FIFA World Cup 2022 Briefing: 10 Things To Watch On Day One
FIFA World Cup 2022 Briefing: Our daily rundown will be available through the tournament, and here’s the latest news before the hosts go ahead
It was only in August this year that FIFA changed the tournament opener from Netherlands vs Senegal to Qatar v Ecuador. This change is in line with a long-standing tradition of the first matches featuring either the hosts or the reigning champions. So, now that we have the curtain-raising opening ceremony followed by Qatar kicking things off, here are 10 things to watch out for as the tournament gets underway:
1) A grand opening ceremony
Qatar was heavily criticized in the lead up to the tournament and with resources seemingly limitless, one would imagine they would miss the open goal of a fireworks display for the ages and perhaps a flashy drone show to distract from stories beyond football .
2) Musicians taking money
Rod Stewart told the Times that he had turned down an offer of “over $1m” to perform in Qatar and Dua Lipa said she would only play there if the nation improved its human rights record. With reputations on the line, which globally renowned artists will be ready to perform?
3) Expect to be blown away…
… by Pitchside Air Conditioning. Al Bayt Stadium is expected to be 30C on Sunday – a little cooler than in recent days – but still expect the strange sight of giant gray machines pumping cold air into the arena while the match is underway.
4) A close opening match
Qatar have been handed the most favorable Group A opener they could have expected. Ecuador are ranked only six places above the hosts, but have not scored in their last three matches (all 0-0 draws). May we get a match that lifts the spirit of the underdog hosts instead of crushing them.
5) Interest for Brighton fans
Moises Caicedo is Ecuador’s star player, while attacking left-back Parvis Estupinan was a driving force in their qualification campaign. Both have been in fine form for Brighton this year and their performances could tip the balance in the opening game. Midfielder Jeremy Sarmiento completes the trio of Seagulls representing La Tri at this World Cup.
6) An official matchball with AI-powered technology
Al Rihla has a time-accurate motion sensor to track every touch in the game at a rate of “500 times per second”, which is supposed to speed up VAR calls. Here’s hoping. We’re imagining that a store-bought replica wouldn’t be so smart, though.
7) A Stadium Like No Other
There cannot be football stadiums with a capacity of 60,000 that look like tents. Al Bayt Stadium, 40km north of Doha, is certainly attractive and its design is a tribute to the hospitality of Qatar’s forefathers, who would welcome weary travelers to their tents. But don’t forget how it was made.
8) Akram Afif
The Qatari star player is a product of Doha’s Aspire Academy and a genuine live talent. The left winger loves nothing more than taking on defenders and was voted the Asian Footballer of the Year for 2019. If the host comes to life then expect Aafif to be the spark.
9) Support for LGBTQ+ Qataris… on social media
It is unlikely we will see support for the country’s LGBTQ+ community at Al Bayt Stadium, but online campaigns are underway to highlight the plight of the hidden population of gay Qataris when the hosts play. Among them are the Proud Maroons, led by Nas Mohamed, who says he is the first openly gay Qatari, and wants LGBTQ+ Qatari fans on social media to be the “LGBTQ+ National Football Supporters Group that Qatar Never Wanted”. Join in and sing loud and proud when the Maroons are in action.
10) ‘Everything Is Now’
The official World Cup slogan is expected to do well. Its message seems to be a call to critics to stick with football and forget how this World Cup happened. not likely.
Age is just a (squad) number
The Netherlands open their campaign against Senegal on Monday and their manager Louis van Gaal was characteristically nonchalant when asked how he has decided on his squad numbers. “Normally I discuss it with players, not now. I give numbers to players according to their age.” “It’s not a joke. I never crack jokes in press conferences. It seems a smart way to avoid bruising the ego, however. 23-year-old Matthijs de Ligt wearing the number 3 shirt alongside 31-year-old Virgil van Dijk, wearing the number 4, suggests that Van Gaal is fast and loose with his rule. were playing
Germany’s teen sensation
Expectations are high from Youssef Moukoko after joining Hansi Flick’s Germany team at the age of just 17. Asked which former strikers he hopes to emulate, Moukoco – born in 2004 – said he can only remember watching Miroslav Klose. “I have seen his videos. Secondly, I was not there at all.’ Mokoko said, “I am here because the coach believes I can help the team.” “I will give it my all and enjoy it.” reuters
Messi’s shirt can be a cash magnet
Slough-born Aston Villa defender Matty Cash is expected to make his World Cup debut for Poland against Mexico on Tuesday with their final Group C game against Argentina. Cash’s Villa team-mate Amy Martinez is likely to start for the group heavyweights and Cash is hoping the keeper can save him a souvenir. Cash revealed, “I asked him for Messi’s shirt, if that’s possible.” The full-back could always ask Messi at full-time, although perhaps he didn’t fancy getting close enough. reuters
“Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker. Of course I I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I feel this way, because I know that being discriminated [against] as a foreigner in a foreign country What a mean. As a kid I was bullied – because I had red hair and wrinkles, plus I was Italian, so imagine.
Gianni Infantino’s press conference on Saturday started as necessary if extremely uncomfortable viewing, and it didn’t get much better from the FIFA president in a bizarre 57-minute attack on World Cup critics. Sean Ingle has more.
At one point Infantino urged the assembled journalists to “let the people enjoy the World Cup.” Judging by these pictures of a fan village taken by BBC reporter Riya Chauhan, he may have been asking the wrong people.
Castillo’s passport problem
The Ecuadorian player who made the most headlines in the buildup will not be in Qatar at all. Byron Castillo has been the subject of a legal battle over his true nationality, with Chile among rival nations as the right-back is actually from Colombia. The claim was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but Ecuador was given a three-point penalty for 2026 qualification because the documents used to obtain an Ecuadorian passport for Castillo contained false information. To avoid further controversy, the Ecuadorian Football Federation decided not to include Castillo in the World Cup squad – a decision criticized by his coach. “Byron should be with us,” Gustavo Alfaro has said. As first-choice right-back, Castillo has played a key role in a defense that has not conceded a goal in six friendly matches. “We are hurt because we know it is unfair,” said the head coach. “We did everything straight.” reuters
And finally …
Qatar v Ecuador is unlikely to entice neutrals or take the spotlight away from the tournament’s many controversies. Tournament organizers (and Infantino) can hope for a repeat of the most recent meeting of the two sides. Qatar won the Doha friendly 4-3 in 2018, with Almoez Ali scoring twice for the World Cup hosts.
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