Qatar World Cup to undergo late change – media
The kick-off to this year's World Cup in Qatar will now come one day earlier after FIFA stepped in to ensure that the host nation will be involved in the first match, according to reports.
Global football's showpiece event was due to begin on Monday, November 21, with AFCON winners Senegal taking on The Netherlands in a Group A fixture – however FIFA has moved Qatar's game with Ecuador forward by a day, meaning that the tournament will now begin on Sunday, November 20.
News of the late change hasn't yet been confirmed by FIFA but multiple reports, including from Reuters, state that the switch will be officially announced by the Bureau of the FIFA Council before long.
The Bureau of the FIFA Council is comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the leaders of the various continental federations. The impending change means that the World Cup will now take place between November 20 until the final on December 18.
It has become a tradition for the host nation to play in the first match of a World Cup; something which has happened in the last four iterations of the tournament.
Hosts Germany defeated Costa Rica in 2006, while South Africa drew with Mexico in 2010 and Brazil beat Croatia in 2014.
Russia, meanwhile, routed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the first match of the 2018 World Cup.
Previously, it was common for the holders of the World Cup to play in the opening fixture – but this was last done in 2002 when France dramatically lost to Senegal at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
The Qatar World Cup, though, has already bucked tradition by taking place in December to avoid players being subjected to intense summer heat in the Middle Eastern country – something which has proved to be a controversial move, as it takes place in the middle of the European football calendar, forcing many major leagues to take a six-week mid-season break.
Critics have said that the World Cup will be an unwelcome intrusion into European football's various domestic schedules, with many questioning how a country not traditionally associated with football was awarded hosting rights for the sport's biggest event – particularly amid a veil of human rights abuse allegations levied at Qatari authorities.
The English Premier League will resume on December 26, one week after the conclusion of the World Cup.