It’s crunch time at the 2022 World Cup.
Brazil, Portugal and France have already secured qualification for the round of 16, but the other 13 places in the round of 16 are yet to be decided.
All of that will be confirmed in the coming days when the eight groups reach their exciting conclusions between Tuesday and Friday.
Soccer fans in the UK have grown accustomed to watching World Cup soccer at the rather unusual time of 10am and many will be saddened to learn that there will be no more morning games.
The other start times have been 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 7:00 pm (8:00 am, 11:00 am, and 2:00 pm ET respectively), but that will change in the final set of group stage matches.
But why aren’t the matches in the final round of games staggered? the athletic is available to explain the situation.
Why is there no start at 10am (GMT)?
Fans outside of the UK, especially those in the US, might be relieved to find that they don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to get their World Cup fix.
The timeslots that will be used for the final round of the group stage are 3pm (10am ET, 7am PT) and 7pm (2pm ET, 11am PT).
Matches from one pool will be played in the front slot before the back slot takes over a couple of games from another pool.
On Tuesday, November 29, this is what the schedule looks like:
15:00 start time – Group A
19:00 start time – Group B
But why are kick-off times staggered in the final round of group stage matches?
In simple terms, to make the World Cup as fair as possible.
Teams from the same group playing at the same time do not give any team an unfair advantage. If start times were staggered, teams playing later would know exactly what they need to advance to the round of 16.
While it’s very difficult to guarantee that both games end at the same time, especially with the extended injury-time additions this year, it means the teams won’t necessarily know what happened or is happening in the other game. your group
There are, of course, ways for managers and their staff to find out the score of the other game, but they can’t be sure how the other game will necessarily end.
This is not a new phenomenon, as national leagues often use this method for the final round of games in a season. English football fans will remember that this is exactly how campaigns in the Premier League and EFL end to ensure there are no advantages to either team.
The end of the 2021-22 season was the perfect example of why this system works when Manchester City and Liverpool were fighting for the title, as well as the battle between Leeds United and Burnley to stay in the top flight.
Has it always been the case that the start of the World Cup is at the same time?
No. That is exactly the reason why FIFA has introduced this system.
Older soccer fans may remember the ‘Disgrace of Gijón’ back in 1982.
West Germany and Austria met in Spain’s final World Cup Group 2 match and that match came a day after Algeria and Chile completed their group stage campaigns.
Heading into the final match, Algeria were second in the group and on course to qualify for the round of 16, provided Austria, who were top of the group, avoided defeat. However, both teams knew that a West German victory by a margin of one or two goals would send them both at the expense of the African team.
So, as you probably guessed, the game ended 1-0 in favor of the Germans with Horst Hrubesch scoring the only goal of the game in the 10th minute.
80 minutes of passing between defense and kicking up the field ensued with fans in the stadium and around the world disgusted by what they were seeing. But, there was no official breaking of the FIFA rules, as the setup of the matches allowed for such a ridiculous scenario.
From there, world soccer’s governing body revised the group stage times, and since then, the last two matches in each group have been played simultaneously.
Will it be different with more teams in the 2026 World Cup?
One of the many problems with fielding 16 more teams to the World Cup four years from now is the structure of the group stage.
The 2026 World Cup, which will take place in the US, Canada and Mexico, will feature 16 three-team groups instead of eight four-team groups.
The use of a three-team pool increases the chances of collusion, as seen in the ‘Disgracia de Gijón’, as it is impossible for the final round of each pool to be played on the same day in the current proposed format.
FIFA seems very intent on their new concept, so large-scale changes seem unlikely, but if they’re worried about protecting their own integrity, they may need to make more changes before the hosted tournament in North America.
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