Wednesday, Oct. 04, 2023|
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GENEVA — FIFA has formally moved the World Cup start up by one day to give host nation Qatar an exclusive Sunday evening slot with a global audience.
Qatar will now play Ecuador in Doha on Nov. 20 — just 101 days after FIFA’s decision Thursday — stretching the World Cup to 29 days from the 28 agreed seven years ago when a June-July tournament was pushed back to avoid the searing desert heat in midsummer.
The surprise late switch was signed off by a FIFA committee comprising its president Gianni Infantino and presidents of the six continental soccer bodies. FIFA said the vote was unanimous.
The plan was revealed Wednesday after several rounds of ticket sales to fans worldwide since last year.
“FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from this change in a case-by-case basis,” soccer’s world body said Thursday regarding fans whose travel plans are affected.
The risk to fans “is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially, FIFA previously said this week in a letter to soccer officials proposing the switch.
The date change was said to be supported by tournament organizers in the tiny gas-rich emirate, South American soccer body CONMEBOL and the two teams’ national soccer federations.
Qatar will now make its World Cup debut kicking off against Ecuador at 7 p.m. local time on Nov. 20 after an opening ceremony on the field at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The meeting of the world’s No. 49 and No. 44-ranked men’s national teams was originally scheduled 24 hours later on Nov. 21 after the finals tournament draw was made April 1 in Doha.
In the original schedule, the opening ceremony was still planned to take place before Qatar-Ecuador despite it being the third game of the tournament, and with just an hour of free time after the final whistle of the second game on the schedule, England vs. Iran.
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