FIFA in talks over request to start World Cup one day early

The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar this November. Credit: AP

The World Cup could start one day earlier than planned after host nation Qatar revealed plans to kick-off the tournament.

The schedule change comes barely 100 days before the tournament is due to begin.

Should FIFA approve the request, Qatar would face Ecuador in the opening game of the men's tournament on Sunday, 20 November.

FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date after tickets have been sold would affect some traveling fans.

However, FIFA said “any risk is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially.

Qatar were awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, beating the United States in the final round Credit: AP

The match was originally scheduled to take place at 4pm on 21 November, in the third game of the tournament.The first match had been scheduled as The Netherlands vs Senegal at 10am on 21 November.

Qatar would get an exclusive Sunday slot for its opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.

This also marks the first ever edition of the World Cup to take place during winter, after FIFA secured agreement for a shorter, 28-day program to minimise disruption to domestic football.

Recent World Cup tradition gave 2014 host Brazil and 2018 host Russia exclusive opening days to play their first opponents. But the tighter schedule in Qatar called for four games daily for the entire group stage - 48 games in 12 days.

At the tournament draw in Doha on 1 April, the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador landed in Group A with Qatar. The Dutch and Senegal were allocated the 1pm local time start and Qatar was to play Ecuador in the third game with an evening kick-off six hours later.

A Qatar World Cup stadium pictured earlier this year during its construction. Credit: AP

The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 has been favoured by Qatari officials and South American soccer body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the Qatar and Ecuador soccer federations.

A Qatar-Ecuador game involves only a few players who are with European clubs.

Several in the likely Ecuador squad play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where leagues stop play ahead of the 12-13 November weekend.

Because of the proposal, FIFA is expected to push back the Netherlands-Senegal match from the lunchtime start to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.

The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, allowing a full week for players to return to clubs before the Premier League plays its traditional Boxing Day games on 26 December.