The curtains have been raised on the World Cup for the top footballing nations competing for the crown to take to the field through a glitzy opening ceremony in Qatar.
Qatar is on the brink of proving doubters wrong about the suspicions around holding the football World Cup in a desert. The Middle Eastern organisers have unveiled eight stadiums across only 34 km to hold the 22nd edition competition famed as the greatest show on earth.
However, criticism and controversy have never been far away from the hosts and it began from their staging rights and stretched all the way to the death of migrant workers during the preparations. But such unease during the preparations gave Qatar more reason to prove the doubters wrong.
France suffered the latest injury blow with the commission of Karim Benzema after Senegal’s Sadio Mane fell out earlier.
France are missing a bunch of players through injury, Argentina will miss three. Experts fear the figure will only grow as the competition goes on.
FIFA usually holds the World Cup in June-July at the end of football seasons, allowing sufficient time for preparation for all. But this edition is being held in November-December.
The players took part in their respective leagues even a week before the showpiece event and the national team coaches had little time to ready their teams. In their defeat against Egypt, Belgium coach blamed a lack of preparation.
Each team can include a maximum of 26 players, totalling to a cap of 832 players from 32 teams. But the last-minute injury omission of Benzema and Deschamps announcing no replacement brings the figure to 831.
Of those players, 17 are from LaLiga’s Football Club Barcelona while 16 are from Manchester City and Bayern Munich.
Qatar will play their first World Cup, and with hosting rights. The 22nd edition of the tournament will begin with the hosts taking on Ecuador. Kick off at 10 pm Bangladesh time.
Egyptian star Mohammad Salah was dropped from the star-studded competition. Riyad Mahrez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will also miss out after not making the cut.
European champions Italy have failed to qualify for the tournament for the second straight World Cup, while Russia, Ukraine, Norway and Scotland also did not make the cut. From South America, Chile, Colombia and Peru were unable to qualify.
Fans have thronged to the Al Bayt stadium on this huge occasion along while Sheikhs arrived to witness the historic moment of the country.
The World Cup opening ceremony is underway is shades of blue and Qatari cultural familiarisation with esteemed actor Morgan Freeman speaking in the background before appearing to call for the union of people on the earth "under the same tent."
FIFA President Gianni Infantino addressed football’s national federations on Sunday, telling them hours before the opening game of the Qatar World Cup that the four-year cycle leading to the tournament had generated revenues of $7.5 billion and profits of $1 billion for football’s global governing body.
The revenues are $1 billion higher than for the last World Cup in Russia, underlining the enduring appeal — and remarkably cash-generating potency — of the quadrennial event.
-- The New York Times