The most compact FIFA World Cup since 1930 and the very first edition to be held in the Middle East and Arab world will kick off on 20 November to 18 December 2022. To get you up to speed, VIP Magazine’s IKENNA OKAFOR presents the big countdown with a weekly compilation of news, facts and figures.
Leboeuf rates Africa high, tips Senegal
Winning the FIFA World Cup has become somewhat of a closed shop. European and South American nations have always held the winning title, dominating the tournament in the entirety of its 21 four-year series. The last four champions have come from the northern hemisphere, giving Europe the edge.
Frank Leboeuf won the World Cup with France in 1998 and he believes that one African side competing in Qatar has a realistic chance of going all the way.
“You are complete when you have Sadio Mane up front and Edouard Mendy at the back and all the players in the middle. And that’s why I think it’s possible.”
There is huge optimism that 2022 could be the year of change that an African nation might lift football’s biggest prize.
The United States of America, Mexico, and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup and have the most nations competing in history. Forty-eight teams will head to North America. Nine of those will be from Africa, giving them a terrific opportunity to face teams outside the continent,
‘Swansongs’ for Messi, Ronaldo
This World Cup could be the last opportunity that both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have to add a winning medal to their impressive trophy cabinet.
Messi will be 35 years old when the tournament begins in November. Argentina’s opening game against Saudi Arabia will be his 20th match during the World Cup. However, for a man who is rated by many as the best player of the 21st century, his six goals tally is relatively paltry in comparison to his undoubted talents.
At 37 years old, Cristiano Ronaldo is the second oldest outfield player in the Premier League. Second only to Chelsea’s Thiago Silva. Ronaldo will be looking to create more history at the World Cup.
The Portuguese forward played in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups and scored in each game. During this World Cup, he hopes to break records by becoming the first player ever to score in five different World Cups.
Despite critics suggesting his star is on the wane, few would bet against him once more, inspiring his nation to improbable success.
Team to watch
It’s a known fact that no African team have ever won the FIFA World Cup. However, Senegal is a team to watch in Qatar.
The Teranga Lions won the Africa Cup of Nations in February 2022. By the end of the month, history was repeating itself when Sadio Mane scored the winning penalty to deny Egypt a place in Qatar.
With a strong squad boosted by Mane, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, and PSG’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, they may be tough to beat at the tournament.
Player to watch
Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
The Paris Saint-Germain player possesses an impressive international pedigree that belies his youth. A product of the Real Madrid academy, the marauding defender brought up his half-century of caps in June in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.
Hakimi was handed his big chance on the international stage by Herve Renard at the tender age of 17 years, 11 months and seven days. The Madrid-born starlet is currently the second-youngest player to have represented Morocco, behind Hachim Mastour, who has not featured for the national team since winning his maiden cap back in 2015.
The Moroccan fans are right to expect big things from the jet-heeled defender when the action gets underway in Qatar. Hakimi is currently a key member of the national team squad. In addition to his 46 starts, he has been named as a substitute on five occasions.
World Cup Facts
Brazil and Italy are the only countries to win the World Cup twice in a row! Italy did it in 1934 and 1938, while Brazil achieved the same feat in the years 1958 and 1962.
Russia’s Oleg Salenko holds the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup match. He scored five goals against Cameroon on 28 June 1994.
The biggest victory margin in the World Cup archives is Hungary beating South Korea 9-0 (1954); Yugoslavia beating Zaire 9-0 (1974); Hungary beating El Salvador 10-1 (1982).
The only player ever to be sent off on his birthday was Italian forward Gianfranco Zola. After being sent off against Nigeria, Zola missed the two subsequent World Cup matches after being judged to have fouled Augustine Eguavoen. However, Italy won the match 2-1.
QATAR 2022: The Big Countdown 53 days to go…