Played by hundreds of millions and watched by billions, in every corner of the globe - Football is the world’s game.
The true pinnacle of the world’s game is the FIFA World Cup. Rising from hibernation every four years, the tournament captivates the imagination of people from around the world and thrusts representatives from nations into perhaps the brightest spotlight known to man.
Although the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup is packed with star-studded teams, desperate to etch their names into the eternal legacy of the tournament, the 22nd edition of the competition has been marred by a cloud of controversy, unlike any previous edition of the tournament.
The controversy in Qatar is predominantly centred around the breach of human rights, including women’s and LGBT+ rights, labour laws and corruption.
The 32 teams competing in the tournament have all taken varying stances on the controversies off the pitch (explored further below), but over the coming six weeks, players, managers and nations will all look to strengthen their stance on the pitch.
The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup is the final edition of the competition with 32 teams in with a chance of lifting the infamous gold and emerald trophy, before FIFA switch to a 48-team system.
It will be the first time that FIFA has changed the format of the competition since 1998, when France hosted the first 32-team world-cup following the USA’s incredibly successful tournament, which saw 24 teams fight for glory.
This year’s edition sees some mouth-watering match-ups, as the likes of the Netherlands and Senegal, Germany and Spain, as well as Portugal and Uruguay face off in their respective groups.
The favourites, the surprise-package and the curse
Five-time winners Brazil are seen as the favourites by many to win the FIFA Men’s World Cup. Since the competition’s inception in 1930, no other team has featured more than Brazil, with the South American footballing giants featuring in every single one of the 22 editions.
Two-time champions and current holders, France will be hoping their golden generation can produce another outstanding tournament. ‘Les Bleus’ will however look to break the World Cup winners curse which has seen four out of the past five winners exit in the early stages of the tournament.
Alongside France, in Group D, are one of the teams thought to be capable of producing a surprising run in the competition, Denmark. The Danes followed up their impressive display at the UEFA European Championships, where they reached the semi-final, with an outstanding qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup, which saw them top their group, only losing one game.
Ecuador is another team who performed noticeably well in their qualifying campaign, beating-off fierce competition from the likes of Chile and Colombia to secure their place in Qatar.
The last dance - Messi vs Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated club football for the best part of the last 20 years. The pair’s outstanding performances and record-breaking achievements has seen fans from around the world engage in rallying debates, comparing accolades, goals, assists and stats.
One of Ronaldo’s biggest achievements was winning the 2016 UEFA European Championship with Portugal, a feat which was replicated by Messi in 2021 as Argentina won the continental equivalent, Copa America, for the first time in 28 years.
With both icons having achieved continental success, the one accolade that has eluded both Messi and Ronaldo is the FIFA World Cup. With Ronaldo turning 38 in February and Messi 36 in June, it’s looking increasingly more likely that this will be the pair’s last chance at winning the world’s biggest tournament.
Taking a stand
The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar has caused controversy since it was announced as the host of the tournament, in 2010.
Politicians, activists, sporting organisations and businesses from around the world have spoken out against the decision to award Qatar the hosting rights, and in the months leading up to the tournament, several of the competing teams have also taken a stand.
Australia and Denmark have both been vocal in their protests against Qatar as a host nation, with Australia releasing a video which urges the hosts to abolish laws on same-sex relationships, as Denmark and their shirt provider, Hummel, have decided to wear a “toned down” kit, with Hummel not wanting to be visible in a tournament it claims, “has cost thousands of lives”.
Other nations have also decided to take a stand, with some European nations deciding to wear ‘One Love’ armbands with the aim of promoting diversity and inclusion. These will be worn by the captains of select European countries at the tournament.