The 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup gets underway Sunday, Nov. 20, in Qatar ahead of a month in which 32 teams will compete for international football’s biggest prize.
The tournament’s 22nd edition is being contested in the Middle East for the first time and, in keeping with World Cup traditions, the host nation will line up in the opening match.
Controversy over human rights and infrastructure have shrouded the tournament since Qatar was named as the host, and FIFA is urging spectators to focus on the football as the action begins.
Brazil, Argentina and France are among the nations expected to reach the latter stages of the competition, which is being played in November and December rather than June and July in order to protect players from the extreme temperatures that affect Qatar in the middle of the year.
The Sporting News brings you all the details of what to expect from the first match at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
MORE: Complete FIFA World Cup 2022 schedule
When is the first game of the World Cup?
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will begin Sunday, Nov. 20, as host nation Qatar play Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
The match will kick off at 7 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET / 4 p.m. GMT) following a FIFA change to the World Cup schedule.
The tournament originally was scheduled to kick off on Monday Nov. 21, with Senegal vs. the Netherlands selected as the first match when the fixtures were first announced in April 2022.
However, FIFA stepped in three months before the tournament was due to commence, announcing that Qatar would face Ecuador in the opening match, ensuring that the host nation did not miss out on the chance to play in an inaugural World Cup match on home turf.
World Cup 2022 first match
As is customary at the World Cup, the inaugural match of the 2022 edition will be preceded by an opening ceremony.
Al Bayt Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000 and a retractable roof, will provide the backdrop for an opening celebration that will introduce spectators to the tournament’s official anthem, mascot and soundtrack.
The opening ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET / 2 p.m. GMT), and will feature a performance from BTS singer and K-Pop star Jung Kook.
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Qatar vs. Ecuador inaugural match
Qatar go into their first ever match at a World Cup finals tournament hoping to impress, but the team’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez will have his work cut out against a dangerous Ecuador team.
Ecuador scored 27 goals during qualifying for the World Cup, equaling the total scored by CONMEBOL rivals Argentina, and manager Gustavo Alfaro will encourage his players to bring their direct, attacking brand of football to Qatar from the moment they kick off.
Qatar are no slouches, having won the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 and reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2021, but their vulnerabilities at the back may be exposed by an Ecuador team that scored at least one goal in eight of its last nine World Cup qualifying matches.
The two sides return to action nine days later on Tuesday, Nov. 29, when Ecuador take on Senegal and Qatar face the Netherlands.
Which stadium will host the World Cup opening match?
The 2022 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony and inaugural match will take place at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
Al Khor is 35km north of Qatar’s capital, Doha, and has been designed by architects Dar al-Handasah to resemble the traditional bayt-al shaar tent used by Qatar’s nomadic people.
Black and white horizontal stripes distinguish the exterior of the stadium, and inside there are vibrant sadu patterns.
— Road to 2022 (@roadto2022en) November 14, 2022
World Cup kickoff times
The group stage games will kick off at staggered intervals throughout the day, with the opening matches set to be played at 1 p.m. local time (5 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. GMT). There are three other kickoff times that will be utilized during the group stage, with the final window coming at 10 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT).
Up to four matches will be played each day in the group-stage period.
In the knockout stage, the kickoff times will be reduced to two main windows on any given matchday. Games in the knockout rounds will kick off at either 6 p.m. local time or 10 p.m. local time.
|USA & Canada
|Group stage only||1 p.m.||5 a.m.||10 a.m.||9 p.m.||3:30 p.m.|
|Group stage only||4 p.m.||8 a.m.||1 p.m.||12 a.m.||6:30 p.m.|
|Knockouts only||6 p.m.||10 a.m.||3 p.m.||2 a.m.||8:30 p.m.|
|Group stage only||7 p.m.||11 a.m.||4 p.m.||3 a.m.||9:30 p.m.|
|Group + Knockouts||10 p.m.||2 p.m.||7 p.m.||6 a.m.||12:30 a.m.|