Many believed that FIFA would not go through with it. Yet here we are amid a World Cup that has been enthralling and exciting, to say the least.
Qatar will host 32 teams from 5 different confederations who will play a total of 64 matches.
What is so different about Qatar
Qatar is the first World Cup held in the Asian continent and brought many complications. The most important being the weather. Qatar experiences a desert climate, meaning temperatures soar up to 45 degrees in the summer.
Unfortunately, that is also the time when the World Cup is usually held, in a break from club football, and stretches for more than a month. Given the scenario, FIFA had to set up the World Cup in November instead of the usual summer festival.
Football players can run up to 10km per match, and such high temperatures pose a hazard to all the participants. To accommodate such a change, Qatar has tried to move its World Cup experience as indoors as possible.
This means that from fan zones to the stadium, it has been tested to make air-conditioned.
Similarly, Qatar has never been famous for its footballing opportunities or infrastructure. Initially, the stadium and sporting facilities needed to be up to World Cup standards.
So what took place next was a large-scale transformative project which developed 7 stadiums from scratch. The newer ones aren’t just up to par but have set the benchmark for technological advancement in stadiums.
Likewise, creating such monumental facilities from the grass-root level meant that Qatar World Cup was the most expensive World Cup.
The investment shows the country’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment for fans and football alike. Moreover, it exposes the Arab and Asian world to the highest level of football on the planet.
Full of Upsets, but the good ones
Who doesn’t love to watch an underdog thrive when the odds are stacked against them? Especially at the most prominent football spectacle that we get every four years. This World Cup has so far been the story of the underdogs.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, S. Korea, Japan, Tunisia, Australia, and Senegal have enjoyed relative success where it didn’t seem likely, with many even qualifying for the knockouts for the first time in the history of the competition.
This success has come at the expense of footballing giants who have fared poorly against expectations. Nations such as Germany, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, and Uruguay, amongst others, did not produce performances that made their fans proud.
In addition, there have been some other memorable losses, which sadly didn’t have significant consequences on the knockout stages.
Which match surprised us the most?
One of the first matches of the World Cup saw Argentina and Saudi Arabia lock horns. Argentina, one of the favorites for the World Cup, was set to take the 3 points home. Messi opened the scoring within 10 mins of the game through a penalty.
But empowered by a passionate speech and encouragement from the coach, Herve Renard, Saudi Arabia scored two goals quickly after the restart. The bold playstyle of the Falcons surprised many as they saw the match through at 2-1.
Japan and Germany’s match saw a very similar fate. Gundogan opened the account for the Germans from the sport in the 33rd minute.
A very technical and disciplined Japanese team returned from defeat with two goals in the last 20 minutes. A draw against Spain meant that the 2014 winners were grouped from the previous two consecutive competitions.
Belgium saw a similar fate when they lost their opener against Morocco 2-0; a subsequent draw against Croatia saw the 2nd ranked team in the world place third and exit the World Cup in the group stage.
Likewise, Denmark, who had an excellent performance in the Euro a year before reaching the semi-final, could not make it past the group stages.
Why are Underdogs so good?
Let’s set one thing straight, there’s a reason these teams are underdogs, and they beat these giants fair and square.
But why is it that we’re seeing this pattern of European and Latin teams failing while the Asian and African stars shine brighter than they have before? There are some theories, and we’re going to work through each one of them.
The crowd effect
Qatar’22 is the first World Cup held on this side of the world. The crowd came pouring in from as far as China and Korea for this World Cup.
But more importantly, the group from African and Arabian countries joined the stands, heaps of people who wouldn’t even get a visa to visit if held in the states.
So we saw a more extensive mix of people in the audience than the white majority of spectators. What followed was terrific as the Arabian crowd pushed and encouraged their fellow African/Arabians to perform.
So when Morocco beat Spain on penalties in the Round of 16, it wasn’t just the first time Morocco made it to the quarter-finals but any Arabian team’s first time. So the entire of Arabia was rooting for them.
Tunisia beating France wasn’t just a consolation win but a proud moment for the crowd who supported the team in spades.
Weather & Atmosphere
The footballing world lives in the west, more towards Europe. So while these plays are accustomed to playing in the snow and cold rain, the dry weather where temperatures hit 30 degrees was different for them.
Noted that the hosts had made arrangements for it, but there were better substitutes for the natural environment.
Some players also voiced their concerns about how they disapprove of the AC and it’s making them sick. Mainly because they felt that the AC had been ‘overdone.’
Many players raised their fingers at the current World Cup because they knew that scheduling it in the middle of the season would be a disaster for them. At times, this looked like three matches per week since the start of this season.
The clubs needed more time to be ready to make concessions on their essential players because of their national duties. The players bared the consequences.
It resulted in a large number of players who were injured and could not join the World Cup. The most notable names included Benzema, Pogba, Kante, Timo Werner, Rues, Mane, and Gabriel Jesus.
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These massive names were set to play significant roles for their teams. There’s an important distinction, though. All these players belong to Europe’s most significant leagues, meaning the European line-ups were missing alot of firepower.
The Arabian and African players mostly played in their local leagues and did not have to play through the domestic league, cup, and then the UCL.
Therefore, such players were allowed much more rest time coming into the tournament with more preparation with the team and fresher legs.
What is the big picture?
With the Quarter Finals complete, there is some participation by the underdogs left. Morocco will face Portugal this Saturday as it carries the hope of the entire region.
Moreover, the competition is heating as France and England face-off, as well as Croatia and Brazil. These can be fascinating matchups against very top teams.
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Given the current form, Brazil and France are the heavy favorites, with Kylian Mbappe leading the scoring charts with five goals. Messi also carries Argentine hopes on his back alone but would need support as the opponents get more challenging.
All these things create an unexpected competition, a breath of fresh air for game fans. Loosening the European stronghold on the game increases its exposure throughout the world.
At the same time, an exciting World Cup is what the footballing community needed, given the events that have happened since the Russian edition in ’18.
As the competition nears its end, only one can claim the throne. The final will be played on 18th December in Lusail Stadium.