The World Cup kicked off on 20 November 2022 under a cloud of controversy and amidst calls for fans to boycott the tournament. The main criticism levied against the host country, Qatar, was their human rights record which was tarnished by reports that over 6,000 migrant workers had died during the infrastructure build programme that reportedly cost over $220bn.

Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights resulted in a ban on rainbow-coloured armbands and t-shirts worn by players and fans. Less than two days before the tournament began, the Qataris banned the sale of alcohol in stadiums, putting FIFA’s $75m sponsorship deal with Budweiser in jeopardy and frustrating beer-loving fans. Photos soon emerged on social media of “overpriced but sub-standard” accommodation in the fan parks. In the United Kingdom, the BBC refused to broadcast the opening ceremony and instead showed a documentary critical of Qatar.

The constant negative reporting, mainly by Western media, gave the impression that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 would be a disaster. But the opposite happened after the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador, as politics was trumped by the love of the game. Football is called the beautiful game for its ability to unite individuals and communities and it looks like the 2022 tournament will be no different. We explain why.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 draw | ONGOLO
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 draw | ONGOLO

Ratings for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

FIFA estimated that around five billion people will watch the tournament, which is higher than the 3.7 billion people who watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. This would make it the most watched tournament after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which had 4.7 billion viewers. In the United States, where ratings are tracked closely, it has been confirmed that the 2022 games are drawing a bigger audience than in 2018.

Surprises: tournament favourites falter in opening matches

Could 2022 be the year of the underdog? That was the question on everyone’s mind after the unfancied Saudi Arabian team beat one of the tournament favourites, Argentina, in their opening match. The Saudis are coached by Hervé Renard, who made a name for himself in Africa by coaching the Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire national teams to Africa Cup of Nations victories in 2012 and 2015. Even though they lost the second match against Poland, the Saudis still have a chance at advancing to the knock-out stage.

The other big surprise was Japan beating Germany in their first match. Before the tournament started, Spain and Germany were expected to easily advance from Group E but the underdogs – Japan and Costa Rica – are not going out without a fight.

Could the 2022 World Cup see a change in the football world order with a new team winning? Top ranked teams that have never won the World Cup include Belgium (ranked 2nd in the world), The Netherlands (8th), Portugal (9th), Croatia (12th) and Mexico (13th).

What are Africa’s chances of winning the World Cup?

Morroco has one of the highest number of football fans in attendance at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Morroco has one of the highest number of football fans in attendance at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

In 1977, Brazilian football great, Pelé, predicted that an African country would win the World Cup by 2000. Pelé’s prediction remains unfulfilled 45 years later.

Africa has the smallest proportional representation at the World Cups, with five spots awarded to the 54-member Confederation of African Football. This is in contrast to: 13 spots to Europe; four plus one spots to Latin America; and, four spots to North and Central America plus the Caribbean. However, the case for increasing the spots for Africa will only be strengthened when African teams demonstrate that they can perform.

In 2022, Africa is represented by Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia. Morocco has the best chance of carrying the Team Africa flag after their strong performance in the group match against Belgium. All that stands between them and the knockout stage is Canada, who had never scored a goal at a World Cup game until today when they scored the fastest goal in the tournament. The Senegal squad is without star player, Sadio Mané, who has a leg injury and will not make the tournament. Senegal has a chance at making it to the knock-out round if they can beat Ecuador. Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia are in tough groups and will have to dig deep to survive.

Who do you think will win the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022?

The majority of football analysts put Brazil, France and Argentine as the favourites to win. Others rate Spain and Portugal as strong contenders. According to TikTok, the Simpsons predicted a Mexico v Portugal final. Bottom line: the winner is anyone’s guess.

Who do you think will win the World Cup? Please let us know in the comments.

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bankelele

Yes, let the naysayers take a break and enjoy the football.

After the opening rounds, France looks the favourite, but it would be nice to see to Asian and African teams in the semis. I am sentimentally attached to Senegal.

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