Arguably the most controversial sporting tournament ever is less than a fortnight away – with Qatar set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Among the chief concerns are both the nation's human rights issues, and their overall preparedness for the tournament.
Only on Thursday, the nation unveiled a 6000-cabin fan village in an isolated lot near its airports.
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But on the pitch, questions have lingered since the hosting rights were secured – Qatar has never played at a World Cup, and has never seriously threatened to qualify.
Their attempts to qualify for Russia ended with them anchored to the bottom of their group in the third round, with just two wins from 10, while in 2014's World Cup cycle they won just two of eight to fall at the same hurdle.
The 2019 Asian Cup success was viewed as a breakthrough moment, and it was done so with a squad primarily of homegrown players, rather than being reliant on previous efforts to naturalise players from nations such as Brazil.
World Cup previews: All 32 squads | Group B| Group C | Group D| Group E| Group F | Group G | Group H
The Asian Cup was one thing, but with the entire world watching, the nation's primary goal will be to avoid embarrassment on the field, as much as it will be to present a palatable image of life off of it.
Regardless of their fortunes, they'll find neutral fans tough to come by – there won't be heartwarming moments like we saw with South Korea's run to the semi-finals in 2002, or Siphiwe Tshabalala's dance in the opening game of 2010 in South Africa.
Teams (FIFA World Ranking):
The host nation is playing in its first-ever World Cup, but is coming into the tournament as Asian champions, having beaten Japan in the final of the Asian Cup in 2019.
Getting through the gauntlet that is South American qualification is no mean feat, and Ecuador secured the fourth and final automatic spot on the penultimate matchday of the 18-round round robin.
Senegal narrowly overcame Egypt on penalties to secure their spot – although it wasn't without controversy, with a collection of laser pointers in the crowd being shone in visiting players' eyes.
After missing the 2018 tournament, the Dutch punched their ticket on the final day of UEFA qualifying with a 2-0 win over Norway.
Qatar vs Ecuador – Monday November 21, 3am
Senegal vs Netherlands – Tuesday November 22, 3am
Qatar vs Senegal – Saturday November 26, 12am
Netherlands vs Ecuador – Saturday November 26, 3am
Ecuador vs Senegal – Wednesday November 30, 2am
Netherlands vs Qatar – Wednesday November 30, 2am
The Dutch are deserved favourites but this group is one of the more wide-open ones, and both Senegal and Ecuador have reached the knockout stages in the 21st century.
Qatar are a relatively unknown quantity but we usually see a bit of a boost by being the host nation, and seeing them sneak into the second round isn't beyond the realms of probability.
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