DOHA (AFP) - Qatar will finally get their home World Cup under way on Sunday, 12 years after the nation’s successful bid put into motion wide-ranging preparations which cost billions of dollars.
It is widely accepted the Persian Gulf state has spent $200 billion on hosting football’s biggest event and Qatar will get its first glimpse at the final product at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor when the hosts take on Ecuador.
Organizers say that 2.9 million of the 3.1 million tickets have been sold and they will be expecting a 60,000 sell-out on Sunday.
The home team’s players have also been preparing tirelessly, spending months outside Qatar in isolated training camps, in an attempt to reach the knockout phase on their World Cup debut.
The Group A match, which was moved forward from Monday to allow Qatar to play in the opening game, will be an acid test for the hosts both on and off the pitch.
FIFA and the tournament organizers will be hoping the kick-off can help put several controversies in the shade.
Qatar has faced criticism over its human rights record and the environmental fallout from holding the event.
Qatar will be wary of following the dozen years of work and spending with the embarrassment of becoming only the second host country to crash out in the first round.
Qatar have improved on the pitch since winning the World Cup bid, beating Japan in the 2019 Asian Cup final and finishing third in the Arab Cup last year.