Al Bayt Stadium to stage opener as Qatar 2022 schedule confirmed

Organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar have today (Wednesday) confirmed the schedule for the national team football tournament, with Al Bayt Stadium to host the opening game and Lusail Stadium the final, while fans will potentially be able to take in multiple group stage matches per day.

Al Bayt Stadium, a 60,000-capacity facility that takes its name and shape from the traditional tents used by nomadic peoples in the Gulf region, will be the setting for the host nation to kick off the tournament on November 21, 2022 at 1pm local time (11am CET).

The local kick-off times for group matches have been set for 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and 10pm, with the simultaneous kick-offs for the last round of group games and knockout-stage timings being 6pm and 10pm.

Al Bayt Stadium (pictured) is one of eight stadia for the tournament and will host six group games, one Round of 16 match, a quarter-final and semi-final. Khalifa International Stadium will be the setting for the play-off for third place on December 17, along with a Round of 16 match and six group games. The final will kick off on December 18 at 6pm local time at the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium. This facility will also host the other semi-final, as well as a quarter-final, Round of 16 match and six group games.

With the aim of providing all teams with optimal rest between their matches, the group stage will last 12 days, with four matches per day. FIFA and local organising body Q22 said the tournament’s compact nature – with no air travel needed to move between the venues located within a 30-mile radius – will allow organisers, for the first time, to optimise specific match demands for the benefit of fans, teams and media.

This will be achieved through the assignment of the group fixtures for each matchday to a stadium and kick-off time only after the final draw, currently planned for after the March 2022 international match calendar qualifying window. A joint statement read: “Once the pairings are known, the possibility will be discussed of providing a more beneficial kick-off time for audiences at home, or indeed for fans in Qatar with regard to the stadium allocation.

“That additional flexibility is possible without affecting any technical aspects since all stadiums are located within a compact radius and the climate is perfect at that time of year in Qatar, whether it is an early or a late kick-off. On top of that, this will potentially give fans the opportunity to attend more than one match a day during the group stage.”

The Qatar Football Association (QFA) and FIFA last month announced that the Gulf state will host a pan-Arab tournament next year which will act as a key test event for its staging of the 2022 World Cup.

The 22-team invitational tournament for men’s national teams will be contested by Arab nations from Africa and Asia. It will be played outside the International Match Calendar from December 1-18, 2021 and will be delivered by Q22, enabling organisers to use facilities and run operations that are also planned for the World Cup.

The tournament will take place during the same timeslot as the World Cup, with the final taking place exactly one year before the Qatar 2022 final is scheduled to kick-off. All tournament matches will be played at Qatar 2022 stadia.

Earlier in June, Education City Stadium, the third venue completed for the World Cup, was officially inaugurated. It joined the redeveloped Khalifa International Stadium and the new Al Janoub Stadium as completed World Cup venues.

In May 2019, FIFA dropped plans to expand the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams after conceding the logistical challenges to adapt Qatar’s staging vision were insurmountable.

The World Cup is due to expand from 32 teams to 48 for the 2026 edition in the US, Canada and Mexico. Qatar plans on using eight stadia and the extra 16 teams would have placed an increased strain on its hosting capabilities, meaning additional host countries needed to be sought for expansion to be possible.

Image: Q22