Home field at World Cup 2022 officially belongs to Qatar. Yet, like African nations in 2010, other countries may feel a sense of belonging at this World Cup in particular.
Nations at the World Cup from CAF, AFC and OFC are closer geographically and culturally to Qatar. Despite FIFA’s wishes for this World Cup to be inclusive, some countries express concerns over the tournament.
Regardless, the innate familiarity with the climate could give a physiological advantage to nations closer to Qatar’s topography. Therein lies the concept of ‘home-field advantage’ at this year’s World Cup. Roaring regional crowds subconsciously sway referees in favor of the home team. Inadvertent calls may play in their favor.
Then, take into account things like territorial influences and jetlag spawned by traveling. These factors cause delays in adapting to the environment. This year, that comes from teams in UEFA, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.
Let’s start, however, with the biggest talking point surrounding this year’s tournament. The largest complaint when it comes to home-field advantage at World Cup 2022 is that not all fans are necessarily welcome. In FIFA’s defense, it claims that all fans are welcome, but it comes up well short in support of LGBTQ+ fans wanting to watch their nation.
Qatar does not offer the freewheeling atmosphere westerners typically receive from a host nation. Instead, weather and societal differences play a massive factor for ‘away teams.’ This applies not only to Qatar, but also the neighboring countries. Not to mention the significance of team chemistry. Players group up inside hotels for several weeks before the tournament begins.
Most certainly, for the fans, Qatar 2022 differs from years prior. It is not a tropical party in the rainforest like Brazil 2014. Nor is it the beer festival from Germany 2006. Rather, Qatar 2022 will go down in history as a conservative World Cup in the desert.
In theory, African, Asian, and Oceanic teams transition smoothly as they dwell into Qatar. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are not far from the small nation of Qatar.
Even then, players in Australia, Japan and South Korea have experience playing in Qatar. At the international level, this is one of the teams in the AFC confederation. World Cup Qualifying and the AFC Asian Cup are reasons for recent visits to the country. At club level, same applies.
Moreover, teams like South Korea and Japan will be quickly accustomed to the tiny nation along the Persian Gulf since they have performed in several matches during previous AFC Cups and FIFA qualifications.
Historically, nations that host the World Cup exude success. All eight countries to lay claim to winning a World Cup hosted the event. This year, FIFA expanded its horizons by granting a World Cup to the smallest country in the tournament’s illustrious history.
Switzerland, Sweden and Chile were underdog nations when they hosted in 1954, 1958 and 1962, respectively. At those tournaments, each nation boosted its performances in the World Cup and soccer in general.
For example, Switzerland placed as quarterfinalists in 1954. Then, Sweden was runners-up in 1958 – bested by Pelé’s Brazil in the final match. Finally, Chile placed a respectable third as semifinalists in 1962.
Moreover, the USMNT advanced to the Round of 16 in 1994. Four years later, France won their 1st World Cup as host nation in 1998. Then, in 2002, South Korea and Japan’s de facto wins led them to the Semifinal and round of 16, respectively. Most recently, the 2018 edition saw the now-suspended Russia reach the quarterfinals and lose to Croatia on penalties.
Undoubtedly, the adrenaline piercing through the field from their roaring home crowds increased the players’ heart rates generating momentum and making them formidable teams. Qatar hopes that home field advantage kicks in for World Cup 2022.
However, the multitude of fans flooding the small nation come from many of its neighbors.
Home Cooked Meals
A significant portion of the 1.8 million ticketholders flocking to Qatar come from Saudi Arabia, India and the UAE. Moreover, with the Qatari government mandating strict laws, in conjunction with sanctimonious decrees, it remains to be seen whether these ‘home games’ in the Middle East hinder the performances of other nations seeking glory.
Nonetheless, Qatar’s World Cup means strictly business. Though these circumstances inconvenience fans seeking a freewheeling atmosphere, they may or may not spawn a beneficial outcome for the beautiful game. The Qatari government intends to monitor the environment to suit fundamentalist ideologies strictly. Consequently, the 2022 FIFA World Cup could produce matches the world has never seen.
Indeed, it was a controversial situation in 2002 when officials for South Korea matches were playing to the crowd. Finally, Michael Ballack’s German side broke through that barrier by overthrowing South Korea, whose de facto advancement to the semis was the subject of global scrutiny.
The onus will be on FIFA for fair play when the World Cup kicks off on November 21.
PHOTO No. 1: David Ramos/Getty Images
PHOTO No. 2: Nikku/Xinhua via Getty Images
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