The eight World Cup 2022 group stage games you can't miss

Wales celebrate qualifying for the World Cup
(Image credit: Getty)

There are lots of exciting clashes to look forward to in the upcoming World Cup 2022. And that's before the knockout rounds even start. 

From Group A through to Group H, there are a bunch of salivating fixtures that should not disappoint. So, as you make plans to enjoy the group stage, don't forget to settle in for these eight games, featuring some of the tournament's biggest players, teams and storylines.

1. Senegal v Netherlands – 21 November, 4pm

Senegal

(Image credit: PA)

After finishing third under Louis van Gaal in 2014, the Netherlands missed out on the last World Cup, with Danny Blind, Frans Hoek and Dick Advocaat failing to guide the nation to Russia. 

Ajax legend Van Gaal is back in charge of the national team for a third time, though, with the Netherlands starting their campaign against Aliou Cisse’s Senegal, who won their first Africa Cup of Nations title last year. In addition to star man Sadio Mane, they have several English-based players to call on, including Chelsea duo Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly.

2. Belgium v Canada – 23 November, 10pm

Belgium World Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After so many failed qualifying attempts, Canada are finally returning to international football's biggest stage. English manager John Herdman, who was previously in charge of the women’s team, has an excellent record since taking over in 2018 and will continue to rely heavily on the talented Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

An experienced Belgium side will offer a stern test of their credentials to start, with Roberto Martinez at the helm and Kevin De Bruyne their standout player. Qatar seems like the last chance Belgium will have at fulfilling their potential, the nation's 'Golden Generation' seemingly entering the twilights of their careers.

3. Brazil v Serbia – 24 November, 7pm

Brazil winger Antony during the international friendly between Brazil and Ghana on 23 September, 2022 at the Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France

(Image credit: ANP via Getty Images)

It’s been 20 years since Brazil last won the World Cup, and supporters believe that a sixth title is long overdue. The most successful country in the tournament’s history currently top the FIFA rankings and possess an incredible wealth of attacking options, led by Neymar. 

But their ageing defence will be severely tested by Serbia’s in-form trio of Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic as they target a spot in the second round. 

4. Argentina v Mexico – 26 November, 7pm

Lionel Messi celebrates one of his five goals for Argentina against Estonia.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are some intriguing subplots centring around Mexico manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino ahead of this crucial Group C clash. Born and raised in Rosario, he twice led Argentina to the final of the Copa America before resigning in 2016. Prior to that he had spent an unsuccessful year in charge of Barcelona, where he endured a difficult relationship with the influential Lionel Messi. 

This time they meet as rivals, each targeting a place in the knockout rounds.

5. Spain v Germany – 27 November, 7pm

Germany's Jamal Musiala takes on England's Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham during England 3-3 Germany in the UEFA Nations League on 26 September, 2022 at Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom

(Image credit: Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)

A heavyweight clash between two of European football’s strongest nations, who have both underperformed in recent years. Regardless, they will still expect to progress from Group E ahead of Costa Rica and Japan, with so much hinging on this second round of fixtures. 

For Spain, plenty of responsibility will be placed on Barcelona teenagers Gavi and Pedri, while Germany’s Jamal Musiala is equally promising.

6. Portugal v Uruguay – 28 November, 10pm

Portugal midfielder Ruben Neves

(Image credit: Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Diego Alonso made an impressive start to life as Uruguay manager after replacing the venerable Oscar Tabarez in December, winning his first four games to seal qualification for the World Cup. His streetwise side is underpinned by the experience of Diego Godin, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, whose international records still pale in comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal captain has plenty of talented midfielders to keep supplying him with chances.

7. England v Wales – 29 November, 7pm

England midfielder Declan Rice gestures during the UEFA Nations League match between England and Germany on 26 September, 2022 at Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom

(Image credit: The FA via Getty Images)

Along with Iran v USA, this forms part of a dramatic, rivalry-filled double header that will decide the fate of Group E. Ahead of their first World Cup in 64 years, Michael Sheen has already delivered a rousing speech to inspire Robert Page and the Wales squad. 

Gareth Southgate has a tough act to follow as England look to build on impressive showings in their last two major tournaments.

8. Croatia v Belgium – 1 December, 3pm

Ivan Perisic

(Image credit: Getty)

Belgium’s golden generation – the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard – have grown old together. Realistically, this could be their last chance of winning a major tournament before decline almost certainly sets in for the world’s second-best side. 

In Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, 2018 finalists Croatia are led by a couple of their own fading stars, although RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol is the leading light of a new crop.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Sean Cole
Writer

Sean Cole is a freelance journalist. He has written for FourFourTwo, BBC Sport and When Saturday Comes among others. A Birmingham City supporter and staunch Nikola Zigic advocate, he once scored a hat-trick at St. Andrew’s (in a half-time game). He also has far too many football shirts and spends far too much time reading the Wikipedia pages of obscure players.