With all eight stadiums positioned inside a 35-mile radius of downtown Doha, the 2022 World Cup is essentially the most compact in historical past. During the group stage, that makes it attainable to attend 4 video games a day.
Possible, however it’s not permitted.
To keep away from congestion and make extra tickets out there to extra folks, FIFA has restricted followers and the media to 2 video games a day, with a four-hour window between kickoffs. But that’s nonetheless fairly good, proper? Watching 4 of one of the best groups on this planet on the identical day?
And with public transportation, free to World Cup guests, serving all eight stadiums, it’ll be a breeze, the Qataris mentioned.
But then the Qataris have already reneged on all the things from human rights and beer gross sales to bus schedules and the menu within the media cafeteria. So possibly this was one other empty promise.
I made a decision to seek out out. Armed with nothing greater than a media credential and no familiarity in anyway with Qatar’s Metro system, I set out Wednesday to see Germany play Japan at Khalifa International Stadium at 4 p.m., adopted by Canada-Belgium lower than 12 miles away at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium at 10 p.m.
I can see Khalifa from my residence in Doha’s Al Rayyan neighborhood, in order that appeared a logical place to begin. I left simply after midday and the leisurely stroll to the stadium confirmed one thing I’ve felt for the reason that World Cup started, primarily that the event has produced little in the way in which of buzz and pleasure outdoors the stadiums or the fanfest on the Corniche, Doha’s winding bayside promenade.
During my 30-minute stroll, I handed just one individual wearing a German nationwide workforce shirt. I noticed no flags, nobody in face paint and nothing resembling a march to the match. The stadium parking heaps have been empty three hours earlier than kickoff.
But the match itself, which resulted in a 2-1 Japan victory, was World Cup-worthy. Germany took an early lead on a penalty kick from Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, one conceded by Japanese keeper Shuichi Gonda. Gonda was sensible after that although, making eight saves, which allowed Japan to come back again on a pair of targets late within the second half.
The first got here from Ritsu Doan, who scored on a rebound, and eight minutes later Takuma Asano put Japan forward to remain, operating on to an extended free kick from Ko Itakura, preventing off defender Nico Schlotterbeck, then beating German keeper Manuel Neuer into the roof of the web from a tough angle on the tip line.
The loss was Germany’s third in 4 World Cup video games because it gained the title in Brazil eight years in the past.
“It’s a great disappointment for us,” German supervisor Hansi Flick mentioned. “With no points today, now we are under pressure.”
Japan’s coach, Hajime Moriyasu, who entered and left the media room to loud applause from Japanese reporters, mentioned he hoped the win would present “how Japanese players have been building up and getting better.”
There have been media buses outdoors the stadium that, with a slight detour, would have gotten me to the Canada-Belgium match quicker than the Metro. But as a result of I’m a person of the folks, I headed for the prepare station, guided by dozens of volunteers utilizing foam “We’re No. 1” fingers to level the way in which to the station.
Doha’s Metro is simply 3½ years outdated and covers slightly greater than 47 miles. It has three traces and 37 stations served by trains able to speeds of 60 mph, making them among the many quickest driverless trains on this planet. The stations are large and glowing clear, though on Wednesday the crush of World Cup followers left the trains packed tighter than a Tokyo subway automobile at rush hour.
My journey took me from Sports City, the penultimate cease on the gold line, to Msheireb, the place I transferred to the inexperienced line headed to the Mall of Qatar.
Qataris love procuring malls and the large three-story Mall of Qatar, which is subsequent to the stadium, is their crown jewel, with 520 shops unfold over 5.4 million sq. ft, sufficient house for 93 regulation-size soccer fields. The Villaggio mall close to my residence is only a fraction that dimension however it has a skating rink, a theme park and a ceiling painted to seem like the sky above a river with Gondola boats.
The journey from stadium to stadium took 42 minutes and from the mall it was a 30-minute stroll to the media entrance, permitting me to get to my seat about an hour earlier than kickoff.
Canada was taking part in in a World Cup for the primary time in 36 years and confirmed some opening-game jitters, trying to find the proper move as a substitute of settling for an excellent one. Still, it had an opportunity to take the lead on a penalty kick within the 10th minute, however Alphonso Davies’ try was weak and Belgium keeper Thibault Courtois smothered it, changing into the primary Belgium goalie to cease a penalty kick within the World Cup since 1966.
Michy Batshuayi made Davies’ mistake much more painful, scoring within the 44th minute to get Belgium the one objective it will want for a 1-0 win. Canada has performed 4 World Cup video games in its historical past and remains to be searching for its first level and first objective.
After the sport I made my approach downstairs for a demeaning train known as “the mixed zone,” which is widespread at worldwide soccer matches and the Olympic Games. The approach it really works is journalists are hoarded into a big room and compelled to face behind three-foot-tall boundaries like cows on their method to slaughter. To get from their dressing room to the workforce bus, the gamers should stroll by means of the room, however they’re on the opposite aspect of the boundaries. This is the one game-day availability media members have with the gamers, who’re free to cease and reply questions.
Most gamers don’t cease. To dissuade anybody who even considered asking Gareth Bale a query after final Monday’s draw with the U.S., the Welsh captain was led by means of the blended zone by some employed muscle within the type of a burly safety guard.
The Canadians, as you in all probability might have guessed, have been rather more cooperative.
“The world’s biggest stage,” mentioned defender Steven Vitoria, one in every of a number of Canadians who granted interviews. “We didn’t come here to play well and lose. We want to play well and win. But we’re on the right path. There’s a lot to be proud of.”
The Metro journey again appeared quicker and strolling again to my residence within the cool of the desert morning quite than beneath the scorching solar I had set out beneath was rather more nice. When I put the important thing within the door, it was simply after 2:30 a.m. It had been a 14-hour day throughout which I noticed 4 groups, two stadiums, two penalty kicks, 4 targets and took a few prepare rides. It was simply as straightforward because the Qataris promised.
I suppose they have been telling the reality this time.