Never have football fans expected so much of an edition of the World Cup. The World Cup in Qatar begins on Sunday, November 20, followed by the opening ceremony of the Qatar-Ecuador match, nearly four and a half years after the final of the 2018 edition in Russia won by the France team against Croatia ( 4-2). Controversial attribution, unpublished dates, a format that is coming to an end… Europe 1 reviews ten things to know before diving into the 22nd edition of the Football World Cup.
A controversial attribution
Even the uninitiated suspect it: Qatar is not a country known for its footballing exploits. It is however this small emirate in the Middle East which was designated organizer of the World Cup on December 2, 2010 by Fifa, to the detriment of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States. This designation, guaranteed on stage by the ex-boss of the world body Sepp Blatter, immediately caused controversy.
FIFA has opened an investigation into the conditions for awarding this World Cup after accusations of corruption against members of the Federation who voted for the emirate. On Europe 1, Sepp Blatter said he “regretted” the choice of Qatar as the host country “at the time of announcing it”. “Fifa’s ethics commission carried out a study, and said that there was no corruption. (…) After the report, we confirmed the awarding of the World Cup”, he detailed with Jacques Vendroux in January 2022.
Qatar, the smallest host country
With its 11,586 km2 (i.e. 47 times smaller than the area of mainland France), Qatar will become (by far) the smallest country to organize an edition of the World Cup, after Uruguay and its 176,220 km2 during from the first edition in 1930. It is also the least populated host country, with just under 2.5 million Qataris.
The first edition of the Mondial played in autumn
Desert climate obliges, the Qatari edition of the World Cup will take place from November 20 to December 18, that is to say in autumn, for a final which will take place three days before winter. Unprecedented dates for the most prestigious international football competition, which traditionally takes place at the beginning of summer.
If temperatures will still be around 30 degrees in the capital, Doha, the organizers have decided to close the stadiums and equip seven of them with air conditioning. Environmental associations have denounced this as an environmental absurdity.
Last edition with 32 teams
This is the last edition where 32 nations are on the starting line. From the 2026 World Cup hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, the competition will grow to 48 teams. A will of Fifa who wishes to increase the exposure of the tournament and to offer more chances to participate to other countries. The 32-team format, which will therefore end in 2022, had been in effect since the 1998 World Cup in France.
The One Day Advanced Opener
Football fans had to set their countdown to August 11. “On a unanimous decision”, the Bureau of the FIFA Council approved the advancement of the opening match of the competition by one day. Originally scheduled for November 21, the match between Qatar and Ecuador was brought forward to November 20 at 7 p.m. local time (5 p.m. in France), to revive a recent tradition according to which the first match of each World Cup is contested by the host country.
Previously, it was the Senegal-Netherlands match that was to open the ball of the tournament on Monday, November 21 at 1 p.m. This was moved to 7 p.m. the same day.
A two hour time difference
On October 30, Qatar has since been two hours ahead of France, that is to say that at noon in Paris, it is 2 p.m. in Doha. During the group stage, the first matches of the day will start at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. in Paris) and the last are scheduled for 10 p.m. in Qatar, or 8 p.m. in France. A time range that will allow football fans to easily follow all matches.
Note that the first meeting of the France team, against Australia, will take place on November 22 at 8 p.m. Paris time.
A first for semi-automatic offside
For the first time in the history of the World Cup, semi-automatic offside detection will be at work. This system had already been tested during the Arab Cup in 2021, at the Club World Cup and during the last European Super Cup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Thanks to specialized cameras, semi-automatic detection can track up to 29 body points per player. This technology simultaneously determines the position of the ball and the men on the field. A sensor is also placed in the center of the ball: it will send data to the viewing room 500 times per second, which makes it possible to determine when the ball is played and this much more precisely than the human eye could. .
The construction of new stadiums marked by the death of many workers
To host the World Cup, Qatar integrated six new stadiums and renovated two others. Among the new enclosures, the Lusail stadium is the largest: located near Doha to the north of the capital, it has 80,000 seats. It is this one that will host the final of the 2022 edition, on December 18.
The construction of these infrastructures was characterized by the death of many workers on the sites. In February 2021, the British newspaper The Guardian estimated that at least 6,750 migrant workers had died since 2010, compared to the number of 37 put forward by the Qatari authorities.
Boycotts in France and abroad
The Qatari event is shunned by several personalities from the world of football because of the controversies. In August 2022, former German footballer Philipp Lahm, captain of the 2014 world champion selection and director of Euro 2024, announced that he would not be traveling to Qatar with the delegation. “As a fan, I’m not very keen on going there. I prefer to follow the tournament from home. Human rights should play an important role in the awarding of tournaments,” he said.
In France, Éric Cantona also shared his reluctance vis-à-vis the World Cup. “I don’t care about the next World Cup, which is not a real World Cup for me (…) It’s only about the money and the way they treated the people who build the stadiums are a horror. And thousands of people died”, he had declared to the Daily mail in January 2022.
Also, many municipalities in France, all political colors combined, have indicated that they do not broadcast matches on giant screens. The cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse are concerned.
Expanded list, five possible replacements… More choice for breeders
National team managers also have more freedom to put together their squads. Like what was put in place during the Covid-19 period, they can draw up a list containing up to 26 players selected, and not 23. On November 9, Didier Deschamps, for example, opted for a selection expanded to 25 players.
Also, during matches, it will be possible to make up to five substitutions. In 2018, the coaches were able to make three changes in the first 90 minutes, then replace a fourth player in a possible extension.