The FIFA 2022 World Cup One Year Countdown Has Begun
Amid pomp, ceremony and excitement, and in front of football stars, dignitaries and FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar organisers, the official One-Year-To-Go countdown clock was revealed last night, November 21st, to mark the 365 days left until the 2022 tournament kicks off.
As the countdown clock, powered by Hublot and located on Qatar's capital Doha's waterfront corniche, ticks down the seconds, minutes, hours and days, the host nation is understandably excited. The finish line approaches following over a decade's planning and hard work. Qatar will play host to the world's greatest sporting event and the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and the Arab world. It's a chance to open up the region to global sports, to become a major player on the international stage, and an opportunity to invite the world to gain a new perspective of the country, its people and the region as a whole. As H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee - responsible for organising the delivery of the tournament - declared, "We are thrilled to celebrate the one-year-to-go milestone. We are on track to deliver a tournament that will set new benchmarks for social, human, economic and environmental development. A tournament that will forever be remembered as innovative, sustainable and transformative, when people came from all over the world to visit the Middle East and Arab world for the first time and have life-changing experiences."
And, Qatar does appear to be on course to deliver what is being mooted as 'the best World Cup ever'. Over the last ten years or so, in preparation for the 2022 tournament and as part of the nation's broader development plans, the country has been busy constructing stadiums, associated training grounds, fan zones, new transport infrastructure, a myriad of tourism and hospitality facilities including accommodation, entertainment options and attractions. They have turned what was a relatively underdeveloped country into a modern and thriving metropolis. In terms of World Cup readiness, Fatma Al-Nuaimi, Communications Director of the Supreme Committee, suggested, "With one year to go, we have reached a degree of readiness that no FIFA World Cup host country has reached this far out from the tournament kick-off date." Indeed, most construction work is complete or in the last stages, with reports suggesting that 98% of infrastructure works have been concluded.
With one year to go, Qatar has met numerous milestones in the delivery of the 2022 World Cup:
Of the eight stadiums built to accommodate the 2022 tournament, five - Khalifa International, Al Janoub, Education City, Ahmad bin Ali and Al Thumama Stadiums, are fully completed and inaugurated. Al Bayt Stadium and Stadium 974 are complete and awaiting inauguration at the FIFA 2021 Arab Cup, which begins on November 30th. The largest of all eight, Lusail Iconic Stadium, has had all main contract works completed and will be ready for inauguration early in 2022.
Alongside the stadiums, training grounds and associated facilities have also been constructed and completed, ready for the thirty-two teams to use during the tournament.
In just eleven years, Qatar has built a brand new state-of-the-art international airport less than twenty minutes from the heart of Doha. The airport, originally designed to serve over 30 million passengers annually, is currently undergoing an expansion phase - due to conclude in May 2022. The airport expansion will increase annual capacity to over 50 million passengers and double the already enormous 40,000 m2 retail capacity to a whopping 75,000 m2. Fortunately, the terminal is well equipped with chauffeur-driven golf buggies, moving walkways and two inter-terminal passenger trains to transport tired feet to their departure gates!
The World Cup host has also constructed a new Metro and light rail system that extends across Doha and beyond in every direction - to Lusail in the north, Al Wakra in the south and Al Riffa in the west. Metro stations stop at or are within walking distance of each World Cup stadium, and they provide easy access to the majority of other World Cup venues. The Metro also allows access to and from the airport.
In addition, a new modern road system across the entire country has been built during recent years. The new highways and byways are aligned with the World Cup infrastructure, making access by road easily achievable.
And, an overhauled public transport system, much of which runs on clean fuels, has been introduced to provide links between the Metro stations, World Cup facilities and the rest of the country.
At the time of Qatar's bid to host the FIFA World Cup, there were 40,000 plus rooms available to visitors across the country. Now there are approximately 175,000, with more options in the offing. During the last decade, Qatar has built a plethora of new hotels, apartments, and villas to service its growing tourism industry and house football teams and their entourages, FIFA delegations, the media, and fans during the World Cup. However, with estimates of visitors in 2022 far higher than the number of rooms currently available, Qatar is also offering many quirky accommodation options. Qatar plans to provide a host of temporary alternatives from desert villages, floating hotels to rooms on cruise liners and VIP accommodation at the stadiums. Keeping the future in mind, the World Cup host has decided that, rather than flood the market with capacity that won't be needed post-World Cup, offering temporary options makes more economical and environmental sense in the long term.
The vast majority of the hotels and accommodation are and will be located centrally in and around Doha. Many more within a stone's throw of the new stadiums and other tournament venues, all easily reached, either from the airport or the stadiums and World Cup venues. The new, high-speed Metro, a light-rail system and a tram system, and upgraded road network will provide easy access.
Who Will Be There
Alongside Qatar's herculean efforts to prepare for 2022, the world's national football teams have also been striving to win a place in the competition. Only thirty-two teams from two-hundred and ten FIFA member nations will make the grade. To decide which teams will advance to the World Cup, the six football confederations, for Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, South America and North, Central America and the Caribbean, have been holding qualification tournaments over the international breaks in the last two years. All of the qualifiers will be concluded by the end of March 2022, but qualification is already complete for some nations.
Following a third and final round, the European qualifiers have decided ten nations heading to Qatar - Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland. In March, a final playoff tournament for third-round runners-up will decide the last three European teams to book their tickets to Qatar.
South America has produced two early qualifiers. Both Brazil and Argentina booked their slots at the 2022 event during the recent November break, with six and five matches each to go. In March, the South American confederation, CONMEBOL, will send another two teams directly to Qatar and one to inter-confederation playoffs.
Asia is down to the final round of qualifiers, with twelve teams from forty-six remaining in the contest. By the end of March, the Asian confederation, the AFC, will send four teams directly to Qatar and one to the March 2022 inter-confederation playoffs. Qatar has already qualified automatically as hosts of the World Cup.
Africa is also down to their final qualification round, with ten teams from fifty-four left in contention. By March-end, the African confederation, CAF, will send five teams directly to Qatar.
North, Central America and the Caribbean have eight teams left from thirty-four battling for three places at the 2022 tournament. The continent's football confederation, CONCACAF, will also have the opportunity to send one team to the March 2022 inter-confederation playoffs.
Oceania has yet to start their competition but, when they do, the confederation, the OFC, will send just one team from eleven to the March 2022 inter-confederation playoffs.
The inter-confederation playoffs will decide the last two qualification spots.
What To Expect In The Coming Year?
Over the coming year, Qatar, FIFA and the football confederations will check many other milestones off of their lists to do before the tournament kick-off on November 21st, 2022. Some of the most critical include:
- Inaugurating the final competition stadium, Lusail Iconic Stadium.
- Completing the six football confederations qualifiers to decide the thirty-two nations competing in Qatar.
- Hosting the 2022 tournament Group Stage draw on April 1st - drawing teams into eight groups of four to battle for places in the knockout round and beyond.
- Organising ticket sales to the 2022 World Cup, which should go ahead in early 2022.
The European teams in contention for three 2022 World Cup slots, via the UEFA qualification playoffs, have had their opponents drawn; Italy or Portugal stand to lose.
Brazil and Argentina became South America’s first teams to qualify for the FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar over the recent November window.
After eight November window battles, CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifier games for the year are over, with Canada ready to enjoy the winter break as tournament top dogs.
The second round of the CAF 2022 qualifiers has concluded, and only ten African teams remain in the reckoning for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.