The sports world’s biggest stage is just around the corner as the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Nov. 20 in Qatar. Soccer fans around the globe have waited four years to see their country once again compete at the highest level.
According to US News, the World Cup is estimated to bring in over 5 billion viewers over the course of the tournament, which would make it the most- watched event in sports history.
In 2018, the French National Team claimed victory, defeating Croatia in the championship by a score of 4-2.
Students will soon get to watch on as their favorite teams compete to be world champions.
“I’m going to stay loyal to my home nation, Croatia,” said sophomore Jure Maglic. “I’m a true believer that we can go far once again.”
Croatia is led by Luka Modrić, who took home the 2018 Player of the Year Award for his standout performance in the last World Cup.
“I think America has a good chance to get out of group play,” said sophomore Dillon Kneucker. “Beyond that, I don’t have super high expectations. It’s an inexperienced team.”
The United States enters the competition for the first time since 2014, eager to make their mark on the international stage.
America is led by Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic and Juventus midfielder Weston McKinnie, two young stars in the Premier League and Serie A in England and Italy, respectively. The team is coached by Gregg Berhalter and was the youngest group to qualify, with an average player age of 23.8.
“We believe we have a talented group, a strong team spirit and one that is ready to compete,” said Berhalter, according to US Soccer. “We are extremely proud and honored to represent the United States and appreciate all the amazing support from our fans as we head to Qatar.”
Perhaps this year’s greatest storyline is the last dance for the two golden generation footballers. Lionel Messi, the 35-year-old forward from Argentina, has tallied the most assists in soccer history, while claiming the Ballon d’Or seven times. He is also good for the most ever.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the 37-year-old forward from Portugal, is soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer, racking up 818 goals over his long and successful career.
These two greats have collected more trophies and accolades than anyone in the history of the sport, but neither has been able to claim the illustrious World Cup Trophy.
That could change in short order, as Argentina and Portugal possess two of the world’s top squads. The sun has not yet set on these superstars, and Messi and Ronaldo will look to captain their teams to victory in the hopes of adding on to their legacies.
“It’s sad to see legends go. Hopefully they can both go out on a great note,” said Kneucker. “The soccer world will be missing a piece of its heart without those two.”
Qatar, the tournament’s host country, is embroiled in deep controversy as a result of their poor human rights record, corruption with FIFA and harsh treatment towards members of the LGBTQ+ community.
According to ESPN, a group of eight European countries will sport “One Love” armbands in protest of Qatar’s suppression of LGBTQ+ citizens and visitors.
A 2021 report from The Guardian claimed that over 6,500 migrant workers had died as a result of harsh working conditions while preparing for the World Cup.
According to the Associated Press, on Qatar being selected to host the worldwide event, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said, “It was a bad choice. And I was responsible for that as president at the time.”
The World Cup begins Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 18.