Late Night Open Thread: The Qatar World Cup Draw

Best I can make out from the official site, picks will be made starting 7pm Friday Qatar time, which is noon EDT. Should I prepare to take dutiful notice of this, or is the asterisked Clash in Qatar being treated as one of those global embarrassments about which the less said, the better?


DOHA, Qatar — For Qatar, the World Cup draw Friday is the bell signaling the last lap of a race that began more than two decades ago. That’s when the Gulf state — poor in square miles, population and (back then) name recognition, but rich in per capita GDP and ambition — decided to make sports one of the central planks of its development.

Sports would raise the country’s profile, drive business opportunity, provide some sort of legacy for the day when, inevitably, the oil and natural gas run out. It was just one prong of the strategy — security (the U.S. military’s Gulf Central Command is in Doha), media (Al Jazeera) and education were also priorities — but in some ways, it was the most significant.

The most significant step in the journey was back on Dec. 2, 2010, when a vote by FIFA’s Executive Committee awarded them the 2022 World Cup. It would turn out to be a day of controversy — three of the 25 ExCo members were suspended for corruption before the vote even took place, another 11 who voted that day were subsequently banned, prosecuted or suspended, and longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter was ousted a few years later — but it meant Qatar was on its way and there was no turning back…

The draw Friday will determine how the 32 participating nations will line up in groups of four. Well, almost — real life, of course, has gotten in the way in the form of a pandemic and a war, which means three spots are still to be determined. Barring any further twists, one will be contested by Ukraine, Scotland and Wales, another by Australia, United Arab Emirates and Peru and the final one by Costa Rica vs. New Zealand. While most of FIFA’s 211 member nations had their World Cup dreams crushed a long time ago — and a few just in the past 10 days — fans in 37 countries can continue to hope, at least until June, when the final qualifiers are played….

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