FIFA has confirmed the 2022 World Cup will start a day earlier than originally planned in order to allow hosts Qatar to face Ecuador in the opening match of the tournament.
Qatar were originally due to open their first World Cup campaign on Monday, November 21, with Group A rivals Senegal and the Netherlands scheduled to kick off the competition earlier in the day.
However, a unanimous decision by the FIFA Council Presidency means that Felix Sanchez’s Qatar team will now kick off the tournament on Sunday 20 November at 7pm local time – continuing the tradition of the home side playing first.
The opening ceremony was also moved up a day to November 20.
“The 2022 FIFA World Cup will kick off with an even bigger celebration for local and international fans as host nation Qatar will now take on Ecuador as part of a separate event on Sunday 20 November,” said a statement issued by FIFA.
“The change ensures the continuity of the long-standing tradition of celebrating the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony to mark the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions.
“The decision followed an assessment of the competition and operational implications, as well as a thorough consultation process and agreement with key stakeholders and the host country.”
The decision means that the Netherlands’ game against Senegal has been moved to a later time slot on November 21 and will now follow England’s Group B opener against Iran.
The World Cup organizers have featured in the opening match of the tournament since 2006 in Germany, where Jurgen Klinsmann’s side beat Costa Rica 4-2.
Between the 1974 and 2002 tournaments, the defending champions opened the tournament, with France infamously going down to Senegal at the last World Cup to continue that tradition.