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Reflections on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 so far

Point check at the 3/4th mark

Photo by Visit Qatar on Unsplash

1. Asian teams have delighted

Excluding the hosts, 3 out the 5 qualifying teams from the Asian Federation reached the knockout rounds, which is a first. Asian teams have come in without any airs, played with heart and determination, and provided some all-time great upsets.

2. Brazil is football

No team lights up a World Cup like Brazil. Their history, fans and iconic canary yellow jerseys are legendary. On top of that, their red-hot talent and samba style, exemplified by Richarlison’s scissor kick, is a welcome contrast to the cold mechanistical tactical approaches of fellow “top” teams.

3. Hosts qualification

Qatar became the first host to lose all 3 group games. While Qatar was awarded the World Cup controversially, I think all hosts should have a minimum “history” in the game, maybe like at least one quarterfinal in the last 20 years or so. Otherwise, the host nation has nothing to look forward to and the benefits of hosting are diminished.

4. Time to ban heading

We’ve seen some sickening head clashes in Qatar 2022. Many studies are coming forward about the serious mental and physical harms of heading. It’s time for football to take a bold step and ban heading. It is foot-ball after all! Headers may seem an integral part of the game, but football is possible without them. My earlier piece has an elaboration.

5. USA has a great template

The USA has shown a cohesive style of football which uses possession-based build up play and fluent transitions. This style is normally the preserve of “bigger” teams who have elite talent to accomplish it. “Smaller” teams or relatively smaller teams (with due respect) usually have to settle for defensive, Route One or counter-attacking styles. The USMNT has shown that even without elite superstars, it’s possible to employ a relatively advanced tactical setup, that makes a team hard to beat, while not sacrificing style.

6. Naturalized talent

Breel Embolo’s refusal to celebrate his goal against Cameroon was a great gesture. It also opened up the debate around naturalized talent. True to his outspoken style, Mourinho wants FIFA to stop African players from representing other countries, so that African football can improve. It’s not just about African talent. In the 2016, European Championships, Switzerland has almost as many Albanian players as Albania.

7. Focus on Football

Is football a vehicle for social change? May be? But it’s a very slippery slope, at the end of which, football will be destroyed as sport, and social impact will vaporize as mere talk, debate and counter-debate, benefitting no one.

8. Don’t want 48 teams

While we saw some great upsets, the 7–0 hammering of Costa Rica by Spain should serve as a reminder of the wide gulf between teams. No one wants to see such one-sided games. The next tournament will be co-hosted across one of the world’s largest geographic areas — USA, Canada and Mexico, and will feature 48 teams. It has all the makings of an unwanted monstrosity. The World Cup is the apex tournament. As all fans, particularly older ones, will attest: Less is more. 32 teams are just about manageable. 48 is too many. Greed however knows no limits. Before we know it, we’ll have 96 team World Cup held every two years! 😖

9. Technology

Technology has been a major talking point of recent World Cups. Goal-line technology (2014), VAR (2018) and semi-automated offside in 2022. This is not to mention motion-sensors in the ball — which requires them to be electrically charged before the game! Apparently, the microchip in the ball confirmed that Ronaldo did not contact the ball with his (attempted) header and the goal stayed assigned to Bruno Fernandes.

10. Architecture

Having a new host like Qatar meant that they had to develop a lot of infrastructure for the World Cup. The bulk of that development would’ve been stadia. For a desert clime like Qatar, that means overcoming some great engineering challenges be it importing grass, air-conditioned stadia, or something like Stadium 974 which is a fully demountable covered stadium built from shipping containers! Like technology, it’s amazing how many adjacent developments a sporting event inspires.

11. Environmentalism and football make great companions

A great sight for me was the Save the Planet armbands. Football is a global game. Climate change and the associated issues of habitat destruction and environmental degradation are global crises. The environment is a maximally inclusive cause, going beyond humans even to animals, fish and flora. The Beautiful Game uniting us for a worthwhile cause. A great match!



TotalFootball - the thinker's guide to the Beautiful Game

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