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2022 World Cup briefing: 10 things to watch on day one | World Cup 2022

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The main event

It was only in August this year that Fifa changed the opening match of the tournament to Qatar against Ecuador, instead of Netherlands against Senegal. The change follows a long-standing tradition of first matches involving either the hosts or the defending champions. So, now that we have the opening ceremony curtain-raiser followed by the Qatar kick-off, here are 10 things to watch out for when the tournament starts:

1) A spectacular opening ceremony
With Qatar coming under heavy criticism heading into the tournament and with seemingly unlimited resources, one would imagine they won’t miss the open goal of hosting a fireworks display for the ages and possibly a drone show. stylish to distract from stories. beyond football.

2) The musicians who took the money
Rod Stewart told The Times he turned down an offer of ‘over a million dollars’ to perform in Qatar and Dua Lipa said she would only perform there if the country improved its performance record. human rights. With reputations at stake, which world famous artists will show up to perform?

3) Expect to be blown away…
… by pitchside air conditioning. Al Bayt Stadium is expected to be 30C on Sunday – a bit cooler than in recent days – but still expect to see the eerie sight of huge gray machines pumping cool air into the arena during the game.

Air conditioning units at Al Bayt Stadium.
Air conditioning units at Al Bayt Stadium. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Fifa/Getty Images

4) A close opening game
Qatar got the most favorable Group A opener they could hope for. Ecuador are ranked just six places above the hosts but have failed to score in their last three games (all 0-0 draws). We could get a game that lifts the spirits of the underdog hosts, rather than crushing them.

5) Interest to Brighton fans
Moises Caicedo is Ecuador’s star player while raging left-back Pervis Estupiñán has been a driving force in their qualifying campaign. Both have been in fine form for Brighton this year and their performances could tip the opener. Midfielder Jeremy Sarmiento completes a trio of Seagulls representing Sorting at this World Cup.

6) An official match ball featuring AI-powered technology
The Al Rihla has a time-accurate motion sensor to track every keystroke in the game at a rate of “500 times per second”, which is supposed to speed up VAR calls. Here is the hope. We imagine the store-bought replica won’t be so smart, though.

7) A stadium like no other
There can’t be many 60,000 seater football stadiums that look like tents. Al Bayt Stadium, 40 km north of Doha, is certainly eye-catching and its design is a tribute to the hospitality of Qatar’s ancestors, who welcomed weary travelers into their tents. But let’s not forget how it was built.

Al Bayt Stadium.
Al Bayt Stadium. Photography: Public Relations Document

8) Akram Afif
Qatar’s star player is a product of Aspire Academy Doha and a true livewire talent. The left-winger loves nothing more than taking on defenders and was voted Asian Footballer of the Year 2019. If the hosts come alive, expect Afif to be the spark.

9) Support for LGBTQ+ Qataris… on social media
We’re unlikely to see support for the country’s LGBTQ+ community at Al Bayt Stadium, but campaigns are underway online to shine a light on the plight of the hidden gay Qatari population when the hosts play. Among them the proud maroonsled by Nas Mohamed, who says he is the first openly gay Qatari, and wants Qatar’s LGBTQ+ fans on social media to join the “National Group of LGBTQ+ Football Fans Qatar Never Wanted” and be strong and proud when the Maroons are in action.

10) “Now that’s it”
Expect the official World Cup slogan to do well. His message appears to be a call for critics to stick to football and forget how this World Cup came about. Not likely.

Talking points

Age is just a (team) number
The Netherlands start their campaign on Monday against Senegal and their coach, Louis van Gaal, was eccentric when asked how he allocates his team’s numbers. “Usually I discuss this with the players. Not now. I gave the players a number that corresponds to their age,” he said. ” This is not a joke. I never tell jokes at a press conference. Seems like a smart way to avoid hurting an ego, although Matthijs de Ligt, 23, wearing the No.3 shirt alongside Virgil van Dijk, 31, wearing the No.4, suggests Van Gaal was playing quickly and freely with its own ruler.

The German Teenage Sensation
At just 17, Youssoufa Moukoko has high expectations after being included in Hansi Flick’s Germany squad. Asked about former strikers he hoped to emulate, Moukoko – born in 2004 – said he only remembered watching Miroslav Klose. “I saw videos of him. The others, I wasn’t even there,” said the Dortmund striker, who turns 18 on Sunday. “I’m here because the coach thinks I can help the team,” added Moukoko. “I will give it my all and enjoy it.” Reuters

Youssoufa Moukoko alongside his captain, Manuel Neuer, 36.
Youssoufa Moukoko alongside his captain, Manuel Neuer, 36. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

Messi’s Shirt Could Be a Cash Magnet
Slough-born Aston Villa defender Matty Cash is set to make his World Cup debut for Poland against Mexico on Tuesday, with their final Group C fixture against Argentina. Cash’s Villa teammate Emi Martínez is likely to start for the group heavyweights and Cash hopes the keeper can give him a souvenir. “I asked him for Messi’s shirt, if that’s possible,” Cash revealed. The full-back could still ask Messi himself full-time, although he might not be keen on getting close enough. Reuters

“Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. feel [like] a migrant worker. Of course, I’m not Qatari, I’m not Arab, I’m not African, I’m not gay, I’m not disabled. But I want to, because I know what it means to be discriminated against [against], being bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign land. As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian, so imagine.

The start of Gianni Infantino’s press conference on Saturday is essential if viewing is deeply uncomfortable, and it didn’t get much better from the Fifa president in a bizarre 57-minute attack on critics of world Cup. Sean Ingle has more.

We spent the night in a fan village near the Lusail stadium. Customers slowly check in to find they cannot buy drinking water without a wristband. It’s 30 degrees. Nearest store an hour’s walk away. Nobody knows where the bracelets are. We are told that the festival is due to start at 6:30 p.m.

— Rhia Chohan (@rhiachohan) November 19, 2022

At one point, Infantino pleaded with the assembled reporters to “let people enjoy the World Cup”. Judging by these photos of a fan village, taken by BBC journalist Rhia Chohan, he may be asking the wrong people.

Castillo’s passport problem

The Ecuadorian player who made the most headlines in the preparation will not be in Qatar at all. Byron Castillo has been the subject of a legal battle over his true nationality, with Chile being among rival nations to claim the right-back is in fact Colombian. The request was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but Ecuador was given a three-point penalty for 2026 qualifying because the documents used to obtain an Ecuadorian passport for Castillo contained false information. To avoid further controversy, the Ecuadorian football federation decided not to include Castillo in the World Cup squad – a decision criticized by his coach. “Byron should have been with us,” said Gustavo Alfaro. As a first-choice right-back, Castillo has played a key role in a defense that hasn’t conceded a goal in six friendlies. “We are hurt because we know it’s unfair,” added the head coach. “We did everything right.” Reuters

Byron Castillo and Japan's Shogo Taniguchi challenge for the ball
Byron Castillo (left) played a key role in qualifying but was left out of the World Cup squad. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

And finally …

Qatar vs. Ecuador is not a match likely to excite neutrals or distract from the tournament’s many controversies. Tournament organizers (and Infantino) may be hoping for a repeat of the two teams’ last meeting. Qatar won that Doha friendly 4-3 in 2018, with Almoez Ali on target twice for the World Cup hosts.


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