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Every four years, countries across the world convene in the most prestigious soccer tournament, also known as the “World Cup.”
According to estimates, 1.12 billion people watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. That is over 10 times more than the 99 million people that watched the Super Bowl this year.
Here are the important questions to answer before the World Cup kicks off on Sunday morning.
The World Cup is a soccer tournament held every four years, featuring countries across the globe competing for the crown as the best team in the world.
France won the last World Cup in 2018.
The 2022 World Cup begins on Nov. 20 and ends on Dec. 18.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be in Qatar, which will be the smallest nation ever to host the tournament. For context, Qatar (4,471 square miles) is smaller than the state of Connecticut.
The 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. Seattle’s Lumen Field was chosen in June as one of 11 stadiums to host matches for the tournament, which will be the first-ever to have 48 countries.
The selection of Qatar to host the world’s most prestigious tournament has been fraught with controversy.
The lack of infrastructure, death of migrant workers, and human rights abuses along with bribery and corruption allegations have mired the tournament in controversy before it even begins.
In 2010, Qatar was chosen as the host, beating out the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Officials from FIFA have been accused of accepting bribes to make the 2022 World Cup happen.
Yes, but not in 2022. This will be the first-ever World Cup hosted in winter, a decision made because Qatar’s extreme heat would have been dangerous for players to complete an entire tournament.
The winter tournament, however, has resulted in domestic soccer leagues in England, Spain, Germany, France and all across Europe cramming more games in less time to accommodate the 2022 World Cup.
Because of this, player fitness and health are already major concerns for the tournament.
Thirty-two countries from six regions across the world compete in the World Cup. Here’s the breakdown of countries, by region.
Europe, which typically has the strongest soccer teams in the world, will have over 40% of the teams in this year’s World Cup. Eight of the top 10 countries in FIFA’s world rankings are from Europe.
Yes, the United States is in the 2022 World Cup after the country missed the 2018 tournament entirely.
Team USA is in Group B, along with England, Wales and Iran.
Here’s the United States’ schedule in group stage play:
Due to the time difference in Qatar, the group stage games in the World Cup will air in four different timeslots in the Pacific Northwest.
The group stage games will air here at 2 a.m., 5 a.m, 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., all times PST.
Several bars and restaurants across Washington will have watch parties for select World Cup matches throughout the tournament.
Here are 10 places to check out World Cup matches in Washington.
There are eight groups, separated by four teams each. The four countries in the group will face the other countries one time before the group stage is completed.
The group stage of the World Cup begins on Nov. 20 and ends on Dec. 1.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the “Round of 16,” which begins the tournament’s single-elimination play. After that point, a loss means that a country’s World Cup is over.
FIFA uses a point system to determine which countries will advance to the single-elimination knockout rounds.
A win in a group stage match gives that country three points, while a draw is worth one point. A loss does not result in any points.
After three group-stage games are played, the top two countries are ranked based on how many “points” they accumulated. Any tiebreakers are sorted by goal differential (the difference between goals scored and goals allowed) and then goals scored, in that order. If countries are still tied, FIFA has several ways to break the tie.
Brazil (First in FIFA ranking), Argentina (Third in FIFA ranking), France (Fourth in FIFA ranking) and England (Fifth in FIFA ranking) are considered the top favorites to win this year’s tournament.
Spain, Germany and Belgium are also strong countries that could win the tournament.
Italy, the sixth-ranked country in the world, according to FIFA, did not even qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Now let’s get to the groups, with each country’s individual FIFA ranking in parenthesis.
Best match: Ecuador vs. Qatar (opening match)
Players to watch: Frenkie De Jong (Netherlands), Ismaïla Sarr (Senegal), Pervis Estupiñán (Ecuador), Akram Afif (Qatar)
Group overview: By average FIFA ranking, this is the “weakest” group in the tournament. That leaves the door open for an underdog to potentially make its way to the knockout stages of the tournament.
Best match: England vs. United States
Players to watch: Harry Kane (England), Christian Pulisic (United States), Gareth Bale (Wales), Sardar Azmoun (Iran)
Group overview: This is the only group that features four countries in the top 20 of FIFA’s world rankings. England has struggled in prior international competitions but has plenty of talent across the squad to make a deep run in the tournament. Meanwhile, the United States is the youngest team in the tournament and Wales has veteran experience in what really is a wide-open group.
Best match: Argentina vs. Mexico
Players to watch: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Salem Al-Dawsari (Saudi Arabia)
Group overview: Argentina, who has not lost in 36 consecutive matches before the World Cup, is hoping to win Messi his first World Cup in his historic career. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, given to the best soccer player in the world, carried his Argentina side to the World Cup Final in 2014 but lost 0-1 to Germany in extra time. At 35 years old, this World Cup will likely be Messi’s last chance to hoist the only trophy that has eluded him.
Best match: France vs. Denmark
Players to watch: Kylian Mbappe (France), Karim Benzema (France), Pierre Hojberg (Denmark), Awer Mabil (Australia)
Group overview: Defending champions France has a relatively clear path to the knockout stage, but Denmark will be a test in the group stage. Look for the forward pairing of Mbappe and Benzema to dominate opposition in the group stage.
Best match: Spain vs. Germany
Players to watch: Pedri (Spain), Thomas Muller (Germany), Takumi Minamino (Japan), Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Group overview: This is an interesting group that features two European powers that could be more vulnerable, along with dark horses in Japan and Costa Rica.
Best match: Croatia vs. Canada
Players to watch: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Luka Modric (Croatia), Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Cyle Larin (Canada)
Group overview: Belgium’s De Bruyne is a world-class playmaker, Croatia’s Modric defined his generation as a midfielder and Canada is making its first World Cup run since 1986. A fun group with star players and enticing storylines across the board.
Best match: Switzerland vs. Serbia
Players to watch: Neymar (Brazil), Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Aleksandar Mitrović (Serbia), Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)
Group overview: Brazil is a heavy favorite to win the group, but an enticing matchup between close sides in Switzerland and Serbia looks to decide the other country that will advance to the knockout round. Serbia’s Mitrović, a relentless goal scorer, could be the tiebreaker in what appears to be a close contest.
Best match: Portugal vs. Uruguay
Players to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Son Heung-min (South Korea), Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)
Group overview: The group has star power in Ronaldo, Suarez and Son Heung-min, who won the “Golden Boot” in the English Premier League with 23 goals last year. Ronaldo, like Messi, is searching for his first World Cup trophy in what will likely be his last tournament.
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