The 2022 World Cup has been a controversial subject for a few years now, and will only become more so as more people call upon FIFA to change the location from Qatar. But here’s a sub-topic that came up in discussion last night, and I haven’t seen too much on it yet.
As host country, Qatar gets an automatic bid to the tournament, the same way Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Korea & Japan, France, the USA and Italy did, going back to 1990. Now, most of those teams were WC regulars or had at least been to a Finals before, so it was no big deal.
But we’re in uncharted waters, er desert, with Qatar. Let’s look at the Qatar National Team and some World Cup history.
- Qatar is currently ranked #100 by FIFA. For comparison that is between Zimbabwe (99) and Moldova (101).
- The lowest ranked team at the 2014 World Cup was Australia at #62. Australia went 0-0-3, scoring 3 goals and giving up 9 to the Netherlands, Chile and Spain. The next lowest seeded teams were Korea (57), Cameroon (56), Japan (46), Nigeria (44) and Iran (43). Those teams combined to go (1-4-11) with a Minus 18 Goal Differential. (Note: Iran and Nigeria tied each other so if you pull those games out the 5 teams went 1-2-11.)
- In the history of the World Cup, the host nation with the worst ranking was South Africa in 2010. South Africa tied Mexico 1-1, got drubbed by Uruguay 3-0 and finished by beating a French team that had sent some of its players and a coach home early, 2-1.
- In 2014 World Cup qualifying, Qatar was ranked as the #8 Asian team, and survived a 3rd round group of Bahrain (5 ), Iran (7) and Indonesia (24.) Their record of 2-4-0 netted them 10 points to finish 2nd behind Iran (3-3-0), and advanced them to the 4th round, eliminating the favored Bahrain (2-3-1) in the process. In the 4th round, they finished out of contention in 4th place (at 2-1-5) behind Iran (7), South Korea (2) and Uzbekistan (9), and ahead of Lebanon (20.)
So what might happen in the next 8 years? Is it conceivable that a country investing Billions into hosting a World Cup might also invest in strengthening their National team? Could money talk and lure some of the top 14-18 year-olds in Asia and Africa to train in a newly developed Qatar Football Training Facility? Could Qatar become close to par with the top Asian Football squads – Japan, South Korea and Australia?
Perhaps. My friend Alex posits that Qatar will simply pay their Group Stage competitors not to drub them too badly. Give them $1MM for a 3-0 loss, $500k for a 4-0 loss and nothing for 5-0 or worse.
But barring a miracle, it seems that Group A in 2022 will be wide open, with all the other teams being assured an easy win over Qatar, and it could be important how much they win the game by. It’s also conceivable that we’ll see the worst showing ever by a World Cup Finals team.