Do you find the Stages of the World Cup confusing? To prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, this post explains the Two Stages you need to understand and how the World Cup matches are played.
Starting November 20, there are only 7 games for one team to play between kick-off and standing on the podium for 2022 in Qatar. If you haven’t already done so, go and mark the date for the World Cup Final in your diary now: Sunday, December 18.
Here you can see the trajectory of how those 7 games will be played across the 2022 World Cup from Start to Finish.
The World Cup begins at the Group Stage, with 32 Teams (8 Groups of 4)
For the last time, the game will be played in a 32-team competition. In 2026, the World Cup will feature a new and expanded format of 48 teams. This is definitely something to look forward to: it means more teams qualifying, more matches to watch and even less sleep!
But for 2022, there are 32 teams allocated across 8 Groups (Labelled A to H). And each Group has 4 teams each.
Let’s talk World Cup seeds and pots for a minute
FIFA allocate Qatar, as host, to the first spot in Group A. Then, the seven ‘top seeds’ are spread between the other 7 Groups (Groups B to H). Each group has at least one, but not more than two UEFA teams. Five out of the eight groups will have two teams from Europe.
It starts with 4 pots, representing one berth for each team in a Group. As each Group has 4 teams. Pot 1 contains only the Top Seeded Teams.
Group Stage and 3 Games each guaranteed
In a round-robin style, each team plays every other member of the group once. So each team that arrives in Qatar gets to play a total of 3 games each. Each Group will see a total of 6 games played. That’s 48 games across the Group Stage in total.
There are a total of 6 games for each Group that have to be played.
FIFA make sure that they schedule the last match in the round-robin for the same time. Sleep will be lost as fans wait to see who will be in the Top 2 for each group as only the Top 2 go to the next stage of the competition. The bottom 2 will go home.
The World Cup Group stage will amaze and delight
If you think that the only games worth watching are the finals, think again! You can expect upsets and surprises in the Group Stage and some amazing soccer will be on display.
Even though FIFA draws no more than 2 European teams in each group, and only one team from other confederations, you can expect quality soccer and big names in each group. Then comes the excitement if there is not much difference between the four teams on the points table. Even though each game has only one of three possibilities (win, draw or loss), there are 729 possible combinations across the table. Fans can take nothing for granted.
The places to watch are the 2nd and 3rd ranking teams: 207 of those combinations lead to a tie (which will be decided by goal difference, number of goals and other criteria as determined by FIFA). More tears will be shed as favorite teams are left behind in the Group Stage.
Let’s take a look at Group B, as an example of what to expect
Group B has England, Iran, USA and Wales. These are all teams to watch. But only 2 teams can emerge victorious to advance to the next stage. You can expect drama, and plenty of it. The US as the co-host of the 2026 Games are expecting great things from the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team), after failing to quality for the previous world cup in 2018. But the USMNT will need to bring everything they have against England, Wales and Iran.
England would certainly like to have the final say in Group B, if not the whole tournament after losing to Italy in the Euros on a penalty shoot-out. Not to mention that this would be their first World Cup win since 1966. They want it and they want it bad.
Worth keeping in mind: it’s not always about winning. In 1990, the Republic of Ireland reached the quarter finals without winning a match. Ah, the luck of the Irish. But also, the luck of the draw.
The Knockout Stage: 16 Teams to enter
And so, 32 become 16. The pace to the finish picks up and every game is a ‘sudden death’. To progress from the Round of 16, you have to win or you are out. Then, a win to progress to the Quarter finals (or out). And then from the Semi-Finals to the Finals. That’s 3 games to win between Saturday 3 December and Sunday 18 December.
Only the Semi-finalists will play a total of 7 games from start to finish. The two winners of each Semi will go up against each other in the Final for Winner and Runner-Up. And the two losers play-off for 3rd position.
Update: Now that you understand the World Cup Stages, get your FREE Printable Winners Bracket for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Here!!
One team will go home with the World Cup Trophy, one will be runner up. 30 Teams will go home amid discussion on how to improve (or bitter recriminations over what went wrong).
It’s a brutal ending for teams who have battled their way through the preliminary games all the way to the Group stage and beyond.
Supporters who had high hopes and dreams have watched these come crashing down.
Fans that supported their national team will find new favorites as the field narrows.
Players who usually play shoulder-to-shoulder in the season will be playing against each other.
The world will stop to watch live matches, which are kicking off in Qatar at a very friendly 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Very friendly if you are a ticket holder in Qatar that is. But that means very early mornings (5 a.m. in the Group Stages for the USA & Canada) or late nights for the rest of the world.
It will be an unmissable, much talked about festival of football (soccer) for everyone.
You can read more about each of the Groups
Click on one of the Groups below to learn more.
This blog has been about how the game will be played in the 2022 FIFA World Cup stages when 32 Nations put their best and fairest on the soccer field.