Qatar World Cup with difference

The name Qatar, for many years to come, will be memorably engrained in the minds of thou­sands of people who trooped to the gorgeously beautiful, oil-rich country to catch the 22nd edition of the World Cup.

For the naysayers who told the world that Qatar was not capable of hosting the Mundial, must be eating humble pie and bowing their heads in shame by now.

Indeed, hordes of messages have decanted from the world over eulogizing Qatar’s supreme organization of a World Cup that cost the country a staggering $220 billion – by far the most lavishly expensive Mundial in the history of the tournament.

This figure, though, is disput­ed by Qatari officials, including organising CEO Nasser Al Khater, who said the true cost is $8 billion – and other figures relate to overall infrastructure development since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010.

Ahead of the historic spectacle – the first to be in the Arab world in the Middle East, there were a plethora of mudslinging cam­paigns, especially coming from the West – targeting the Qatar World Cup. Gamely, the country under the leadership of His Highness the Amir of the State of Qatar – Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has succeeded in responding fiercely to the distorted campaigns through its fabulous organization and finesse.

It certainly should be a source of pride to the Gulf region, Arabs and Mos­lems all over the world.

Right from the strikingly-rich, eye-catching Hamad Interna­tional Airport to the eight spangling air-conditioned football stadia, the meticulous­ly-recruited ever-welcoming team of volunteers, efficient metros, general transportation, traffic man­agement as well as safety and secu­rity among others, Qatar strongly demonstrated it was a country that had prepared adequately to host a World Cup that the world would never ever forget.

Undeniably, the bar of excel­lence has been elevated to such heights that the next joint hosts – USA, Canada and Mexico – irre­spective of their numbers, must get down to brass tacks now, if they really want to match what the world is witnessing in Qatar.

The Qatar national football team (The Maroon ) may not have won a game in Group A where they were permed alongside the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador, but proved copiously that in a few years, they could mold a quality that should be able to rock shoul­ders with the best in the world.

The 32-nation Qatar tourna­ment is set to be the last with the field to increase to 48 teams for the 2026 edition.


Football’s highest governing body, FIFA, has claimed that the tournament in the Gulf Nation is already delivering record-breaking audience across the globe.

In the United States, the cover­age of the national team’s encoun­ter against England amassed the record of the most watched men’s soccer match ever in the country with a peak audience of 19.65 million view­ers on FOX.

Also, NBC Universal’s Spanish language coverage Telemundo of the same match was the second watched World Cup group stage encounter in Spanish language history.

In neighboring Mexico, the national side’s group stage clash against Argentina saw national audience of 20.96 million viewers.

This accounted for a 67.9 per cent share across all broadcasting channels which was significantly higher than any televised match from the World Cup held in Russia in 2018.

A similar pattern was observed in Europe garnering staggering numbers in viewership.

More than 11.9 million viewers tuned in for the 1-1 draw between Spain and Germany, in what was arguably the most anticipated clash in the group stages.

Over 36.37 million viewers tuned in for Japan’s narrow 1-0 loss to Costa Rica after the Asian side had shocked Germany 2-1 in their opening match. This was 74 per cent higher than the average group stage audience during the World Cup from four years back.

In South Korea, too, 11.14 mil­lion people watched the 0-0 draw Uruguay. This was a staggering 97 per cent increase in audience com­pared to group stage matches at Brazil 2014 and 18 per cent higher Russia 2018.


The FIFA World Cup has seen a number of huge upsets in its 92-year-old history, often involving countries that would be considered minnows recording unexpected results against power-houses from the sport’s traditional heartlands of Europe and the South Americas.

Just like many football tourna­ments, the Qatar World Cup has been characterized by loads of stunning results that experts of the game are still struggling to find answers to.

Leading the pack, arguably, is Morocco, who became the first African team to break into the last four after upstaging Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side 1-0 in the quarters. The African Pride, Atlas Lions – as they are called, put up a superlative performance to beat Belgium 2-0 at the group stage, topping Group F and proceeding as far as knocking out favourites Spain 3-0 on penalty shoot-out at the 1/16th stage to qualify for the quarter finals.

Previously, Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) as African teams to have made it to the last eight in the history of the tournament; now Morocco has broken that ceiling and could go a step higher to the final if they are able to find a way around defend­ing champions France tomorrow.

We also saw Tunisia lick defend­ing champions France 1-0; Cam­eroon stunned five-time winners Brazil by the same scoreline (1-0) to become the first African country to pluck that feat. South Korea also beat Portugal 2-1 with Japan upstaging four-time champions Germany 1-0 to qualify for the next stage – the Germans being eliminated in the first round – same fate they suffered in Russia four years ago.

In a dramatic underdog come­back performance, Saudi Arabia fought from behind to stun two-time winners Argentina 2-1 in the group stages. It was Argentina’s first loss in three years – having last been defeated by Brazil in the 2019 Copa America semis.

Though not a surprise, Senegal made it to the Round of 16 by defeating Ecuador 2-1 in Group A before being hammered by England 3-0, preventing them from reenacting their 2002 performance.

Last Friday night also witnessed a stunner when Croatia dispatched pre-tournament favourites – Brazil, via the lottery of penalty shoot-out after an entertaining 1-1 draw in extra time, an upshot that left the Samba boys in interminable tears.


Though they were the low­est-ranked in the campaign, Gha­na’s Black Stars were still expected to take the tournament by storm and leave out a huge legacy.

• Kudus – Showcased his talent
at the Qatar World Cup

The Stars, 2010 quarter-finalists, rolled off their Qatar adventure with a fighting 2-3 loss to Portugal, but bounced back gamely to beat South Korea 3-2 before capitu­lating 2-0 to old foes Uruguay. Uruguay’s loss really surprised most foreign nationals as well as Qataris, who never masked their support for Ghana.

In all the games that Ghana contested, the football-loving Qa­taris trooped to the stadium in their thousands – and even predicted the Stars could go beyond the quar­ter-final feat they chalked 12 years ago. Wrong!

Principally, what let the team down was not the shortage of desire or passion. They players were shot down by their own lack of mental fortitude and character – and to some extent inexperience. This was evidenced when Skipper Andre Dede Ayew blew off the penalty against Uruguay that could have put them in the lead.

Interestingly, they were overly affected by that miss and the entire team was blown into the abyss. If they had put it behind them and refocused on the bigger picture of paying back Uruguay in their coin for the sins of the 2010 World Cup where Luis Suarez hand-scooped a goal-bound ball from the net to cost them a semi-final berth, their approach would have been far different.

A successive first round exit at the Mundial (after Brazil 2014) is not a good story to tell.


Providentially, Ghana’s team is chock-full with a constellation of young, vivacious talents which makes the future very bright for the country. However, it would take a lot of sweat underpinned by clairvoyance, meticulous planning, dedication and valour to be able to get to the desired destination.


The journey to retrace the glori­ous, halcyon era must start now. We have marched to the drawing board several times after major tourna­ment disappointments; but have no choice than to dash there again. This time, however, we must not do the same thing that continues to give the nation horrible results. In all these, honesty and selflessness are the key drivers.

The nation must always come first – everything else is second!


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