The 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar will be unlike any we’ve seen previously. Alongside being played in December, it will also be the first hosted by a Middle Eastern nation, which marks a seismic moment for sport in the region as a whole.
However, another novelty of this year’s edition is quite simply how small the state of Qatar is relative to previous World Cup hosts. Indeed, we’ve gone from the largest country to host the tournament (Russia) to the smallest – and by quite a margin. European teams will certainly travel less distance compared to Euro 2020 (that was held in 2021).
Where in previous years, each team had to carefully consider where they decide the setup camp in a bid to minimise travel time to matches, no such considerations need to be factored in this time around. With that being said, teams competing at the 2022 World Cup will still rack up the miles while they’re in Qatar, they will just do so in a coach rather than a plane, as was the case in 2018 and 2014.
This begs the question, which country will travel the farthest over the course of the month-long tournament, and how will that number compare to miles travelled in previous editions? Having crunched the numbers thoroughly, here is what we’ve discovered.
Why This World Cup Will Be So Different
For fans around the globe, it’s fair to say this year’s edition of the FIFA World Cup will take some getting used to. Far from watching games in beer gardens drenched in warm sun, for most fans in Europe and beyond, viewing will be a strictly indoor affair as winter rolls in.
It isn’t just fans who need to adapt, though, as the players themselves are the ones who have been most affected by the World Cup changing from its usual May/June slot to November/December.
The reason for the change is down to the weather, as with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees in the summertime, football matches simply wouldn’t have been possible – or safe – for that time of year.
Coming just before the mid-way point of the club football season, the World Cup will act as a sort of ‘winter break’, which many European leagues already implement after Christmas. Nevertheless, for Premier League fans, club football stopping in the final week of November will be very odd indeed, as historically, no version of a winter break has ever been tested in the English game. Coming at such a critical point in the footballing calendar, it’s hard to predict how players will be affected by the timing of the World Cup.
It’s often been theorised by pundits and managers alike that England have tended to struggle at major summer tournaments on account of not having a winter break, as many star players look laboured – and far from their best – at the end of a gruelling domestic campaign. In that regard, perhaps a winter World Cup could be beneficial, as players will travel to Qatar – in theory at least – in peak physical condition.
Another oddity for players to get used to is the size of the Gulf state, which is quite unlike any nation to host a major international competition before. With a land mass of just 11,581 square km, it is the 158th largest country in the world. Further to this, Qatar has a land mass that is around 170,000 square kilometres smaller than the next smallest nation to host a World Cup Finals – Uruguay.
With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that teams won’t have to travel far at all, regardless of where they might be based in the nation. Indeed, every stadium used in the World Cup is within a 35-mile radius of the capital Doha (where four of the stadiums are also situated). Contrast this to Russia four years ago, where stadiums in Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg were separated by over 2,400 km.
How Far Teams Travelled In Previous Editions
As was mentioned above, the sheer size of previous host nations required teams to fly incredibly long distances relative to what we’ll see in the middle east this winter.
Interestingly, despite being the world’s biggest country, the record for the most mileage clocked by sides at a World Cup wasn’t broken in Russia in 2018. In fact, we have to go back to 1994 to find the answer to that question, an edition which was held in the USA for the very first time.
That year, Stanford (CA) and Foxborough (MA) were host cities and were separated by 4,324 km – the longest distance ever recorded in World Cup history. Argentina ended up playing in both stadiums that year, beating Nigeria 2-1 in Foxborough on the 25th of June before losing 3-2 to Romania in California a week later.
Huge distances covered were also an issue in Brazil in 2014, where the vastness of the football-mad country became an issue for many teams – most notably the USA. The Americans racked up an incredible 5,607 km of travel between their three Group stage stadiums of Natal, Manaus (in the northern Amazon region) and Recife.
Four years later, in Russia, Egypt went further yet, travelling 7,316 km in the group stage, while Columbia, at the opposite end of the scale, only just exceeded 1,000 km in reaching their three group stage matches. All of this certainly puts Qatar’s size into perspective, as the competition won’t have seen anything quite like it in the post-war era.
Where Is Each Team Based In Qatar?
With Doha very much being the hub of Qatar, from a social, political and economic standpoint, the vast majority of teams will be based in or around the capital.
Indeed, out of the 32 nations competing, all but eight are based in Doha, and of those, England, Iran and Denmark are situated in hotels just on the outskirts of the metropolis.
In the case of England, they have set up camp at the Souq Al Wakra hotel, which is just 15 km outside of Doha. As The Daily Mail write: “Souq Al Wakrah is an alcohol-free, five-star beach resort in the expanded fishing village Al Wakrah.” England are expected to remain there for the duration of their World Cup experience, with the decision based primarily on logistics.
As for the rest of the sides that are based outside of Doha, the most far-flung and exciting from a logistics standpoint are Belgium and Germany.
Germany is the only team that is choosing to be based in the far north of the country at a well-being centre called Zulal Wellness Resort. Built for the World Cup, guests at the five-star, 28-hectare, 120-room resort, which reaches out into the Arabian Gulf, are invited to experience ‘cupping therapy’ – which has gained popularity in recent years among professional athletes.
Germany has selected the most remote location for their base, close to an old port town, where traders once made their livings pearl fishing. It is an hour by coach from Doha and 90-minutes from Hamad International Airport, but there is a helicopter available if needed. “Qualifying for the World Cup early helped us greatly in our search for a base camp in Qatar, and we have everything we need,” reflected Head coach Hansi Flick earlier this year.
Located on the Western coast of Qatar, just 20 miles from the Saudi Arabian border, the Red Devils have opted for seclusion as well as luxury. The Hilton Salwa hotel is a rambling pleasure-fest for the super-rich, 60 miles west of Doha. It is also one of just five FIFA-approved team bases with a private beach.
But if that’s not enough, they can go full immersion in the resort’s own water-adventure park, which features 56 rides, or at The Canyon, which boasts 17 pools, 10 Slides, 16 cliff jumps and water-filled tunnels. There are more than 20 restaurants, including a sports bar and beach club, and you can eat in an underwater dining room. As we’ll go on to explore, however, this seclusion comes at a price, as the hotel is the furthest of any team from the capital, with the 88km journey taking just over an hour to complete by road.
How Far Will Each Team Travel In Qatar?
While travel time won’t be too much of a concern for each nation, it is still notable how much it can differ depending upon where each side is based.
As you might expect, it is the countries who have set up camp in far-flung corners of Qatar, away from Doha, that are going to travel the farthest during the competition.
To that end, here are the four teams who are going to clock to most miles in the group stage at the FIFA World Cup this winter.
Belgium – 660 km
Roberto Martinez’s side may have had the pick of one of Qatar’s most luxurious hotels and training complexes, but it comes at the cost of convenience. In Group E, they face two matches at the Ahmad bin Ali stadium in Al Rayyan, which is 108km from their Hilton hotel. Their longest journey is for a clash against Morocco on the 27th of November, which is at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha – a 228 km round trip from their base.
Germany – 538 km
Like Belgium, Die Mannschaft have also opted for a base that is far away from all other competitors and rival squads. Being based in the north does bring them closer to the most northern stadium in Qatar – the Al Bayt in Al Khor – where Hansi Flick’s men will meet Spain and Costa Rica. However, the Khalifa International Stadium is where their campaign begins, which is around 112 km away from their hotel base.
Saudi Arabia – 427.6 km
In spite of the ongoing political turmoil between Saudi and Qatar, the KSA national side will be allowed to base themselves in the host nation. Opting for the Sealine Beach hotel on the south-eastern coast of Qatar, Saudi have to venture to one of the most northern stadiums in the country when they play Argentina on the 22nd of November and Mexico on the 30th. Their other Group C match, against Poland on the 26th of November, will involve a much shorter trip to Al Rayyan.
England 269.6 km
The Euro 2020 finalists might be based relatively close to the capital, but a trip to Al Bayt (the most distant stadium from Doha) means that they will accumulate more coach time than most. England will meet the United States in Al Khor, which is a 146 km round trip, before playing Iran and Wales in Al Rayyan. Fortunately for Southgate and co, the latter is much closer to their hotel and training base.
Qatar – 247.8 km
You might assume that the host nation would get an easy ride when it comes to travel, mainly by managing to play all of their group games in the capital of Doha, where they also happen to be based. However, like England, they will make a trip to the 60,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium for their first game against Ecuador.
Qatar heads back to Al Khor for their final game of Group A against The Netherlands, with their match against Senegal in Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium sandwiched in-between. Four trips there and back to Al Bayt Stadium, which is 54.2 km away from their Doha base, means that the host nation will be on the move more than 27 other teams at the World Cup.
Teams That Will Travel The Most 2022 World Cup
NationHotel BaseTotal distance travelled (group stage)Longest matchday round-tripTeams they’ll face in their groupBelgiumHilton Salwa660km228 km to Al Thumama StadiumCanada, Morocco, CroatiaGermanyZulal Wellness Resort538 km224 km to Khalifa International StadiumSpain, Costa Rica, JapanSaudi ArabiaSealine Beach427.6 km146 km to Losail StadiumArgentina, Mexico, PolandEnglandSauq Al Wakra Hotel269.6km146 km to Al Bayt StadiumWales, Iran, USAQatarAl Aziziha Boutique Hotel247.8 km108.4 km to Al Bayt StadiumEcuador, Netherlands, Senegal
In showing which teams will travel the furthest in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, what we’ve demonstrated just how insignificant the distances involved are compared to previous editions. It is true that Belgium’s journey times, in particular, will be more significant and frustrating than France’s, for example, but with traffic not expected to be a concern and no journey time exceeding 90 minutes, the effects of their matchday trips should be negligible.
Players are used to traveling a lot weekly with their clubs, however, whether players grow bored of being in such a remote part of the country is a different matter altogether. Time will ultimately tell if any of this ends up having an impact, although the players and managers will surely be grateful to not have to board a plane to get from one game to another.