How Brazil, Argentina, England, Italy and the major nations could line up at World Cup 2022

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Russia 2018 is a wrap, so Goal looks into its crystal ball and tries to predict the starting line-ups for Qatar in four years' time

  1. Argentina

    What is beyond dispute is that Argentina's 2018 World Cup squad is in dire need of rejuvenation, which is good news for Paulo Dybala, Giovanni Lo Celso, Santiago Ascacibar and Lautaro Martinez.

    What is less clear, though, is whether Lionel Messi will survive the cull. Then again, would he even want to try his luck again in four years' time? He will be 35 by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around.

    Still, while his peak years will doubtless be behind him, pace is no longer as important to his game as it once was.

    He could still be the best playmaker at Argentina's disposal. So great is his passing, he could easily undertake the role performed by Juan Roman Riquelme in Germany in 2006.

  2. Belgium

    Belgium's 'Golden Generation' may have missed their optimal opportunity to win a major trophy by losing to eventual winners France in the semi-finals of this summer's World Cup but several star men are still young enough to return for Qatar 2022.

    Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will almost certainly still be the Red Devils' No.1, while the all-star duo Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard should still have enough left to create chances for prolific striker Romelu Lukaku.

    Adnan Januzaj should be reaching his peak in four years, and the same goes for Youri Tielemans and Yannick Carrasco.

    The defence will need a revamp, though, which could result in starting spots for Jason Denayer, Leander Dendoncker and Jordan Lukaku alongside rampaging right-back Thomas Meunier.

  3. Brazil

    The good news for the devastated Neymar is that he is likely to get another crack at World Cup glory in 2022, and with familiar faces Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho alongside him.

    New Barcelona signing Arthur should be a well-established star by that time and he could well be joined in the team by Lucas Paqueta, the 20-year-old Flamengo ace who made the provisional squad for 2018.

    The defence could also be bolstered by another Blaugrana-owned player, centre-half Marlon, who spent last season out on loan at Nice, as well as Eder Militao and Jorge.

  4. Croatia

    Luka Modric and several other key members of Croatia's latest golden generation are unlikely to return in four years' time but the 2018 World Cup runners-up should still boast a stellar starting line-up in Qatar.

    The enigmatic Mateo Kovacic will hopefully be a regular by that stage of his career, Lovre Kalinic looks like the ideal successor to Danijel Subasic, Marko Pjaca should have come of age by 2022, and Josip Brekalo is the pick of an exciting batch of up-and-coming attackers.

    In defence, Dejan Lovren and Sime Vrsaljka could still be knocking about, Duje Caleta-Car is on track to become a starter, while Borna Sosa, 20, only narrowly missed out on the squad for Russia. 

  5. England

    Football didn't come home in 2018 but it could do in four years' time. England's young squad will have benefited enormously from their remarkable run to the semis in Russia and could easily go one better in Qatar.

    After all, current squad members Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Dele Alli, Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trent Alexander-Arnold should all be even better by the time the next World Cup rolls around. 

    Throw the likes of Manchester City prodigy Phil Foden and Fulham sensation Ryan Sessegnon into the mix and you've got the makings of an even more balanced squad with an added attacking threat.

    Indeed, the only major doubts are over whether a world-class central midfielder will emerge in the coming years, and if Rashford will edge ahead of Sterling in the battle to start alongside Kane up front.

  6. France

    The remarkable thing about world champions France is that so many members of Didier Deschamps' squad are likely to still be around in four years' time. 

    Alphonese Areola should take over in between the posts from captain Hugo Lloris but defenders Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Mendy are all presently 25 or under.

    The 21-year-old Tanguy Ndombele could come into the midfield alongside Paul Pogba, while the ever-improving Nabil Fekir may have moved ahead of Antoine Griezmann in the pecking order by Qatar 2022.

    Kylian Mbappe should be even better then than he is now, which is plain scary, as is the prospect of the teenager being flanked by fellow speedsters Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembele.

  7. Germany

    Germany will be on a mission in Qatar to make amends for their humiliating – and hugely surprising – first-round elimination in Russia. 

    They should still be able to call upon some World Cup winners, too, with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Mats Hummels all the kind of players who could still be playing at the highest level in four years' time. 

    As a goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer could also feature but one could easily foresee Marc-Andre ter Stegen usurping him as Germany's No.1 in the not-too-distant future.

    Elsewhere, one would hope Leroy Sane would be deemed good enough for a starting spot by 2022, and the same goes for Benjamin Henrichs, who also missed out on the squad for Russia.

    In addition, Niklas Sule, Julian Brandt, Leon Goretzka also all look perfectly primed for promotion to the starting 11.

  8. Italy

    Having missed out on Russia 2018, Italy will be desperate to re-establish themselves among the game's elite in Qatar. 

    The good news is that they have some excellent young prospects to take over from the old guard, chief among them Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has long been regarded as Gianluigi Buffon's heir in goal.

    Mattia Caldara and Alessio Romagnoli have the makings of an excellent central defensive partnership, while Italy are spoiled for choice in the middle of the park, with Jorginho and Marco Verratti likely to be competing for the playmaking duties in a midfield that could also feature Bryan Cristante and Lorenzo Pellegrini.

    Mario Balotelli could well be a contender to play through the middle but youth is on the side of Andrea Belotti, who would surely flourish alongside the 20-year-old Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi.

  9. Mexico

    The 'curse of the fifth game' struck again in Russia but Mexico have enough exciting talent coming through to suggest that they could finally reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup, in Qatar.

    The uncapped Gibran Lajud, 24, looks perfectly primed to take over from Guillermo Ochoa in nets, while the 21-year-old Cesar Montes could partner Nestor Araujo in a defence containing two young full-backs in Edson Alvarez and Jesus Gallardo.

    Persuading United States Under-20 international Jonathan Gonzalez to switch allegiances was a major coup for El Tri and he would work well alongside the more experienced Hector Herrera and Erick Gutierrez.

    Raul Jimenez could well replace Javier Hernandez in attack, with Hirving Lozano holding on to his place on the left wing and the exciting Diego Lainez, who has been touted as 'The Mexican Messi', coming into the side on the right flank.

  10. Netherlands

    Netherlands infamously missed out on Russia 2018 but they should have sufficient quality coming through now to ensure their participation in Qatar 2022.

    Ajax teenager Matthijs de Ligt could form a brilliant back three with established stars Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij, with Rick Karsdorp and Tyrell Malacia, 18, out wide.

    Barcelona target Frenkie de Jong is considered Netherlands' next big thing and he would slot nicely into midfield alongside Kevin Strootman and Georginio Wijnaldum, leaving the likes of Steven Bergwijn, Daishawn Redan and Justin Kluivert to fight for a place up front alongside the resurgent Memphis Depay.

  11. Portugal

    Cristiano Ronaldo will be 37 when the 2022 World Cup gets under way but would anyone really bet against him leading the line for Portugal in Qatar?

    The superstar forward remains in peak physical condition, as underlined by Juventus' decision to pay Real Madrid €120 million for his services this summer, and he could excel as a centre-forward with Gelson Martins and Goncalo Guedes out wide, and Bernardo Silva tucked in behind.

    Ruben Neves would form a fine defensive midfield partnership with William Carvahlo, while Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro look like solid options for the full-back berths.

    Antony Lopes should usurp Rui Patricio in goal but there are some doubts over the quality of Pepe and Jose Fonte's would-be heirs, with the raw Ruben Dias and Valencia's Ruben Vezo probably the leading contenders.

  12. Spain

    As well as confirming the death of tiki-taka, Spain's chaotic World Cup campaign also proved that Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique's best days are well and truly behind them.

    The versatile Nacho and Athletic Club centre-half Yeray Alvarez would make for a fine pair of replacements at the heart of the Roja defence, while it would not be a surprise to see the 29-year-old Jordi Alba still motoring up and down the left flank in Qatar, with Álvaro Odriozola almost guaranteed to be Dani Carvajal's successor on the opposite side.

    Thiago Alcantara could be pulling the strings in 2022 alongside Atletico Madrid duo Rodri and Koke.

    Up front, the hope would be that Alvaro Morata has finally realised his potential by the next World Cup, as he would make for a fine target man for the mercurial Isco and superstar-in-waiting Marco Asensio.

  13. USA

    The US plan to rebuild after their stunning failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and they will obviously do so around the prodigiously gifted Christian Pulisic, who could form a young and exciting attacking trio with fellow teenagers Timothy Weah, son of Liberia legend George, and Josh Sargent.

    Schalke starlet Weston McKennie could anchor the midfield alongside Kellyn Acosta and Tyler Adams.

    Zack Steffen will likely be first-choice goalkeeper in Qatar and perhaps be protected by a back four made up of De Andre Yedlin (25), Matt Miazga (22), John Brooks (25) and Antonee Robinson (20).