September 30, 2022

FIFA officially moved the opening game of this year’s World Cup by one day to November 20 on Thursday in a rare schedule change, allowing hosts Qatar to play a part in the gala match.

Football’s ruling executive has universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement, while Qatar said it would provide unspecified assistance to fans affected by the change.

On the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador would be the official inauguration game on November 21, but Senegal against the Netherlands would be the first game of the day. England against Iran would have been second.

Host nation Qatar will now face Ecuador on Sunday, November 20 as part of a standalone event,” FIFA said.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken today by the FIFA Council office.”

“The change ensures the continuity of a long tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony to mark the first game with either the hosts or the defending champions,” FIFA added.

Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has been moved from November 21 at 1:00 PM (1000 GMT) to a start at 7:00 PM. There is no change in Group B’s opening game against Iran.

The Qatari organizers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, immediately welcomed FIFA’s gesture.

“Opening the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East and the Arab world is a unique opportunity for Qatar,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

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“The world will watch as our proud nation kicks off the biggest sporting event in the world against Ecuador.

“The impact of this decision on fans has been assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” she added without giving details.

Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed. The 100-day countdown to the opening game now starts on Friday, instead of Saturday.

The decision was also announced when Qatar hosted its first official match at the Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final on December 18.

In front of more than 10,000 fans, and with players awash in air conditioning to fend off the stifling summer heat, Al Arabi defeated Al Rayyan in Qatar’s championship.

(AFP)