By: Brian Lines
Every four years, in the summer, the world’s largest sporting event takes place. The FIFA World Cup was last played in Russia in 2018, where France made their mark by defeating Croatia in the cup final.
Four years have passed since the spectacle that was the 2018 World Cup, but summer of 2022 came and went without the international soccer tournament happening. This is because the 2022 World Cup is going to be a little different than the rest.
In 2010, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) named Qatar as the World Cup host country for 2022. Because of Qatar’s climate, the tournament has been slated to start in November, rather than June.
This will be the first time the World Cup has ever been played in the Northern Hemisphere winter months. Before diving into the biggest stories circulating the 2022 World Cup, let’s start with the controversies.
Since 2010, when FIFA awarded Qatar with the 2022 host position for the World Cup, investigations have been launched into potential vote-buying on the part of the nation. World Cup host bids are sifted through and selected by 24 FIFA executives. According to The Washington Post, two of the 24 executives were caught before the 2010 host election offering their votes for cash. However, FIFA maintains that the selection of Qatar fits their goal of expanding soccer into new regions of the world.
According to BBC, after their selection, Qatar began work on seven brand new soccer stadiums, a new airport, a new public transportation system, new roads and around 100 new hotels. Additionally, Qatar has essentially constructed a whole new city around the stadium set to host the cup final. According to Qatar’s government, around 30,000 foreign workers have been hired just for the stadium construction.
Multiple human rights organizations have been protesting Qatar’s treatment of the laborers they have brought over their borders. In a 2021 report from Human Rights Watch, the workers have been suffering from illegal wage deductions, months of unpaid wages and long hours of work. According to BBC, the worker treatment in Qatar is arguably forced labor.
In 2021, The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the nation won their World Cup bid. The Qatar government claims that there have only been 37 deaths, and that only three of them were work-related. No matter what the numbers truly are, it is clear that it has been a human rights mess to have the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar.
However, the preparation for the World Cup is only half of the controversy surrounding the tournament. With the temporary change of the timing of the cup, the tournament will be played right in the middle of most leagues’ seasons. The English Premier League will have played 16 weeks before the World Cup, and will play 22 more weeks after the cup.
As most players participating in the World Cup are going to be jumping into the international tournament right in the middle of their regular club seasons, the risk of injuries has skyrocketed. What might have typically been a small, two/three-week recovery, is now an injury that takes players out of the largest soccer stage in the world. The English national team have already lost two key defensive players to injury: Reece James and Ben Chilwell. Tottenham FC’s Son Heung-min is potentially out of the World Cup due to a fractured eye socket, putting South Korea’s hopes down at the potential loss of their captain. It is safe to say that this World Cup will be an unpredictable tournament due to the loss of key players for some teams.
Now let’s move on to some of the big stories that will be found in the tournament itself. The 2022 World Cup is one of the most important and emotional World Cups in recent years as it will be the final World Cup for some very, very big names.
In an ESPN interview, Lionel Messi (35) said, “Surely, this will be my final World Cup.” Cristiano Ronaldo (37) told beIN sports, “I expect Qatar could be my final World Cup.” Neymar Jr. (29) has said, “I think it’s my last World Cup.”
These three players are some of the most well-known soccer players in history, and none of them have won a World Cup with their respective teams: Argentina, Portugal and Brazil. Will one of these giants secure the trophy in their last World Cup?
Sadly this will probably be the last World Cup for many other big names as well. These players include: Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Luis Suárez (Uruguay), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Luka Modrić (Croatia), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Thomas Müller (Germany), Dani Alves (Brazil), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Hugo Lloris (France), Olivier Giroud (France), Sergio Busquets (Spain) and Pepe (Portugal).
The United States has made it back into the tournament after missing out in 2018. The U.S. has only qualified for the cup nine times and usually don’t get out of the group stage or round of 16. The best the U.S. has ever done in the World Cup was the very first time they qualified; in 1930 the U.S. finished third in the World Cup.
Could this be the year the U.S. makes their mark in the world of soccer? They have a good team this year, with multiple players playing for big European clubs. How far can captain Christian Pulisic lead the team? The U.S. starts in Group B with England, Wales and Iran.
There are only four African teams in the 2022 World Cup out of the 32 teams present: Senegal, Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana. No African team has ever finished in the top four places in the World Cup. This year there’s a good chance.
While Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana have all struggled to get international wins, Senegal is another story. At the 2022 Confederation of African Football (CAF) awards, Senegal was named the team of the year, and they won both coach of the year (Aliou Cissé) and player of the year (Sadio Mané). Senegal is a very good team right now, and stands a chance of making it further than any African team in history.
Meanwhile, two European teams look to solidify their place on the top of the world. France won in 2018, shocking the world with a deadly mix of experience and youth. Kylian Mbappé made his name as one of the best up-and-coming players at the age of only 19. After four years of playing in Paris at one of the best clubs in the world, he and the French national team will be looking to get another big win, especially after not even making it to the final of the 2020 European cup.
Belgium is a bit of a different talking point. In the last four years, Belgium has been rated by FIFA as the international team of the year. That being said, Belgium has never made it to the final of the World Cup, but did come very close in 2018, losing out to Croatia in the semi-final and taking third place. With players like Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Youri Tielemans and many more, Belgium should have more wins than they do. Could this be the year they finally reflect their rating?
So who will win this year? I’ll give you a few options. Firstly, France remains a very deadly team and will be pushing for a win after not even making it to the final of the UEFA Euros. Then there is Brazil, who has one of the most well-rounded teams in the world and will be pushing to win the World Cup, as they haven’t won since 2002 despite having won more than any other nation.
But then there is Argentina; Argentina beat Brazil in the 2021 Copa America (the South American tournament) and they have a very solid team led by the one and only Lionel Messi. Argentina made it to the World Cup final in 2014 and lost to Germany… they will be seeking a win for Messi’s last World Cup.
While (in my opinion) France, Brazil and Argentina have the best odds of winning, anything can happen in the World Cup, especially one as emotional and controversial as the 2022 World Cup is shaped out to be. The group stage of the World Cup begins at 11 a.m. on Nov. 20.
Sources: BBC, The Washington Post