The final of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be on Dec. 18, the country’s national holiday.
FIFA confirmed on Thursday the date of the world’s most watched sports event more than four years after it controversially chose the tiny Gulf emirate as host.
Finally, Qatar got its reward for enduring an investigation into alleged corruption in the bidding process, and a European-led furor over moving the World Cup from its traditional June-July period.
In more than seven years, on Dec. 18 — which Qataris recognize as their nation’s founding day in 1878 — the yet-to-be-built Lusail Stadium near Doha will stage the World Cup final.
“It’s a Sunday, and it’s also the national day of Qatar and, yes, in principle, we try to play in 28 days,” FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio said, confirming a decision of the executive committee in the opening session of its two-day meeting.
A 28-day tournament kicking off on Monday, Nov. 21, would see the 64 matches played in four fewer days than usual.
It could be confirmed on Friday, De Gregorio said in a hastily arranged statement at FIFA headquarters.
The announcement dominated a day FIFA hoped to dedicate to women’s football.
France was awarded the 2019 Women’s World Cup hosting rights just as news began to leak of the expected but long-awaited 2022 final date.
Qatar was chosen as host in December 2010, bid to stage a June-July tournament. It pledged to develop stadium cooling technology to overcome intense heat in the Gulf summer.
However, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and other top officials started insisting in 2013 that a change to cooler months was needed to protect the health of players, fans, and people working at the tournament.
The November-December option was expected after being recommended by a FIFA-appointed task force which met last month in Doha.
The task force was launched 18 months ago, though the outcome seemed pre-judged. European clubs and leagues, who must shut down for several weeks midseason, were the strongest opponents.
Recent debate focused on a date for the final, with Blatter stating he preferred Sunday, Dec. 18. Every World Cup final since 1966 has been played on a Sunday.
By rejecting UEFA’s preferred Dec. 23 final, a Friday, the FIFA executive committee helped protect the English Premier League’s traditional Dec. 26 program.
A 28-day World Cup, four days fewer than usual, would cut the time clubs must release players to national teams.
Earlier Thursday, Blatter announced that France was chosen over South Korea for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
The tournament comes back to Europe after Germany served as host in 2011.
This year’s tournament kicks off in Canada on June 6 with 24 teams for the first time. Japan is the defending champion after winning a 16-team tournament four years ago.
France will choose nine stadiums from 11 candidates, though Lyon will host the opening match and final.
FIFA also chose France to host the Women’s Under-20 World Cup in 2018, which will be played in four venues in the Brittany region.
South Korea hoped to give Asia back-to-back hosting of the biggest women’s football prizes, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Obviously from Asia, there will be some level of disappointment,” said Asian Football Confederation vice president Moya Dodd. “But women’s football is massive in the Olympics and getting bigger, and of course there are opportunities (for hosting) in 2023.” (***)