FIFA World Cup 2022 Can Messi and Neymar end European hegemony?
Advanced Argentina and bookies’ favorites Brazil will battle it out for the FIFA World Cup 2022 to become the first non-European country to be crowned world champions since 2002
For the first time in its history – took a mid-winter break in its lucrative club/league schedules to get to the World Cup. The 29-day parade continues in Qatar despite protests from European clubs and leagues that have long dictated the fortunes and calendar of world football.
World governing body FIFA’s vote in 2010 to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar and its determination to uphold its decision, undeterred by a decade of growing public dissent, shows the growing influence of the Arabian Gulf on the game. Qatar Sports Investment, chaired by Naseer Al-Khelaifi, recently acquired a 22% stake in Portuguese club SC Braga and has owned Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain since 2011. Al-Khelaifi is also the Chairman and CEO of beIN Media, which holds the rights to broadcast the World Cup, EURO, Champions League, Premier League, and Ligue 1.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has also dabbled in football with the acquisition of Newcastle United, while Abu Dhabi-backed City Football Group owns 11 clubs around the world
Including Manchester City and Mumbai City FC.
But with the World Cup approaching with the opening match on November 20 at the Al Bayt Stadium between the hosts and Ecuador, who have been suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport despite fielding an ineligible player during qualifying, uncertainty remains over Qatar’s ability to withstand the pressure of countless visitors from all over the world, who probably outnumber the local population by at least two and a half times (many of them immigrants).
However, this World Cup – the last to feature 32 teams – has enough stars to overcome any concerns once the football starts.
Two South American soccer powerhouses – Brazil and Argentina – arrive in Doha with plenty of firepowers and established squads, sparking dreams of a long-elusive cup triumph. But with the 2021 Copa America finally stuffed into his overflowing trophy cabinet, Argentina is bracing itself for the competition to be swept away by a surreal final hurray from the 35-year-old magician.
For Cristiano Ronaldo – a relentless ‘Djoker’ of Messi’s ‘federeresque’ class – the World Cup offers a heavenly platform to volley – not verbally – deflect perceived mistreatment at Manchester United. His Portugal teammates, not a few from United and their city rivals, will be eager to support the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s rampage to lift the crown.
Europe has a heavyweight presence – despite the absence of European champions Italy – in Germany, defending champions France – bolstered by a reshuffle of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe – Spain and England to continue their 16-year hegemony over the cup.
Belgium and Croatia – two surprise semi-finalists in 2018 – will once again call upon their aging ‘golden generation’ of Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Luka Modric, and Ivan Perisic to plead for another dream rush.
Denmark, on an inspired run since the return of Christian Eriksen after his death at Euro 2020, can cause an upset while the bookies’ favorite tag sits right with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Casemiro, and Vinicius Junior in Brazil.
Asia and Africa’s hopes of making waves rest on Hajime Moriyasu-coached Japan and Nations Cup winners Senegal despite a last-minute injury to Sadio Mane.
This winter’s World Cup – FIFA will pay clubs £8,500 a day to release players in mid-season – has all the ingredients to be the next bestseller. Qatar — with his bet wide; state fund Qatar Sports Investment employs Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar at PSG and players from many other World Cup-playing nations – hoping to be the big winner in this geopolitical power game.