There is palpable excitement in the air as the 2022 FIFA World Cup has finally taken shape with the draws officially decided upon.
Groups A-H have been decided upon and every national team manager has begun to make plans alongside their various football federations in order to ensure adequate representation at the global showpiece.
Qatar will be welcoming the world to a tournament like none before it, with air conditioned stadiums, tourist attractions and fancy lodging areas being the key to keeping the fans buzzing all through the tournament.
The official FIFA event to inaugurate the World Cup season on Friday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) gave the world a glimpse of what to expect, with hosts Idris Elba and Reshmin Chowdhury making attendees feel comfortable.
The official 2022 World Cup song, “Hayya Hayya” was also performed for the first time in front of the world by singers Aisha (Qatar, Asia/Middle East), Davido (Nigeria, Africa) and Trinidad Cardona (USA, North/Central America).
A speech by the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and one from the FIFA president Gianni Infantino preceded a film paying tribute to departed legends of world football who passed between the last world cup in 2018 and this current one.
Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks (died 2019), Argentine legend Diego Armando Maradona (died 2020), Italian World Cup winner Paolo Rossi (died 2020) and German legend Gerd Muller (died 2021) were remembered.
FIFA World Cup groups revealed
The draws were conducted by a superstar ensemble led by Jermaine Jenas, Samantha Jackson and two-time World Cup winner and women's football legend Carli Lloyd.
29 of the 32 participating teams have been confirmed so far, with the other three to be confirmed when the two intercontinental play-off matches take place in June, along with the last European qualifiers. The groups were completed after a 45-minute process, and the eight groups decided upon are as follows:
Group A: Qatar (hosts), Ecuador, Netherlands, Senegal
Group B: England, Iran, USA, Scotland/Wales/Ukraine
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Group D: France, UAE/Australia/Peru, Denmark, Tunisia
Group E: Spain, Costa Rica/New Zealand, Germany, Japan
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea
FIFA 2022 World Cup mascot revealed
Khalid Ali Al-Mawlawi, the Deputy Director General, Marketing, Communications and Tournament Experience, SC, unveiled La'eeb as the official mascot of the tournament.
La’eeb is an Arabic word meaning super-skilled player, and he is a tech-based mascot who will exist in a parallel mascot-verse. Al-Mawlawi said of La’eeb: “We are delighted to unveil La’eeb as the Official Mascot for the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world.
“He comes from the mascot-verse – a place that is indescribable. We encourage everyone to imagine what it looks like.
“We are sure fans everywhere will love this fun and playful character. La’eeb will play a vital role as we engage fans young and old in Qatar’s FIFA World Cup experience.”
La’eeb is expected to be an interactive mascot and will be available for fans in the form of images, GIFs and stickers via a host of social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp and Snapchat. An NFT collection of the mascot is also being teased, as Crypto.com is one of FIFA's official sponsors for the upcoming tournament.