The 2022 World Cup will create a new chapter in the competition’s history, despite plenty of controversy over FIFA’s decision to select Qatar as the host.
The tournament will break new ground as the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, with the world governing body making good on their long-declared commitment to stage the event in a region seen as key to the advancement of the global game.
Many new stadiums have been constructed, as well as other infrastructure projects all over the country.
The move has created plenty of talking points, not least the fact that high local average temperatures mean that the timing of the showpiece has been switched to November-December, as opposed to the traditional June-July major tournament window.
But what else can we expect as the game’s biggest spectacle takes in a brand new venue?
Where is World Cup 2022 being held?
Qatar is situated on the Arab peninsula and is one of the richest countries in the world.
Sharing a land border with Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich state is known for its sweeping deserts, combined with ultra-modern facilities, which will make for an eye-catching tournament.
The capital, Doha, is the jewel in Qatar’s crown, and the home of the Khalifa International Stadium. That is the only stadium not being built from scratch.
The project to bring the tournament to Qatar has been more than 10 years in the making, and has included the mammoth task of building seven brand new stadiums, as well as upgrading the country’s infrastructure to cope with an influx of fans from all over the world.
Qatar officials have carried out a major public spending project on roads, hotels and transportation to upgrade links between the World Cup cities, as they prepare for the welcome of an estimated 1.5 million fans.
Reports over the exact total cost of getting ready for the tournament have varied, with some claims that it could eventually reach as high as $300 billon.
Qatar hopes, though, that such an outlay will be worth it in making for the most spectacular World Cup ever.
Why is Qatar a controversial World Cup host?
The decision to award Qatar the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup has not been without plenty of controversy.
From the perspective of players, fans and clubs, the switch to an end-of-year tournament to account for the soaring temperatures in the Middle East has not necessarily been popular.
That has meant altering the schedule for Europe’s major leagues, with the Premier League just one of those taking a break of six weeks to allow players to represent their countries during the U.K. winter.
Qatar has also found itself facing criticism from human rights groups, with the spotlight shone on the conditions surrounding foreign workers, who have built many of the state-of-the-art stadiums.
Allegations of corruption in the bidding process have also marred the build-up. Qatar has consistently denied any wrongdoing and a FIFA probe found no evidence to the contrary, although U.S. prosecutors have also been involved.
Qatar 2022 World Cup stadiums
Qatar 2022 will see eight stadiums in operation for the competition, with the majority of those only finished in 2020 and 2021.
The venues are spread across the country, with seven having been constructed from scratch.
The Lusail Stadium is the biggest arena for Qatar 2022, with a capacity of 80,000, based in the new metropolis of Lusail City, which is around 14 miles north of the capital Doha. The stadium will host four knockout games including the final on December 18.
Al Bayt Stadium
Al Bayt Stadium is the most northern location for the competition in the city of Al Khor, with the 60,000-seater arena only opened officially in late 2021. The stadium, which features a giant tent-like structure, will host the opening match in Qatar’s Group A opener on Nov. 20.
A 40,000-seater venue which is located in Doha’s West Bay area. It takes its unusual name from the 974 recycled shipping containers which have been used to build it.
Al Thumama Stadium
Al Thumama Stadium is located in close proximity to the Hamad International Airport, as part of Qatar’s push for links between transportation hubs and its stadiums. It provides another 40,000-seater stadium in the capital and is named after one of the area’s native trees.
Education City Stadium
The Education City Stadium was completed in 2020 and is part of Qatar 2022’s commitment to hosting a sustainable tournament, built with the environment in mind. Set alongside the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development it is based in the Al Rayyan area.
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
The original Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium was almost completely demolished in 2015 as part of a major reconstruction of the arena for the World Cup, with its 40,000-seat capacity set to be reduced to 21,000 after the tournament and seats donated to football development projects abroad.
Khalifa International Stadium
The Khalifa International Stadium is the only World Cup venue that was in existence before Qatar was confirmed as World Cup host, with the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium effectively being rebuilt from scratch. On the outskirts of Doha, the Khalifa International Stadium is the home of the Qatari national team.
Al Janoub Stadium
The Al Janoub Stadium in the east coast city of Al Wakrah was one of the first to be completed for the World Cup, with Qatari Stars League side Al Wakrah using it as their base since 2019.
Are Qatar’s World Cup stadiums air conditioned?
When Qatar was confirmed as World Cup host, one of the biggest challenges the country had to overcome was the potential temperature in which matches will be played.
The tournament was moved from the usual June-July window to November and December, when the average temperature in the region will be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).
All eight stadiums being used for the World Cup have therefore been built with internal air conditioning units, with the objective of potentially reducing in-game temperatures for both fans and players.
The technology has been developed along with Qatar University, using solar energy to power fans that pull in outside air and cool it.