A “unique” tournament and “perhaps the best ever”. This is how the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, described the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will kick off in eight venues on 20 November, when the hosts, Qatar, face Ecuador in the Al Bayt Stadium, in Al Khor.
The FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Asia for the second time, exactly 20 years after the first tournament, which was co-hosted by the Republic of Korea and Japan, with Brazil emerging as the winner, after a superb tournament from the legendary striker Ronaldo.
But will the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East, become the best-ever tournament in the history of the competition? Sure, the previous 21 editions have been filled with unforgettable moments, as the best players in football’s history have fought through thick and thin for the coveted trophy.
We take a look over the highlights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the main protagonists, the venues, and the top things to know and let you decide if the argument made by the FIFA President stands.
The last dance for Messi and Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated and shaped football as we currently know it over the last 15 years, winning the Ballon d’Or 12 times between them since 2008. But with Messi aged 35 and Ronaldo two years older than the Argentinian star, this will be the last edition of the FIFA World Cup the two stars will take part in.
With the two aging stars past their prime, they are still able to produce astonishing numbers, as Ronaldo proved in the last season, for Manchester United and the Argentinian captain in the current season at PSG, where he scored and assisted in double digits.
Sure, an era might be over after the final whistle at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but the last dance should be enjoyable for both Messi and Ronaldo and especially for the fans who cherished them, enjoyed their record-breaking performances, and even stood on opposite sides of the table whenever a debate broke.
Messi’s top performance at the FIFA World Cup is an appearance in the final in 2014, lost against Germany, while Ronaldo qualified for the semi-finals only once, in 2006, his first edition of the World Cup. The Portuguese stalwart has seven goals in 17 appearances in the competition, while Messi scored six times in 19 matches, as both will feature in their fifth edition of the FIFA World Cup.
A new generation breaking out
Kylian Mbappe is a bone fide star already and a FIFA World Cup winner with France, in 2018, and is seen as the leader of a hungry generation, that is vying to take over football and cement its reputation on the highest of stages. The dazzling pace, excellent technique, and sheer strength from France’s star is a joy to watch, as Mbappe is just entering his prime, at only 23 years old.
But there are other talented youngsters ready to make their mark, as football’s growth has reverberated throughout the whole world since the last FIFA World Cup, which took place four years and five months ago in Russia.
Mbappe’s teammate at the reigning champions, midfielder Aurelian Tchouameni, is starting to make a name for himself at Real Madrid and will be integrant to Didier Deschamps’ plans for France. Canada’s Alphonso Davies has been already a crucial part of Bayern Munchen’s success and will make his debut in the tournament, while Japan’s Takefusa Kubo is nicknamed the “Japanese Messi” for a reason.
Spain has Pedri and Gavi, two worthy successors for Xavi and Iniesta, England will rely more and more on Jude Bellingham, who has been unstoppable both in the Bundesliga and in the UEFA Champions League for Borussia Dortmund, while Brazil’s Vinicius Junior is already a huge star for Real Madrid and will rightfully take his place in the “Selecao” come November and December in Qatar.
Highest scoring World Cup in 40 years?
The trend in terms of goals scored per match has been upward in the last major tournaments, with 2.78 goals per match scored at the UEFA EURO 2020, an uptick of 0.66 goals from the previous edition of the European flagship tournament. At the FIFA World Cup, the last two editions, in 2014 and 2018, brought the highest scoring tournaments since 1994, with an average of 2.67 scored goals per game and 2.64 scored goals per game respectively.
As the emphasis has been even higher on the attack in the past seasons in the major leagues throughout the world and the game’s pace has been even higher, there is no reason to believe that the next edition of the FIFA World Cup will not be an exciting one, with a record output for the last tournaments to be recorded.
With a plethora of stars ready for kickoff, excellent attacking players, and creative midfielders to shine, the competition is poised for a new look and for plenty of goals to be scored, but the record set in 1954, with 5.38 scored goals per game, is definitely not going to be broken. However, if the output from the previous EURO is to be preserved, this could be the highest-scoring World Cup since 1982.
State of the art stadiums
Take the 2010 FIFA World Cup for example, with the buzzing vuvuzelas, which have been also adopted on other continents after the completion of the tournament. Or the majestic setting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final in the luxurious and historical Maracana. However, Qatar 2022 will surely be a tournament that is going to rewrite the history of the competition, with state-of-the-art arenas, ready to fulfil even the pickiest clients.
The eight stadiums which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup – built especially for the tournament – are in a radius of 40 kilometres, which will surely enhance the mobility of the fans present at the competition to cheer for their team. Three 40.000-seaters were tailor-made for the World Cup, as well as three stadiums with a capacity of 45.000.
The jewel in the crown will be the rightfully named “Lusail Iconic Stadium”, inaugurated on 9 September 2022, which will also host the final of the competition on 18 December.