Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup countdown begins

The race for space in Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup is getting interesting as nations across the globe are battling to qualify for the biggest football carnival on the planet.

Millions of football fans will be counting down the days to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with the tournament set to run from 21 November to 18 December and provide the most thrilling distillation of ‘The Beautiful Game.

On 21 November 2021 there will be just 365 days – or one full year – to go until the kick-off of the 22nd edition of the World Cup. The tournament field is already taking shape, with hosts Qatar already joined by the likes of France, Germany, Brazil, and Spain amongst others.

In Europe, the big news is that Portugal were unable to win their group (which would have secured automatic qualification) and will enter the perilous playoff phase – where single knockout matches against fellow group runners-up will produce three further qualifiers for Qatar 2022.

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Portugal coach Fernando Santos is adamant that his side will book their spot at the World Cup: “We have to apologise [for not qualifying directly]. The people are sad, the players are sad. My team will be in Qatar, that’s for sure. We’ve never been to the playoffs with me, it’s not usual. Portugal is already there. had three playoffs and won them. I played one for the World Cup myself and won.”

Africa, meanwhile, has wrapped up the group phase of qualifying, with 10 teams set to be drawn into five playoff ties (which will be played over two legs in March next year) and the five winners will all qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

One of those 10 teams is Egypt, with coach Carlos Queiroz hoping to continue his strong run of leading teams to World Cup qualification. He has achieved the feat four times before, with Portugal, South Africa, and Iran [twice].

Elsewhere, Asian qualification sees Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Australia looking good to secure qualification – with four matchdays remaining in their final group phase – Mexico, the United States and Canada are leading the way in the CONCACAF region, and South America’s brutal preliminary tournament is as tough as ever.

CONMEBOL’s qualification process still has four further matchdays to be played from late January to late March of next year, but for the moment it’s Brazil (who have mathematically qualified), Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile occupying the top four automatic qualifying spots.

The next major milestone on the road to Qatar 2022 will be the completion of qualification in March, followed by the draw in Doha on 1 April. The two winners of the inter-confederation play-offs will not be known at the time of the draw.

Meanwhile, the opening match of the tournament, featuring the hosts Qatar, will be played on 21 November 2022, at 11am, at the Al Bayt Stadium. During the group stage, four matches will be played each day, with kick-off times being 11am, 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm for the first two rounds, and 4pm and 8pm for the simultaneous kick-offs of the last round and knockout stage matches. The third-place match will be played on 17 December 2022 at the Khalifa International Stadium, and the final will be played on 18 December 2022 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, both at 4pm.

Qatar 2022 could be the last 32-team World Cup before the 2026 World Cup across North America expands to 48 teams.

Qatar edition will be the first tournament hosted in the Middle East and the first to be held at the end of the calendar year in November and December.

Eight stadiums will host the event across five cities in Qatar: Lusall, Al Khor, Al Rayyan, Al Wakrah, and Doha.

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