This was always going to be a FIFA World Cup™ like no other.
The first to be hosted in the Middle East, the first to be played in November and December, and the first of its size to be held in such a small geographical area, Qatar 2022 offered a fresh twist on this old and much-loved festival of football.
But while the treading of so much new ground came with opportunities – the novel prospect of attending multiple World Cup matches in a single day, for example – the risks were clear and undeniable.
Gianni Infantino admitted as much earlier this week, when he confessed to pre-tournament concerns “about having so many fans from so many countries, at the same time, in the same place”.
“In a normal World Cup, you have in one city fans of two countries, not more,” added the FIFA President. “Here, you have 32 countries plus all [the] other fans from the world who come to enjoy the World Cup together in the same place.”
Given that the place in question has a population of less than 2.9 million and its stadiums are all within a 35-mile radius, questions naturally arose about how Qatar and its infrastructure would cope with a such a mass invasion. Others wondered how the on-field fare would be impacted by the tournament taking place in the middle of most players’ domestic seasons, with reduced preparation time an inevitable consequence.
One by one, of course, those doubts have been swept away by a tidal wave of fantastic football, flawless organisation and friendly, passionate atmospheres on the streets and in the stadiums.
Jurgen Klinsmann this week described it as “a World Cup organised to perfection”, while Infantino has been far from alone in declaring Qatar 2022 to be, quite simply, “the best ever”.