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Monday, April 22, 2024
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Qatar Scene Setter with Grant Wahl

On the eve of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Front Office Sports hosted Global Goals: The World Cup and Beyond, a captivating virtual summit featuring soccer’s leading analysts, former pro athletes and broadcasters who shared behind-the-scenes highlights of one of the world’s most impactful business and cultural events in sports.

Here, renowned soccer journalist Grant Wahl spoke with FOS Writer Doug Greenberg from Qatar on his experiences covering 13 World Cup events, the excitement and obstacles surrounding this current tournament and the buzz around the United States squad. Some highlights:

Let’s start with the basics. How is it over there?

Really hot! The World Cup usually takes place in June and July and they moved it to November, December because it’s so hot in Qatar in the summer, but it’s actually still really hot here in November. It’s been in the 90s all week during the day. And the U.S. team has been training and they’re going through it just dealing with the elements.

It’s an unusual World Cup in the sense that it’s all in one city and we’re not used to something like that. There’s lots of issues obviously with Qatar hosting the World Cup, but from a purely logistics perspective, it’s very easy to cover compared to most I can sleep in the same bed every night, I don’t need to jump on planes. I can spend more time doing my work and enjoying the World Cup.

Who’s got a strong team?

For the U.S., it’s really important just to be back in the World Cup, which it missed out on in 2018 and was literally the biggest failure in the history of U.S. soccer.

 The U.S. has the youngest team in the tournament with some exciting players playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe. And so, there’s a real sense of positivity around this U.S. program that they now need to back up on the field in a tough group.

 The defending champion is France, and there’s a crazy stat in the men’s world Cup – four of the last five World Cup winners in the subsequent World Cups went out in the group stage, which is almost starting to get to be a somewhat large sample size at this point.

Germany was a defending champion in 2018. They finished last in their group. And I think there is a sense that when you win a World Cup, usually the coach remains and probably sticks around too long and sticks with some of his players too long and they’re generally too old. And so, I’m curious to see what happens with France, the defending champion. I think they could have trouble here. They have an immense amount of talent, they’re capable of winning it again, but France has a history of either doing very well at World Cups or imploding totally.

Note: Above has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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