FIFA World Cup Format & Rules
Like a typical World Cup, the 2022 edition will also be composed of two phases: the group stage and then the knockout stage. It is similar to the format used in the UEFA Champions League. The group stage sees the 32 teams of the World Cup divided into groups of four. To divide up these teams and decide which team is paired with who, there exists an entire mechanism called the World Cup Draw. What was done here was that eight countries, including tournament hosts Qatar, were assigned the status of seeded teams and placed into eight different groups. The remaining 24 teams were then placed in different pots based on either geography or rankings, from which the groups were randomly populated. The demarcation of pots was made to avoid the possibility of too many teams from the same continent or too many strong teams being drawn together.
Once the World Cup begins and the group stage matches are wrapped, the top two teams from each group get to advance to the knockout round where the teams keep on getting eliminated till there are only two left, who contest the winner-takes-all world cup final. Whoever wins that game is crowned the world champion and etches its name in the folklore of world cup history.
Now let’s talk about the structure of the matches played. The group stage matches are ninety minutes long comprising two halves of 45 minutes plus injury time each. However, the match format changes, or rather extends, for the knockout round. Here, if the teams are tied at the expiry of the regulation 90 minutes, another 30 minutes comprising two halves of 15 minutes are granted. If the deadlock remains then it goes to penalty shootouts.
As explained above, FIFA World Cup takes place after every four years and only the worthiest countries get to participate in it. From the 200-plus nations of the world, how is it decided who’s worthy and who’s not? For that, there are rigorous qualification campaigns staged in FIFA’s continental zones. The host nation gets a direct entry into the World Cup but the rest of the 31 have to qualify.
Following the campaign for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea have qualified from the AFC region; Canada, Mexico, and United States have qualified from the CONCACAF region; Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia have qualified from the CAF region; Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay have qualified from the CONMEBOL region; while Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland have qualified from the UEFA region.
Keep in mind that three teams are still undecided and their final qualifiers will be played in June.
The draw for the 2022 World Cup has already taken place, and as a result, Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands have been placed in Group A; England, Iran, and United States are in Group B. They will be joined by one of Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine; Group C has Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland; Group D has France, Denmark, and Tunisia, with a fourth team to join them; Group E has Spain, Germany, and Japan, and they too will be joined by a fourth yet undecided team when the qualifiers end; Group F has Belgium, Canada, Morocco, and Croatia; Group G has Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon, while Group H has Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea.
The most obvious choice for the Group of Death would be Group E which features two defending champions in Spain and Germany to go with Japan, who are Asia’s best side. Group H also looks quite difficult as all four of its sides – Ghana, Portugal, South Korea, and Uruguay – are equally strong.
The World Cup 2022 Group stage will begin on November 21 and end on December 2.
Round of 16:
Once the group stage ends, the survivors face each other in the Round of 16, which also officially marks the start of the knockout round. The World Cup 2022 Round of 16 will begin on December 3 at Khalifa International Stadium and on December 6 at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Of course, we won’t be able to tell you the Round of 16 line-ups just yet as we don’t know who would make it out of the group stage.
In our opinion, the countries likely to reach this stage are the Netherlands, Senegal, England, the US, Argentina, Poland, France, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Croatia, Brazil, Serbia, Uruguay, and Portugal.
Keep in mind that this marks the beginning of the knockout stage so teams with a depth of talent, bigger lungs, and penalty specialist goalies might be able to get more out of this round.
One random fact to keep in mind is that Mexico are the side that has fallen the most during the Round of 16 stages so you better steer clear of backing them here. Germany, on the other hand, are the bosses of the Round of 16, and if they make it this far, they are almost certainly guaranteed to go to the quarter-finals.
The FIFA football World Cup 2022 quarter-final stage will begin on December 9 at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan and end on December 10 at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
The final line-up of the quarterfinalists will of course be known only once the Round of 16 concludes on December 6.
It’s still way too early to say this but perhaps a mental note can already be made of this: England are awful in the quarter-finals and have been eliminated at this stage the most number of times (8). That said, their last elimination in the quarter-finals came in 2006. They did make the semis in 2018 so maybe the curse is broken. Just to be safe though, it’s best to try and avoid them in the quarter-finals.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-final will be played over two days: December 13 and 14 in Lusail Iconic Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium. And of course, we won’t know who’s in the semi-finals until the quarter-finals are over on December 10.
Germany have lost the most number of semi-finals (5) but then they have won quite a few as well so this is not a factual nugget we want you to put a lot of thought in. However, Argentina have never lost a World Cup semi-final so if La Albiceleste make it to the final four this year, then perhaps they should warrant some of your attention.
The third-place fixture of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be a single-game affair and played on December 17 at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan. It would be played between the two losing finalists. Again, we wouldn’t know who plays this game until the second semi-final is over on December 14.
Whoever wins this game gets a place on the podium finish, while the losing side gets consigned to the fourth spot. One word of advice here is that teams do not always give their all in this fixture because if you’re playing for the third place then you’ve already been eliminated from the race for the final. Energy levels can, even if theoretically, drop while squad players who may not have featured before can also get a run in.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup final will take place on December 18 at the purpose-built Lusail Iconic Stadium. Coincidentally, the final will be played on the national day of Qatar, so it would be an extra special event for the locals. We will know who gets to contest this match when the second semi-final is over on December 14.
While South American teams bring all the flair and flashiness to the party, do remember that it’s the European nations that have made the most number of appearances (28) in World Cup finals. Three of the last four World Cups have been all-European affairs.
The favourites to be the World Cup Winner this year would be all the typical names such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and France.
The Golden Boot is awarded to the player who scores the most number of goals in a World Cup. Of course, since forwards play up the pitch and are deployed nearest to the goal, they are most likely to win the Golden Boot award.
The Golden Boot winner of the last World Cup was Harry Kane, who scored six goals in that campaign. This year, several top marksmen will be vying for this individual accolade. Kane will, of course, be in the hunt again and so will Karim Benzema, who has been in top form at the club level for France and could be leading the line for France. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski always finds the net and so also do Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Of all the heavyweights, England’s group is the easiest in our opinion and they are totally geared towards Kane so we won’t be surprised if he goes and gets himself another one of those shiny Golden Boots.