Following their 2-0 loss to the Netherlands on Tuesday, Qatar have exited the FIFA World Cup 2022 with an ignominious record to their name. Back-to-back defeats to Senegal and Ecuador last week had already eliminated the hosts from the tournament, but yesterday’s poor showing means that Qatar will now leave the tournament pointless, a feat that no host had achieved so far in the tournament.
As the final games of the group stages ramp up the intensity both inside and outside the stadiums, let’s take a look at how other hosts have performed during the long history of the FIFA World Cup.
Hosts As Champions
A total of 18 nations have hosted the FIFA World Cup so far, with just France, Germany, Italy, Brazil and Mexico hosting on more than one occasion so far. The hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup used to alternate between Europe and South America for much of the 20th century, mainly due to the domination of both continents in the game.
During this era, the success of a bid for hosting the World Cup depended on the quality of the nation’s international team to a great extent. Logistical challenges involved in travelling around the globe also gave the home country an advantage in the form of lower fatigue and familiar conditions, allowing host countries to put up their best performance at the World Cups if they were held at home.
The period between 1930 and 1978 was the golden era of home advantage in the World Cups, with five of the 11 tournaments being won by the hosts. Uruguay won the first-ever FIFA World Cup as hosts, while Italy followed the feat four years later, even though they were denied an automatic qualification for the main tournament.
Italy would become the first team to successfully defend a title, with hosts France falling short in the quarterfinals in 1938. After a long gap, the tournament resumed in 1950, with Brazil hosting the tournament. Uruguay defeated the hosts in the final, causing heartbreak to thousands of fans that thronged Brazil’s stadiums.
Switzerland, Sweden and Chile would fall short in the knockout rounds of the tournament, with Brazil dominating the proceedings in the global game. England were awarded the 1966 tournament in acknowledgement of their growing influence in the game. The Three Lions put up one of their most memorable performances in the final against France to clinch the World Cup – it remains their only World Cup trophy to date.
While Mexico crashed out in the quarterfinals of the next World Cup, both West Germany and Argentina won the next two World Cups respectively, reinforcing the home advantage principle.
Spain’s Disastrous 1982 Campaign
Breaking the myth of home advantage, Spain failed to improve their fortunes in the tournament in 1982 when they were the hosts. They failed to beat Northern Ireland and Honduras in the first round and barely won the game against Yugoslavia 2-1. That win was, however, enough to propel them to the second round, where they were thoroughly thrashed by West Germany and England.
Mexico, Italy and the United States all got eliminated in the knockout rounds, sometimes not without controversy. The United States are still accused of foul play in their final group-stage game against Colombia. France broke this curse in 1998 when they won the trophy for the first time in history. Les Bleus remained undefeated on their way to the finals and brushed aside the challenge from Brazil with ease in Paris.
The Era of New Hosts
With FIFA’s decision to increase the participation of Asian and African nations in football, the hosting rights were awarded to new countries. Japan and South Korea together hosted the 2002 World Cup, with both teams putting up the best performances in their history during the tournament. The impact of the 2002 World Cup is still present on both Asian sides, who have become the torchbearers of Asian football at global events.
South Africa, the only African nation to host a World Cup, experienced a much different impact. Although the 2010 World Cup was celebrated across the globe and turned out to be one of the most memorable World Cups, South Africa failed to advance past the group stage – a first in the tournament’s history. But a win against France in their final game meant that the South Africans exited the tournament high on confidence, even though it failed to leave a lasting impact on their team.
Brazil’s infamous 1-7 thrashing at the hands of Germany in front of home fans is all too well known, with the hosts crashing out in the fourth round of the 2014 World Cup. Russia have managed to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup, but once again, the actual impact on the quality of their side remains negligible.
Qatar’s pointless campaign thus ranks last among all the hosts of the World Cup. Not only did the hosts fail to win any games, but they could also manage to score just a single goal in the tournament. They also conceded the most number of goals by any host in the tournament’s history in the group stages – 7. They also became the earliest host to get eliminated in the tournament’s 92-year history.
What is perhaps more surprising is that the Qataris have been considered one of the stronger Asian sides – winning the Asian cup in 2019 and finishing third in the Arab Cup last year. They even had a better rank heading into the tournament than Saudi Arabia, who are managing to stun everyone with their skills on the field.
Qatar’s problems might lie in the absolute lack of motivation their players showed on the field – all their games were one-sided right from the start. There is a lot that the hosts need to introspect on in the coming months.
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