Sunday marks two weeks until World Cup kicks off in Qatar

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The World Cup kicks off on November 20 as Qatar take on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. The final will be held on December 18 at the Lusail Stadium.

Thirty-two teams will be competing to dethrone holders France, who won the 2018 World Cup in Russia, defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final.

This year’s World Cup is the first to be held in a Middle Eastern country. The tournament has been rescheduled to the northern hemisphere’s winter months to avoid the intense summer heat in Qatar.

Qatar, the smallest country to have hosted soccer’s global showpiece tournament, is preparing for an estimated 1.2 million visitors during the World Cup.

Thousands of fans are expected to stay in neighboring countries like tourism hub the United Arab Emirates and fly into Doha for matches due to limited accommodation in Qatar.

Ahead of the World Cup, Qatar has faced intense criticism from human rights groups and media over its treatment of migrant workers.

A Guardian newspaper analysis in February 2021 concluded 6 500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010 and the International Labour Organisation has said Qatar is not adequately reporting worker deaths.

A member of the World Cup organising committee said last week that Qatar acknowledges gaps in its labour system but the tournament has allowed the country to make progress on issues related to workers’ rights.

The government has denied a 2021 Amnesty report that thousands of migrant workers were still being exploited.
Sportswear company Hummel said last week that the kit Denmark will wear at the World Cup was designed as a protest against Qatar’s human rights record.

World Cup holders France have a long list of injuries that coach Didier Deschamps must take into consideration over the next few days although the preliminary list is long enough to include players in a race against time to be fit for Qatar.

The number of players in the final World Cup squads have been increased by three, from 23 to 26, for the tournament in Qatar.

FIFA said in June the decision to expand squads was made “given the need to retain additional flexibility due to the unique timing” of this year’s competition, which will interrupt the European club season.