Barcelona pair Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay are facing a spell on the sidelines after returning from international duty with the Netherlands carrying injuries.

De Jong left the field at half-time during last week's Nations League win over Poland, while Depay hobbled off later in the same game.

Neither player featured in Sunday's win against Belgium after being given permission to return to club side Barcelona early.

Barca confirmed on their official website on Monday that both players remain injured and are not being considered for selection against Real Mallorca next weekend.

Reports from Spain suggest De Jong could return within a week, but Depay is facing closer to a month out of action with an injury to his left thigh.

The news comes on the same day that Barca announced Ronald Araujo is to undergo thigh surgery on Wednesday, ruling the defender out for the remainder of the year.

Fellow centre-back Jules Kounde also suffered an injury on international duty with France and is expected to miss a month.

Louis van Gaal praised the Netherlands' discipline in their 1-0 Nations League victory over Belgium on Sunday despite describing his team as having played "very badly". 

Victory over Poland on Thursday meant the Oranje only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to their neighbours at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam to seal top spot in Group A4 and progress to the Nations League Finals next year.

A result of that nature never looked like materialising, with Virgil van Dijk securing three points for the hosts in the 73rd minute – the centre-back's sixth goal for his country, four of those being headers from a corner.

The result extended Oranje's unbeaten run to 15 games (11 wins, four draws) since Van Gaal was reappointed for the third time in August last year, while it also saw Van Gaal move level with Dick Advocaat as the manager with the most wins in charge of the Netherlands (37). 

"We lost the ball so much and in simple situations," he told NOS. "Just like against Poland, only now even more. 

"That also had to do with Belgium, who put more pressure on the ball, especially in the second half. We certainly didn't play our best game.

"Belgium are very strong in terms of quality. They have a lot of individual quality. [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Eden] Hazard; those are top players. The Belgians did very well from the back. They were the better team today.

"I told the players that we played very badly, but we didn't give away many chances. 

"We also had the greatest opportunities, especially at the end. I think [Steven] Bergwijn and [Davy] Klaassen should have scored.

"This is a disciplined victory and that's nice. Although we were second best for 90 minutes, we still continued playing our game and were disciplined."

Marten de Roon replaced the injured Frenkie de Jong in midfield and Van Gaal was pleased with how the Atalanta man contained De Bruyne.

"I thought [De Roon] was one of the better players," he added. "He gave few balls to the opposition and defensively picked up De Bruyne, who walked a little further away from our pit bulls. He did that very well."

One of those "pit bulls", substitute Tyrell Malacia, also received praise from Van Gaal, who said the Manchester United man also did well in shackling De Bruyne.

"I put him on the left of the central defence because De Bruyne played a lot on that side," Van Gaal explained. "It's better to have a pit bull like that instead of someone like [Daley] Blind who tries to solve it tactically. 

"I had already discussed this with him the day before yesterday. The defensive work he did very well."

The Netherlands booked their place in the Nations League Finals as Virgil van Dijk's second-half header sealed a 1-0 win over Belgium on Sunday.

Victory over Poland on Thursday meant the Oranje only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to their neighbours at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam to seal top spot in Group A4.

Belgium never looked like they had the firepower to pull off such a result, with Liverpool defender Van Dijk securing three points for the hosts by scoring in the 73rd minute.

The result meant the Netherlands topped their group with 16 points, with Roberto Martinez's Red Devils six points behind in second.

Belgium looked bright in the early stages, with Eden Hazard blazing over from a promising position and Michy Batshuayi firing at Remko Pasveer after being played in by Kevin De Bruyne.

At the other end, Denzel Dumfries cracked wide from 12 yards after fine work down the left from Vincent Janssen, which was the closest the hosts came in a first half that saw them fail to have an attempt on target.

Dumfries again went close at the start of the second period, while Belgium's Amadou Onana was denied by a smart stop from Pasveer shortly after the hour mark. 

Steven Bergwijn powered a shot straight at Thibaut Courtois as the Netherlands cranked up the pressure, before Van Dijk handed the hosts victory with a close-range header from Cody Gakpo's corner.

Courtois did well to deny Davy Klaassen and Bergwijn in the closing stages, while Belgium substitute Dodi Lukebakio struck the post with a sensational overhead kick with almost the last kick of the game.

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal is doubtful that Memphis Depay and Steven Berghuis will be fit enough for Sunday's Nations League Group A4 decider against Belgium.

The Oranje cemented their position as group leaders on Thursday with a 2-0 win over Poland thanks to goals in each half from Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn.

That result means they only need to avoid defeat to Roberto Martinez's side to progress to the Finals next June.

Berghuis replaced the injured Teun Koopmeiners inside the opening five minutes at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw, but the forward was later withdrawn for Kenneth Taylor, while Depay limped off in the 52nd minute to be replaced by Vincent Janssen.

Van Gaal had good news on Koopmeiners' condition, but the Netherlands boss was not optimistic about Depay and Begrhuis' chances of featuring against the Red Devils.

"I understand that Teun was already feeling a bit better, and I replaced Frenkie [de Jong] as a precaution. He had some tension on the muscles, but he expects to play, and he knows his own body," Van Gaal told NOS. 

"I don't think Memphis will play on Sunday and neither will Berghuis. It's a back injury and that usually lasts longer than a few days."

Gakpo, who was linked with a move to the Premier League during the transfer window, has started the season in fine form for PSV, scoring eight goals in seven Eredivisie games.

The 23-year-old continued his momentum on the international stage as well, stroking home his third goal for his country early on.

He played in a more central role than he is accustomed to at club level, and Van Gaal believes that is where his future might lay.

"I thought that Gakpo performed his duties well both in possession and out of possession," the head coach added.

"It was a good lesson for him and a good development. He wanted to play from the left, but for me, he has everything to become a good 10.

"He scored again, that's also important. It was a world-class goal. I jumped off the bench too. I don't normally do that. It was a top goal."

Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn were on target as the Netherlands ran out 2-0 winners over Poland in Nations League Group A4 on Thursday.

The Oranje dominated the first half at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw and went in at the break 1-0 up thanks to Gakpo's close-range finish after 13 minutes.

Poland threatened an equaliser at the start of the second period, but Bergwijn sealed all three points on the hour mark with a composed finish.

The result means Louis van Gaal's side just need to avoid defeat in their final group game against Belgium on Sunday to progress to the Finals next June.

The Netherlands lost Teun Koopmeiners to injury inside the opening five minutes, but they went ahead when Gakpo applied the finishing touch inside the six-yard box following a flowing move that cut through Poland's backline with ease. 

Memphis Depay squandered a golden opportunity to double the visitors' advantage, blazing over from a tight angle when a simple pass to Gakpo would surely have resulted in a goal, while Steven Berghuis curled narrowly wide. 

Poland were much brighter after the interval and twice went close to an equaliser through Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Szymanski. 

Their hopes of getting back into the game were ended in the 60th minute, though, when Bergwijn coolly slotted past Wojciech Szczesny after being teed up by Vincent Janssen. 

What does it mean? Oranje barely break sweat

The Netherlands were excellent value for their win, with the only disappointment for Van Gaal being that they did not beat a poor Poland side by a greater margin.

Now they just need to safely navigate Sunday's mouth-watering clash against their neighbours to book their spot in next year's Finals.

Gakpo's hot streak continues

Gakpo has scored eight goals in seven Eredivisie games for PSV this season and he continued that fine form on the international stage, stroking the Netherlands ahead early on with his third goal at this level.

Shot-shy Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski cut a frustrated figure up front for Poland. The Barcelona man has been one of Europe's most potent strikers for the past decade, yet he failed to have a single shot here as his side struggled to break down their opponents.

What's next?

Both sides wrap up their Group A4 campaigns on Sunday, with Poland visiting Wales at the same time as the Netherlands meet Belgium.

Ronald Koeman claimed an attempted move to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona fell through after president Joan Laporta delayed a deal.

The Dutchman, who was fired by the LaLiga outfit last October after 14 months in charge at Camp Nou, struggled at times on the Barcelona bench and was replaced by Xavi.

Koeman, who will embark on a second spell as Netherlands head coach after the World Cup in Qatar, has confirmed he attempted to bring in compatriot Wijnaldum during the final transfer window of his Barcelona tenure.

However, Koeman contends that president Laporta, then recently returned to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor, stymied any move by dragging his heels.

"I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca, but I failed because the president wanted to play with me more than bring in a player," Koeman told Dutch newspaper AD.

"That delayed the operation, and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona."

Wijnaldum left Liverpool in June 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled across a dismal first season, resulting in him being loaned out to Roma for the current campaign.

A serious leg injury has since left Wijnaldum sidelined, however, making it highly unlikely he will be included in the Netherlands' squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Hertha Berlin winger Jean-Paul Boetius will undergo surgery on Friday after tests revealed the Dutchman has a testicular tumour.

The 28-year-old, capped once by the Netherlands, is a former Feyenoord and Basel player who joined Hertha in August after a four-year spell with Mainz.

His club said in a statement: "Jean-Paul Boetius has been diagnosed with a testicular tumour following the results of a urological test on Wednesday, and will be out for the foreseeable future. The 28-year-old will undergo an operation on Friday."

Fredi Bobic, Hertha's managing director of sport, backed Boetius to make a full recovery.

Bobic said: "As tough as it is to hear at first, we are full of hope that Jean-Paul will be able to recover and return to us as soon as possible.

"He will receive our full support, until he returns. The Hertha family are by his side and wish him all the best."

The news for Boetius follows Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller being found to have a testicular tumour in July, just weeks after joining from Ajax. Haller had surgery and has since undergone chemotherapy.

The World Cup in Qatar is now just two months away and the first international break of the season is the final opportunity for squads to convene before coming together for the tournament.

In Europe, the Nations League offers competitive action in the build-up to Qatar, while teams elsewhere will face friendlies.

With a mid-season window and just one break before the action commences in November, it presents a challenge for any new faces to establish themselves in their international side before the squad for the World Cup is selected.

Some have been handed glorious opportunities though and Stats Perform has assessed some of the newcomers.

 

Ivan Toney

England's main striker role is nailed down by skipper Harry Kane but the role of understudy is a competitive one with the likes of Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham and Ollie Watkins having earned opportunities – and Ivan Toney is the latest to join that list.

Quickly settling into life in the Premier League, Toney netted 12 goals for Brentford in their inaugural campaign last season but has hit new heights in 2022, scoring 13 goals this calendar year.

Toney doesn't just offer goals, though, as he has also contributed seven assists since August 2021, totalling 24 goal involvements (17 goals, 7 assists) in that period, with Kane (31) the only English player to have more in the Premier League.

This season, Toney has five goals and two assists for Brentford, with a tally of seven goal involvements only bettered by Erling Haaland (12) in the Premier League.

Nico Williams

Brother of Inaki Williams, capped once by Spain in a friendly before switching allegiances to Ghana, 20-year-old Nico Williams has been handed a chance by Luis Enrique, who insists the decision is not to ensure he doesn't follow in the footsteps of his sibling.

The right-winger has established himself in Athletic Bilbao's first-team and has made a firm impact this season, scoring twice – including in the recent 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano, which marked the first time both he and Inaki had scored in the same match.

Williams' role with Athletic will continue to grow, having only recently become a regular starter for the Basque side towards the end of last season and now starting five of Athletic's six LaLiga matches.

Securing a spot on the plane for Qatar will not be easy considering the vast competition, but Williams may get his opportunity due to his age, with a forward line of the future potentially being created alongside Yeremy Pino and Ferran Torres.

Kenneth Taylor

Only earning his first start for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season, Kenneth Taylor has become a mainstay in the side this term with five starts across six league appearances for the Dutch champions, following Ryan Gravenberch's move to Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, scoring three goals and contributing two assists in the league. His control on the ball has also been impressive, misplacing 41 of 352 passing attempts in the Eredivisie for an accuracy of 88 per cent.

In the Champions League, Taylor has yet find the net or contribute an assist, but he has caught the eye. In the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, he won three tackles, the joint-most in the Ajax side, and completed 92 per cent of his passes.

Those performances have earned Taylor a call-up to Louis van Gaal's squad ahead of Gravenberch, who has been capped 10 times by the Netherlands but has found playing time difficult to come by since moving to Bayern.

Enzo Fernandez

Only arriving at Benfica from River Plate ahead of the current season, Enzo Fernandez has quickly made an impression in Portugal, where he was named the Primeira Liga's Midfielder of the Month.

In the third qualifying round of the Champions League, the Argentine struck in both legs against Midtjylland and made a significant impression in the 2-1 group stage win against Juventus – with the most touches (92), pass attempts (71) and accurate passes (68) of his team, as well as the highest pass completion percentage (96%).

He also won 12 duels and won possession on 12 occasions, both tallies that were bettered by none of his team-mates.

His form has already seen him linked with Liverpool, just months after his arrival in European football, and the 21-year-old could be once to watch in Qatar if he secures a seat on the plane.

 

Borja Iglesias

At the age of 29, Borja Iglesias is finally poised to make his international bow with Spain after a sensational calendar year in which he has scored 18 LaLiga goals – with only Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (28) scoring more.

Six of those goals have come in the opening six matches of the 2022-23 season, from which Real Betis have won 15 points to sit behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the early-season standings.

Robert Lewandowski (8) is the sole player to score more LaLiga goals than Iglesias this season and he has averaged a goal every 103 minutes, though he is yet to feature in the club's Europa League campaign thus far.

Spain's lack of central striking options may well play into Iglesias' hands in his bid to make the World Cup squad, with the 28-man party for September's Nations League fixtures having only Alvaro Morata as the other natural option through the middle.

Roberto Martinez expects Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter training in the next week, but has left him out of Belgium's squad for their upcoming Nations League games as a precaution. 

Lukaku sustained a thigh injury in training at the end of last month, causing him to miss a derby defeat to Milan and Champions League fixtures against Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen.

The striker, who is Belgium's record goalscorer with 68 goals in 102 senior caps, also appears doubtful for the Nerazzurri's Serie A tussle with Udinese on Sunday, prompting Martinez to act with caution when selecting his squad for games against Wales and the Netherlands.

"Romelu is making good progress, his recovery is going in the right direction," Martinez said.

"He will probably return to Inter within a week, not calling him was a prudent choice. 

"With Romelu it was important not to risk, because a relapse with an injury of this type would be very risky in view of the World Cup."

Milan's Divock Origi is also absent from Belgium's latest squad after failing to make a Serie A start since completing his move from Liverpool, though fellow Rossoneri newcomer Charles De Ketelaere is in.

Anderlecht defender Zeno Debast is the only uncapped player selected by Martinez, who has picked an experienced 30-man party in a bid to make up a three-point gap to the Netherlands at the top of Group A4.

Belgium squad: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Matz Sels (Strasbourg); Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Toby Alderweireld (Antwerp), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Jason Denayer (free agent), Dedryck Boyata (Club Brugge), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Zeno Debast (Anderlect); Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Amadou Onana (Everton), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Alexis Saelemaekeers (Milan); Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Charles De Ketelaere (Milan), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin), Lois Openda (Lens).

Louis van Gaal's final pre-World Cup Netherlands squad includes three first-time call-ups, including talented Ajax midfielder Kenneth Taylor.

Seven players have been dropped from the provisional squad announced earlier this month, including Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow.

Gravenberch, 20, has not been called-up by Van Gaal since November 2021 and faces a battle to make the squad for Qatar as he instead takes a spot in the Under-21s along with Brian Brobbey and Jeremie Frimpong.

Jordy Clasie, Pascal Struijk and Joey Veerman are the others to be dropped from the provisional selection.

Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer and 20-year-old midfielder Taylor are included for the first time, as is Heerenveen stopper Andries Noppert.

"We have included a number of new players in the squad. For us, this is the last opportunity to see the boys at work, before we have to announce our World Cup selection," Van Gaal said.

"As I have said before, the preparation time for this World Cup is extremely short, so I have to make good use of all available time. After this training camp, we won't get back together until November 14, a week before we play our first game at the World Cup."

The Netherlands will face Poland on September 22 in Warsaw, then hosting Belgium in Amsterdam three days later as the Nations League group stage comes to a close.

Netherlands squad : Jasper Cillessen (NEC), Mark Flekken (Freiburg), Remko Pasveer (Ajax), Andries Noppert (Heerenveen); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind, Devyne Rensch, Jurrien Timber (all Ajax), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij (both Inter), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Bruno Martins Indi (AZ); Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen, Kenneth Taylor (all Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Teun Koopmeiners, Maren de Roon (both Atalanta); Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Barcelona), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Vincent Janssen (Royal Antwerp), Wout Weghorst (Besiktas)

Roma midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum broke his right leg in training on Sunday, just two weeks after joining the club.

The Netherlands international moved earlier this month on a season-long loan from Paris Saint-Germain, with the Serie A side possessing an option to buy.

Wijnaldum won the Ligue 1 title with PSG last term, having joined on a free transfer from Liverpool, but he moved to join Jose Mourinho's side after just a single season with the French giants.

He made his Serie A debut off the bench in Roma's 1-0 victory over Salernitana on the opening weekend but is now set for a stint on the sidelines.

In a statement, Roma said: "Following an injury sustained during training this afternoon, Georginio Wijnaldum subsequently underwent medical tests that confirmed the presence of a fracture to the tibia in his right leg.

"The player will undergo further assessments in the coming days."

Roma continue their campaign at home to Cremonese on Monday, before travelling to Turin to tackle Juventus.

It remains to be seen whether 31-year-old Wijnaldum can recover from his injury in time to feature for the Netherlands at the World Cup, which begins in November.

After plenty of transfer speculation, Ajax have decided to lock up 21-year-old defender Jurrien Timber on an improved contract, adding one extra year to tie him to the club through 2025.

Timber, who already has eight international caps for the Netherlands, has been with Ajax since 2014, and tallied 50 Eredivisie appearances across the past two seasons, netting four goals.

He was one of three Ajax players that Manchester United and former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag showed strong interest in, having secured Lisandro Martinez and being priced out of a move for Antony.

Timber was the recipient of last season's Marco van Basten Award for AFC Ajax Talent of the Year, following in the footsteps of recent winners Ryan Gravenberch, Sergino Dest and Matthijs de Ligt, who all proceeded to leave the Eredivisie in search of bigger challenges.

He will be 24 when his new contract expires, and he will have another chance to impress in the European spotlight this season during Ajax's Champions League campaign.

Matthijs de Ligt insists he did not "attack" Juventus when pointing out the club had underperformed, although he feels he will be better suited to playing for Bayern Munich.

De Ligt left Juve for Bayern ahead of the 2022-23 season, having widely been seen as failing to fulfil his potential in three years in Turin.

The Netherlands centre-back was outstanding in Ajax's run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals, earning a move to Juve, where he faced a battle for his place.

De Ligt started fewer than 30 Serie A matches in each of his three seasons with the Bianconeri.

There was some backlash then when De Ligt, discussing the possibility of a transfer in June, criticised Juve's back-to-back fourth-placed finishes.

Speaking to De Telegraaf on Saturday, De Ligt explained: "In an interview with NOS in June, I said that – as the club itself thinks – to be fourth tw‪ice in a row with Juventus is not good enough.

"That was not an attack on Juventus. Not at all, because I will always have the utmost respect for this club.

"For me, it was just a fact that no one could be satisfied, that the bar had to be raised, including for me. Maybe it came across incorrectly."

De Ligt added he would "never forget" the help he received from his Juve team-mates in his "development as a footballer and as a person".

However, he likened the style of play in Serie A to chess, saying it is "much more tactical".

Now, De Ligt believes both he and Louis van Gaal's Netherlands team can benefit from his move to Bayern, where the approach is more in line with that he learned at Ajax.

"I am very happy that I was able to experience that [at Juve], that I was able to play that way, because I have learned a lot," he said.

"The reason for going to Juventus was also to become a better defender, even though there were differences with the Dutch national team.

"At Juventus, I often had to stay in the position, while at certain times I was required to go [forward] with the Oranje.

"At Bayern, I want to get my Ajax game back again.

"[Bayern coach Julian] Nagelsmann's playing style is much closer to what Louis van Gaal asks of his defenders: defending high, putting high pressure, connecting well and playing forward a lot.

"I think it's a move that can be good for the Dutch national team and my chances, but I did discuss the transfer with [Van Gaal]. He said he had a great time here."

Fans' wait for the World Cup has, of course, been a little longer than normal this time around – ordinarily the tournament would've already been completed.

Nevertheless, the big kick-off is closing in with Qatar 2022 now just 100 days away – we're into the final straight!

As with any major tournament, predicting a winner in the build-up is just a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can often be a fool's errand.

But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data might just give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform come in.

Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform World Cup prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.

Let's check out the results…

FAVOURITES: France (17.9 per cent)

Suspend your disbelief! Yes, reigning champions France have the greatest probability of winning the World Cup this year, with our model giving them an almost 18-per cent chance of clinching a third title.

But let's not overlook how remarkable an achievement that would be. No team has retained the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, and the only other occasion of that happening was in the 1930s when Italy won it back-to-back.

France were the favourites heading into Euro 2020 but were ultimately disappointing – they'll need to do significantly better here otherwise their fate could be sealed by the dreaded winners' curse.

Each of the past four European winners of the World Cup have been eliminated in the group stages, a trend that began with Les Bleus in 2002.

 

2. Brazil (15.7 per cent)

Another unsurprising entry. That's right, record winners Brazil come in at second in terms of likelihood of winning the World Cup.

Tite's side qualified with ease and clearly have an extremely talented group of players available to them – the problem is getting them all on the pitch at one time while retaining a cohesive and balanced shape.

If Tite can find the magic formula at the World Cup this time, at the very least you'd expect them to get beyond the quarter-finals, the stage they crashed out to Belgium four years ago in Kazan.

Failure, however, will mean Brazil's World Cup drought will stretch to 24 years by the time the 2026 edition comes around, and that would make it their joint-longest barren run in the competition since claiming their first title in 1958.

3. Spain (11.5 per cent)

La Roja aren't the force they were as recently as 10 years ago, when they won a third successive major international tournament with victory at Euro 2012.

However, Luis Enrique has turned them into a side that is easy on the eye and capable of carving open the best teams – their main issue in recent years has been finding a reliable striker, and that'll likely be what determines how far they get in Qatar.

Either way, we can surely expect a better showing than they managed in Russia, where they were hindered by the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup as a result of accepting a post-tournament role at Real Madrid.

4. England (8.0 per cent)

The Three Lions almost won their first major international trophy since 1966 last year at Euro 2020, only to fall at the final hurdle against Italy.

Either way, few can deny it was a sign of progress: they reached the Russia 2018 semi-finals, the final at Euro 2020, so surely Qatar 2022 is theirs already?

Gareth Southgate has made England an effective tournament side, even if doubts remain over his ability to impose a style of play that sees the Three Lions take the initiative against the biggest teams.

Similarly, their performances in the first round of Nations League fixtures in June left a lot to be desired, but that won't stop expectations from soaring in Qatar.

5. Belgium (7.9 per cent)

Squeezing into the top five ahead of the Netherlands (7.7 per cent) are Belgium, who reached the semi-finals four years ago before being eliminated by eventual winners France.

It's fair to say this is likely to be the last opportunity for the Red Devils' so-called 'golden generation' to truly leave its mark on a major tournament – in fact, many original members of that Belgium generation have already retired.

While success for Roberto Martinez's side looks unlikely, they are a match for any team on their day, and our probability score recognises they are by no means out of contention.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Netherlands and Germany (7.2) are hard on Belgium's heels in our predictor table, though in both cases fans might feel their squads have more to offer than their neighbours.

Both teams have solid blends of experience and youthful exuberance, while the two coaches have vast experience – Louis van Gaal needs no introduction, while Hansi Flick has been involved in the Germany setup for much of his coaching career.

But the teams many will be looking out for because of certain individuals are Argentina (6.5 per cent) and Portugal (5.1 per cent).

 

They are the only other two to be given more than a 2.3 per cent chance of World Cup success, and given the presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, they cannot be discounted.

Argentina have rebuilt since a somewhat shambolic campaign in Russia, with Lionel Scaloni inspiring La Albiceleste to their first Copa America in 28 years in 2021.

Messi was central to their triumph in that tournament, and now he's got the proverbial monkey off his back, there's hope Argentina could produce a respectable showing.

With Ronaldo 37 and Messi 35, it's unlikely either will play another World Cup. Given the tournament is synonymous with those generally regarded as the best ever – Pele and Diego Maradona – they will be desperate to crown their respective careers.

This is it.

 

10. Croatia (2.3 per cent)
11. Denmark (2.0 per cent)
12. Uruguay (1.5 per cent)
13. Mexico (1.4 per cent)
14. Switzerland (1.0 per cent)
15. Poland (0.8 per cent)
16. Iran (0.6 per cent)
17. Japan (0.5 per cent)
18. United States (0.5 per cent)
19. Wales (0.4 per cent)
20. Qatar (0.4 per cent)
21. South Korea (0.4 per cent)
22. Serbia (0.2 per cent)
23. Senegal (0.2 per cent)
24. Ecuador (0.2 per cent)
25. Australia (0.1 per cent)
26. Ghana (

The European domestic season is now back up and running, meaning we are officially into a World Cup campaign.

For some players, the main focus over the next few months will be remaining fit with the hope of entering Qatar 2022 in peak condition for their respective nations.

For others, the first part of the 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to play themselves into contention for a squad place ahead of the biggest tournament of them all.

That includes an array of talented stars who have yet to represent their countries at senior level, but who could be given the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage.

With the big kick-off now just 100 days away, Stats Perform has identified five uncapped players who still have an outside shot of glory in Qatar.


Gleison Bremer (Brazil) – 25, centre-back, Juventus

If Bremer was not on the radar of Brazil head coach Tite ahead of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old certainly will be now. He ranked first among Serie A defenders last term for duels contested (451) and also led the way for headed clearances (75), showing that he can be relied upon at the back.

Indeed, Bremer's form last time out led to Juventus splashing out a reported €50million to sign him from Torino during the close season. Brazil must be quick, though, as the Italian top-flight's best defender last season is also eligible to represent the Azzurri.

 

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Lazio

Goalkeeper Maximiano is another who moved to a club of bigger stature just a few months out from the World Cup beginning after swapping relegated Granada, where he impressed in his only campaign, for Serie A side Lazio. The 23-year-old certainly had a chance to showcase his shot-stopping abilities last season, with his 127 saves the most of any keeper in LaLiga, and the fifth-most of anyone in Europe's top five leagues.

Following the departure of long-serving Thomas Strakosha, Maximiano will be installed as first choice at Stadio Olimpico, where Portugal boss Fernando Santos may make a visit or two in the coming months.



Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Newcastle United

Despite catching the eye in Ligue 1 with Lille, particularly in 2020-21 when starting 37 of the 38 matches played in their stunning title-winning campaign, Botman has remained on the periphery of the Netherlands squad. He has been a regular for the Oranje at Under-21 level, but after joining Newcastle in a £31.8m (€37m) transfer last month, he is surely now in serious consideration for a place in the senior squad.

Having led the way among Lille players last time out per 90 minutes for successful passes (53.4), blocks (0.84) and headed clearances (2.2), the Dutchman will hope to hit the ground running in another new league.

 

Benjamin Bourigeaud (France) – 28, attacking midfielder, Rennes

Reigning world champions France are blessed with world-class talent right across the pitch, but could there be room for a wild card in the form of Bourigeaud? The versatile attacking midfielder can play in a number of positions, though was predominantly used out on the right in what was a career-best season last time out in Ligue 1.

While France are hardly crying out for another player to slot into the final third, Bourigeaud's 23 direct goal involvements for Rennes last season is a tally bettered by only four others, while his David Beckham-esque deliveries from wide can provide something a little different for Didier Deschamps' men.

 

Inaki Williams (Ghana) – 28, forward, Athletic Bilbao

Ghana's squad has been completely transformed since booking their place in Qatar, having persuaded six players to switch allegiance and represent them at the World Cup. Patric Pfeiffer, Stephen Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer are all available for selection, as are Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

Each of those players will enhance Otto Addo's squad, with Williams – capped once by Spain in a friendly – possibly a game-changing option in attack. He is someone who can be replied upon, too, having appeared in each of Athletic's past 233 LaLiga matches, a run spanning back to April 2016. 

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