The 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup is less than 50 days away and the biggest global event of the year will kick off an even greater celebration for local fans.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup is the first time that an Arab nation will host the competition and there is palpable excitement for the start of a winter tournament.
Ahead of the opening day ceremony and month-long football fiesta that immediately follows, we preview the first two days of the World Cup group stage schedule.
After the opening ceremony and match were brought forward one day to act as a stand-alone event, World Cup hosts Qatar face their Ecuadorian counterparts on Sunday 20th November 2022 at Al Bayt Stadium.
This will represent a second-ever meeting between both nations with Qatar winning 4-3 in their sole engagement in 2018.
Félix Sánchez’s men have one win in their last six games but have the momentum of having played so many test games ahead of the tournament. Hence, team cohesion should not be a problem for 2019 AFC Asian Cup champions.
Ecuador, for their part, are unbeaten in their last six games after defeating Nigeria and Cape Verde in June.
El Tri reached the Round of 16 in a memorable 2006 World Cup campaign and will be looking to at least match that achievement. To do so, they must upset their Group A counterparts including Holland and Senegal.
Getting points off Qatar would be a good step in that direction.
Nevertheless, the fixture had been a slight doubt as Ecuador faced elimination after controversy surrounding fielding an ineligible player during the qualifiers. However, FIFA have rejected those claims and the game will go on as planned.
The opening game of group B sees the Three Lions face Carlos Queiroz’s Iran who have won four of their seven games this year, beating Uruguay and drawing African Champions Senegal in September.
England have not had the buildup to the World Cup that they would like after winning none of their six competitive games in 2022. Thus, Gareth Southgate’s men have it all to do before the World Cup kicks off against Iran.
The 2018 World Cup semifinalists have an enviably talented squad yet the team struggles for balance. Having also reached the EURO 2020 final, England are one of the teams to beat and they will need to show resilience starting with their first-ever meeting with Iran.
The Iranian Cheetahs are rocking up to their sixth FIFA World Cup but will hope the familiar surroundings of Qatar in their third straight appearance brings out their first Round of 16 qualification.
This serves as an early cracker in the 2022 World Cup as the eighth-best side in the World according to the FIFA rankings take on Africa’s number one side.
Senegal will want to make this a golden year after securing their first Africa Cup of Nations title in February, the next step will be to match the exploits of the El-Hadji Diouf-inspired side at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where they reached the quarter-finals.
Led by a veteran of that Golden Era in former Senegal captain Aliou Cissé, who is bringing the Teranga Lions to a consecutive FIFA World Cup. Senegal will have to make an opening-day statement against the Oranje who have excellent World Cup pedigree having reached the 1974, 1978 and 2010 finals.
Louis Van Gaal has revitalized the Dutch in his third spell and they are unbeaten since the EURO 2020 Round of 16 having not qualified for Russia 2018.
The final game on matchday 2 of the FIFA World Cup sees two possible dark horses come face-to-face in an exciting clash.
The Stars and Stripes are attending their 11th World Cup finals looking to cement their golden age of talented young players who are plying their trade at top clubs across Europe.
Gregg Berhalter must harness his side’s qualities and secure vital points against players who have never seen their nation play in a World Cup game.
Indeed, this will be a second-ever FIFA World Cup in 58 years for Wales and the Dragons (19th) are only three places below their opponents in the FIFA world rankings.
Welsh football has notably developed in recent years as they qualified for the last two European championships and reached the knockout rounds. It is safe to say Rob Page’s men will be banking on their pedigree.
Both sides haven’t been in great form of late but that only means either has the chance to step up in a group also containing England and Iran.