MOTD Live: FIFA World Cup 2022

MOTD Live: FIFA World Cup 2022 (BBC One, 3pm)

While there is usually an element of controversy before a major football tournament, the negativity surrounding this year’s World Cup has been off the scale.

Ever since December 2010, when it was announced that the 22nd staging of the quadrennial tournament was going to be held in Qatar, the Gulf state’s human-rights record, its limited football history, and the high financial costs have all been called into question.

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But now the focus finally shifts to the football pitch, as the under-fire hosts get the first-ever winter World Cup under way against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

The Qataris will be hoping to justify the controversial awarding of the staging by excelling both on and off the pitch.

As hosts, ‘The Maroon’ qualified automatically for the tournament, and fortunately for them, they have been drawn in what, on paper, looks like one of the most favourable pools, with the Netherlands and Senegal (who meet tomorrow) completing Group A.

The Qataris’ boss is 46-year-old Catalan Felix Sanchez, who has cemented himself as Qatar’s most successful ever coach with victory in the 2019 Asian Cup.

Unsurprisingly, there are no real household names in the Qatar squad with each member plying their trade in the domestic Qatar Stars League.

The players, however, have been in a six-month training camp together and will, in theory, be more familiar with each other than other nations.

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If Qatar are to have any success on home soil, much of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Almoez Ali.

The 26-year-old striker, a product of Aspire Academy, has already broken multiple records for the national side and is his country’s record goalscorer.

While Qatar are playing in their first World Cup finals, Ecuador’s record is hardly one to fear.

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The South Americans have only progressed past the group stage on one occasion, when England knocked them out of the 2006 tournament in Germany.

While the 32 nations involved in the tournament will all be hoping to get off to a good start (England and Wales play Iran and the USA tomorrow), there is also going to be some rivalry in the TV studios.

Gary Lineker and his BBC colleagues are first up to the plate as they introduce coverage of this opening match.

As usual, the Beeb and ITV have split the first round in half, with the Corporation covering two of England’s group games.

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Robyn Cowen, Catrin Heledd, Alex Scott, Gabby Logan, Emma Saunders and Kelly Somers

ITV will cover the Three Lions’ last-16 game, should they progress, while the Beeb then have the pick of the quarter-finals, and ITV the first-choice of the semis.

Then, when the final comes around on December 18, it will be a battle – both on the pitch and in the studio.

Over 30m people watched Gareth Southgate’s England get edged out by Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and around 80% of those were tuned into BBC One rather than ITV.

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With its host Mark Pougatch and big-name pundits Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Graeme Souness, ITV are sure to put on a bold show. But Alan Shearer, Rio Ferdinand, Vincent Kompany, Didier Drogba and Jürgen Klinsmann are joining Lineker in the BBC studio, so they will take some beating again in the traditional ‘battle of the box’.