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February 20, 2024
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February 12, 2024

The World Cup: who’s in, who’s out, who’s winning?

The ability of sports to bring people together is most evident during the FIFA World Cup. For six weeks, people all over the world watch some of football’s  finest talents face off against one another. Enemies become friends; friends become enemies. The stars shine while new guys make a name for themselves, and after 64 matches, one nation walks away with that coveted golden trophy.

It’s the most viewed sporting event in the world, but not everyone is familiar with the game. And that’s perfectly fine! This article exists to explain all of it—the place, the time, the structure, the rules and almost everything you need to know.

WHERE: This iteration of the World Cup is being hosted in Qatar and kicks off on Nov. 20. It is being played in the winter for the first time in history, due to the intensity of Qatari summers being hazardous to play in. Temperatures reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit—41.5 Celsius (1). Many fans have voiced their frustrations with the changing of such an untouchable tradition, and there have been many conversations around Qatar’s human rights abuses.

WHO: There are 32 nations participating in the World Cup. Thirteen of them are from Europe, six from Asia, five from Africa, four from South America and four from North America. Yet, for the second tournament in a row, there are no representatives from Oceania…kind of. Australia qualifies for the Asian pathway of the cup, since they are much more skilled compared to other teams from Oceania.

Argentina, Germany, Brazil and England are featured as strong favorites. The Netherlands and Portugal represent outside challengers, while Italy has missed out on qualification for the second time in a row. Seven teams who weren’t present in 2018 will feature this year, with Cameroon, Ghana, Ecuador, the Netherlands and the USA returning for the first time since 2014. Canada is arriving after a 24-year absence, and this is Qatar’s debut in the competition, which ironically enough comes when the country is hosting.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. will represent their respective countries of Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. This tournament will be the last of 35-year-old Messi’s career and perhaps of 37-year-old Ronaldo’s as well (2). Expect the goal-scoring prowess of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe of France, Robert Lewandowski of Poland and Harry Kane of England as well.

Midfielders are important for controlling games, and the World Cup will feature some remarkable ones. Veteran Luka Modric of Croatia has the ability to make a beautiful pass and has endless energy to him. Spanish youngster Pedri and England’s Jude Bellingham represent a new generation of hardworking and creative young players. Belgium’s team will rely heavily on the passing and goalscoring ability of Kevin de Bruyne.

Quality defenders are not in short supply either. The Netherlands boasts the calm and collected Virgil van Dijk, while Brazil will look to a combination of Marquinhos’ experience and Alisson Becker’s incredible shot-stopping ability. Defense is vital to the game of football, especially when it comes to facing the top players and teams in the world. Expect these teams to advance deep into the tournament.

With the diversity of cultures and nationalities that can be found around UMass Boston, a lot of fellow students will be tuning in over the next five weeks. Some of them were kind enough to share their time and discuss their hopes for their teams in a questionnaire.

Q. What country do you support?

AMY B: Ghana

BRUNA M: Brazil, of course





IVAN: United States

Q. Who are your favorite players on the team?

A.B: Kudus Mohammed and Thomas Partey.

B.M: I have to say Coutinho, Firmino, Paquetá and my total fav, Allisson—he’s a brick wall, nothing gets passed him in the goal haha.

J.C: Vinicius Jr.

M.A: Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo.

Y.S: Ronaldo, Sanchez, Fernandes, Dalot, Dias.

C: Cristian Eriksen and Joakim Mæhle.

I: Reyna, Pulisic, Weston, Aaronson and Antonee Robinson.

Q. How far do you see the team going?

A.B: Personally, I’m not very confident in my team making it to the finals, but never say die until the bones are rotten.

B.M: World Cup Champion of 2022, but if not possible for the third time in a row, at least to the semi-finals—second to third place at max.

J.C: six time champions.

M.A: Winning the cup.

Y.S: All the way baby.

C: Finals, winning.

I: Group stage.

THE FORMAT: The World Cup is split into two stages, the group stage and the knockout stage. The group stage features all 32 teams split into eight groups of four. In the groups of four, every team plays each other once, which equates to a total of three games for each team. Points are awarded per match; a win is three points, a tie is one point and a loss is zero points. The two teams with the most points after three games move on to the knockout round, and the other two are eliminated.

16 teams start the knockout round, which slims to eight in the quarterfinals, four in the semifinals and two teams in the final before a champion is crowned. Each game is 90 minutes long, and the winner after 90 minutes proceeds. If the score is level after 90 minutes, 30 minutes of extra time is added. If the score is still level after this period, it goes into a penalty shootout.

GENERAL RULES: Every team starts with 11 players. Five substitute players can come on during the match. A foul is committed when a player tackles an opponent unfairly, and a free kick is awarded. An especially bad foul or handball is met with a yellow card, and if it’s even worse, a red card can be produced to eject the player from the game completely. The team must play shorthanded for the remainder of the game. If a player receives two yellow cards in a game, the yellows combine into a red card as well.

For fans of Team USA, it will be pleasing to hear that the team has come a long way from where it was in 2014. Whilst the talents of Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard are sadly no longer available, there is an incredible pool of talent present for this year. Christian Pulisic’s dynamism springs to mind, but there’s also the likes of Brendan Aaronson, Serginio Dest and Tyler Adams.

The eight year absence of team USA can spark motivation and ignite the team, which may ultimately pay dividends with a realistic shot for the title.

USA fans can also look forward to 2026, when the World Cup will be hosted across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Massachusetts’s very own Gillette Stadium was chosen to hold certain matches, which in turn will hopefully popularize and create a culture for the game of football in the United States, and more notably, the New England area.

(1)   https://www.expatica.com/qa/moving/about/climate-and-seasons-in-qatar-71269/#:~:text=When%20summer%20hits%20Qatar%2C%20temperatures,high%2040s%20and%20low%2050s.

(2)   https://www.espn.in/football/argentina-arg/story/4762702/lionel-messi-says-2022-world-cup-with-argentina-will-be-his-last

About the Contributor
Adam Shah, Contributing Writer