We are just a few short days away from World Cup 2022, the game’s largest tournament and one of the biggest events of the sports calendar, getting underway in Qatar. No matter how you actually feel about where the tournament is being held, when it’s being held and the context surrounding everything to do with what happens over the next month, it’s still going to go down and draw a massive, massive audience.
While one of the biggest names in the game in which a good number of Juventus players would have been heading to Qatar, there’s still a solid presence of players who just a few days ago were celebrating a sixth straight win against Serie A opposition.
Eleven players in total who call Juventus their current club have made the way to Qatar and will begin group play with their respective countries over the next few days. With no Italy in the picture for the second straight World Cup, there’s no dominant national team that most of the Juventus representation will be on. (Don’t worry, it will be a little different over the summer when the women take center stage.)
While Juventus doesn’t have a player on anywhere close to half of the teams in the tournament, there are still enough players to have the Old Lady be mentioned a decent amount of the time when these countries take the field.
So who are we keeping an eye on during this tournament? Let’s take a look.
(Please note: Players and countries will be listed by who plays their opening group stage game first, thus making it easier to figure out how the group stage will go.)
Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Maybe a few months ago we could have said there’s a Juventus player in this group, but there will be no current Juventus players taking part in the first three games of the World Cup. (Qatar-Ecuador is Sunday, Senegal-Netherlands is the second game of the day on Monday.)
So, sorry about that one, Matthijs. You could have been our opening day hero. Instead, all we have to remember is what you said on your way out and how the money Bayern Munich spent on you turned into a decent profit and the chance to see Bremer’s broad shoulders in a Juventus jersey rather than an Inter shirt.
Group B: England, Iran, United States, Wales
And now we get to talk about a group with a Juventus player.
The final game of the day on Monday will see Weston McKennie and the rest of the United States men’s national team take the field against a current teammate of Giorgio Chiellini (Gareth Bale) and a former teammate of Giorgio Chiellini (Aaron Ramsey). McKennie, who was out injured the last few weeks, is one of the biggest names that people are pinning the United States’ hopes on.
McKennie, the man who took over the No. 8 shirt at Juventus from Ramsey, has not had a great season to date. He’s battled both injury and inconsistent form. Like Juventus prior to their six-game Serie A winning streak, he showed flashes of good mixed in with some very noticeable lows.
With how Juventus’ midfield has performed during his most recent absence, there’s bound to be a whole lot of questions about where McKennie fits into things upon the restart in January. And you better believe that a good showing at the World Cup will have McKennie being linked to the same sort of clubs he was linked to during the summer transfer window.
Monday, Nov. 21: United States vs. Wales, 8 p.m. CET
Friday, Nov. 25: England vs. United States, 8 p.m. CET
Tuesday, Nov. 29: Iran vs. United States, 8 p.m. CET
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
We will have to wait until the last game of the Group C schedule to get some potential Juventus on Juventus crime, but there’s still very much a chance for that to happen.
Only natural when one team will have Juve’s starting goalkeeper and the other will have one of the more accomplished attacking players this tournament will see take the field.
Of course, Wojciech Szczesny will be looking to keep Angel Di Maria and the rest of the vaunted Argentina attack on the final day of the group stage. (Yes, it’s an attack that also includes Paulo Dybala, who is just back from injury after sweating out his fitness for the better part of the last few weeks.)
One of Szczesny’s club teammates, Arek Milik, is also his teammate in Qatar. Milik is Poland’s other big goal scoring alongside Robert Lewandowski, who will looking to make a big statement in what could very well be his final World Cup.
With Argentina the odds-on favorite to win the group, Szczesny and Milik and the rest of the Poland squad will likely be duking it out with Mexico for the second spot to advance out of the group. (Although our resident writer from Mexico might not be as bullish on his country’s chances of advancing as others might think.)
Tuesday, Nov. 22: Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia, 11 a.m. CET
Tuesday, Nov. 22: Mexico vs. Poland, 5 p.m. CET
Saturday, Nov. 26: Poland vs. Saudi Arabia, 2 p.m. CET
Saturday, Nov. 26: Argentina vs. Mexico, 8 p.m. CET
Wednesday, Nov. 30: Poland vs. Argentina, 8 p.m. CET
Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
With Paul Pogba out injured as France defend its World Cup victory from 2018, that means there’s only one player flying the Juventus flag in Group D.
It’s Adrien Rabiot, baby!
OK, so maybe that’s not the punchline that it was, say, this time last year when Rabiot was definitely struggling to make an impact on things at Juventus. But Rabiot has had the kind of 2022-23 season that could have you thinking he’s easily been one of Juventus’ best players. Yes, the same Rabiot that nearly left Juve during the summer transfer window only to remain because his mother/agent (magent? momgent?) Veronique asked for too much money when negotiating with Manchester United.
But with no Pogba and an otherwise rather young — but holy crap really, really good — crop of midfielders, Rabiot is likely in line to see whether he can carry over his really good Juventus form into the French national team. And throw in the fact that he’s always been a favorite of France manager Didier Deschamps, then you’ve got a player who is going to have the backing of his manager on top of having the confidence flowing after such a good start to the club season.
Tuesday, Nov. 22: France vs. Australia, 8 p.m. CET
Saturday, Nov. 26: France vs. Denmark, 5 p.m. CET
Wednesday, Nov. 30: Tunisia vs. France, 4 p.m. CET
Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
Unless you are clutching a Alvaro Morata jersey in bianconero that you own, there is only previous Juventus connections in this group as opposed to current ones.
(Morata’s had a decent season with Atlético Madrid, by the way, scoring five league goals. Although, seeing as what Moise Kean has done lately, not picking up Morata’s buy option seems to have been a pretty good move by the Juve front office.)
Spain’s young midfield will be fun to watch at their first World Cup. Same goes for all of the young German talent that will be looking to make their mark amongst the longstanding veterans that they’ve relied on for years.
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Another group with no Juventus players.
But I know we’ve got Canadian readers here, and seeing Canada getting to show what they’re all about on the big stage is going to be a potentially awesome thing to witness.
If only there was a Mario Mandzukic to both be grumpy and fun to watch at the same time. Oh well. There’s always highlights of what Mario did at the 2018 tournament. But there isn’t. There’s not even a Marko Pjaca siting. (But Croatia does have a decent number of Serie A players on its roster, so there’s that, I guess.)
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Here you have nearly half of the 11-player Juventus contingent at the World Cup in one group. That’s not exactly something we’re used to seeing most of the time, but with no Italy around to occupy a lot of our attention — and dominate the numbers in terms of players at the tournament — there’s only so much we can do.
And we won’t have to wait long to see Juve vs. Juve when Brazil faces Serbia in the first game of the group next Thursday, Nov. 24.
That means what is likely to be a Brazilian backline with at least one Juventus player starting will try to slow down a Serbia attack that will feature Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic. The two Serbians go into the World Cup in very different kinds of situations — Vlahovic hasn’t played since Juve’s 4-3 loss to Benfica on Oct. 25 because of a groin injury, while Kostic has only gotten better as the first few months of his Juve career has gone on, especially the last few weeks.
Juve’s Brazilian trio of Danilo, Bremer and Alex Sandro are part of an absolutely loaded roster that has superstars all over the field. Is there another team at the World Cup outside of France that can rival Brazil’s talent? Probably not. Case in point: Bremer, the reigning Serie A defender of the year who has been in great form heading into the World Cup, isn’t even a guaranteed starter for this team.
Meanwhile, Alex Sandro, the weakest link of the three of the three Juve players on the Brazil, is in competition with Alex Telles for the starting spot at left back.
Thursday, Nov. 24: Brazil vs. Serbia, 8 p.m. CET
Monday, Nov. 28: Cameroon vs. Serbia, 11 a.m. CET
Monday, Nov. 28: Brazil vs. Switzerland, 5 p.m. CET
Friday, Dec. 2: Serbia vs. Switzerland, 8 p.m. CET
Friday, Dec. 2: Cameroon vs. Brazil, 8 p.m. CET
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Another group that has no current Juventus players but actually does have former Juventus players.
There’s the guy who everybody is talking about right now because of the interview he’s given with a guy who has a very punchable face about the state of things at Manchester United. (Gee, sounds like a swell situation, doesn’t it? Sure glad he’s not talking about Juventus and that he’s now a year and a half removed from his time in Turin. But that’s just me.)
There’s also the two former Juventus player who hail from Uruguay who are very much at different parts of their respective careers. Martin Caceres and his legendary high socks spent the last few months playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer in hopes of getting in shape for the World Cup. The other Uruguayan is somebody who is very much back on the rise after leaving Juventus in what was probably less than heralded fashion — Rodrigo Bentancur, who has since rediscovered his best form since his move to Tottenham last January.