What you need to know:
- Many of the migrant workers in Doha have shown their preference for Argentina and Brazil, who are on course to win the coveted world title.
- Qataris are putting up a great show and after all the bad press about human and workers’ rights the talking that matters now will be done on the pitch.
This World Cup has thus far been breath-taking for the players, journalists and millions of fans watching live in the stadiums and on television around the world.
After the opening day match between hosts Qatar and the Netherlands, it has been four-match, non-stop action every day until yesterday when the group matches ended.
After 48 packed fixtures, teams hurtle into the round of 16 starting on Saturday until Tuesday when the world football spectacle takes its first break.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup has been as compact as they get and with record audiences.
With stadiums within a 35km radius of central Doha, it has been possible to cover two matches in a day for journalists and for fans to attend the same number of ties.
Msheireb, the central station in the Doha Metro in the Qatari capital city where passengers can connect to the three main lines of the underground rail system, has been a melting point of exuberant foreign fans and locals as they head or come from stadiums and fan zones.
The Doha Metro line forms the main artery of the transport systems for the World Cup with five match venues directly connected to the railway.
In the first five days of the competition 940,513 fans used public buses to travel to venues according to Mowasalt, the government owned mass-transport company which noted that it had recorded a significant increase in users.
Organisers have even provided for shuttle buses between venues.
Last Friday, 903 aircraft movements, that is an average of one plane every one and a half minutes, were recorded at Hamad International Airport and Doha International Airport, as football fans flew in and out of Qatar.
Many fans have lauded the hospitality of the Qatari people while marveling at the facilities.
“I would not have known of Qatar had it not been for the World Cup. The people are friendly, the facilities good. The beauty is that it is not crowded and you can easily get around. This has been a good tournament despite our early exit,” said Mexican visitor Jesus Flola Garduno.
“The metro service provides easy access to the places where we want to go and the staff serve us well and give tips,” Canadian visitor San Ketheswarnthan told the Gulf News.
Some Qataris have even opened their camps and majlises (sitting rooms) to World Cup fans to enlighten them on Arab values, customs, traditions and cultural heritage.
On the pitch, the remarkable memories of Qatar 2022 are already being written even before the knock-out stages.
Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina 2-1 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history and even before fans had recovered, a very dangerous looking Japan fell giants Germany 2-1.
The drama continued with the mighty Germans, four-time world champions, failing to make it out of the group for the second consecutive World Cup, while the famed and fancied golden generation of Belgium, semi-finalists in 2018, also booking an early plane home.
Africa did not have a single representative in the round of 16 four years ago, but were guaranteed two places in Qatar after Senegal minus this year’s Ballon d’Or runner up Sadio Mane, and Morocco, powered by the excellent Hakim Ziyech, went through to the knockouts in assured fashion.
Cameroon and Ghana are due to fight out their cases for advancement Friday evening.
“Morocco’s victory is a victory for the Arab world,” Lebanese journalist Khalid Nasser proclaimed with feelings.
Many of the migrant workers in Doha have shown their preference for Argentina and Brazil, who are on course to win the coveted world title.
Qataris are putting up a great show and after all the bad press about human and workers’ rights the talking that matters now will be done on the pitch.
The group stage results indicate this could be anyone’s World Cup.