On Sunday, Qatar will become the smallest country and the first Middle Eastern country to ever host what is considered one of the world’s greatest sporting events – the FIFA World Cup.
Thirty-two teams will take part in 64 matches over 29 days and league play around the world has paused – with soccer’s focus solely on Qatar.
Here are a few things to watch when group games get going:
Brazil (No. 1 in FIFA ranking). Neymar, Vinícius Júnior and the rest of the flair-filled team are peaking at the right time. The big question is whether a first World Cup title since 2002 is on the horizon?
Brazil will open their World Cup campaign against Serbia on Nov. 24
Belgium (No. 2 in FIFA ranking). The “Golden Generation” is gradually breaking up but there’s still Kevin De Bruyne leading the Belgian charge. There is doubt about the fitness of Romelu Lukaku, however.
Argentina (No. 3 in FIFA ranking). No World Cup title since the days of the great Diego Maradona. This will be the first World Cup since his death in November 2020 and Argentina has improved under coach Lionel Scaloni, with Messi still at its core and leading the team on a 35-match unbeaten run.
Argentina is one of the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup.
France (No. 4 in FIFA ranking). The defending champions. Still the country with the most depth to its squad, despite an injury list that includes Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Now with Mbappé and Karim Benzema leading the attack. No team has retained its World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.
England (No. 5 in FIFA ranking). The team has hit a bad patch of form — winless in six games — but has a strong track record in recent major tournaments. England was a semifinalist at the World Cup in 2018 and a finalist at the European Championship in 2021.
England was a semifinalist at the World Cup in 2018.
Lionel Messi, Argentina. The seven-time world player of the year might have been saving his 35-year-old legs for one last push at a World Cup winner’s medal that, to many, would solidify him as soccer’s greatest player. He is in stellar form for Paris Saint-Germain at the moment.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal. He has won the European Championship but the leading scorer in men’s international soccer hasn’t played in a World Cup final, let alone won one. He’s 37 years old now and no longer first choice at Manchester United.
Kylian Mbappé, France. The star of the last World Cup at the age of 19 and he is only getting better. The speedy striker could match Brazil great Pelé in being a champion at his first two World Cups.
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium. Widely regarded as the world’s best midfielder, his driving runs and crossing are among the best sights in soccer. Belgium will be thankful he is arriving in Qatar healthy.
HOW IT WORKS
There are eight groups of four teams, with the top two advancing to the 16-team knockout stage.
There will be four games back-to-back per day — for most of the first two sets of group games, then simultaneous kickoffs for the last two games in each group.
There’ll be no break for the knockout stage, which begins the day after the group stage ends. The first day without a match comes on Dec. 7 — the 17th day of competition.
MUST SEE GAMES
Qatar vs. Ecuador, Sunday. The first match of the tournament and always a date to save on the calendar.
Argentina vs. Mexico, Nov. 26. The first of the big continental rivalries in the group stage, with Messi potentially sealing his and Argentina’s spot in the last 16.
Spain vs. Germany, Nov. 27. Surely there can’t have been many bigger group-stage matches than this at a World Cup? Two recent champions, two giants of European and world soccer.
Iran vs. United States, Nov. 29. It has been labeled as “The Mother of All Games Part II.” Just like at the World Cup in 1998, the two countries will meet in the group stage in a politically charged matchup. Diplomatic relations have yet to be restored between the nations since being severed in 1980.
Ghana vs. Uruguay, Dec. 2. Anyone remember the night of July 2, 2010? In the last minute of extra time in a World Cup quarterfinal match between Uruguay and Ghana, Luis Suarez deliberately stopped the ball with his hand on the goalline, got sent off, only for Ghana to miss the penalty and lose in a shootout as Suarez celebrated on the sideline. Revenge would be sweet for Ghana.
Injuries have hit some of the world’s best players ahead of the tournament.
Among those definitely missing are France midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, Germany forward Timo Werner and England defender Reece James.
Thanks to Ariana Television Network, Afghan football fans will share in this extravaganza as matches will be broadcast live throughout the tournament.
All you have to do is tune in to Ariana Television to get the live coverage of one of the world’s greatest sporting events.
For the full broadcasting schedule CLICK HERE
ILT20: Sharjah Warriors match against Dubai Capitals rained out
Rain forced the Sharjah Warriors vs Dubai Capitals to match in the ongoing ILT20 to be called off after five overs of play at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, in the UAE on Thursday night.
Dubai Capitals were 17 for 4 in five overs when heavy downpour ended the 17th match of the ILT20. As a result, both teams shared one point each.
Sharjah Warriors had won the toss and elected to bowl after a delayed start due to rain. The match started at 7.15pm (UAE time) as a 19 over contest after an hour and 15 minutes of delay from the scheduled start.
Sharjah’s medium pacer Naveen-ul-Haq, fresh from this five-wicket haul in the last match against Gulf Giants, bowled a tight first over giving away just one run.
UAE’s Junaid Siddiqui struck in the second over, bowling out opener Hazratullah Zazai for 1 with the fifth ball and trapping Bhanuka Rajapaksa leg before with the next delivery. When Naveen also had opener Daniel Lawrence play into the hands of Joe Denly at mid-off, Dubai Capitals were tottering at 8 for 3.
The mantle of lifting the team out of trouble fell on skipper Rovman Powell and Dasun Shanaka. Powell hit the first boundary of the innings steering Naveen past point.
Junaid bowled a brilliant fourth over giving away just four runs while Naveen struck again in the fifth over to force Shanaka to edge to wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz for 2. At 17 for 4 in five overs, rain returned and forced the umpires to call off the match.
Sharjah Warriors will remain in fourth position with five points from six matches while Dubai Capitals are at the fifth spot with five points from six matches due to a lesser run-run rate.
“The feeling in the camp is pretty good. The guys are still upbeat about their chances in our next game. It’s just unfortunate that the weather took precedence today. But such is the nature of the sport we play,” said Dubai Capitals captain Rovman Powell after the match was called off.
“We had a super start. But you can’t control the weather. Unfortunately, the rain got the better of us. We can take a lot from how we started. Junaid and Naveen were absolutely fantastic with the new ball today,” said Sharjah Warriors’ Joe Denly.
Desert Vipers secure 7 wicket win against MI Emirates
Alex Hales and Sherfane Rutherford’s sparkling unbeaten half centuries and skipper Colin Munro’s cameo knock carried Desert Vipers past MI Emirates in the 15th match of the DP World ILT20 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Tuesday night.
Desert Vipers, through a fine display of intelligent bowling, had also restricted MI Emirates to 169 for 5 despite half centuries from Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran.
Hales hit an unbeaten 62 runs off 44 balls with six boundaries and two sixes while Sherfane Rutherford scored a breezy unbeaten 56 off 29 balls with four boundaries and three sixes to put on an unbeaten 94 off 52 balls for the fourth wicket.
Desert Vipers’ skipper Colin Munro set the momentum through a fine knock of 41 runs off 22 balls with four boundaries and three sixes.
Speaking about their performance Desert Vipers’ Sherfane Rutherford said: “I want to keep things simple and just watch the ball. I was just trying to react to the ball. The key was just to use the pace and that worked for me.”
Meanwhile, MI Emirates’ Trent Boult said: “It becomes easier to bat on in the second innings here. I thought they played extremely well. They timed their innings quite nicely. That’s a luxury when you’re chasing 170.”
Rashid Khan takes 500 wickets in T20 cricket
Rashid Khan has completed 500 wickets in T20 cricket – only the second bowler after Dwayne Bravo to reach this landmark.
Bravo has taken 614 wickets at an average of 24.13 in 556 matches.
On the other hand, Rashid completed his 500-wicket mark in 371 games. He took the scalps at an average of 18.10 and an economy of 6.30.
Afghanistan ace spinner has 4 five-wicket hauls and 9 four-wicket hauls in his career.
He is currently leading MI Cape Town in the ongoing SA20 league. He took three wickets against the Pretoria Capitals to enter the record books.
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