The greatest show on earth is just five months away, and after three years of complex Covid-impacted qualifying, we finally know the 32 teams who will compete in Qatar. That’s right, Qatar. Anyway, more of that later. Here is everything you must know before the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This will be the seventh and last time the FIFA World Cup has 32 teams, with the 2026 edition set to host 48 countries. That’s great news for Australia, who only just snuck in the other morning. The awesome win over Peru (when they had a public holiday to watch the game they ultimately lost) saw the Socceroos become the 31st team to qualify. The following night, Costa Rica broke New Zealand’s heart to round out the top 32.
This year’s FIFA World Cup will be the first in the history of the tournament to be played in November and December. Qatar’s climate makes soccer difficult at the best of times, let alone in the middle of their June/July summer. The timing of the tournament forced big competitions like the English Premier League to change the dates of their season and take a break from November 13 – December 26. It was either that or have a significantly diminished competition with many international stars away on national duty.
Here’s everything you must know ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup:
Who has qualified?
As the hosts, Qatar qualified automatically. That’s lucky for them, given they have never been good enough to make a FIFA World Cup on merit since the country’s independence in 1971.
It was predetermined how many nations would qualify from each region. Europe was afforded 13, while Africa and Asia had five countries apiece. Australia was the fifth Asian representative. The best four South American and North/Central American and Caribbean teams round out the 32.
Wales was the last European team to qualify, ending a 64-year drought from FIFA World Cups. They defeated Ukraine, heaping more heartbreak on the embattled nation.
How does the tournament work?
As has been the case since France in 1998, there will be eight groups of four teams. Each team will play each other once within their group (three matches) and the top two countries will progress to the next stage, leaving 16 nations in the knockout phase. Top finishing teams will play second-placed teams in the initial knockout stage before 16 gets slashed to eight, then four and ultimately the two finalists.
While draws are permitted in the group stage, any drawn match after 90 minutes from the Round of 16 onwards will be extended into 30 minutes of extra time and, if needed, penalties.
Okay, so what are the groups?
GROUP A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
GROUP B: England, Iran, United States, Wales
GROUP C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
GROUP D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
GROUP E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
GROUP F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
GROUP G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
GROUP H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
Group E is regarded as the ‘Group of Death’ because of how challenging it is. Australia will hope to minimise the damage against France in our first game, before looking to defeat Tunisia or Denmark to give us a chance at progressing.
Won’t it be unplayably hot?
All eight stadiums have been fitted out with air conditioning for the showpiece event, with temperatures expected to hover in the mid to high 20s. Had the tournament been staged in June/July, the average temperature would have been 42 degrees, hence why it was shifted.
“We are not just cooling the air, we’re cleaning it,” Dr Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, said in an interview with FIFA.com. As the mastermind behind the technology, he is known as ‘Dr Cool’.
“We’re purifying the air for spectators. For example, people who have allergies won’t have problems inside our stadiums as we have the cleanest and purest air there is. Pre-cooled air comes in through grills built into the stands and large nozzles alongside the pitch. Using the air circulation technique, cooled air is then drawn back, re-cooled, filtered and pushed out where it is needed.
“The most important thing to cool effectively is that you don’t want the outside wind to enter the stadium. That’s why the size and design of the stadium have to be studied and altered accordingly so that they block warm air from entering the stadium.”
Lusail Iconic Stadium, which was designed specifically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, will host the final and have a zero carbon footprint.
If you’re asking why the hell Qatar gets to host a FIFA World Cup, you’re switched on, because it’s a valid question. Hundreds of soccer fans gathered at Federation Square in Melbourne for the announcement on December 2, 2010, only to be disappointed. It will be the first time the tournament is held in the Middle East and FIFA has made no secret of its desire to grow the game in all corners of the world.
There were accusations of corruption, but ultimately Qatar got the votes ahead of Japan, South Korea, the United States and of course, Australia. The national government has spent literally hundreds of billions of dollars getting ready for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, building infrastructure, setting up a new train line service, and making sure there is enough accommodation for people.
Does Australia have any chance?
In short, no. Australia will not win the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but it could cause an upset or two. If you compare the Socceroo’s best team to any of the last four World Cup sides, this is the weakest. Simply qualifying was a phenomenal effort. We assume Tom Rogic will be available after missing the Peru game, but overall the Aussies lack class in the front half, which will make scoring difficult.
Who is looking good for the overall win?
Brazil and reigning champions France will start the FIFA World Cup as favourites, but Argentina, Italy, Spain, Germany and England will fancy their chances too. Portugal, Belgium, Mexico and the Netherlands should not be discounted but are still considered outsiders. The rest are probably making up the numbers.
For the first time ever, female referees will officiate at a FIFA World Cup later this year. Of the 129 officials selected for the event, six are women.
Australia’s group games:
Wednesday, Nov 23, 6am AEDT: Australia vs France
Saturday, Nov 26, 9pm AEDT: Australia vs Tunisia
Thursday, Dec 1, 2am AEDT: Australia vs Denmark
Senegal and the Netherlands will play the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on November 21. The final is on December 18.