It may be a few years into the future, but FIFA’s flagship tournament could well be impacted by the fallout of the virus
The coronavirus Covid-19 global pandemic has ground the biggest and most lucrative competitions in world football to a complete halt, with uncertainty reigning over when ‘normal service’ will resume.
Euro 2020, which was due to take place this summer, was also directly impacted as UEFA was left with little choice but to defer the tournament until 2021.
That bleak picture is replicated in South America, North America, Asia and Africa, leaving competition administrators everywhere a logistical, not to mention financial, nightmare.
However, it is not only the immediate football calendar that could be affected by the pandemic, with the ripple effect reaching into the future.
World Cup 2022 qualification schedule chaos
While it is still over two years away, World Cup 2022 in Qatar has already been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a number of qualification games getting postponed.
These postponements, along with other rearrangements to continental tournament schedules, mean that a nightmare awaits organisers trying to fit their matches into a calendar which will also include club football.
Essentially, then, the problem to contend with in order for the 2022 World Cup along with its qualification cycle to proceed in timely fashion is fixture congestion.
The South America qualifiers, featuring Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Neymar’s Brazil, were due to kick off at the end of March 2020, but CONMEBOL and FIFA decided that the first two matchdays be rearranged.
That means the first qualifiers in South America will kick off in September, should the world get the virus under some sort of control by then, and time will have to be found at a later date to fit those deferred games.
And more rejigging could possibly be necessary in 2021, with the rescheduled Copa America due to kick off just a matter of days after the early June CONMEBOL qualifiers (matchdays 11 and 12).
The Asian qualifiers for the tournament have already kicked off, but matches that were scheduled for March were pushed back, with FIFA hopeful that they will be played in June, though that timeframe is not certain.
European qualifiers are ostensibly due to get under way in March 2021, after the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League, but at least two matchdays will be moved following the deferment of the European Championship.
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When will World Cup 2022 start?
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is scheduled to begin on November 21, 2022 and it will run until December 18.
It is the first time that a World Cup has been held during this period, with the tournament normally taking place in June and July.
While the switch of date was driven by health concerns relating to the summer temperatures in Qatar and was a source of annoyance for many, it may turn out to be a useful change in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.