trippier also had treatment and was feeling his hamstring just before the interval, but carried on until the 80th minute, when Howe took the decision to bring him off “to protect him.” Trippier himself said he felt “OK,” after feeling himself “tie up as I stretched.”

There was one fumble by Nick Pope, but the goalkeeper otherwise looked as solid as usual. Howe reported no other injuries afterwards, with Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), and Sven Botman (Netherlands) coming through the game unscathed.

George Caulkin

West Ham United 1-2 Crystal Palace

There was an initial scare when Declan Rice went down injured following Cheick Doucoure’s tackle in West Ham United’s 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace. But the midfielder played the full match which will be a huge boost for Southgate. Rice is one of the few players who are guaranteed a place in the starting XI for the group-stage opener against Iran.

Rice will hope his team-mate Jarrod Bowen is named in the 26-man squad. But the winger has a paltry return of two goals in 14 league appearances for the season. He also had the fewest touches (31) of any outfield player in the loss to Crystal Palace. On current form, he has an outside chance of going to Qatar.

Alphonse Areola, Nayef Aguerd, Thilo Kehrer and Lucas Paqueta are still all in contention of being in France, Morocco, Germany and Brazil’s squads ahead of the World Cup.

Roshane Thomas

There were no injury or form concerns following Palace’s 2-1 win over West Ham on Sunday. With only a small number of players likely to make the trip to Qatar with their national sides Patrick Vieira will have time to work with his squad over the break.

Joachim Andersen, the Denmark defender, will be fine for the World Cup assuming he avoids injury in Palace’s final two games — with a trip to Newcastle United on Wednesday for the Carabao Cup fixture. He is in good form.

His defensive partner Marc Guehi will hope to have done enough to convince Southgate to name him in the final squad. His performance against West Ham was a solid one, with a penalty awarded against him for a foul on Michail Antonio overturned after referee Paul Tierney consulted the pitchside monitor.

Southgate’s attention may have been piqued by Eberechi Eze’s determined pressing which helped him claim an assist for Wilfried Zaha’s equaliser.

In midfield, Jeffrey Schlupp came through unscathed and so did Jordan Ayew. The pair are expected to be named in Ghana’s squad for the tournament.

USMNT defender Chris Richards has still not returned to team training after a hamstring injury and is facing a race against time to make Berhalter’s squad.

Matt Woosnam

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Liverpool

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are indispensable players for club and country and there were positives for England and South Korea despite only one of them being on the pitch. Kane continued his fine goalscoring form with his 11th goal in 14 Premier League appearances this season, while Antonio Conte delivered a post-match update on Son’s fractured eye socket, saying he’s confident the forward will go to Qatar after he underwent surgery on Friday.

Kane remains in impressive goal-scoring form (Photo: Getty Images)


Kane remains in impressive goal-scoring form (Photo: Getty Images)

Midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark) both got through 90 minutes despite appearing to suffer injuries in midweek, while Ivan Perisic (Croatia) arguably had his best game in a Spurs shirt so far, supporting Kane up front to cover the squad’s current injury problems.

One of those injured is Richarlison but the man who could lead the line for Brazil appears close to a comeback. He was spotted pitchside in his training gear before the match. However one negative was a costly mistake from Eric Dier who has started England’s last two games but handed Liverpool a second goal when mistiming a header back to Hugo Lloris, who will start for France.

Tim Spiers

The debate over Trent Alexander-Arnold’s England credentials rumbles on and there was plenty of ammunition at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, regardless of which side of the fence you reside on.

The Liverpool right-back showcased his range of passing with some exquisite crossfield passes as he helped Jurgen Klopp’s side establish a 2-0 lead in the capital. Going forward, he’s such an asset with his ability to create openings.

However, once again he struggled defensively with Ryan Sessegnon and Perisic both causing him plenty of problems. Tottenham wanted a penalty for a shove by Alexander-Arnold on Sessegnon but Andrew Madley wasn’t interested.

Ibrahima Konate will be hoping to make the cut for the France squad and he excelled on his first Premier League start of the season after a difficult few months hampered by injuries.

Brazil’s Alisson is also in fine form, while Uruguay’s Darwin Nunez continues to grow in stature.

James Pearce


In Europe…

Surely the biggest piece of injury news in world football this weekend came from France, where Paris Saint-Germain confirmed that Lionel Messi had suffered an “inflamed Achilles tendon” and would therefore not be fit enough to play in their Ligue 1 match against Lorient on Sunday, which they won 2-1.

News of his absence made headlines around the world — with the reaction in Argentina predictably panicked — but PSG attempted to ease Argentine concerns by insisting the 35-year-old will “resume collective training next week”. How Argentina will hope this is the case. Messi has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 12 goals and adding 14 assists in all competitions for the French champions.

Messi is due to return to training this week, to the delight of tournament organisers… (Photo: Getty Images)


Messi is due to return to training this week, to the delight of tournament organisers… (Photo: Getty Images)

There was also positive news for Alphonso Davies and Canada, who must have feared the worst when the 22-year-old was withdrawn during Bayern Munich’s victory over Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Early on Sunday morning, however, the German champions released a statement making clear that the defender’s injury was not as bad as first feared. Bayern anticipate Davies missing the club’s last two remaining matches before the winter break but said he is expected to return in time for the World Cup.

“The 22-year-old full-back suffered a hamstring strain in the 3-2 win at Hertha BSC on Saturday,” the club said. “The diagnosis was confirmed by the German record champions’ medical unit. The Canada international’s participation in the World Cup in Qatar is not at risk.”

Canada will almost certainly be without goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, however, as he badly injured his leg while committing a red-card foul in extra time of Los Angeles FC’s thrilling win over Philadelphia in the MLS Cup final on Saturday.

There is also concern in Uruguay over the veteran forward Edinson Cavani. The 35-year-old striker remains a regular for his national side, scoring 58 goals in no fewer than 133 international appearances, but he was absent from Valencia’s matchday squad for Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad after suffering an injury setback in training last week.


And what about MLS?

In arguably the most entertaining game in MLS’s 27-year history, plenty of World Cup hopefuls made their final league appearances before the Qatar tournament. Los Angeles FC featured four such players in their starting lineups and the quartet had mixed days as the fifth-year club won its first MLS title.

Kellyn Acosta opened the scoring in the first half with a free kick which took a kind deflection off a Philadelphia Union defender. Jose Cifuentes was active in midfield alongside Acosta and kept the Union from progressing through the centre of the park, but will wish he’d completed more than 60 per cent of his passes ahead of Ecuador’s involvement.

His compatriot Diego Palacios had an even more eventful shift, however, as he kept Daniel Gazdag onside for Philadelphia’s first goal and was sold by a diversion run that freed Jack Elliott up to score the opponent’s second. He made up for the infractions later, though, as his cross found one of the sport’s most clutch foreheads in space.

Bale is in an ominous mood ahead of Qatar (Photo: Getty Images)


Bale is in an ominous mood ahead of Qatar (Photo: Getty Images)

While he played his only 23 minutes since October 2, Gareth Bale’s header provided the league’s latest viral moment as he sent the match to penalties with a 127th-minute shocker. After the game, Bale spoke of his improving readiness for Wales’ first World Cup since 1958, relishing a chance to have a similar impact against Acosta and the United States in their Group B opener. Unfortunately, the biggest World Cup impact to an LAFC player was a negative one, as Canada backup Crepeau saw a red card for a denial of obvious goalscoring opportunity, which resulted in him breaking his lower leg.

As for Philadelphia, Olivier Mbaizo created two chances from right-back as he hopes to make the trip to represent Cameroon.

Jeff Rueter

(Photos: Getty Images)