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Why this won’t be a typical World Cup...

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World Cup trophy

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EDITOR'S NOTE

 

Good morning. With the World Cup starting today in Qatar, we’ve got a special Brew for you previewing the tournament from all angles. There’s a lot to talk about, only a portion of which is the actual soccer.

Have a great day. Go USA.

Neal Freyman, managing editor

 
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SPORTS

 

This isn’t your typical World Cup

Choreography of SC Freiburg fans before the game with the inscription "Boycott Qatar" as a protest action against the World Cup in Qatar.Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images

Every four years, the World Cup brings minute-long “GOOAAALLLL” announcer celebrations, remarkable athletic achievements (with no hands!), and lots of consternation as to why the US team disappointed yet again.

But this year’s edition feels a lot different. The sketchy circumstances through which the host country was selected and the controversies stemming from the Qatari government threaten to overshadow the action on the pitch.

Here are some of the reasons why this isn’t your typical World Cup.

First of all, it’s not in the summer. The World Cup typically takes place in the summer months, which has made it pretty easy to watch games at work while your boss is away on vacation. But Qatar’s weather is unbearably hot in the summer (regularly exceeding 100°F), so the organizers moved it to the fall. That’s proving exceptionally disruptive for domestic soccer leagues across the world, which have had to take long breaks in the middle of their seasons so that players can compete in the World Cup.

So how was Qatar selected to host? Good question, because it is unprecedented. Qatar’s soccer team had never qualified for the tournament when it was selected in 2010, and it’s not exactly equipped to host one either: It had just one operational soccer stadium in the entire country. The answer could be corruption. In 2020, after a yearslong investigation, the US Department of Justice alleged that reps working for Qatar and Russia (which hosted the 2018 World Cup) bribed FIFA officials to win hosting rights.

And then there are the alleged human rights abuses. As a small nation of less than 3 million, Qatar has relied on migrant workers to build the infrastructure needed to host the tournament. But Amnesty International has said that the conditions those workers endure border on “modern slavery.” More than 6,500 migrant workers from South Asia have died since Qatar was awarded this World Cup in 2010, according to The Guardian (which also says it’s an extreme undercount). The Qatari government introduced reforms in 2020, including the creation of a support fund that paid harmed workers reparations, but human rights watchdogs say they haven’t gone far enough to remedy the wrongdoing. And in addition to Qatar’s alleged migrant worker abuses, critics have called out the government’s restrictions on homosexuality (which is a crime there) and women’s curtailed rights (they can’t drive without a male guardian’s approval).

In a bizarre, hourlong speech on Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino sought to deflect all this criticism from the host country toward himself. “Don’t criticize Qatar. Don’t criticize the players. Don’t criticize anyone. Criticize FIFA. Criticize me, if you want. Because I’m responsible for everything,” he said.

Big picture: Similar to what the Beijing 2022 Olympics experienced earlier this year, global backlash against FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 seems likely to dim enthusiasm for this installment of the tournament. Denmark’s jerseys have a “toned down” design to protest Qatar’s human rights track record. And cities across Europe, including Paris and London, are pausing the tradition of showing World Cup games in public spaces for the same reason.—NF

     
 

FOOD & BEV

 

There’s also going to be a lot less beer

Budweiser tents on November 17, the day the announcement was made to ban alcohol sales near the stadiums. Budweiser tents on November 17, the day the announcement was made to ban alcohol sales near the stadiums. Miguel Medina/Getty Images

Two days before the 2022 World Cup’s first match, Qatari officials laid down the alcohol gauntlet: no beer at the games. While it’s a 180 from the country’s initial promise to serve beer outside the stadiums before and after games, the writing was on the wall just six days ago, when the country’s royal family handed down orders to move beer tents to less prominent areas around the stadiums.

Booze will still be served in designated fan zones and high-priced stadium suites for tournament officials and rich folks. But considering Budweiser has been the event’s official beer sponsor since 1986 and shells out roughly $75 million every four years to hold that yeasty title, the company can’t be too happy right now.

And neither can FIFA, which has been trying to compromise with the conservative Muslim country on its stringent alcohol rules. Qatar initially wanted a fully dry 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s drinking culture is almost nonexistent

There are only two liquor stores in all of Qatar, drinking and being drunk in public are illegal, and any alcohol found in visitors’ luggage is confiscated. Plus, the country slapped a 100% tax on alcohol imports in 2019, so Qatar has the most expensive beer in the world, with an 11 ounce bottle costing $11.26, according to a 2021 report by Expensivity.

Budweiser is walking on eggshells. Despite Bud’s powerful influence at your family’s Fourth of July bash, its presence in Qatar has been spotty at best since the country won the World Cup bid in 2010.

It’s illegal to advertise alcohol in Qatar, so Budweiser tailored its ads there to highlight soccer stars in a classic-inspirational-sports kind of way. It’s also using the opportunity to promote its nonalcoholic beer, Budweiser Zero.

Peter Kraemer, chief supply officer at Budweiser’s parent company, said their team is expecting more beer to be drunk in the country during the four weeks of the World Cup than in an entire year.

Big picture: Even with the addition of temporary taps at fan zones, the few watering holes that sustained the light-drinking country of 3 million are looking at an influx of an estimated 1.2 million rowdy football fans that now have even fewer places to grab a drink.—MM

     
 

MEDIA

 

More than half of the global population will watch the World Cup

This year’s World Cup is expected to be viewed by 5 billion people (remember, the global population just hit 8 billion). So how does that stack up against other major TV events?

Chart showing viewership of World Cup compared to other eventsMorning Brew
 
Yogi Tea
 

CLIMATE

 

Qatar says the World Cup will be carbon neutral

Gif of Marcia Brady saying The Brady Bunch/Paramount Pictures via Giphy

Qatar didn’t secure its World Cup hosting duties by having a reputation as the most environmentally conscious of nations. It’s a major oil and natural gas exporter and is considered the highest emitter of CO2 per capita globally. As national economies go, this one’s basically an energy company that also happens to have some malls and beaches.

Nevertheless, the nation and FIFA declared that Qatar 2022 will be the first-ever carbon neutral World Cup.

Here’s what Qatar claims

The nation has highlighted its efforts to make the World Cup sustainable, like making one of the seven stadiums it built for the tournament a temporary structure constructed of 974 shipping containers—the aptly named Stadium 974. It also planted 16,000 trees, started an electric bus network, and brought a new solar energy plant online.

Qatar further asserts that its size (it’s smaller than Connecticut) will keep emissions down by minimizing travel between venues.

But the tournament will still have a big carbon footprint: An official estimate puts total emissions associated with the World Cup from the start of preparations in 2011 through 2023 at 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—that’s more than a year’s worth from some countries.

To counter these emissions, Qatar will rely on carbon offsets, meaning they’ll invest in emissions-reducing activities to “offset” the pollution.

But critics aren’t buying it

A report released by Carbon Market Watch said the organizers used very creative math to get their estimate—undercounting by a factor of eight. One big sticking point is how to calculate the emissions from the construction of those six other new stadiums that aren’t going to be dismantled like Stadium 974.

But even if Qatar is doing the math correctly, Carbon Market Watch still isn’t impressed by the carbon offsets, saying the projects funded so far didn’t really need the investment. Carbon offsets generally have a poor reputation among environmentalists, who view them as a way for polluters to drop some cash to keep polluting.

Plus, in order to have enough water for the influx of visitors (since Qatar is a desert peninsula that’s usually only home to about 2.9 million people), it will need to send desalination plants into overdrive. Qatar will also be air conditioning open-air stadiums, as it’s expected to be ~92 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

Bottom line: Qatar is spending an eye-popping $220 billion to host the tournament in an effort to burnish its international reputation. But it’s faced headlines all over the globe questioning the environmental impact—probably not the kind of publicity it was hoping to buy.—AR

 

GEOGRAPHY

 

If the World Cup were decided by things other than soccer

World Cup trophy Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

We all know the winner of the World Cup will be determined by winning soccer games (and has been nearly impossible to predict ever since the passing of the oracle octopus).

But imagine a world in which the World Cup trophy was handed out not for soccer, but for other notable achievements and unique characteristics. We did. Here’s how each country competing in the tournament could clinch the big prize.

Staying loyal to the flag: Denmark

The simple yet tasteful design of the Danish flag has not changed since it was adopted in 1625, making it the oldest continuously used national flag in the world.

Having the most expensive cheese in the world: Serbia

Produced exclusively in Serbia, Pule cheese is made from the milk of endangered Balkan donkeys and will cost you a pretty penny at $600 per pound.

Having the oldest newborns: South Korea

Koreans consider a person to be a year old at birth and they add a year to their age on every New Year’s Day. A child born on New Year’s Eve can be considered to be two years old despite literally being born yesterday.

Proximity to the center of the world (literally): Ghana

Ghana is the closest country to the intersection of the equator and the prime meridian, aka a random spot in the international waters of the Atlantic Ocean referred to as Null Island.

Being the champions of hospitality: Senegal

The people of Senegal take so much pride in their reputation for exceptional hospitality that the name of their national team roughly translates to “the lions of hospitality.”

Sardine consumption: Portugal

Being a sardine in Portuguese coastal waters is dangerous business: The country collectively eats 13 sardines per second in June when people celebrate festivals in honor of popular saints.

Yeah…there’s no way we could fit all 32 countries competing in the tournament in a single newsletter. Click here to read the rest.—SK

 

EXPLAINER

 

What to expect when you’re expecting to watch the World Cup

World Cup groups FIFA

FIFA expects the 2022 World Cup total viewership to hit 5 billion—so for the same reason you Google “how to talk about Ted Lasso without having to actually watch Ted Lasso,” you may want to know generally what’s going on before all of your coworkers start blabbing about it for the next month. Also, it’s been four years since the last World Cup, which means you may need to brush up on the format.

How does the tournament work? The World Cup consists of two stages of play: the group stage and the knockout stage. In the group stage, the 32 qualifying countries are placed into eight groups, each consisting of four teams, which play against all of the other teams in their respective group one time (i.e., in a “round robin” format). The outcomes of those matches determine which teams move on to the 16-team knockout stage.

  • The group stage: In this stage, teams earn three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. After all group matches have been played, the top two teams from each group move on to the knockout stage.
  • The knockout stage: As the name implies, once the knockout stage begins, draws are no longer possible. If teams are still tied up at the end of regulation and two 15-minute periods of extra time, the match will be settled by penalty kicks (exciting).

How is the US expected to do? Anything could happen, but the US’ group (Group B) is likely the toughest of all eight. Ranked 16th in the world, the USMNT will face England (world rank: 5th), Wales (19th), and Iran (20th).

Because the US didn’t qualify for the last World Cup in 2018 and is trotting out a bunch of Gen Zers (with an average age of <26, the US team has the second-youngest roster in the field), the team isn’t expected to contend for the trophy. But, if the US doesn’t make it to the knockout stage it’ll be a disappointment…to everyone except Chipotle, which is giving out free entrées for every US goal.

The game to watch: USA vs. England, a rematch of both the Revolutionary War and the less formal TikTok war between Gen Z Brits and Americans, will take place on Black Friday.—MK

     
 

BREW'S BEST

 

Track team ratings and their probability of advancing to the next round in real-time with FiveThirtyEight’s rankings. Brazil currently has the best odds to win, with a 22% chance of nabbing the World Cup trophy. [FiveThirtyEight]

Migrant workers are the World Cup’s forgotten team. [New York Times]

The new documentary FIFA Uncovered offers a good introduction to the powerful organization’s controversial history. [Netflix]

Everything you need to know about the US Men’s National Team ahead of the World Cup. [Yahoo Sports]

A broad preview of all the teams, stars, and betting opportunities. [ESPN]

Your best sleep: This clinically tested CBD hot chocolate—packed with ingredients like melatonin and magnesium to help you get quality shut-eye—is now available in white chocolate peppermint . Get up to 50% off sitewide.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

 

TRIVIA

 

World Cup trivia

This puzzle should fire up your neurons. We’ll give you the last names of five players on a World Cup team, and you have to name the country they play for.

It’s definitely not easy, so if you get 4/10, that’s a really good score.

  1. Christensen, Nørgaard, Højbjerg, Eriksen, Lindstrøm
  2. Di Maria, Paredes, Romero, Molina, Pezzella
  3. Pedro, Richarlison, Casemiro, Silva, Marquinhos
  4. Kostić, Đuričić, Lukić, Rajković, Eraković
  5. Tielemans, Batshuayi, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Meunier
  6. Dieng, Koulibaly, Ballo-Touré, Mendy, Gomis
  7. Al-Yami, Al-Burayk, Al-Hassan, Al-Malki, Al-Muwallad
  8. Fraser, Johnston, St. Clair, Wotherspoon, Davies
  9. Varane, Pavard, Lloris, Rabiot, Dembélé
  10. Khalilzadeh, Rezaeian, Gholizadeh, Ansarifard, Hosseini
 

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ANSWER

 

  1. Denmark
  2. Argentina
  3. Brazil
  4. Serbia
  5. Belgium
  6. Senegal
  7. Saudi Arabia
  8. Canada
  9. France
  10. Iran
         

Written by Matty Merritt, Neal Freyman, Abigail Rubenstein, Max Knoblauch, and Sam Klebanov

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