The scheduling of the 2022 FIFA World Cup caused controversy across the footballing world. Traditionally, the tournament has been held in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer. For the majority of countries taking part, the domestic season had ended, and the players were refreshed and ready to play.
This year, the timing has led to a break in the European domestic season, and it’s had an effect on some players and teams. Individuals have had to be careful when managing injuries. Would they have returned to their club sides sooner if a World Cup hadn’t been on the horizon?
This is just one of a number of interesting factors surrounding the 2022 World Cup.
Not every top-level footballer is competing in Qatar. 32 nations make it through to the finals while some big names are absent. Reigning European Champions Italy failed to make the cut after a disappointing qualifying campaign, and this was the biggest shock ahead of the finals.
Egypt and Norway also failed to progress and that’s significant for the Premier League title race.
Norway’s Loss, Manchester City’s Gain
With their countries out of the running, there are some high-profile players who are currently enjoying an unscheduled rest. While their teammates are battling it out in the heat of Qatar, they will be training in the more comfortable temperatures of England in winter.
Perhaps the biggest name to miss out on the World Cup is Norwegian striker Erling Haaland. Manchester City moved for the Borussia Dortmund centre forward in the summer and the transfer has paid dividends for Pep Guardiola’s men.
Haaland started the season as favourite to claim the Golden Boot in football betting markets across the industry. The Golden Boot is awarded to the player who scores the most goals in a Premier League campaign and, in 2021/22, it was shared by Son Heung-Min and Mohamed Salah with 23 strikes each.
This season, Erling Haaland has already scored 18 times in 13 league games. He should eclipse last year’s mark while his odds in those markets have shortened considerably.
The Norwegian will certainly benefit from the break. He’s experienced some niggling injury issues in recent weeks and the World Cup has come at just the right time.
Salah Sitting it out
One of last season’s joint Golden Boot winners is also enjoying an unscheduled break. Mohammed Salah’s Egyptian side are not represented at the finals, but is that a bonus for Liverpool?
Unlike Erling Haaland, Salah had started the season in relatively subdued form. While his Liverpool team slipped to surprise defeats against Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, their key center forward struggled up front.
Just prior to the World Cup, Mohamed Salah struck with both goals in the 2-1 win over Spurs. He drew a blank in Liverpool’s most recent game against Southampton, but there were signs that he was finding some momentum.
It is, therefore, debatable as to whether the World Cup has come at the right time for this productive Egyptian.
Gunners Looking to Fire
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will have mixed feelings about the timing of this World Cup. A number of first team regulars will be available in Qatar and the manager will be hoping that they return to the Emirates free of any injury concerns.
Others will be staying at home including Erling Haaland’s international teammate Martin Odegaard. The Norwegian playmaker has been a vital player in Arsenal’s rise to the top of the table, and Gunners’ fans should be relieved that he’s enjoying a rest.
Elsewhere, Emile Smith Rowe has featured in England squads but recent injuries robbed him of a chance of appearing in Qatar. Will the five-week pause allow him an opportunity to come back stronger?
One Arsenal player who may actually benefit from World Cup duties is striker Gabriel Jesus. After scoring five times in eight games for his new club, Jesus hasn’t found the net in 16 matches. Could a productive World Cup with Brazil help him to regain form?
When top flight domestic action returns to Europe in late December, it will be fascinating to see if the World Cup has had an effect. Will the rest benefit these players and help them to drive their teams to their respective targets?