The Qatar World Cup 2022 is quickly approaching. If it feels like just yesterday that the England faithful were out in force, cramming firecrackers up their backsides and waving St. George’s flags high in the sky, that’s because it was. After gallivanting victories at both the men’s and women’s Euros, we’re approaching our third big football tournament in eighteen months: the highly contentious World Cup in Qatar. And it’s only a month away.
It’s been twelve years since the host country was announced, and the time in between has been marred by allegations of bribery, corruption, slavery, exploitation, and a reversal of progress on LGBTQ+ rights in sport. Nonetheless, it is a World Cup, and England is fielding one of its strongest squads in a decade. When will it be? When do England and Wales play (in GMT, please)? What are the issues that make Qatar such a difficult tournament to support? How is the England/Wales group shaping up, and how easily are [redacted] going to win? Is football returning?
When is the World Cup in 2022? ⏱️
One of the many concerns surrounding the impending tournament is that the World Cup in 2022 will be held in the dead of winter to escape the blazing temperatures that are typical of host nation Qatar during the summer months. In unrelated news, the Asian Football Confederation has just granted Qatar the 2023 Asian Cup, which will be held from June 16 to July 16, next year.
The World Cup will officially begin on Sunday, November 20 at 7 p.m. local time with the Group A opening between Qatar and Ecuador (so 4 p.m. in the UK).
After a month of football enjoyment, the final is scheduled for Sunday, December 18th (and many, many pints in pubs). It’s unclear who England will face, but we’d bet on a rematch of the Women’s Euros against Germany. Without a doubt.
All of this is to imply that if you want to throw your pints in the air this time, look for pubs with high ceilings as soon as possible – otherwise, brace yourself for the early winter chill.
Who will host the World Cup in 2022? 🗺️
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or sleeping inside a cryogenic time capsule for the previous half-decade, you’ll be aware that Qatar, nestled between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Oman, is our latest tournament host.
Even if you’re not a football fan, the persistent and enduring scandals on the front pages have been nearly impossible to ignore: not only is this the winter World Cup, but it’s also the second event to be hosted by a country with a questionable human rights record.
This is exacerbated by multiple reports of worker abuse and slavery in the construction of new stadiums at breakneck pace, as well as the anxieties of LGBTQ+ supporters planning to travel to a country where homosexuality is still illegal. More on such points are discussed further below.
When will England play in the World Cup in 2022? 📅
Following a generally favourable group in Russia in 2018, England’s group in the Qatar World Cup has been termed the “group of death,” at least according to rudimentary metrics: England’s Group B has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest average FIFA ranking of any group stage pool.
We are, after all, the only previous World Cup winners and the top ranked team in the group, so advancement to the knock-out stages is the very least Gareth’s Brave Boys will expect.
The match between England and Iran will begin at 4 p.m. local time (1 p.m. UK) on Monday, November 21.
The match between England and the United States will begin at 10 p.m. local time (7 p.m. UK) on Friday, November 25.
The match between England and Wales will begin at 10 p.m. local time (7 p.m. UK) on Tuesday, November 29.
When will Wales compete in the World Cup in 2022? ⏳
The only other home nation that made the cut will face a familiar rival in Group B, as it was placed alongside England. Wales hasn’t played in a World Cup in a long time: the last time a Welsh national team made it to the finals was in 1958, only 31 years before Gareth Bale was born.
Rob Page’s Dragons will be trying to reach the last 16 again – and bruise England’s nose – after a stunning march to the semi-finals at Euro 2016 and a solid campaign four years later.
Wales vs. USA begins off on Monday, November 21 at 10 p.m. local time (7 p.m. UK).
Wales vs. Iran kicks off on Friday, November 25 at 1 p.m. local time (10 a.m. UK).
Wales vs. England begins underway on Tuesday, November 29 at 10 p.m. local time (7 p.m. UK).
Is the Qatar World Cup the most contentious sporting event in history?🧐
Since Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup twelve years ago (when they were number 113 in the world and had never qualified for the event on their own), the tournament has been marred by more controversy than the turn-of-the-century England squad could generate on a night out in Manchester.
Ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former German football association head Theo Zwanziger have gone so far as to say awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake,” with allegations of corruption — including bribery of the bid committee — casting a long, dark shadow over both FIFA’s reputation and the tournament itself.
Gary Lineker, England’s renowned footballing veteran and crisps fan, had scathing words for the World Cup decision in a 2014 interview with British GQ. “The whole FIFA process makes you sick,” he told Alistair Campbell when asked about Russia and Qatar being handed the next two World Cups. “The corruption at the highest levels is revolting.” Sepp Blatter has also governed it like a dictatorship for so long, and he spews so much garbage.”
Lineker has maintained the same tone towards the Qatar World Cup ever since, despite the fact that fellow England alumnus David Beckham has accepted a reputed £150 million pay package to become the state’s “culture ambassador.” “I am not a fan of Qatar.” Lineker told The Sun in November, “We know it was a corrupt bid.” “We shouldn’t be there, but it is, and I’ll go there and report on it.”
Accusations of worker abuse have long been at the forefront of the Qatar crisis. According to Amnesty International, migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are subjected to “appalling” living circumstances, are threatened by “unscrupulous recruitment agencies” in their home countries, and do not receive the promised wages. The human rights organisation also claims that some people have been forced to work for free.
According to the I Paper, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has linked “abuse allegations to the construction of seven of the eight tournament venues.” According to them, the vast majority of abuse cases include nonpayment of salary, including underpaid wages and refusal to honour benefits. However, the current research states that there have been numerous health and safety violations, which have resulted in death, injuries, and hazardous working conditions. The freedom of expression and mobility of migrants has also been restricted, according to the report, which adds that the bulk of abuse allegations involved South Asian and East African workers.
It’s crazy: in the same year that English football had its first openly homosexual player, Jake Daniels, in one of the top-flight leagues in nearly three decades, the sport’s showcase tournament will be staged in a country where being publicly LGBTQ+ is banned.
Compounding this insane reality, the dial in the sport appears to have shifted so far in favour of queer visibility and acceptance, as evidenced by both the Women’s Euros this July and the Men’s Euros last year, where the Allianz Arena was lit up in Pride colours and England captain Harry Kane proudly wore a rainbow armband, a gesture shared by Germany’s Manuel Neuer.
Fears for travelling LGBTQ+ fans have simmered in recent years, particularly as queer advocacy groups sought assurances that LGBTQ+ fans would be safe at the event. The Supreme Committee of Qatar, the organising organisation behind the World Cup, was unwilling to issue any assurances as recently as June 2022, according to The Guardian.
The paper posed a series of specific questions about the state of LGBTQ+ protections throughout the tournament, ranging from whether queer fans would be “protected from Qatari authorities if threatened because of their sexuality” to whether fans would be permitted to carry rainbow flags into stadiums, as was popular at Euro 2020. (Previously, Qatari officials claimed that rainbow flags will be permitted during the event.) The ambiguous response was as follows:
Everyone, regardless of colour, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality, will be welcome in Qatar in 2022. We live in a relatively conservative environment, so public demonstrations of affection are not common. We believe in reciprocal respect, therefore while everyone is welcome, we want everyone to respect our culture and customs in return.
Temperatures in Qatar reach more than 50 °C throughout the summer, which medical professionals in the country deemed unplayable as early as 2010. Five years later, despite widespread criticism, it was decided that, in order to alleviate the effects of Qatar’s unusually hot temperature, the event would be held in the winter months for the first time in its history. Many clubs view the winter event with irritation and apprehension, citing disruption to domestic leagues and prized players taking more risks for a shot at glory.
The Qatar World Cup’s most heated rivals are all in Group B 👀
According to the press, it’s the “gang of death”: Group B pits England against Wales, Iran, and the United States, all of which are smaller footballing nations on paper but have quietly crept up the FIFA rankings with some outstanding results in recent years.
Nobody will ever forget the time Hal Robson-Kanu transformed into the real Kanu at Euro 2016, smashing a Cruyff turn shot past Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois to propel Wales into a historic semi-final. Then there was American Tim Howard’s valiant man-of-the-match performance between the sticks at the 2014 World Cup, where he kept a million balls out of his net until the final whistle. Funnily enough, it was also against Belgium.
Iran, for their part, had a decent World Cup 2018, gaining four points in a group alongside Portugal, Spain, and Morocco, including a draw against the past Euro winners. However, concerns have been expressed over Iran’s participation in the tournament given the authorities’ brutal response to anti-government protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. According to the BBC, a group of Iranian football and sports personalities has requested that FIFA suspend the Iranian Football Association, claiming that, while no official legislation exists, Iran’s effective ban on women entering football grounds contradicts FIFA’s own rules. Last month, the group joined the human rights organisation Open Stadiums in calling for similar measures.
The national team superstars who will light up the World Cup👑
The World Cup will have the customary thirty-two teams in 2022, then expanding to an extraordinary forty-eight teams in four years. A third (thirteen) are from Europe, with five from Africa, four each from South America, North America, and Asia, as well as Australia and the host country, Qatar.
But who are the major guns to keep an eye on?
Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema of France
With newly crowned Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and 23-year-old Mbappé back in the French lineup, we must pray for the backlines of Australia, Denmark, and Tunisia. Benzema’s Euro 2020 performance was breathtaking, as was Mbappé’s international debut in the 2018 World Cup, following a brilliant couple of years in the French Ligue 1 that established him as one of the finest — if not the best — young players in the world. Expect them to play a significant role in Qatar, despite France’s disappointing Euros showing last year.
Robert Lewandowski of Poland
We don’t want to exhibit too much striker prejudice, but Lewandowski — who only recently went to Barcelona at the age of 33, despite being one of a slew of new arrivals to register late for La Liga this season — is an all-time great centre forward. He scored 238 goals in 253 appearances for Bayern Munich over eight years and is a regular for the national team, scoring 76 goals in 132 games. There’s little doubt about it: if Poland does well in Qatar, it will be up to the captain.
Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium
What a satisfying bit of schadenfreude the Belgian golden generation’s constant disappointment has been. Yeah, Roberto Martinez’s team hasn’t really delivered on the promise of their squad on paper, stacked with the likes of De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku — all three considered among the best to lace up their boots at some point in their careers — but the 31-year-old Man City midfielder is still their key asset. Aside from his injuries, he’d stroll into any national team; any team, for that matter.
Lionel Messi of Argentina
Argentina has a slew of high-flying offensive alternatives, from ngel di Mara and Mauro Icardi to midfield dynamo Lautaro Martinez, but none can compete with Messi. Why? Messi is his name. No further explanation is required.
Harry Kane, England
Kane has faced criticism as the captain of the English men’s team, having been accused of failing to appear in major events (despite a Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, and important goals against Germany, Ukraine and Denmark at the Euros).
But here’s the truth: if Kane, unquestionably the best out-and-out centre striker in the world, is on fire, England becomes a far more dangerous proposition. And it’s not only his goal-scoring talent: his ability to ping precise passes out to wide runners has been a tremendous asset for Spurs over the last half-decade. Imagine Sterling and Saka getting their hands on those.
Gareth Bale of Wales
The Welsh team has some good players, but who else was it going to be? We may argue until we’re blue in the face about what went wrong at Real Madrid (5 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 LaLiga crowns, 1 Copa del Rey, and 3 Spanish Super Cups, anyone? ), but Bale is one of Europe’s best players and remains a global celebrity.
Regardless of his local form, he always appears to show up for his country, with near-miraculous performances in the previous two international championships. We all know it’s Wales, golf, and Madrid. That is the order.
These are the young guns to watch in Germany during the World Cup🔥
Musiala, another 19-year-old (born in – gulp – 2003) with a bright future, is a tricky Swiss army knife of a player who has already become a fixture in the Bayern Munich squad over the previous two years. Many England supporters will have first seen him in a recent friendly* against Germany at the Allianz Arena, where he annihilated an experienced backline that included the likes of Kyle Walker and John Stones. Let’s hope that isn’t the case if England meets them when it counts.
Nations League, so just a friendly.
Jude Bellingham of England
The England national squad is filled with young players just breaking through, from Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden to peripheral players like Conor Gallagher and Emile Smith Rowe. But one would expect that this is the event when 19-year-old Jude Bellingham proves his value to the national team: he’s been bossing it for Borussia Dortmund in Germany for the past two years, with his great efforts on and off the ball. If he was in the Premier League, he’d be at the top of every pundit’s list heading into this World Cup.
Pedri from Spain
Our third teenager on the list has been dubbed the best under-20 player in the world by many analysts worldwide after breaking through for Barcelona in recent years. He’s a talented, free-roaming midfielder who’s equally at home in the middle of the park as he is screaming up and down the wings; The Guardian dubbed him Messi’s “possible successor” back in 2020. We’ll have to wait and see how he performs on the main stage.
Ryan Gravenberch of the Netherlands
Gravenberch, a long-time favourite of Football Manager managers everywhere, made his debut for Ajax at the age of 16, before establishing his place in their renowned youthful group of dynamos as he grew older. His slick play in the Champions League gained attention from around the world, leading to a summer transfer to Bayern (gosh, they’ve got all the kids). He’ll be on the front lines of Louis van Gaal’s army.
Alphonso Davies of Canada
The oldest player on our list – at 21, he’s nearly ancient – is at the vanguard of Canada’s recent football triumph, collaborating with Lille’s Jonathan David to blast through North American World Cup qualifiers. Canada will be a dark horse in their first tournament debut in thirty years, and Davies will be crucial if they are to defy expectations.
Will Germany win the World Cup once more?🤔
We obviously hope not. However, as previously stated, Germany could have a fairly good squad heading into the World Cup this year.
Although they lack a true talisman, new manager Hansi Flick’s recent selections have resulted in a solid mix of youthful exuberance and level-headed maturity: a potential spine of Thomas Müller, Ilkay Gündogan, Antonio Rüdiger, and Manuel Neuer is as good as any team will field at the tournament.
Add to that the speed and skill of Serge Gnabry, Timo Werner, Musiala, and Kai Havertz, as well as the defensive tenacity of Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Süle, and they could be in for a treat.
The World Cup is always difficult to predict, but you’d expect them to beat Japan and Costa Rica in their group and qualify alongside Spain (who you’d also like them to beat, though that matchup is a little more balanced than the others).
Provided they win their group, they will face the runner-up from Group F in the Round of 16, which will most likely be Canada or Croatia if Belgium does not shit the bed.
They’ll presumably land in Portugal or Brazil in the quarters after that. If they win, it will be all to play for with Germany blazing on all cylinders.
During the World Cup 2022, whose uniforms will be the coolest?🏆
As true believers in minimalistic simplicity – although, y’know, we’re as biassed as heck – the GQ office has always admired the England uniforms. That being said, not everyone like a white stripe (it’s either boring or something, we’re not sure) and there is something to be said for the flash designs displayed on the world scene.
Last year’s Germany away jersey was also stunning, so expect Adidas to pull something spectacular out of the bag with another all-black design.
Of course, we’d be looking out for Nigeria, whose bright green Nike design put the “super” in Super Eagles during the 2018 World Cup. But they didn’t make it this year. The same goes for Italy (boo), who had a fantastic uniform at the Euros but will not be appearing this time.
We’ve compiled the ultimate rating of this year’s best tournament kits for a more in-depth look. You’re really welcome.
Who will have the best World Cup watch game?😍
Footballers have more money than God, and the unfashionable noughties (remember the jeans? ), therefore the watch game has been strong in recent years.
We adored Harry Kane’s platinum Patek Philippe when he appeared on Jimmy Fallon earlier this summer, and the Swiss timepiece appears to be a popular choice among the Three Lions, with fellow distinguished horologists Jack Grealish and Declan Rice also wearing it. However, with Ronaldo, Messi, and Lewandowski all wearing watches, this title could be impossible to predict. Unfortunately, there will be no shortage of contestants.