The FIFA World Cup is just a few days away, and Barcelona fans will have plenty of opportunities to follow their favorite players, and see them make a run for glory.
This tournament has a way of making stars out of players.
The world will be watching, so if you can seize the opportunity and perform under the bright lights, new chances await on the other side.
With the winter transfer window opening shortly after the tournament, it will be intriguing to see how the World Cup shapes Barcelona’s plans on the market.
At the moment, the plan is to scout prospects to fill the void at right full-back, but will Barcelona expand their ambitions if an unforeseen star is born in Qatar?
For the current crop of the players, this is also an opportunity to prove to Xavi that they deserve a bigger role when the club season resumes.
Barcelona are sending a club record 16 players to the World Cup, making them one of the most well-represented clubs in the world at the tournament. Arguably, they could have sent even more, just ask Alejandro Balde who wasn’t quite able to convince Luis Enrique to take a chance on him, in spite of beating out fellow national team compatriots under Xavi.
It’s a great honor, and a dream, to play in the World Cup regardless of how you get there, and everyone will be eager to make their country proud and prove they deserve the call up.
But which Barcelona players are poised to shine the brightest?
Let’s start with Raphinha.
The right winger has a golden opportunity to show his class to the world. Brazil is the favorite to win the tournament, and he is in very good standing with head coach Tite. He is likely to be the starter in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which suits Raphinha very well, and given the deep run Brazil is likely to make, there will be many chances for him to express himself in ways he hasn’t been able to with Barcelona.
If he does well, Xavi will have something to think about, especially considering that he’s likely to have more chances than his main competition at Barcelona in Ousmane Dembele.
The difference here is that Didier Deschamps’ 3-4-1-2 isn’t a system that plays to Dembele’s strengths. At best, the French manager will use Dembele as an impact substitute. The question will be whether he’s able to make much of a splash in this role. Like Brazil, France is likely to make a deep run, and things may evolve with player selection as the tournament goes along. The performances of Barcelona’s right wingers will be an interesting storyline to follow.
But of course, to really see the influence of Barcelona, you need to follow Spain. Luis Enrique has a strong Barca bias, and has chosen Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, Gavi, Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Eric Garcia, and Jordi Alba. This is a long list of players, and you can expect all of them to feature prominently.
The midfield trio of Gavi, Pedri, and Busquets will likely go about their business as they do for Barcelona, and Spain’s hopes will depend on their ability to dominate the ball, and create chances that the more questionable forward line must finish.
Is Sergio Busquets finished or will he prove that, under the right system, he can still be the most important player on the field? Will Gavi or Pedri have anything to say about that?
Ferran will get lots of playing time because he is a manager favorite, and pressure will be on him to score goals. Expect for Ansu to come off the bench. Will their stock rise or fall? It’s Ferran’s opportunity to lose, but Ansu is the one with the magic if he’s given the chance to use it.
Eric Garcia is a player who could fly under the radar. Luis Enrique loves him, and in this system, he could really have a chance to put his ball playing skills on display.
The Netherlands is another country that could make a deep run, or they could be a target for an early elimination.
My bet is that they do very well as they seem to have hit their stride as a group under Louis van Gaal.
Frenkie de Jong will be key to their success. One way or another, he’s going to enjoy his football, and appreciate the chance to be the most influential player on the field for his team.
Memphis Depay is another player who, if healthy, will have an important role to play. Memphis is a goalscoring Memphis when wearing orange. Like Frenkie, this is a system that plays to his strengths, and Memphis is a proud player who will be eager to prove Xavi wrong about not rating him.
After that, we get to two of Barcelona’s most important defenders.
Jules Kounde will play in France’s three man backline, and Andreas Christensen will be a first choice center-back for Denmark.
Kounde really doesn’t have much to prove. He’ll be hoping to play well, stay healthy, and help France win.
Christensen will be counted on to be spectacular if Denmark can become one of the dark horses of the tournament and make a run in the knockouts.
From there, we move on to the last category of Barcelona players at the World Cup. Those who will play little, or play for a country that isn’t expected to achieve very much.
Robert Lewandowski is the star of the Camp Nou, but he’s playing for a Polish side that will need his heroics if they are to make it out of their group. Lucky for them, their competition is Mexico, and this is a very vulnerable El Tri that struggled throughout World Cup qualifying.
The winner of the Poland vs Mexico head to head will likely take second place behind Argentina. If Lewandowski can lead the way, Poland has a good chance. But he shouldn’t expect much help from his supporting cast.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen sadly still plays second fiddle to Manuel Neuer. So don’t expect much there, but it’s nice to see him honored and appreciated with the call-up given his imperious form for Barcelona.
The feel good story is that Ronald Araujo made the squad for Uruguay, another dark horse contender with top talent up and down the roster. Barcelona fans will be holding their breath if Araujo gets minutes. We all know the Uruguayan warrior will be dying for playing time, so it will be important for manager Diego Alonso to save him from himself, and be clear-eyed about what the player can realistically contribute.
Barcelona players will feature in a variety of ways, some big, and some small.
Some will be eliminated early, which will give them the benefit of resting up before a challenging new year ahead, but most of them will be right there helping their countries fight deep into the knockouts.
This is a reminder of how talented Barcelona is.
If there was ever any doubt that this is a team that can compete for everything, just watch and appreciate the prominence of these Barca players in Qatar.
They will all have a lot to contribute and a lot to say. Their national team managers certainly acknowledge the prestige that comes with wearing the blaugrane colors, and will have a special plan for taking advantage of the talent.
But ultimately it will come down to each individual player.
What will they do with this opportunity?
How will it change their lives and their careers?
Which, if any, will become World Cup champions?