This year’s World Cup in Qatar is set to be a unique one, with the tournament taking place in November and December rather than the summer months for the first time in its history.
It has been argued that this could be a good thing for players as they will get to play on the biggest stage during the middle of the season when they are still relatively fresh rather than trying to find their best form after a lengthy domestic campaign.
But will this actually be the case? Or could fatigue still be an issue for some players and teams?
Portugal’s World Cup squad played the most minutes between August and October
Due to the World Cup taking six weeks out of the domestic season, games have had to be packed into the first half of the season, with very little rest for some teams in between matches.
That has particularly been an issue for Portugal’s World Cup squad members, who amassed 30,986 minutes between August 1 and October 24, according to FIFPRO – the most out of any of the 32 nations competing in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo is set to lead the team at his fifth World Cup, although his game time has been limited this season at Manchester United under Erik Ten Hag.
The same cannot be said of Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo, who played more minutes (7,347) between July 2021 and October 2022 than anyone else at the World Cup except Holland’s Virgil Van Dijk (7,597), as reported by FIFPRO.
Fatigue should not be an issue for Cristiano Ronaldo (right) at the World Cup due to his lack of game time at Manchester United
Portugal defender Joao Cancelo has played a high number of minutes over the last 18 months
Pep Guardiola has relied on Cancelo heavily this season, starting him in all 14 of City’s Premier League fixtures.
Brazil are considered the favourites to pick up their sixth World Cup, having waited 20 years since their last triumph, but their players have also had a physically demanding season to date.
Tite’s squad racked up 29,128 minutes, ranking them second behind Portugal.
Neymar has been at the top of his game, registering 20 goal involvements in just 14 Ligue 1 matches for PSG, but he has rarely been given a breather by manager Christophe Galtier.
Neymar has been an almost ever-present in PSG’s starting line-up this season
Meanwhile, Germany take third spot with 28,956 minutes, and Antonio Rudiger is fourth on the list when it comes to minutes played between July 2021 and October 2022 (7,211).
Playing the World Cup in the winter months was supposed to take the heat factor in Qatar out of the equation.
Yet players have been training in 33C heat in the lead-up to the tournament, suggesting that this could still be a problem for some sides.
England’s players have been playing in much cooler temperatures in recent weeks, and may take a while to acclimatise to some conditions, especially with some potentially tired stars set to represent the Three Lions.
THE 10 PLAYERS WITH THE MOST MINUTES FROM JULY 2021 TO OCTOBER 2022
1. Virgil Van Dijk (Holland) – 7,597
2. Joao Cancelo (Portugal) – 7,347
3. Sadio Mane (Senegal) – 7,266
4. Antonio Rudiger (Germany) – 7,211
5. Harry Kane (England) – 7,201
6. Hans Vanaken (Belgium) – 7,141
7. Pau Torres (Spain) – 7,093
8. Declan Rice (England) – 7,056
9. Everton Ribeiro (Brazil) – 6,994
10. Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina) – 6,902
England come in sixth on the list for minutes played between August and October (28,014), and Gareth Southgate may need to keep a particularly close eye on captain Harry Kane.
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte recently revealed that Kane is ‘really, really tired’, and it is little surprise given that he played just 10 minutes less than Rudiger from July 2021 to October 2022.
At the other end of the spectrum are tournament hosts Qatar, who have a number of players that have hardly featured at all in recent months.
The Qatar Stars League began on August 1, but has taken an extended break for the World Cup, with no matches played since September, meaning that Qatar’s squad have played just 2,150 competitive minutes between them since the start of the campaign.
This puts them almost 8,000 minutes behind the next lowest-ranked country, Saudi Arabia.
Qatar get the tournament underway when they play Ecuador on Sunday afternoon, and that match should give a clear indication of whether their players are under-cooked or if they have got their preparations just right.
Wales, who will be competing in their first World Cup since 1958, have taken a squad that played 24,192 minutes from August to October – this puts them 16th on the list just behind European trio Switzerland (24,444), Croatia (25,652) and Belgium (25,766).
Harry Kane has not been rested by Tottenham during the opening months of the season
Qatar may be undercooked for the World Cup after pausing their domestic season early
Qatar are due to get the World Cup underway when they play Ecuador on Sunday
Lionel Messi has announced that Qatar will be his final World Cup, with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner looking to go out with a bang.
The Argentina squad that he will spearhead, who have not been beaten since 2019, played 26,329 minutes between August and October, leaving them tenth on the list.
Defending champions France have picked up a number of injuries prior to the tournament, with midfield duo Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante plus striker Christopher Nkunku all ruled out.
Didier Deschamps has still managed to put together an impressive team, though, that have been playing regularly at club level, with the French squad registering 27,948 minutes from August to October, placing them just behind England.
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