New World Cup start date official: FIFA gives Qatar an “exclusive” gift

New World Cup start date official
FIFA gives Qatar an ‘exclusive’ gift

The football World Cup in Qatar is now getting a proper opening game after all. World governing body FIFA has confirmed that the finals will kick off on November 20th, a day earlier than originally planned, with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador.

An extra treat for World Cup hosts Qatar – sold by FIFA as a treat for the fans: A good three months before the start of the already controversial desert World Cup, the world football association confirmed a surprising change in plans and pushed the start of the tournament forward by one day. As the AFP news agency had already reported, the opening game between the hosts and Ecuador will take place on November 20th.

The World Cup “starts with an even bigger spectacle for domestic and foreign fans,” FIFA announced late Thursday evening, as Qatar now plays “exclusively” against group opponents South America on Sunday (7 p.m. local time/5 p.m. CET). This was decided unanimously by the FIFA Council Committee. Before the match, the opening ceremony will take place at al-Bayt Stadium in the coastal city of al-Khour.

The game between Senegal and the Netherlands is also affected by the postponement. It will now take place on November 21 at 5 p.m. CET instead of 11 a.m. as planned – this would actually have been the first World Cup game. England-Iran would also have been played before the official opening.

Has Qatar put pressure on FIFA?

The decision was preceded by “an analysis of the sporting and operational effects as well as extensive consultations and agreements with the most important interest groups and the host country,” said the world association. Qatar is said to have put pressure on FIFA to appear prominently on the World Cup stage – the portal “The Athletic” reported.

FIFA has now sold this as a “change in line with longstanding tradition” – seven years after the World Cup was originally scheduled to start in September 2015, four and a half months after the group draw. The host’s team has been allowed to open the tournament since 2006, the defending champion played the opening game from 1974 to 2002 – unlike back then, the world champion is no longer directly qualified.

FIFA announced that tickets already purchased are still valid. We will “try to solve problems arising from this change on a case-by-case basis”. The player shutdown period will start unchanged on November 14th. Germany will start the tournament against Japan on November 23 (4:00 p.m.).

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