The start date of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to be moved forward by one day to allow hosts Qatar to be involved in the first match.
The tournament had originally been scheduled to get underway on Monday 21 November with African champions Senegal taking on The Netherlands in Group A. However, FIFA now plans to move host nation Qatar’s opening clash against Ecuador – also in Group A – forward to Sunday 20 November as the curtain-raiser.
This has yet to be confirmed with approval being sought from by the Bureau of the FIFA Council (comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the leaders of each continental confederation) but it is thought to be a formality, according to multiple reports. It will mean that the tournament will now be staged from 20 November through to the 18 December final.
The host nation have participated in the opening game of each of the last four editions of the tournament; Germany beat Costa Rica in 2006, South Africa were held 1-1 by Mexico in 2010, Brazil defeated Croatia in 2014 and Russia eased past Saudi Arabia four years later.
The last tournament in which the hosts did not begin the tournament was in 2002, when Senegal memorably beat defending champions France in the opening game of the tournament held in South Korea and Japan. Tradition in the tournament subsequently changed from the competition holders playing in the first game to the host nation.
England’s scheduled match against Iran in Group on 21 November is not going to change date or time, but that will no longer be the opening day of the tournament.
Football's most prestigious tournament is traditionally held over the summer months but it is being staged across November and December this year due to the weather in host nation Qatar having excessive heat over summer.
It is the first time in the World Cup's 92-year history that the competition is being staged in the middle of the European domestic season and ensures that the Premier League – alongside other major leagues across the globe – are being paused for six weeks after the opening three months of the campaign.
Last weekend’s opening Premier League weekend will be the first of 16 matchdays to be staged before the league takes a break on 12 November – with the World Cup kicking off six days later – before returning on Boxing Day, a little over a week after the conclusion of the tournament in Qatar.
It will be only the second World Cup held in Asia, after the 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan, and the last one to feature 32 teams before it increases to 48 teams in 2026.
The knockout stage will begin with the last 16, followed by the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and ending with the third place play-off on Saturday, December 17, 2022 and the final on Sunday, December 18, 2022 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.