England will face the United States on Nov. 25 and four-time champions Germany take on Spain two days later in two of the most highly anticipated matches of the World Cup Group Stage, according to a schedule released on Friday.
The action kicks off on Nov. 21 with hosts Qatar playing against Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium, England playing Iran and Senegal taking on the Netherlands. The United States will also play the winner of a playoff between Wales, Scotland and Ukraine.
France’s title defense gets underway at Al Janoub Stadium on Nov. 22 against the winners of the playoff between the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Peru.
Tournament favorites Brazil will begin their quest for a sixth World Cup championship in the formidable Group G when they battle Serbia on Nov. 24 at Lusail Stadium.
The final match of the Group Stage features Ghana taking on Uruguay on Dec. 2 before the Round of 16 begins the next day, all leading up to the Dec. 18 final.
World Cup unlike any before
November’s World Cup in Qatar will be unlike any other finals that have previously taken place and the logistical challenges facing organizers, from providing enough accommodation to dealing with unruly fans, will only intensify.
The Gulf state will host the first World Cup in the Middle East, the first in a Muslim state, and no other tournament has ever been held in the northern hemisphere winter.
Qatar, which is roughly the size of Jamaica, is also the smallest state to have held soccer’s biggest event, with fans from the 32 competing nations set to watch games at eight stadiums clustered around the only major city — Doha.
On the plus side that means supporters will be able to easily reach all the venues, raising the possibility of watching more than one match in a day — in contrast to recent tournaments in Russia and Brazil where flights were often needed to travel to each venue city.
But it is also means there will be a real squeeze on Qatar’s limited accommodation market, with organizers estimating 1.2 million fans to visit the country over the 28 days of the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who inherited the decision to allow Qatar to host the tournament after taking over from his scandal-hit predecessor Sepp Blatter, initially looked at the possibility of other countries in the region sharing hosting duties.
But while that option was eventually ruled out, Infantino is still keen to portray the tournament as a chance for fans to experience the broader Arab world.
“There will be accommodation for everyone who wants to stay in Qatar, but maybe somebody then wants to make a day in Dubai or Abu Dubai or Muscat or Riyadh or Jeddah or whatever in the region and they will have the opportunity to go and visit other countries throughout their stay in this region,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“That is certainly what we also recommend, because I think one of the biggest experiences in this particular World Cup… is an opportunity for people to come to a country and a part of the world that they maybe do not know,” he added.
It is a worthy suggestion but is one which is arguably only really an option for those with large pockets, and it contrasts with Qatari organizers’ efforts to make the World Cup accessible for fans with more modest budgets.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters