What To Watch For As World Cup Kicks Off Sunday in Qatar

Starting Sunday, 32 countries will spend a month competing for the chance to hoist the iconic World Cup.
Posted at 11:22 AM, Nov 18, 2022

Regardless of who you are cheering for, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is about to be one for the books.

The soccer tournament, played every four years, is kicking off for the 22nd time. And, for the first time ever, it's being hosted in a middle eastern country — Qatar

Starting Nov. 20, 32 countries will spend a month competing for the chance to hoist the iconic World Cup — a trophy that has only ever been won by eight countries.  

With an estimated record-breaking 5 billion viewers tuning in for the tournament, soccer fans will be keeping their eye on action happening on and off the pitch, starting with the host country. 

In addition to being its first time hosting the tournament, it's also Qatar's first time competing in it; Host countries are guaranteed a spot by FIFA. While the team will have the benefit of playing at home, experts say Qatar likely won't advance far.  

The country is estimated to have spent $229 billion preparing for the tournament on new stadiums, public transportation, hotels, airport renovations and shopping facilities. Cruise ships docked in Doha will help house some of the estimated 1.2 million visitors during the tournament. 

But eye-popping financial investments aren't the only things catching the attention of fans.

In a recent interview with German media, the Qatar ambassador for the World Cup referred to homosexuality, which is illegal in the Middle Eastern country, as "damage in the mind," warning LGBTQ visitors "to accept our rules."

This has sparked debate and concern among competing teams and fans. Many governments are now advising their LGBTQ fans attending the World Cup to be cautious. Meanwhile, some team captains have decided to wear rainbow emblems on their armbands in support of LGBTQ rights, such as England's Harry Kane. And Team USA has even put up a rainbow-themed logo at their World Cup training facilities. 

Ambassadors for the tournament, such as former England captain David Beckham, are now being called on to cut ties with Qatar out of respect for the LGBTQ community. 

"If you end your relationship with Qatar, I'll donate this 10K of my own money," said British comedian Joe Lycett. "That' a grand for every million you are reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football." 

Pivoting to the action on the pitch, Brazil, a longtime fan favorite, is looking to secure its sixth World Cup win. 

But neighboring Argentina looks as though it could give everyone a run for their money. Argentina hasn't lost a game since July 2019. That's a 35-game-winning streak. The team is now closing in on Italy, who holds the record of a 37-game-streak.  

Leading Argentina is Lionel Messi, who is widely considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time. At 35 years old, Messi is approaching his 1,000th professional game, which, depending on his team’s performance and his health, could occur during the World Cup. Given his age, this will likely be his last World Cup, along with his rival, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. 

And what about Team USA? After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the team is looking for a strong performance, with one of their youngest lineups ever — the average age on the team is 25. 

Unfortunately, the team's starting point in the tournament bracket is Group B, which is considered this World Cup's "death group" — a tournament phrase for the group with the toughest teams. 

But Team USA fans are not dismayed. Thanks to shows like "Ted Lasso," American interest in soccer is growing.  

"Ted Lasso" stars Jason Sudeikis, who is an American football coach who ends up coaching an English soccer club. The feel-good show places an emphasis on positivity and teamwork.   

In an effort to support the players, Team USA has tapped into that positivity and has placed billboards in the players' hometowns across the country with messages from the fictional Ted Lasso wishing them luck.