The FIFA World Cup usually generates enormous excitement all over the world, with even non-football fans taking an interest in what’s going on. That’s not the case this time around as the game’s global showpiece heads to World Cup debutants Qatar. If that wasn’t unusual enough, it’s being played in the middle of the European season because it would be too hot in the summer.
That’s caused all sorts of logistical problems with clubs having to cram games in before the mid-season break and some will have even bigger issues when resuming if they’re competing on many fronts. Some English clubs still have league games which were postponed following the death of the Queen to reschedule, for example.
It seemed an extraordinary decision to award the tournament to Qatar in the first place and as it transpired, those doubts were not without substance. From human rights abuses to migrant worker deaths and the country’s anti-homosexuality stance, it’s been a PR disaster for FIFA.
But will the football save the tournament?
It’s hard to say, but never before have players headed to a World Cup with barely a few days rest – and never in the middle of the season. With little build-up or time to acclimatise we might see a few upsets with Qatar hoping they can pull off one or two as hosts. Various computer projections and plenty of pundits are tipping Brazil to win, but watch out for Argentina too – they beat Brazil to win the Copa America – and perhaps even Belgium as other contenders. Reigning champions France shouldn’t be discounted either.
It all gets underway later today (Sunday) with Qatar taking on Ecuador (above) and you can read my preview for Flash Score here. My tip? A 1-1 draw with both sides satisfied enough to avoid defeat and Ecuador to win the corner count.
I’ve predicted that last one with the help of a mammoth Google Sheet I’ve developed to help me with my World Cup research, which contains results and statistics for each competing team going back to at least the start of 2021. It’s even got a handy H2H comparison tool. Check it out here if you want to take a look.
I’ll be picking out some statistical nuggets from this as the tournament goes on and sharing them with you, either via here in the form of potted match preview/match reaction pieces or perhaps even on Twitter.
Enjoy the tournament and feel free to let me know your predictions via the comments.