The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to commence one day earlier than planned, according to multiple reports, through a revised schedule that would allow host nation Qatar to open the national team football tournament.
The match schedule for Qatar 2022 had been finalised when the group stage draw was made in Doha on April 1. At that point, Al Thumama Stadium was due to stage the opening game, with the Netherlands meeting Senegal on November 21 at 1pm local time.
Three further games had been scheduled for the opening day, including England v Iran (Khalifa International Stadium, 4pm KO), Qatar v Ecuador (Al Bayt Stadium, 7pm KO) and USA v Wales (Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, 10pm KO).
However, the Associated Press news agency, citing a person familiar with the proposal, today (Wednesday) said FIFA is assessing a proposal for the Qatar v Ecuador game to be moved to November 20, granting the host nation the spotlight of opening the World Cup with a single game on that day.
A decision is expected to be made in the coming days, with a 29-day tournament said to be favoured by Qatari officials and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). A Sunday start for the World Cup had been dismissed a number of years ago when a shorter, 28-day schedule encompassing four group games per day was agreed to by FIFA after talks with European leagues, which are due to play club games through to the weekend of November 12-13.
Qatar v Ecuador is likely to include few players based at European clubs, while moving the game forward a day would grant exclusivity to the host nation, with either it or the reigning champion having traditionally opened up the World Cup.
The move could also potentially allow the tournament’s official opening ceremony, which had been scheduled for the Qatar v Ecuador game in its current time slot, to now actually be held before the first game of the World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium (pictured).
Image: Qatar 2022