All you need to know about the Qatar World Cup – with four years to go before the opening kickoff | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 21.11.2018
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All you need to know about the Qatar World Cup – with four years to go before the opening kickoff

It's just 1,461 days to go until the World Cup in Qatar. This will be new ground for FIFA – in more ways than one. DW answers some of the questions that may be on the minds of football fans everywhere.

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Four years to go until the World Cup in Qatar

What can we expect?

The next FIFA World Cup is to kick off in what will be a brand-new Lusail Stadium in Doha on November 21, 2022. If the game is a sellout, there will be a total of 86,250 spectators at the opener, and overall, optimistic estimates suggest that a total of 1.5 million fans from all over the globe will attend the tournament.

Given the fact that Qatar is tiny, at just 4,471 square miles, and the bulk of the World Cup venues are located in and around the capital, Doha, it's bound to get a bit crowded for the country's 2.7 million residents.  Three of the stadiums are to be located in Doha itself, with the nine others in the not-too-distant vicinity. Around 60 percent of the visitors are expected to travel to the games using Doha Metro, a rapid transit system that is still under construction. The cost of the construction or renovation of the 12 venues is estimated at between $2.87 billion (€252 billion) and $4 billion. The total cost of hosting the 2022 World Cup is estimated at up to $ 50 billion.

What are the critics of the World Cup in Qatar saying?

The suspicion that corruption was at play in Zurich in 2010, when the FIFA Executive Committee awarded both the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is not new. Even back then, many wondered what could have possessed FIFA to award a World Cup to Qatar, a country with little football tradition and where temperatures are extremely high in the summer months.

Human rights organizations continue to criticize the appalling working conditions of the many guest workers employed in the construction of the World Cup venues. Then there is the political situation in the Persian Gulf – in 2017, Qatar had sanctions imposed upon it by its neighbors Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. They accuse the country's regime of supporting terrorism in the region.

And just recently, the secretary general of the organizing committee, Hassan al-Thawadi, confirmed that Qatar was considering offers from other countries, including Iran, one of the key players in the Middle East conflict, to host some of the teams during the 2022 World Cup.

Katar: Gastgeber der Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft 2022 (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Babu)

The still-under-construction Ras Abu Abound Stadium is to be dismantled after the 2022 World Cup

How many teams will be involved?

Currently, the plan is for the 2022 World Cup to be the last to feature just 32 teams, with that number to swell to 48 for the 2026 event, which is to be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. However, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said on more than one occasion that he would actually prefer to introduce that increase four years earlier.

"Our preparations are currently underway for 32 teams and all preparations are based on that," al-Thawadi said recently.

At the same time, though, he confirmed that a possible increase was up for discussion.  However, one has to wonder whether such a small country would even be capable of hosting a 48-team World Cup on its own.

Where do Qatar rank in world football?

The latest FIFA men's ranking has Qatar in 96th spot, just behind the Faroe Islands and ahead of India. However, the team recently beat eighth-ranked Switzerland (who admittedly didn't field their best side) 1-0 in a friendly in Lugano

Fußball Länderspiel Schweiz - Katar (picture-alliance/Keystone/C. Merz)

Akram Afif scores the only goal in Qatar's victory over Switzerland

. Qatar then went on to draw Iceland 2-2 in a friendly played in the Belgian city of Eupen, home of KAS Eupen, which, since 2012 has been owned by Qatar. These results have given reason for Qatar's fans to hope that the host nation could actually be able to field a somewhat competitive team by 2022.

What will be new at the World Cup in Qatar?

The 2022 World Cup will provide plenty of firsts: It will be the first time that both an Arab and Muslim-majority country has hosted a World Cup; it will also be the first time that a World Cup will be held during Europe's winter, meaning the schedulers of the continent's professional leagues will have to come up with a solution. Whatever happens, there is bound to be a long break in league play in November and December, which in turn will probably lead to a delay in the start of the summer offseason.

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