Qatar plays host to the 22nd edition of football’s greatest showpiece, the FIFA World Cup. It will be the second occasion that the World Cup is held in Asia after Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the 2002 tournament. There will be 32 teams participating, with 31 coming through the qualifiers and Qatar having automatic qualification as the host nation.
This World Cup will be the first tournament not to be staged during June and July. The reason behind the November-December scheduling is that Qatar reaches temperatures of above 40 degrees in the June and July summer months, which could lead to heat exhaustion for the players. This has necessitated the major European leagues, such as the English Premier League taking a winter break during December for the first time. Qatar will be showcasing the first air-conditioning systems at open-air stadiums, which has been a journey of discovery for the organisers involved.
World Cup venues
Eight stadiums will be used during the tournament, with most of the matches taking place in the capital city of Doha, which has four venues. They are Stadium 974, Al Thumama Football Stadium, Education City Stadium, and Khalifa International Stadium.
The other stadiums will be Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, and Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah. The final match will be played at Lusail Iconic Stadium, the largest venue with a capacity of 80,000.
Dates for the World Cup
The tournament is scheduled to take place from 21st November to 18th December 2022. The draw for the group stages will take place in Doha on 1st April 2022. There will still be two unknown qualifiers when the draw takes place, as the inter-confederation play-off finals will be completed after the draw. The group matches will take place from 21st November to 2nd December. The knockout stage will start on 3rd December, with the final taking place on 18th December. Most matches are due to have 3 pm and 7 pm UK kick-off times.
Teams and tournament favourites
There are 31 spots available in the qualifying competition, which runs from June 2019 to June 2022, when the inter-confederation play-offs are completed. The stronger nations – including defending champions France, Brazil, England, Germany, Spain, and Argentina – are expected to qualify and challenge for the title. There is no clear favourite for the tournament, but it won’t be a surprise if the winner comes from the countries mentioned above.
France, the reigning champions, have a formidable squad with key players Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann from their 2018 tournament win. Five-time world champions Brazil will be hoping to end a 20-year drought for glory on the global stage in Qatar. They have relied heavily on Neymar but showed in 2019 that they have other stars as they won the 2019 Copa América without their talisman. England will be difficult to beat as they had an incredible run in the Euros, where they ended as runners-up. Italy have proven to be miserly in defence in capturing Euro 2020, and they will also be in the running for the trophy come 18th December.
Expected Premiership stars of the 2022 Qatar World Cup
When looking at the players who could light up the World Cup, it’s impossible not to start with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. At 35 years of age, most players have retired or are winding down their careers, but the Portuguese captain has continued to defy the odds with his success. He will be a crucial figure for Portugal, and his form will determine the team’s progress in the tournament.
A player who could rival Ronaldo for popularity is the most famous Arab player of all time, Mohamed Salah, the ‘Egyptian King’. No player has scored more goals in the Premier League than Salah since he arrived at Liverpool, and if Egypt is to progress out of the group stage, he will have to replicate the form that he has shown at his club. The goal scorers tend to receive all the plaudits, but the man widely regarded as the best defender in the world, Virgil van Dijk, will need to be at his imperious best to prevent the strikers from finding the back of the net. With the Netherlands failing to qualify for Russia 2018, Van Dijk will undoubtedly be doing