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World Cup 2022 kicks off from Qatar with opening ceremony, host nation loss

By Joe Fisher and Allen Cone
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Fireworks go off at the end of the opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Sunday. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA/EFE
Fireworks go off at the end of the opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Sunday. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA/EFE

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway in Qatar as 32 teams vie for glory in the biggest sporting event in the world.

It is the first time the World Cup has been played in the winter and in the Middle East.

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Qatar, competing in the premier soccer tournament for the first time, lost to Ecuador 2-0 in the opening match at the 60,000-seat stadium in Al Khor City, which is about 18 miles from central Doha. The host nation 2-0 at the break on two goals from Enner Valencia. Both teams are considered long-shots to win the tournament.

Opening ceremonies, also at the stadium, included an appearance by Morgan Freeman and a performance from Jung Kook of the red-hot singing group BTS. Jung performed the song "Dreamers" alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.

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Matches for Monday are United States vs. Wales, Senegal vs. Netherlands and England vs. Iran.

Several notable players will not be on the field for the tournament, which will reach its conclusion on Dec. 18, including France's Karim Benzema, Germany's Timo Werner and Argentina's Giovani Lo Celso. Brazil, France and Argentina are among the favorites to win the World Cup.

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The prize for winning soccer's greatest tournament is $42 million of FIFA's $440 million purse. Each team will take home a share of the prize money. Qatar spent an estimated $200 billion in preparation of hosting the event, according to BBC. Sixty-four games will be played across eight stadiums in the coming weeks.

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The biggest celebration of soccer has not been without controversy. Qatar has faced criticism for the treatment of workers who provided services to accommodate the event. The organization New FIFA Now is urging sponsors of the World Cup to push for labor reform in the host country, citing the deaths of workers and substandard living conditions.

Human Rights Watch released a report in October, alleging Qatari security forces of targeting the LGBTQ community ahead of the World Cup. The watchdog organization accused Qatar of privacy violations, arbitrary detainments and violence against the community.

And alcohol is banned at the stadiums.

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The 2018 World Cup was viewed by an estimated 3.5 billion people, including about 1.12 billion who watched the final between in which France defeated Croatia 4-2 in Argentina.

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