World Cup 2022: Qatar hits highest-ever attendance in FIFA’s history during group stages

The Gulf state saw 2.45 million spectators in attendance; an average of 96% occupancy during group stages.

Qatar witnessed the highest attendance of fans during the 2022’s World Cup group stages in FIFA’s history, defying all criticism over its geographically small size. 

The Gulf nation saw the groundbreaking attendance of 88,966 fans at the Argentina v. Mexico match at Lusail Stadium on 26 November, marking the highest such figure in FIFA’s history since 1994. 

“The outcome of the group stage shows the extent to which more countries have acquired the tools to compete at the highest level,” Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, said.

FIFA revealed the figures on Saturday as the tournament moves on to the round of 16, the beginning of a tougher competition as teams fight for victory. The group stages took place for 13 days and had a total of 48 matches.

The match that broke a new FIFA record saw Argentina triumph over Mexico at 2-0, with the greatest of all time Lionel Messi saving his team from elimination.

Outside of the pitch and onto the television screens, the England v. USA game was the most watched men’s football match on US television. The tough game on 25 November ended with a shocking 0-0 draw.

Adding to the success of the first-ever World Cup in the Arab world, Qatar saw an attendance of 2.45 million spectators, an average of 96% occupancy. The figure is also higher than Russia’s, a much bigger country, which saw 2.17 million fans when it hosted the tournament in 2018.

The tournament in Qatar was also the witness of many firsts, where teams from all continents in the world advanced for the round of 16 for the very first time. Out of the teams, three are from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)—Australia, Japan and South Korea.

This is also a record for the AFC given that only two of its teams reached the knockout stages in 2002 and then in 2010. Additionally, two African teams, Senegal and Morocco, reached the next stage of the tournament for the first time since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 

Looking at the players that rocked the stadiums with their performance, renowned Portuguese star Crtistiano Ronaldo managed to become the first to score at five World Cup editions, marking a new milestone in his career.

Ronald’s achievement came in a stellar performance on 24 November, where Portugal defeated Ghana 3-2 in a tight World Cup opener.

Meanwhile, in the stadium stands, the chants of roaring Uruguayan and Korean fans on 24 November peaked at 131 decibels at the Education City diamond-shaped stadium. FIFA described the sound as one that is “akin to that heard at a live rock concert.”

Holistic experience

With no World Cup complete without fans, Qatar has put great efforts into different fan zones to provide football spectators of all ages with a memorable experience. The fan zones provide tens of thousands with large screens to enjoy the games while participating in numerous activities.

The large FIFA Fan Festival in Al Bidda Park also welcomed its one millionth visitor, per the data provided by the football governing body.

“It’s been a fantastic World Cup, with groundbreaking figures and memorable moments both on and off the pitch. Fans are having an amazing time in Doha, and the whole world is following with excitement on TV as new records [are] set every day,” Colin Smith, FIFA COO World Cup, said.

Qatar has also stood up to criticism from western media that has doubted its readiness to host the most compact version of the sporting event since 1930.

One common positive feedback that many fans had is over the seamless travel experience between the stadiums, enabling them to attend multiple matches on the same day—unlike previous versions of the World Cup.

This was also reflected in the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram networks, which carried out 9.19 million trips with a daily average of 707,032 passengers. Teams have also been able to stay within a 10km radius apart, resulting in a total of 3,321 transfers in and around the Gulf state’s capital since kick-off.

“What some saw as a challenge, we saw as an opportunity. Teams, media and spectators are enjoying more matches, more festivals, more football, more fun – the compact footprint is comfortably addressing the influx of visitors through state-of-the-art infrastructure and thorough operational plans,” Smith added.

The Hayya card, or fan ID, has been the key to a rich World Cup experience that enabled visitors from all over the globe enter Qatar. Spectators from Saudi Arabia, India, the US, the United Kingdom, and Mexico have topped the list of attendance.

“Together with the host country, we are constantly monitoring and addressing any situation that arises, but the figures already achieved and the fans celebrating together in a joyful and peaceful way throughout this group stage speak for themselves – we are on track to deliver a successful and unforgettable FIFA World Cup,” Smith noted.

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