Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Hosts to kick off World Cup a day earlier in exclusive slot

With three months to go FIFA before the kick off of the World Cup, FIFA has formally brought forward the tournament by one day and given hosts Qatar an exclusive Sunday evening slot with a global audience.

August 12, 2022
By Phil Blanche
12 August 2022

The 2022 World Cup will start a day earlier than planned with hosts Qatar playing Ecuador on Sunday, November 20 at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.

The Group A match and opening ceremony have been brought forward as a stand-alone event, FIFA has confirmed.

With the tournament kick off now 101 days away, the decision stretches the tournament to 29 days from the 28 agreed seven years ago after a June-July tournament was pushed back to avoid the searing summer desert heat of Qatar.

The late switch was signed off by a FIFA committee comprising its president Gianni Infantino and presidents of the six continental soccer bodies. FIFA said the vote was unanimous.

The date change was said to be supported by tournament organisers in the gas-rich emirate, South American football body CONMEBOL and the two teams’ national football federations.

Qatar will now make its World Cup debut kicking off against Ecuador at 7pm local time.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken by the Bureau of the FIFA Council today,” said a statement from football’s world governing body.

“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions.

“The decision followed an assessment of the competition and operational implications, as well as a thorough consultation process and an agreement with key stakeholders and the host country.”

Group A rivals Senegal and the Netherlands – who were due to get the tournament under way at 1pm on Monday, November 21 – will now kick off at 7pm the same day, three hours after England play their opening game against Iran in Group B.

FIFA has said the release period for players at the 2022 World Cup remains unchanged, beginning on November 14.

There has been several rounds of ticket sales to fans worldwide since last year.

“FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from this change in a case-by-case basis,” the world body said Thursday regarding fans whose travel plans are affected.

The November 20 date clashed with the climax of the Formula One season at the nearby Abu Dhabi grand prix.

More in Top Stories