The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will begin a day earlier than originally intended after FIFA agreed to allow the host nation to kick off the tournament.

The first game of the tournament was due to be the clash between Senegal and the Netherlands on November the 21st, but the change now means the World Cup will begin on November the 20th with the opening ceremony and the match between Qatar and Ecuador taking place at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

The consequences of the last-minute change

The last-minute decision has caused consternation, and a little embarrassment, with promotional materials, which include advertisements on London taxi cabs, now bearing the wrong date. Fans have also been forced to make changes to flights and accommodation with the kick-off time of Senegal versus Netherlands World Cup fixture now taking place at 7 pm instead of 1 pm.

Fortunately, the change will not disrupt any of the other fixtures. The first wave of matches features some fascinating encounters, particularly in Group B, where Wales will face the United States. With England the favorites to top the group, the fixture could go a long way to deciding which other nation will advance to the knockout stage. Other intriguing fixtures in the group stage are Germany versus Spain in Group E and Portugal against Uruguay in Group H. 

An opportunity for African nations to shine

Could this be the year when an African nation makes it past the quarter-final stage for the first time? Senegal narrowly missed out on reaching the semis at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea twenty years ago. Now the Lions of Teranga are buoyant after winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and possess quality all over the pitch with ex-Liverpool and current Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mané, Chelsea center-back Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gueye of Paris Saint-Germain.

In the outright winner market, Brazil is the bookies’ current favorite to lift the World Cup for those who bet on World Cup soccer 2022 and are priced at +475 by BetMGM. France is the second favorite at +600, with England a +650 shot.

Potential dark horses with the opportunity to show their worth in this prestigious tournament include nations such as Canada and Wales, who are both participating in the competition for only the second time in history. Canada last graced the World Cup in 1986 and for Wales, it will be the first appearance at the tournament since 1958. Both nations are outsiders, priced at +20000 and +10000, respectively. Canada has plenty of attacking options in the form of Club Brugge forward Cyle Larin, Jonathan David of Lille, and winger Alphonso Davies, who plays for Bayern Munich.

The issue for outsiders is the lack of experience at the World Cup, insufficient strength in depth, and an over-reliance on star players. This is particularly the case for Wales, with 33-year-old Los Angeles FC forward Gareth Bale playing an outsized role in the fate of the Dragons. Another factor that makes it difficult for outsiders is that just eight nations have won the World Cup in the 21 tournaments held since 1930, with Brazil triumphing on five occasions.

The disruption caused by the decision to change the World Cup start date will be reduced to organizational and promotional headaches and will be long forgotten by the time the hosts kick off the tournament against Ecuador. However, FIFA and fans around the world will be hoping that the rest of the tournament runs smoothly.