World Cup qualification has reached its business end, with most of the 32-team line-up to be confirmed over the next week or so.
Many countries have already got their places secured, but a host of others are yet to realise their dreams… or see them crumble.
The tournament has courted controversy ever since its hosting rights were awarded, but it promises to be quite the spectacle in a part of the world that has never hosted it before.
Here is everything you need to know about the finals…
Where is the World Cup being held?
The 2022 World Cup takes place in Qatar. It is the first time the tournament will be held in the Middle East
The finals will be staged in five cities: Al Wakrah, Al Khor, Al Rayyan, Lusail, and the capital, Doha.
Qatar is the smallest country ever to host the World Cup. With a surface area of 11,500 square kilometres, it is the 158th largest country in the world and can be traversed in roughly two hours.
A peninsula nation whose economy is powered by oil and natural gas, Qatar has been constructing what FIFA describes as “some of the most eco-friendly and architecturally advanced sporting facilities ever seen” ahead of the tournament.
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) March 26, 2021
When does the tournament take place?
The 2022 World Cup will be held from November 21 until December 18, with 64 matches played. The time frame has been slightly condensed because of the impact a winter World Cup will have on many of the world’s domestic seasons.
The opening match takes place at Al Bayt Stadium on November 21, with the group stage finishing on December 2. The round of 16 begins the following day.
The quarter-finals will be held on December 9 and 10, with the semi-finals on December 13 (at Lusail Stadium) and December 14 (at Al Bayt Stadium).
The third-place play-off is on December 17 at Khalifa International Stadium, with the final on December 18 at Lusail Stadium.
What are the venues?
The tournament is being held across five city regions: Al Wakrah, Al Khor and Lusail contain one stadium each, with two in Al Rayyan and a further three in Doha.
The venues and their capacities are:
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium: 44,000
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium is ready to go!
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) December 18, 2020
Education City Stadium: 45,350
Behold the wonder
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) June 16, 2020
Al Bayt Stadium: 60,000
Al Bayt Stadium.
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) September 15, 2020
Al Janoub Stadium: 40,000
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) September 6, 2021
Al Thumama Stadium: 40,000
The detail. The beauty.
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) October 22, 2020
Ras Abu Aboud Stadium: 40,000
Khalifa International Stadium: 40,000
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) August 30, 2021
Lusail Iconic Stadium: 80,000
Lusail Stadium pic.twitter.com/nbYBoosQpA
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) April 1, 2021
Which teams have qualified?
At the moment, the following teams have qualified for the finals:
Qatar (automatically qualified as host nation)
Why is it controversial?
The bidding process for the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has been beset by allegations of corruption.
Although a FIFA investigation cleared Qatar of wrongdoing, Swiss federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into the awarding of the two tournaments as part of a wider probe into alleged criminal activity concerning some former FIFA executives.
Concerns have also been raised about the treatment of migrant workers used in the massive construction projects for the tournament. Amnesty International said labourers in Qatar were subject to abuse, inhuman working conditions and little pay, describing “a playground for unscrupulous employers” in September 2019.
#FIFA awarded #Qatar the 2022 World Cup hosting rights 10 years ago but migrant workers are still suffering to make the tournament possible. It’s time for @FIFACom to finally #blowthewhistle on labour abuse in Qatar https://t.co/NRgokOXT9F #WCQ pic.twitter.com/etUa7ZTD83
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) March 22, 2021
In response, Qatari authorities changed their employment law after entering a partnership with the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) aimed at reforming their labour policies. The introduction of a new minimum wage and a commitment to end the ‘kafala’ system, which made it impossible for workers to change jobs without their employer’s permission, were welcomed by the ILO and Amnesty International.
The decision to stage the World Cup during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter was taken due to the extreme heat common in summer in Qatar. However, moving the tournament to November and December, when the European club season is at its busiest, will create a knock-on effect for 2022-23.
The Premier League, for example, plans to take a seven-week break between November 13 and December 26 to accommodate the World Cup, while the Champions League final is set to be pushed back into June. There are concerns about the physical toll the prolonged season will have on players; Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow described it as a “crazy idea”.
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