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World Cup Kicks Off on Sunday in Qatar

World Cup Qatar
Thirty-two national teams will compete for the World Cup, football’s greatest prize. Credit: FIFA

The FIFA World Cup kicks off on Sunday in Qatar, but football’s top completion has already been marred with controversy.

The feasibility and morality of the Qatar World Cup has been questioned since the day FIFA selected it as the host nation.

U.S. prosecutors have alleged the selection process twelve years ago was corrupt, and, since then, it’s only gotten worse.

The dates had to be moved because it’s too hot to play soccer in the Qatari summer, the country has strict rules outlawing homosexuality, and there have been widespread allegations of serious abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers who built the tournament’s infrastructure. Given the secrecy from Qatar, it’s tough to know the actual death toll, but, by some counts, thousands of workers have allegedly died.

On the day before the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino accused the West of “hypocrisy” in its reporting about Qatar’s human rights record.

In an extraordinary monologue at a news conference in Doha, Infantino spoke for nearly an hour and passionately defended Qatar and the tournament.

Some voices have warned against mixing activism with sports. French President Emmanuel Macron has commented that “we must not politicize sport[s].”

FIFA has reportedly urged teams participating in the tournament to “focus on the football” and prevent the sport from being “dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

World Cup in Qatar to feature 32 teams

Although the World Cup in Qatar has been met with a great deal of controversy, particularly in Europe and North America, the tournament kicks off with the host nation playing against Ecuador on Sunday.

This year is the last to feature thirty-two teams before the competition expands to forty-eight in Canada, Mexico, and the US in 2026. Teams are divided into eight groups of four with winners and runners-up from each advancing to the last sixteen.

World Cup Qatar
Top two teams from each of the eight groups will proceed to the knock out face of the World Cup. Credit: FIFA

The final is scheduled to be played on Sunday, December 18th, which is also Qatar’s National Day. In total, sixty-four matches will be played over the course of the next month.

Every ball at this World Cup will be kicked within a fifty-five kilometer radius in Doha, the capital of Qatar, making it the most geographically compact tournament in World Cup history.

Eight stadiums will host the matches, ranging from the smallest—Stadium 974, Al Janoub Stadium and Al Thumama Stadium, which hold forty thousand—to the eighty-thousand-capacity Lusail Stadium, which will host the final.

Who will win the World Cup?

Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002 and is, in fact, the last non-European team to lift the trophy.

Statisticians Opta have crunched the numbers, and their prediction model says Tite’s men are favorites to go all the way for a record-extending sixth time.

But Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina has the second-highest probability of being champions for the third time, coming into the tournament on the back of a 36-game unbeaten run.

Odds of winning the World Cup by Sporting Bet:

Brazil +350
Argentina +550
France +700
England +800
Spain +800
Germany +1100
Netherlands +1200
Portugal +1600
Belgium +1800
Denmark +2800
Uruguay +4000
Croatia +5000
Serbia +8000
Switzerland +10000
Senegal +12500
Ecuador +15000
Mexico +15000
USA +15000
Poland +15000
Canada +20000
Wales +20000
Morocco +20000
Cameroon +25000
Japan +25000
South Korea +25000
Ghana +25000
Qatar +25000
Australia +35000
Tunisia +50000
Iran +50000
Saudi Arabia +75000
Costa Rica +75000

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