Doha, Qatar – The FIFA Membership World Cup in Qatar has entered the knockout stage, with the semi-final lineup determined.
Mexican facet and CONCACAF champions, Monterrey, earned a gathering with English Premier League leaders, Liverpool, after beating residence favourites Al Sadd 3-2 on Saturday night time on the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium within the capital, Doha.
The opposite semi-final will function South American champions Flamengo and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, who defeated Tunisian membership Esperance 1-0.
However because the Gulf state levels the nation’s largest soccer occasion within the lead as much as the 2022 World Cup, there may be an environment of optimism in addition to uncertainty.
“The FIFA Membership World Cup naturally brings much less worldwide followers and fewer groups than the FIFA World Cup, however nonetheless allows us and the hosts to check a few of our plans and the native infrastructure,” a FIFA spokesperson instructed Al Jazeera.
“In addition to that, it gives the followers and the groups a chance to find the FIFA World Cup host three years prematurely,” mentioned the official representing the soccer’s world governing physique.
For the native organisers, the seven-team membership event will assist “refine and optimise our event internet hosting idea to make sure that gamers and followers are assured a seamless expertise in three years’ time,” mentioned a spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Supply and Legacy.
“It is step one to the World Cup, a primary child step, and hopefully we will impress the world within the World Cup,” mentioned Eisa al-Shirawi, a 30-year-old Qatari fan, who was at Al Sadd’s opening recreation towards New Caledonia’s Hienghene Sport.
World Cup venue Khalifa Worldwide Stadium, that has a capability of greater than 45,000, will now host the remainder of the matches because of the delay within the inauguration of the Schooling Metropolis Stadium – scheduled on December 18 – as a result of the “essential certification course of took longer than anticipated”.
Building for 5 different World Cup stadiums and totally different street works across the nation are additionally ongoing.
“There are numerous issues to enhance,” Ratiu Calin-Adrian, a Qatargas worker, instructed Al Jazeera.
“It appears just like the stadiums are very far-off from the fan space…in order that they have to be nearer to the stadiums,” the 39-year-old Romanian mentioned throughout his go to to the event’s Fan Zone.
The nation’s first-ever metro system was opened to the general public in Could, whereas further strains and stations have been opened weeks in the past within the run-up to the event.
However congestion on the roads just isn’t unusual, particularly on the match days.
“I feel lots of people are doubting them, however I feel they will do a great job,” a Doha resident from South Africa instructed Al Jazeera.
“I have been right here for six years, and in these six years, I’ve seen drastic modifications and they’re extra accommodating and it is extra vacationer pleasant now as properly,” she mentioned.
The 12,000-seater Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium was solely crammed to half capability for the primary three matches this week.
Whereas only some thousand followers from the UK and Brazil purchased tickets to attend the Membership World Cup, much more are anticipated to return in 2022.
In addition to resorts, residences and fan villages, two cruise ships with a mixed capability of 4,000 cabins will act as floating resorts to accommodate the visiting followers.
“For the World Cup, it is lots of people. Often, it is [hosted by] a giant nation with 10 totally different cities,” mentioned Mike McGuiness, a soccer fan from the US, who was in attendance for Saturday’s matches.
“This is only one [major] metropolis, so I do not perceive how they are going to home all of the individuals,” the 50-year-old, who was visiting Doha on vacation from San Francisco, instructed Al Jazeera.
However he mentioned he might be again in three years’ time for his eighth World Cup.
Whereas consuming just isn’t allowed inside stadiums, followers can have alcohol at totally different boutique resorts and the Fan Zone at Doha Sports activities Park, the place the matches are being screened.
“The most important problem is discovering the stability between the Western followers searching for a sure tradition of social gathering and the native tradition of Qatar,” Lisa Nassi, a 41-year-old Canadian and Doha resident, instructed Al Jazeera.
“That is going to be their largest problem.”
Observe Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz.