The experienced Lionel Messi and Nicolas Otamendi head up a squad that contains a number of new faces brought in by coach Lionel Scaloni, who was given the job on a permanent basis in July. Since Russia 2018, Scaloni has handed more prominent roles to the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, Lucas Ocampo and Juan Foyth. His new-look side is beginning to acquire an identity of its own and should be among the main contenders.
Appointed in August, Bolivia’s Venezuelan coach, Cesar Farias, is looking to build a team around experienced campaigners such as Carlos Vaca, Alejandro Chumachero, Danny Vejarano, Jhasmani Campos, Juan Carlos Arce and Carlos Saucedo. Youngsters Paul Arano and Henry Vaca are tipped to join them in what looks set to be a challenging campaign for the Bolivians.
Since topping South America’s qualifying for Russia 2018, Tite has made changes at the back, with Danilo and Sandro coming in alongside the experienced Alisson Becker and Thiago Silva. The coach is spoiled for choice in midfield and up front. Though Neymar is still the star act, Artur, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Firmino, to name but a few, all have lots to offer. Brazil will once again be one of the teams to beat.
Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda was handed the job in January and the spine of his side virtually picks itself: Claudio Bravo, Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Charles Aranguiz, Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas, all of them two-time Copa America winners. Guillermo Maripan, Erick Pulgar, Alfonso Parot, Gabriel Arias and Oscar Opazo are four players who are beginning to break through and could be crucial to Chile’s bid to atone for their failure to make Russia 2018.
Colombia’s Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, has plenty to work with. The likes of David Ospina, Yerry Mina, Davinson Sanchez, Wilmar Barrios, Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Juan Fernando Quintero and Radamel Falcao remain very much part of his plans, while newcomers Luis Muriel, Mateus Uribe and Duvan Zapata are all taking on more responsibility. Colombia are one of the favourites to qualify.
Still without a coach since the departure of Hernan Gomez, La Tri are going through a major transition. Spearheading the new generation are Jhegson Mendez, Xavier Arreaga, Jordan Sierra and Michel Estrada, with a clutch of South American U-20 Championship winners waiting in the wings, such as Diego Palacios, Gonzalo Plata and Jose Cifuentes. Leading them on the road to Qatar 2022 will be Enner Valencia, Angel Mena and Renato Ibarra, though it remains to be seen who their coach will be.
Since taking on the job, Argentinian coach Eduardo Berizzo has been looking to fashion a team with a character of its own. It is a side in which players such as Matias Rojas, Junior Alonso, Jorge Moreira, Miguel Almiron and Dario Lezcano have all established themselves after being brought in by Berizzo’s predecessor. Together with brothers Oscar and Angel Romero, Gustavo Gomez and Derlis Gonzalez, they form the nucleus of a team that is aiming to take Paraguay back to the World Cup for the first time since South Africa 2010.
Ricardo Gareca achieved the seemingly impossible in the last qualifying competition and will be looking for his charges to kick on this time. The structure of the side that took Peru to their first world finals in 36 years remains largely the same, with the likes of Paolo Guerrero, Pedro Gallese, Luis Advincula, Miguel Trauco, Renato Tapia, Christian Cueva and Edison Flores all ready to go again
Oscar Tabarez heads into his fifth World Cup qualifying competition with the same solid-looking squad that he put together before Russia 2018 and of which much is expected. As well as the experience of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin and Fernando Muslera, Tabarez can count on several youngsters with leadership qualities, among them Jose Maria Gimenez, Matias Vecino and Lucas Torreira. Uruguay are one of the sides expected to push hard for a place at Qatar 2022.
Last place in the Russia 2018 qualifiers was a backwards step for Venezuela, who have nevertheless kept their faith in Rafael Dudamel. The coach remains committed to his youth policy, having brought through the likes of Wuilker Farinez, Yangel Herrera, Yefferson Soteldo and Ronald Hernandez. If Venezuela are to finally make their World Cup dream come true, however, they will need veterans Tomas Rincon and Salomon Rondon to fire.