The World Cup in Qatar starts today – The favorites and the big stakes

The most expensive and perhaps the most controversial World Cup in history

Untitled FIFA, Mundial, Qatar

The World Cup kicks off today in Qatar, after twelve years of preparation and unprecedented controversy surrounding a tournament featuring football stars such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The last sacred show of our time, according to Pier Paolo Pasolini, the spectacle that has replaced the theater, opens its "curtain" today, on the most expensive World Cup in history. A World Cup that was discussed like no other, even before its first cross, and will be hosted in stadiums and infrastructure built by migrant workers, of whom 6.500, according to the "Guardian", lost their lives. The real big stars of the 22nd World Cup.

This afternoon (18:00), the kick-off between Qatar and Ecuador will mark the 'kick-off' of a frenetic month of football in the tiny emirate, which is hoping that the World Cup it hosts will not be... bogged down in non-sporting controversies .

A dispute of 12 years

In fact, the 22nd World Cup, the first event in an Arab country, focused on such a small area and scheduled for the end of the calendar year for temperature reasons, interrupting the club season in Europe, has never ceased to be the subject of debate and of controversy since the surprise selection of Qatar on December 2, 2010.

FIFA studies and categories

Accusations of corruption, the rights of migrant workers, amid media reports that thousands of foreign workers have either died or been mistreated in the process, the issue of discrimination against women or LGBTI+ people, the ability to host a such a small country with no football tradition or even the environmental impact of the tournament, for which seven new stadiums have been built, the 2022 World Cup has caused a rare challenge, especially in Western countries.

Qatar responded by changing its labor laws to curb global concern.

Al-Thani, Blatter and Infantino

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, even went so far as to accuse an "unprecedented" campaign of "smear" against the wealthy Gulf state, which is said to have invested around $220 billion in the tournament.

"For me it's clear: Qatar is a mistake, a bad choice," former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last week.

This is how the moment of truth has arrived for Qatar, FIFA, football.

"The eight World Cup stadiums are all very beautiful," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Thursday in Doha. "We are no longer counting the days (until the tournament), we are counting the minutes and seconds (…) before the start of an incredible World Cup. Qatar has promised us to put on an excellent World Cup."

The huge stake

In a country with an area of ​​11.637 square km, the stakes are huge for the image of the small - with almost three million inhabitants - emirate, which expects more than a million fans until the final scheduled for December 18 at the Lusail Stadium » (80.000 seats), with many challenges to be overcome: security, managing the flow of fans from one stadium to another, banning alcohol in the stadiums...

Therefore, Monday, with England's first game against Iran, will be a test for the organizers, the eve of world champions France's opener against Australia (22/11).

The big competition, the favorites and the underdogs

And the competition promises to be fierce, especially since no winner has retained their title from one World Cup to the next for 60 years since Brazil.

There is, of course, Neymar's Brazil, No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings, and Argentina, which with the "five" (5-0) against the United Arab Emirates, in Wednesday's friendly, reached 36 consecutive matches without defeat.

After 16 years of European dominance (Italy 2006, Spain 2010, Germany 2014 and France 2018), some believe the time has come for South America to… return. Among them is the Spanish national coach, Luis Enrique, who singles out Argentina and Brazil as favorites.

Looking for a ... men's world trophy, the only one missing from his unique collection of 41 titles, which would "crown" his immense career, 35-year-old Lionel Messi chooses Brazil, France and England as favourites.

In the absence of -European champions- Italy, the only world title holders absent from Qatar, a caravan of contenders roams the desert sands, from -Euro 2020 finalists- England to Germany and a rejuvenated Spain and the Netherlands in Belgium. But without good preparation beforehand or a series of friendlies to get one into… tournament rhythms, certainties are “fragile”.

From there until one imagines that an outsider can take advantage of it, there is a step that some national teams would like to take, such as - finalists of the World Cup in Russia in 2018 - Croatia or Cristiano Ronaldo's (37-year-old) Portugal, the Uruguay of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani (35 years old) or the - African champion - Senegal, despite the decisive absence of Sadio Mane.

The good football performance and Qatar

Will it be a good football show? Experts assure that yes, because the "stars" playing in Europe will not be at the end of their championships.

Qatar will be the first country since Italy in the second World Cup, in 1934, to participate in a final stage for the first time as "hosts", without having previously qualified for the event.

In order to avoid a similar… fate to that of South Africa, who hosted the World Cup finals in 2010 but were eliminated in the group stage, the Qatar team even participated in the 2019 Copa America. However, the experience turned out to be a bit… too much for the team as they finished bottom of their group after losses to Colombia and Argentina and a draw with Paraguay.

Similarly, and by special request, Qatar participated in last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, where they showed improvement, finishing first in their group and beating El Salvador in the '8 ', before losing 1-0 to the United States in the semi-finals.

The sports performance of Qatar, in the small but rich Gulf state, will be... placed behind the image that the emirate wants to shape in the world.

“The World Cup will have a positive impact on our society, showcasing our culture to the world and helping people form friendships and build networks. It's a golden opportunity to change negative perceptions of the region and create new and meaningful connections," Qatar's Olympic high jumper Mutaz Essa Barsim said in an interview on the event's official website on Wednesday.

Source: Lifo