Australia has yet to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next winter, but they are widely expected to do so.
The Socceroos have struck 16 goals and conceded just once, so it does look likely they will make Qatar. Also, Graham Arnold’s side has made every tournament since 2006, although they did need to take part in the CONCACAF–AFC play-off to reach Russia in 2018, defeating Honduras, 3-1.
If they do negotiate the qualification rounds, they are likely to take fewer fans to the tournament than ever before. That is the opinion of their tour manager, Kevin Pollard, who believes the recent pandemic will hit numbers despite the tournament being 18 months away.
“Australia was one of the best-supported nations in Russia but I suspect we won’t see those sorts of figures in Qatar, even though they’re augmenting hotel accommodation with tent cities in the desert,” Pollard told The World Games.
“Vaccine passports will be necessary but there may potentially be some issues there in terms of which ones will be accepted by authorities … whether it’s some or all. If it’s say a Pfizer jab you’ve had can you still go? What’s the paperwork going to be like? One way or other, a vaccine is going to be like a visa.”
The 2022 World Cup promises to be a historic one, if not controversial. It is likely to be the last major tournament both Cristiano Ronaldo and billionaire superstar Lionel Messi take part in. Neither has won the tournament in their career and surely if they want to be remembered in the same way as Diego Maradona and Pele, then they will be aiming to do so.
It is also likely to be a World Cup which sees a shifting of the powerbase. It is the first to take place in the Middle East and has been moved to winter to accommodate the climate, which may favor teams from warmer countries. There are also plenty of so-called minnows feeling they might be in with a chance of impressing, none more so than the United States, who have key players believing glory is achievable for them. Africa has yet to provide a World Cup finalist, another continent that is perhaps suited to the Qatar climate more than Europe.
Traditionally, European teams tend to perform better in the big tournaments though, with six of the last eight winners coming from there. France, Germany, Spain, and Italy are the four countries that have won the previous tournaments Australia has taken part in, and all four will hoping to lift the Euro 2020 title this summer. England is currently favorites with Bwin to take the Henri Delaunay Trophy, which would be their first European Championship triumph. If they do, that could set them up for a strong World Cup the following year too. Along with Belgium, ranked as the top international team going into the summer tournament, and 2018 World Cup Finalists Croatia, Europe is packed with genuine contenders.
With so many countries coming into form, the 2022 World Cup promises to be one of the best, even in the searing desert heat, even if Socceroos fans will not be there in huge numbers to enjoy it. Pollard believes as few as 2,000 might be able to make the journey to watch Messi and Ronaldo duel it out for one final time, whereas 10,000 were there in 2006 when both were just setting out on their journey.
The big question is, will the 2,000 that do travel see the Socceroos emerge from the Group stages for only the second time in their history? Will the fancied England, home to many of Australia’s best players, finally take the trophy back to London? Or will we see a major shift with the United States, the Socceroos, or maybe even a team from Africa, finally grab football’s greatest prize?