How Ecuador Spoiled Qatar’s Party in Opener

After a celebratory opening ceremony that was years in the making, Qatar and its fans wound up with little to cheer in a one-sided defeat.

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Qatar

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Ecuador
Scenes From the World Cup
  1. Al Khor, Qatar
    Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
  2. Al Khor, QatarEcuador players celebrate.
    Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  3. Al Khor, QatarQatar's Mohammed Muntari reacts after missing a shot.
    Noushad Thekkayil/EPA, via Shutterstock
  4. Al Khor, QatarEcuador's Michael Estrada competes for the ball.
    Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
  5. Al Khor, QatarEcuador supporters at Al Bayt Stadium.
    Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
  6. Al Khor, QatarAl Bayt Stadium during the second half.
    Molly Darlington/Reuters
  7. Doha, QatarFans watch the first half in a fan zone.
    Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  8. Al Khor, QatarEcuador’s Enner Valencia scores his second goal.
    Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
  9. Al Khor, QatarQatar's Bassam Alrawi in the first half.
    Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock
  10. Al Khor, QatarQatar's Saad Al-Sheeb reacts in the first half.
    Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
  11. Al Khor, QatarEcuador's Enner Valencia in the first half.
    Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
  12. Al Khor, QatarThe teams line up before the match.
    Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Follow live coverage of Argentina vs. Mexico and the latest World Cup standings.

Rory Smith

Reporting from Qatar

Qatar embraced its big moment, but didn’t like the ending.

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Credit...Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

AL KHOR, Qatar — The highway stretches out into nowhere, its surface pristine, the soaring glass spires of Doha slowly receding in the distance. It passes the ghost city of Lusail, its cranes standing motionless in the desert air. For miles, there is nothing but asphalt and sand and sky, the horizon broken only by the colossal outline of the Al Bayt Stadium.

All day, fans had streamed toward it, choking the road with traffic, filling the cavalcade of buses that awaited them as they disembarked from Qatar’s box-fresh subway system, as if the stadium itself, an oasis of presence in a landscape defined by absence, exerted a kind of magnetism.

They came with flags wrapped around their waists and draped over their shoulders, with their faces painted and their jerseys proudly on display, a vision of international amity: not just Qataris and Ecuadoreans but Uruguayans and Brazilians and Mexicans and Ghanaians, too, all strolling through the perfect, artificial lawns that surround the stadium, meandering past babbling streams, leisure ponds lined with paddle boats and flocks of quite confused geese.

The fans had been waiting for this moment for some time. Qatar, on the other hand, has spent more than a decade actively generating it. The country has been planning for it, mapping it out, making sure every last aspect of it was just to its taste for 12 years, regardless of the cold, hard cost. It has committed somewhere in the region of $220 billion manifesting it, constructing not only stadiums and skyscrapers but entire cities and transport systems out of whole cloth to make it a reality.

And now, at last, it was here, the last word in Qatar’s attempt to announce itself to the world, to showcase all that it could do, all that it could build. Not just the stadium, its roof designed to look like a Bedouin tent, but the opening ceremony, too, something that is usually a reasonably subdued affair now transformed into a spectacular.

The show started with a homily to unity from Morgan Freeman — albeit one that included at least one or two pointed lines, seemingly directed at this tournament’s critics in Europe and North America — taking in the sweep of World Cup history and culminating with a new song by Jung Kook, the K-pop star who was, by several orders of magnitude, the most famous person in the stadium.

Qatar’s Emir, the man who was there right at the start of the project, brought all of the preparation to a close, welcoming all of the world to Qatar — “people of different races, faiths and orientations” — for an event being staged, he said, “for the good of all humanity.” The sentiment was rousing. The display was breathtaking. The applause was rapturous. This was Qatar’s fantasy, made flesh.

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Credit...Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Then the soccer started.

Qatar’s project to build a team for this World Cup has paled in comparison and in cost to the rest of the country’s expenditure on the tournament. That should be no surprise: The purpose of this World Cup, after all, is not for the country to prove that it is a genuine sporting power. In its own way, though, its soccer preparations have been no less ambitious, no less extraordinary.

The country’s authorities had not only invested in some of the most advanced training facilities on the planet, ones that have become a constant port of call for teams from across the globe. They had embarked, too, on a global search to identify and train talent, building a network of academies in Africa, in particular.

At one point, Qatar invested in European club teams to provide the brightest prospects from its vast farm system with a taste of elite competition. It recruited expert coaches from the most revered youth academies and tasked them with teaching Qatari players the most sophisticated, most cutting-edge styles of soccer.

It had done it all with not just this tournament in mind, but this game, this single moment. This was its chance to prove that Qatar could at least match Europe and the rest of the world at their own game, that it could no less find a shortcut to success in sport as it can in almost every other field. This was not just the crescendo. This was the point.

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Credit...Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

And at the very moment that it arrived, when everything else was perfect, Qatar froze. Félix Sánchez, the country’s Spanish coach, has enjoyed no little success in his time in charge. In 2019, his team was crowned champion of Asia. It has competed, and emerged with some credit, from encounters with teams of similar standard and perhaps even more glamour than Ecuador.

Here at the World Cup, though, when it mattered, Qatar seemed overwhelmed: by the stage, by the pressure, by the weight of it all, by some combination of the three. Ecuador might have taken the lead after 158 seconds, through Enner Valencia, a veteran forward seeing out his career in Turkey, only to have the goal ruled out by the video assistant referee. The reprieve did not last. Valencia won and scored a penalty after 16 minutes, then scored again after a little more than half an hour.

Qatar could barely muster a response. The crowd fell silent, the only noise coming from the massed ranks of jubilant Ecuadoreans and a lone group of a few hundred fans behind one goal, all of them clad in uniform burgundy T-shirts, many of them with more tattoos than the average Qatari, their songs and their movements choreographed and obviously practiced.

They sang constantly, their loyalty to the Qatari cause admirably unyielding and apparently unaffected by events, their sound so detached from context that it retained no meaning, no significance.

The rest of the crowd, though, slowly began to drift away. After halftime, thousands of fans did not return to their seats. As the second half rolled to its inevitable conclusion — Ecuador comfortable, content to coast in low power mode — more and more followed them, those sections of the stadium not dominated by South Americans now not only pockmarked with vast tracts of empty seats.

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Credit...Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

Outside, those Qataris who had been drawn out here to the stadium in the desert were starting to make their journey away from it, leaving behind the oasis and striking out, on that pristine surface, into the asphalt and the sand and the sky. They headed toward once more to the shimmering city by the bay, a place designed to look as fantastical as possible, a place where everything has been done to ensure that cold reality does not intrude.

Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 12:52 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

In the second half, many Qataris have seen enough.

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Credit...Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands of Qatari fans had left their seats by the middle of the second half of Sunday’s World Cup opener, heading for the exits even as their team was struggling to find a way to overturn a 2-0 halftime deficit.

Patches of red seats were clearly visible around the stadium where earlier men in pristine white thobes and women in black abayas had once been sitting. Outside the stadium, Ahmed al Moslemani and his friend Abdulaziz Al Ashgar were among those who called it a night early; they had headed toward their car before the referee restarted the second half.

“We are exhausted,” said Al Moslemani, explaining that he had to leave his home extra early so he could arrive at the Al Bayt stadium ahead of the afternoon opening ceremony, which began at 5:30 p.m. local time. Besides, he said, he was hungry and the food and beverage offerings inside the arena were thin.

Al Ashgar said he was disappointed with Qatar’s performance, too. “It was terrible, not enough,” he said. “Just terrible from our team.”

Andrew Keh
Nov. 20, 2022, 12:43 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

I’m on the metro and there was just an announcement over the intercom saying the fan zone at the Corniche, Doha’s curling waterfront park, was closed “due to full capacity.”

Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 12:22 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

If you’re wondering how the ban on beer is playing out inside the stadium, it’s the wrong night to ask that question. With the crowd leaning heavily toward Qataris — observant Muslims, as a rule, do not consume alcohol — the ban was never going to be a big issue at the opener. The three games on Monday, featuring England, the Netherlands and the United States, might be better tests.

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Credit...Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 12:18 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

We are now well into the second half and, at a generous estimate, the stadium is now only two thirds full. There are vast tracts of empty seats on both sides of the field — the most expensive sections — and the corporate areas, in the arena’s middle tier, have thinned out, too.

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Credit...Molly Darlington/Reuters
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 12:02 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Halftime: For Qatar’s players, the game of a lifetime goes all wrong.

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Credit...Friedemann Vogel/EPA, via Shutterstock

That first half has been chastening for Qatar. After all the grandeur of the opening ceremony, the actual soccer has been something of a dampener.

The crowd — other than the section of Qatari ultras, and the jubilant Ecuador fans — was almost completely silent until the very last kick of the half, when Almoez Ali missed the host’s best and only chance of the game.

It is probably fair to assume this is a reflection of the pressure that Qatar’s players are under: This is a team that has won the Asian championship and has produced far better performances in games against opponents of similar, or even higher, stature to Ecuador. This is the moment they have spent much of their careers awaiting, and they have frozen.

John Branch
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:55 a.m. ET

In Asian Town, some of the workers who built the World Cup gather to watch it.

  1. Doha, Qatar
  2. Doha, Qatar
    Marko Djurica/Reuters
  3. Doha, Qatar
  4. Doha, Qatar
    Marko Djurica/Reuters

DOHA, Qatar — On the outskirts of Qatar’s capital and miles away from the stadiums and the sheen of the World Cup, thousands of true nation builders gathered in a fenced-off parking lot at Asian Town, between a mall and a cricket stadium.

They were a cross-section of migrant workers, mostly men on a night off, crowding to watch Qatar open the World Cup, cheering for a country that does not always recognize them.

They aimed their phone cameras at a gigantic video screen to record the opening ceremony, knowing they had played a part in the show.

And when kickoff approached, thousands squeezed themselves into the narrow gates of the 13,000-seat cricket stadium with enough energy to make security guards nervous. Just as those funnels cleared, thousands more people flooded into the fan zone and then into the stadium, excited to find a vantage point from which they could see another huge screen displaying the action.

“I’ve been living here for eight years, and this feels like home,” said Al Amin, 29, a chef at a vegan restaurant who sends 60 percent of his wages home to his father in Bangladesh. He said he was rooting hard for Qatar, where he plans to live and to work for at least another year.

Qatar is a land of such migrants, mostly poor laborers from far away places who have built a country and an economy for the rich. There are about 300,000 Qatari citizens in a country of about three million, meaning somewhere close to 90 percent of the population is from somewhere else. Most migrants come from South Asia (particularly Nepal and India) and Africa, and there is little chance of citizenship for outsiders.

So much of the arguments against holding the World Cup in Qatar have been made on their behalf. The points are relegated to shorthand — migrants pulled like magnetic filings from poorer places to do the thankless, low-paying and sometimes deadly work of building the infrastructure of wealth and sports and keeping it going. It is a system, not wholly unlike others around the world, that sees the migrant worker as disposable, if it sees them at all, and unworthy of equal rights, even a voice.

But they made some noise on Sunday evening at a fan zone about 45 minutes and a world away from Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, where Qatar made its World Cup debut.

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Credit...Marko Djurica/Reuters

They cheered at the kickoff, groaned at Ecuador’s early goal and cheered more when a video-replay decision erased it.

In the middle of it all, they laughed with friends and co-workers. They made FaceTime calls home. They aimed their cameras at the big screen and took selfies.

Unlike the fans crowding the tourist areas of Doha, they were mostly unadorned by team jerseys and other totems of fandom. But a few Qatar jerseys freckled the crowd.

It was telling that they came to be part of it. It was also telling that they were here, fenced away from the action and the tourists and the Qataris, hidden in the shadows of a parking lot.

Most migrant workers live far from the gleaming city center, where foreign visitors convene near the wealth and the air-conditioning, and where towers sprout near the Persian Gulf like glass stalks, glistening in the relentless sun or shining like neon crayons at night.

Migrant workers are mostly flung to the sandy outskirts of Doha, in dusty islands divided largely by race and nationality. Hundreds of thousands of them live in the grim streets near Asian Town, in huge housing tracts glumly called the Industrial Area.

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Credit...John Branch/The New York Times

Much has been said and written in recent days and years about slow improvements made for migrant workers in Qatar. Since 2021, the country has had a minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals a month, about $275, regardless of the job or the nationality of the worker.

Mohommad Faizan, 29, has been in Qatar for nearly four years, working as an air-conditioning technician. He sends money home to Sri Lanka, where he has a wife and a 6-month-old daughter he has not yet met. He plans to work a few more years in Qatar to pay for a house back home.

“I root for Qatar,” he said, “because my life is going on here now.”

Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:36 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

31′ Ecuador doubles its lead! It’s Valencia again with his second goal of the night, on a header at the back post. Another naïve bit of play by Qatar, which turned the ball over in midfield, lost track of Valencia as Ecuador looked for a cross and could only watch as he beat Al Sheeb. Ecuador 2, Qatar 0.

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Credit...Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:20 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

15′ Ecuador may take the lead after all: It’s Valencia who gets in behind, cuts around the goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb and goes down as Al Sheeb grabs his leg and brings him down. The referee Daniele Orsato of Italy points to the penalty spot and shows a yellow card to Al Sheeb, who is having a rough start.

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Credit...Molly Darlington/Reuters
Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:20 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

16′ Valencia steps up for the penalty and slots it right as Al Sheeb dives the wrong way. Ecuador 1, Qatar 0

Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:09 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Two minutes 39 seconds and the hosts are behind. Enner Valencia, the veteran striker from Ecuador, capitalizes on some chaos after Qatar’s goalkeeper comes out and fails to control a long free kick. What a start. But wait! The video assistant referee system has intervened and decided there was an offside. The goal is disallowed, and we’re right back at 0-0.

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Credit...Francois-Xavier Marit/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:12 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

It’s hard to say that call is wrong. The replay we have seen in the stadium, though, is inconclusive at best.

Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 11:05 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The Qatar forwards Almoez Ali and Akram Afif touch the ball off the spot and the 2022 World Cup, 12 years in the making, changer of lives and reputations and at the cost of untold billions, is finally underway.

Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:46 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Throughout the opening ceremony, one sliver of seats stood conspicuously empty. They have now been filled by a group of three hundred or so supporters mostly in maroon t-shirts. Several of them are carrying drums, but the vast majority are swaying, chanting and jumping in the sorts of choreographed displays produced by ultra groups in Europe and South America. There are even a couple of so-called capos, standing at the front and orchestrating things.

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Credit...Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:37 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Qatar vs. Ecuador: How they match up.

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Credit...Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Of all the last-minute changes to this World Cup — banning the beer, recruiting the fire-breathing spider — switching the order of games so that Qatar opened the tournament was the strangest, largely because this is what always happens at the World Cup. The host goes first.

If Qatar is to avoid the ignominy of losing all three of its games, its meeting with Ecuador represents its best hope: The alternatives, after all, involve beating the Netherlands or Senegal, the African champion. The hitch is that Ecuador is pretty good, too: a rising force in South America, with a rich crop of young talent led by the Brighton midfielder Moisés Caicedo and the defender Piero Hincapié. The one weakness is the lack of a clinical goal-scorer, and that may give Qatar hope.

Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:17 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

World Cup opening ceremonies are political affairs as much as they are about sports. This one is no different. As the camera pans out to show Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, issuing his welcome message, we see Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Such a sight would have been unimaginable only two years ago, when Saudi Arabia led a years-long Gulf blockade of Qatar. Prince Mohammed, who has developed a close relationship with Infantino, is pushing to bring the World Cup to Saudi Arabia in 2030.

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Credit...Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:14 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

It’s soccer tradition that the sport does not do opening ceremonies well. They tend, as a rule, to be bloated, pompous and deeply unpopular; no matter the fame of the musical turn booked, at club games they are almost guaranteed to be jeered. Qatar has pulled off the genuinely impressive feat of bucking that trend, incorporating both traditional Arabic music and soccer chants and then producing Jung Kook, one fifth of the K-pop hegemon BTS. The crowd seemed sincerely pleased to see him.

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Credit...Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:05 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Jung Kook of the wildly popular K-pop band BTS may be the true headliner today: He takes the stage dressed in black to perform a new song, “Dreamers.” The pregame ceremony, possibly the most striking in World Cup history, has gone full Super Bowl halftime show at this point.

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Credit...Michael Steele/Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 20, 2022, 9:58 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The actor Morgan Freeman was the first surprise of the elaborate opening ceremony at Al Bayt. He strode to the center of the tarp-covered playing field and then sat down for a staged discussion with a Qatari World Cup ambassador, Ghanim Al Muftah. Al Muftah has caudal regression syndrome, a rare disorder that affected his development.

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Credit...Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 10:05 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Interesting irony to Morgan Freeman being the first voice heard here: Freeman played a prominent role in the United States bid to stage the 2022 event when FIFA met to decide hosts in December 2010. Freeman and the U.S. lost the final vote to Qatar, 14-8, in one of the most controversial sports bidding contests in history.

Nov. 20, 2022, 9:55 a.m. ET

A World Cup primer in case you know next to nil about what some people call football.

The World Cup, which pits the best national soccer teams against each other for the title of world champion, begins Sunday, when Qatar, the host, plays Ecuador in its first World Cup game. The quadrennial tournament, which usually takes place in July, when Qatar’s temperatures can reach 120 degrees, was moved to the relatively bearable months of November and December.

Today counts as a slow day; over the two weeks that follow, four games will be played on most days. The tournament ends with the final on Dec. 18, when the winner gets a very heavy (and surprisingly small) gold trophy. But there is also a huge pile of cash. This year, the winning team will take home $42 million, part of a $440 million prize pool. Although how much of that will actually go to the individual players is another story.

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, designated by the letters A-H. In the tournament-opening group stage, each team plays all the other teams in its group once. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. That can lead to teams within the same group finishing with the same number of points. If there is a tie within the group, you will be introduced to the glorious tiebreaking concept of goal difference. That’s the difference between the number of goals a team scores and the number it has allowed, so a blowout win (or defeat) can be great insurance or a crippling disaster. If points or goal difference doesn’t break a tie in a group, there are even more complications. The top two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.

Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 9:52 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

This troop of traditional musicians will greet some of the spectators to the stadium. The design of the stadium — a Bedouin tent — the camels and the musicians are all here to underline where we are. The why, we already know.

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Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 9:34 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Migrants hired to work at the opening match waited all day without food and water.

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Credit...Tariq Panja/The New York Times

A group of more than 200 migrant laborers hired to work concession stalls at the Qatar World Cup’s opening game said they had been left without food, water and toilet facilities for seven hours while they waited for their assignments.

Standing in front of the Bedouin-tent-shaped Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor, the group were desperately trying to contact their employer without success. Several said they had been asked to report to a facility close to the arena before 10 a.m., nine hours before the game was scheduled to start.

The group, mostly made of men from India, said they had signed contracts to work at the World Cup that guaranteed one meal a day and just under $1,000 for 55 days. “It’s a very bad experience,” said one member of the group. The worker declined to give his name out of fear that it would upset his employers, but added, “Our coordinator told us to come here before 9 a.m. but no one was here.”

The group of concession workers were just a tiny part of the army of low-paid workers Qatar has hired to prepare the country to host the World Cup. The treatment of workers in Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf has drawn much scrutiny in the yearslong buildup to the event. Human rights groups estimating several thousand migrants have died as a result of injuries, heat-related problems and other health concerns as Qatar embarked on a $200 billion reconstruction to prepare for the one-month tournament. Qatar strongly disputes that total, and notes that it has made reforms to its labor laws.

The concession workers were not the only ones left frustrated under the hot desert sun on Sunday: A group of 20 women from the Philippines, hired to sell scarves, found themselves in a similar situation: Three hours after arriving at the stadium, they had been unable to locate the company that hired them. “We’ve walked so much, this isn’t good,” said one of the women. They, too, were trying to contact representatives of their company without success.

Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 9:12 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

There’s an enormous traffic jam on one of the main highways to Al Bayt Stadium. Organizers had asked those who can drive to come by car and have created giant car parks to cater for them.

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Credit...Tariq Panja/The New York Times
Andrew Keh
Nov. 20, 2022, 8:38 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter provided updates on Sunday about midfielder Weston McKennie and right back Sergino Dest, two presumed starters who were both nursing minor injuries when they arrived in Doha last week. “We see them as being able to take part in the game — for how long, we have to see,” said Berhalter, who said the fact that teams could use five substitutes in this tournament, as opposed to three, would give him more flexibility.

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Credit...Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 8:23 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Several European captains plan to wear rainbow armbands despite a threat of discipline.

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Credit...Carl Recine/Action Images Via Reuters

Update: Germany’s players protested a FIFA decision that blocked their captain from wearing a rainbow armband.

A group of European nations remains committed to a plan for their captains to wear multicolored armbands emblazoned with the words “One Love” during World Cup matches.

The first armbands are expected to appear during all three scheduled matches on Monday, potentially exposing the players and their teams to discipline from FIFA, soccer’s governing body. According to FIFA’s rules for the tournament, uniform violations could result in a fine.

The armbands were designed to show support for minority groups amid ongoing concerns about Qatar’s treatment of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, where homosexuality is a crime.

The teams’ plans to wear them in games are in defiance of FIFA’s strict regulations on team uniforms, and talks aimed at reaching a resolution, or a compromise, have been unsuccessful. Three European teams plan to wear armbands on Monday: England, Wales and Netherlands.

FIFA has been urging the teams to adhere to its uniform rules but there is little sign an agreement will happen. An official from England’s delegation familiar with the behind-the-scenes talks said the country remained committed for the captain Harry Kane to wear the anti-discrimination armband when his team plays Iran on Monday.

A meeting on Sunday between the European teams and FIFA was contentious, with FIFA asking teams to wear armbands it has created for the event instead. The Europeans teams have refused.

Andrew Keh
Nov. 20, 2022, 8:18 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

One day before the United States faces Wales in its opening match of the World Cup, Coach Gregg Berhalter named Tyler Adams as his captain for the tournament. “We think he has great leadership capabilties,” Berhalter said of Adams, 23, a midfielder from Wappinger Falls, N.Y. who plays his club soccer for Leeds in England's Premier League. “He leads by his actions and his words.”

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Credit...Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 8:03 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Souq Waqif, Doha’s very deliberately antiquated market, has acted as a magnet for fans arriving in the city ahead of the tournament. Every day it gets just a little busier, a little more lively. There are plenty of Mexico jerseys, an abundance of Moroccan flags, the occasional gaggle of roving Australians and dozens of camera crews capturing every single one of them. Today, though, it has felt distinctly Ecuadorian, as large groups of fans wearing the country’s bright yellow jersey and waving its tricolor while away the day before the World Cup’s opening game.

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Credit...Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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Credit...Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock
Tariq Panja
Nov. 20, 2022, 7:59 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

FIFA celebrates a $1 billion jump in revenues.

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Credit...Molly Darlington/Reuters

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addressed soccer’s national federations on Sunday, telling them hours before the opening game of the Qatar World Cup that the four-year cycle leading to the tournament had generated revenues of $7.5 billion and profits of $1 billion for soccer’s global governing body.

The revenues are $1 billion higher than for the last World Cup in Russia, underlining the enduring appeal — and remarkably cash-generating potency — of the quadrennial event.

Much of FIFA’s income is generated from global television deals for its soccer showpiece, and many of the largest ones for the Qatar World Cup had already been agreed before Infantino took office in 2016. The growing revenues will only strengthen his grip on the presidency, not that it mattered: Last week, FIFA confirmed that he would be unopposed in the next election in March.

After his speech, FIFA’s members and delegates were led to a separate room to collect goody bags and VIP match tickets for the opening game later on Sunday.

Rory Smith
Nov. 20, 2022, 7:59 a.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

A lot of questions surrounding this World Cup are about to be answered.

DOHA, QATAR — On Saturday evening, on the pristine streets of Souq Waqif in Doha, somewhere in the middle of the incense burners and the spice merchants and the squawking aviaries, something approximating a World Cup at last began to take shape.

Restaurants had been decked out in the flags of the 32 competing nations. There were shops selling headdresses bearing America’s stars and stripes, the Argentine sun, Brazil’s Ordem e Progresso. And there were hundreds of fans, their colors pinned to their chests or wrapped around their shoulders, mixing and milling and singing and smiling.

It felt, on Saturday, like something had ended: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary, strafing attack on anyone he could think of was a fitting culmination to 12 years of controversy and scandal and recrimination about the fact that soccer’s crown jewel, the biggest sporting event in the world, has been brought here, to this tiny enclave of absurd wealth.

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Credit...Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The question now is what comes next. There are tickets still unsold for a fistful of group stage games. The expected influx of fans has not yet started. Barely 48 hours before the first game, Qatar’s authorities decided that — actually — beer would not be sold at stadiums. The goal posts, it turns out, can still shift.

Qatar has spent 12 years preparing itself, and FIFA the same amount of time steeling itself, for this World Cup to begin. What sort of World Cup it will be, though? We are about to find out.