The unconventional Winter World Cup, and how it will affect the soccer season
Soccer championships in Asia and especially in Africa, which are held in the middle of the season, annoy club coaches, but the World Cup in November and December is something completely new and incomprehensible. We are in for a busy and strange season, in the course of which conflicts between clubs and national teams will inevitably worsen, and the “Qatari experiment” is unlikely to be positively assessed. It is likely to be the first and last such experience, all the more interesting to relive and endure. In the meantime, let’s share our expectations.
In the traditional season, the World Championship takes place in June and July. Players complete their club season, go through mini-camps with their national teams and embark on a new adventure. Players from the top clubs and top teams have to stay in top form from April to July: first the decisive championship and European cup matches, then the preparatory break and the great fast-flowing tournament.
At the end of the club season it is not possible to play half-heartedly because of the importance of the matches, but now the Mundial is preceded by September and October, when the clubs are just getting up to speed and the momentous matches are still far away. There is no doubt that players preparing to participate in World Cup 2022 matches will consciously or subconsciously take care not to miss a major tournament due to injury. This question will be on the minds of the players, and it will inevitably drive club soccer in August, September and October:
What happens if I get injured before the World Cup? How do I avoid it?
And obviously, this will primarily affect star players who have no doubt about their entry into the World Cup bid. My guess is that the usual heroes will take care of their luster in the fall.
According to the crudest estimates, 80-85% of the participants in the World Cup in Qatar are already known, only 15-20% of the total number of 832 players who will be declared for the mundial (26 people in each of the 32 national teams) are undecided. Those 130-150 vacancies are claimed by 200-250 players, for whom the month before the 2022 World Cup will be even more stressful, because they need to prove themselves and chew out a place in the application, but at the same time not to go out of shape trying.
I think fall club soccer will turn out to be quite the contrast because of overachieving stars and desperate guys trying to get on the last wagon of the train heading off in the direction of Qatar. At the same time, this difference in sentiment may also affect the World Cup matches: not everyone can switch modes at the click of a button, so the revelatory daring contenders have a chance to shine in Qatar, while not all stars can get out of energy-saving and injury-proof mode. We may get some unexpected heroes of the 2022 World Cup.
Conflict of interest between clubs and national teams
The divergent interests of clubs and national teams are a flint and a crucible that will inevitably bump into each other and strike a spark. Players will want to participate in the World Cup at any cost, the medical staffs of the national teams will insist that the club medical services limit the participation of players in matches and training in case of the slightest doubt. The World Cup in the middle of the season creates fertile ground for players to put personal interests above those of their clubs. There will be entreaties, arguments, scolding, and simulated injuries.
Other strong relationships will deteriorate, communication between clubs and soccer federations will often be conducted in high tones, blackmail and threats are not excluded. For some, the World Cup will be a big showcase and an opportunity to make a name for themselves, while for others it will be a way of extracting greatness. The Mundial is too big and important compared to “some” September and October matches in the championships and Eurocups, except that the players’ salaries are still paid by the clubs, which in this season configuration find themselves in an unenviable position.
Risk of injury and poor soccer in January, February and March
The players’ bodies are used to the same rhythm, but the winter World Cup will rearrange the hands on the athletes’ internal clock. In July they will fully prepare for the season with their clubs, then play soccer for three months and go to training camps with the national teams, where players will get specific loads to give a short run at maximum intensity. This will inevitably be followed by a slump.
Remember how leisurely and mediocre the opening months of the seasons following major tournaments are. And here, that effect will hit hundreds of players at the beginning of the year. Clubs will rightly notice that the World Cup is behind us, and it’s time to work off the contracts, but club coaches will have to squeeze out devastated players. And not only physically, but also emotionally.
Remember how Mohamed Salah was before the Africa Cup of Nations last season and after. Two different players in terms of involvement in the game and effectiveness. A physical and motivational pit awaits many after the World Cup, and the most depressing consequence will be injuries amid fatigue. I am afraid that in early 2023 there will be a sad harvest of injuries to players who participated in the World Cup.
The climatic factor will also affect it: the participants in the World Cup will have to change many time zones twice in a month, and undergo acclimatization. The untimely celebration of soccer will entail unpleasant consequences that cannot be prevented. Leading specialists in the field of sports medicine and acting doctors of professional clubs are talking about it out loud now. The 2022 World Cup is looming to tear the usual soccer season in two and bring a lot of problems and sorrow. One can only hope that the joy of national soccer in Qatar will offset the negative effects.