FIFA, Qatar prepare for unprecedented World Cup finals draw
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A World Cup like no other in its 92-year history will take shape this week at an unprecedented tournament draw.
When FIFA and host nation Qatar stage the draw ceremony show Friday, three of the 32 entries will be placeholders because the three-year qualifying program was delayed and is still ongoing.
A once-in-a-century global health crisis and the war in Ukraine made sure of that.
It means 37 nations will be involved on Friday, including five which will ultimately not play in November when the first “winter” World Cup kicks off.
The full lineup will not be known until at least June 14, when the intercontinental playoff round ends in Qatar. That is 74 days after the draw and the same date the 2018 tournament started in Russia, which was thrown out of the final stages of qualifying this time over the invasion of Ukraine.
Maybe FIFA got lucky seven years ago by moving the 2022 tournament to November and December to avoid the searing desert heat of Qatar’s summer.
The later start created wiggle room to clear the match backlog after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out almost every national-team game outside Europe in 2020.
It has also put uncertainty on stage at the Doha Exhibition & Convention Center, where the show Friday starts at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT) and lasts one hour.
One of the balls being drawn from pot 4 of low-ranked teams will represent “Peru or Australia or the United Arab Emirates.” Another is “Ukraine or Wales or Scotland.”
So it goes at this major World Cup milestone, in perhaps its most unlikely host nation, on April 1.
Here’s a look at this unusual World Cup draw.
One sure thing is Qatar will be the top-seeded team in Group A, taking position A1 in the schedule of 64 matches in just 28 days.
The privilege is given to all host nations even when ranked No. 65 in the world, as Russia was. Qatar is currently No. 52.
Still, the 2019 Asian Cup winner is the exception among modern World Cup hosts, having never before qualified for the finals. Qatar’s debut opens the tournament on Monday, Nov. 21 at Al Bayt Stadium.
It means in the group stage Qatar avoids the world’s top-ranked teams, from Nos. 1 to 7 — Brazil, Belgium, France, Argentina, England, Spain and Portugal.
Those countries will be the next seven drawn out of top-seeded Pot 1 and allocated in turn to Groups B through H.
HOW THE SEEDING WORKS