After more than a decade of unprecedented controversy, tumultuous preparations and a dramatic qualification campaign, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally underway. Middle Eastern nation Qatar is hosting the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world, symbolic of the growth of the sport outside of its traditional strongholds in Europe and South America. With the clash of footballing juggernauts vying for glory, the potential farewell of two of the greatest player’s all time, and the rise of the next generation on the world’s biggest stage, the tournament promises to be one to remember.
Before this morning’s opening game, the tournament officially began with a spectacular opening ceremony. The stunning show was full of surprises. Featuring a performance from Korean pop star Jungkook to headline the event, a recitation of the Quran and a surprise appearance from Morgan Freeman. Freeman told the crowd of over 60,000 football fans “What unites us here in this moment is so much greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer than just today?”
Immediately following the opening ceremony, host nation Qatar kicked off the first game of the tournament against Ecuador. Ecuador emerged victorious, defeating Qatar 2-0 with a pair of goals from captain Enner Valencia. Valencia almost bagged a hat-trick but had a goal in disallowed only the third minute. Qatar never threatened to score and were simply outclassed by their opponents.
After only a single game, the 22nd edition of the tournament has already experienced a World Cup first. With their 0-2 defeat at the hands of Ecuador, Qatar has become the first host nation to lose their opening game of the World Cup. There are sure to be many more World Cup firsts and records broken before the final on December 18th. Until then, we’ve got you covered with a complete guide to the 2022 FIFA World Cup that will tell you everything you need to know.
Australian fans are accustomed to watching games at unreasonable times due to time zone disparities. In fact, it’s something of a World Cup tradition for Aussie fans to wake up early or stay up late to support their beloved Socceroos. While Qatar still presents a challenging time difference, it’s not as bad as previous years. There’s an eight-hour time difference between Qatar and both Sydney and Melbourne. Brisbane is slightly closer at seven hours difference. While Perth fares better than all with only a five-hour difference. While this will leave some games in the middle of the night for East coast viewers, many games are in more suitable timeslots.
If you felt like it was a slightly longer wait for this World Cup, you were right. The 2022 World Cup is being played six months later than usual on the four-year cycle and will be the first tournament held in the Northern hemispheres winter. This is due to the soaring temperatures Qatar experiences during the summer. Meaning that because the Northern Hemisphere’s winter is the Southern hemisphere’s Summer, World Cup fever will take over Australia during its summer months for the first time.
The World Cup will see 32 teams from five confederations battle it out for the ultimate glory. The 32 teams will be split into eight groups of four, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stages.
The eight groups are as follows:
Group A – Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Group B – England, Wales, Iran, USA
Group C – Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland, Argentina
Group D – Australia, France, Denmark, Tunisia
Group E – Spain, Germany, Costa Rica, Japan
Group F – Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada
Group G – Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon
Group H – Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana, South Korea
Every team in Qatar has a chance to lift the trophy, that’s the beauty of the World Cup. But when it comes down to it, some teams are certainly more likely than other’s to be celebrating on December 18th. The usual suspects of world football with rich and storied histories remain the primary contenders.
South American giants Brazil are the most successful international football team of all time. Standing alone with five World Cup trophies, more than any other nation. But they’re keen to add another to the trophy cabinet and head into the tournament as favourites. With a bevy of household names like Neymar, Thiago Silva and Casemiro, Brazil are going to be the team no one wants to face.
Brazil’s oldest and biggest rival, Argentina, are the next best bet to win the Cup. All eyes will be on legendary captain Lionel Messi to see if the man who many consider to be the greatest player of all time can capture the one accolade missing from his resume: a World Cup trophy. No South American team has won the World Cup since Brazil in 2002, but with two heavyweights as odds-on favourites, that streak looks likely to end.
France, victorious at the 2018 World Cup, return as defending champions and are Europe’s best chance at victory. Le Bleus have been rocked by an injury plague, but with superstars like Kylian Mbappe, Hugo Lloris and Raphael Varane at the helm, France can’t be counted out.
With UEFA Euro 2020 champions Italy missing out on the World Cup, runners-up England are keen to avenge themselves after last year’s heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat. England’s squad is bolstered by 2018 World Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane and a slew of young stars. The Three Lion’s have also had injury problems, but expectations will be sky-high regardless. Could this be the year that football finally comes home?
The Dark Horses
Only eight nations have ever won the World Cup. We always expect the perpetual juggernauts to be victorious, but more often than not, the unexpected can happen and the underdogs can thrive on the world’s biggest stage. Croatia, seemingly a middling team amongst European giants, defied the odds when they made it all the way to the final of the 2018 World Cup before bowing out to France. Croatia and their famous checkerboard kit could make another run in Qatar. With many of the stars who propelled the nation so close to glory in 2018 returning for another go at it.
Denmark are a rising team in world football. An impressive performance at the 2018 World Cup was followed up with a semi-finals run at the 2020 Euro’s. Now, Denmark looks stronger than ever and is ready to shock the world against defending champions France in the group stage. Denmark has defeated France in both of their most recent matchups and will be hoping to continue that trend with a group stage upset.
Morocco might be the best team at the World Cup outside of Europe and South America. Drawn into a tough group alongside Belgium and Croatia, Morocco has the firepower to pull off some major upsets and make a run. Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech, Yassine Bounou and a handful of others give Morocco the star power rarely seen in teams not already considered footballing giants.
Has everyone forgotten about Uruguay? The South American’s made it all the way to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and backed it up with solid performances at subsequent tournaments. But they’re barely getting a mention as true contenders. With Liverpool’s rising star Darwin Nunez and the legendary Luis Suarez taking the field, Uruguay is going to be a challenge for Portugal in the group stage and won’t be an easy opponent deeper in the tournament.
Players to Watch
The two players commonly considered to be the greatest of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, could very well be playing in their final World Cup’s. Messi has already announced Qatar will be his last and at 37-years-old, Ronaldo doesn’t have long left either. Both legends have never won the prestigious tournament and the whole world will be watching their swan song.
With the heavy expectations that come with being the tournament favourites best player, Brazil’s Neymar has a lot to prove in Qatar. After the heartbreak of the 2014 World Cup in his home nation, Neymar has a chance to redeem himself and write his name into the history books alongside Messi and Ronaldo as an all time great.
Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante and Karim Benzema. All of these key players have been ruled out of the World Cup for France. France is now counting on their younger players to step up. None more so than 19-year-old Real Madrid rising star Eduardo Camavinga. Camavinga will have big shoes to fill in France’s midfield, whether or not he’s up for the challenge could be the story of the tournament.
Born in an Egyptian refugee camp to Sudanese parents fleeing their war-torn home country, Garang Kuol has led a remarkable journey on his path to representing the Socceroos. The 18-year-old will become the youngest ever Socceroo at a World Cup and will become the tournament’s second youngest scorer ever if he manages to bag a goal.
The Socceroos will face some familiar faces in the group stage. Fans will remember that two of the Socceroos group D opponents, France and Denmark, were also in their group at the 2018 World Cup. What’s more, the third team in Australia’s 2018 group was Peru, who the Socceroos defeated in a dramatic penalty shootout during the final stage of qualification to reach the 2022 World Cup.
The ‘roos will be hoping to improve on their 2-1 defeat and 1-1 draw to France and Denmark at the last World Cup. Although they might fancy their chances to be higher against their other group stage opponent, Tunisia.
The Socceroos opening game of the tournament against defending champions France will be played at Al Janoub Stadium at 6am Wednesday morning AEDT. They will then face Tunisia three days later at 9pm AEDT in a blockbuster Saturday night matchup. The ‘roos final group stage game against Denmark might ward off even the biggest die-hard fans, with kick-off not until 2am AEDT next Thursday.
The Socceroos will rely heavily on their star goalkeeper Maty Ryan to keep out what will surely be a litany of shots against some of their more accomplished opponents. While Aaron Mooy and Ajdin Hrustic are going to be counted on to control the midfield. All eyes will be on Garang Kuol to provide the attacking flair the Socceroos desperately need.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is well and truly on the hot seat. After a tumultuous qualification campaign and a series of disappointing results, a lacklustre World Cup performance could spell the end for Arnold at Australia’s helm.
It would be impossible to write a guide to the 2022 World Cup without a mention of the slew of controversies that have plagued Qatar’s tournament preparation from the moment they were selected as hosts in 2010.
The decision to give Qatar the world’s biggest sporting event was accompanied by accusations of bribery and corruption. Multiple FIFA executives were suspended before the deciding vote to select Qatar as the host nation. The resignation of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter amidst an investigation into alleged fraud and corruption also left the tournament under a lasting shroud of controversy.
The Qatari regime’s oppressive treatment of migrant workers during the construction of stadiums and facilities has long attracted the ire of the international community. In the lead up to the World Cup, migrant workers have faced appalling conditions, with estimates that up to 6,500 workers died during the World Cup’s preparations.
Qatar’s strict laws against same-sex relationships have also drawn criticism. With claims that a nation with a vehement stance against the LGBT community can not be considered a viable host for the world’s biggest celebration of diversity. In protest of Qatar’s policy on same-sex relationships, players from nine nations competing at the world cup have committed to wearing rainbow coloured “One Love” armbands.
Earlier this week, organisers reneged on a deal that would have allowed the sale of alcohol around the perimeter of World Cup stadiums. The sole alcoholic partner of the tournament, Budweiser, was left in the dark by the sudden decision, which aimed to find a balance between providing an enjoyable experience for fans and upholding the values of the Muslim nation.
Multiple musical artists have turned down lucrative offers to perform at the World Cup. Rock Star Rod Stewart rejected a multimillion dollar offer to perform at the Cup’s opening ceremony. “I refused, it’s not right to go,” he said. English singer Dua Lipa also confirmed she would play no part in the tournament, “I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host,” she said.
Where Can I Watch?
Every World Cup Game will be televised live and free on SBS and SBS Viceland. The free-to-air broadcaster will also provide a live stream on SBS On Demand.