The World Cup draw has set the sphere, regardless that the invitation list for this 12 months’s tournament in Qatar isn’t yet complete. Yet whilst the teams now know who, and when, they may play, there are still loads of questions on how things will play out in soccer’s first Winter World Cup. Here’s a primer on the world’s best sporting spectacle.
When is the World Cup?
The tournament opens with 4 matches on Nov. 21 (three days before Thanksgiving in the USA), the beginning of a soccer-stuffed 12 days of 4 games a day. Over the month that follows, all of the games will happen in a good circle of eight stadiums in and around Qatar’s capital, Doha, making it probably the most compact World Cup in history.
The ultimate is Dec. 18 — per week before Christmas.
Who’re the favorites?
Brazil, France, England and Spain are the highest 4 decisions of oddsmakers, followed by one other pedigreed group: Argentina, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The same old suspects qualified early, so a lot of them, in reality, that our soccer columnist, Rory Smith, wrote in November that “the chances are the winner is already there.”
Only eight countries have ever won the World Cup, in any case, and 7 are in the sphere again. (Sorry, Italy. See you next time. Perhaps.)
Who Will the USA Play?
The Americans qualified again after missing the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They landed in an intriguing group that features England, Iran and a European opponent that will likely be determined in a June playoff (the survivor will likely be one among Wales, Scotland or Ukraine).
The US has experience against its two known opponents. It tied England in South Africa in 2010 on the technique to winning their first-round group, but lost to Iran in 1998 in a match crammed with political intrigue.
They are going to hit the bottom running too: The US will face the European playoff winner on Nov. 21, the tournament’s first day, after which play England 4 days later, on Black Friday. A match against Iran on Nov. 29 will close the group stage.
What’s after that? The Americans’ group will likely be paired with the teams that advance from Group A — a bit that features Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands — within the round of 16.
Wait, don’t they play the World Cup in July?
They all the time had, until Qatar got it.
Qatar, like the opposite bidders, initially proposed holding the tournament in its normal summer window, and brushed aside any suggestion it couldn’t achieve this with the assistance of cooling technology that didn’t, on the time, exist. As The Times wrote on the day of the vote in 2010:
“Qatar’s bid overcame concerns about heat that may reach 120 degrees there in the summertime. Officials say they may construct air-conditioned stadiums, spending $4 billion to upgrade three arenas and construct nine latest ones in a compact area connected by a subway system.”
It took greater than 4 years, but in 2015 FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, eventually concluded that a summer World Cup in 120-degree temperatures might bring unneeded problems (like, say, fans and players dying) and agreed to maneuver the tournament to the relatively cooler months of November and December.
What in regards to the league games that normally happen then?
Oh, the leagues grumbled. Quite a bit. But they lost.
The switch to winter will disrupt not only league competitions in Europe and elsewhere, but in addition the lucrative UEFA Champions League, and it’ll require starting seasons earlier or ending them later, or each.
A winter World Cup also would depart those professionals who don’t go to Qatar — lower than 800 of the world’s players participate — with a midseason break that would extend to 2 months, once pretournament camps and friendlies and post-Cup rest is factored in.
Fox Sports, which paid a whole lot of thousands and thousands of dollars for the USA broadcast rights, may have to wedge in a month of soccer games around one other fall sport that tends to demand attention that point of 12 months. Perhaps you’ve heard of the N.F.L.?
What number of teams get in?
A complete of 32. They were split into eight groups of 4 within the draw, which notably didn’t include anything that gave the impression to be the normal Group of Death. The highest two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.
Which countries have qualified?
Qatar qualified mechanically because the host, and 28 other teams up to now have joined it. Those include most of the most important teams from Europe and South America: England and Germany, Brazil and Argentina, France and Spain.
Canada is in. The US and Mexico are in. Ukraine might still go. Russia won’t.
Three places remain unclaimed. One will come from Europe, where Ukraine’s playoff against Scotland was postponed by war. Those teams will meet in June, with the winner to face Wales for Europe’s final place.
The opposite two entries will come from two intercontinental playoffs that month: Costa Rica will face Latest Zealand, the Oceania survivor, in a single game, and Peru, the fifth-place team from South America, will face an Asian team, either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.
Are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo going?
Argentina, and Messi, qualified in November. But Portugal, and Ronaldo, needed to sweat out a European playoff after botching its guaranteed path to the finals within the group stage.
Who won’t be there?
Erling Haaland, for one. (Norway didn’t qualify.) Mohamed Salah. (Egypt lost to Senegal on penalty kicks for the second time in a month.)
Oh, and Italy. But then that’s not latest for them. The Italians missed the 2018 tournament, too. Whoops.
When will the games happen?
Qatar is in the identical time zone as Moscow. So whatever strategy you used to get up early (or not sleep late) for the games in 2018 will work this time, too. But it’ll mean kickoffs as early as 4 a.m. Eastern, and no later than 2 p.m. Eastern.