The World Cup is a time when people from all over the planet can come together, be happy and gay

For football fans, it’s a festival like Glastonbury, the Rio Carnival or Pride

Some pundits had initially expressed concern about the country’s appalling human rights abuses, but those fears were banished when they realised they were being paid lots of money to promote it.

Say what you like about Qatar, but attention now turns to the next four weeks of football. 

We’ve compiled a guide to all 32 teams competing, as we finally reach the moment supporters and migrant workers have been dying for.

GROUP A

QATAR

Only six nations have won the World Cup on their own soil. The last to do so were France in 1998, and with the best will in the world it’s unlikely that Qatar will emulate that feat. A run to the knockout stages, however, isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. 

One to watch: Akram Afif (forward)

The punishment for sodomy between men in Qatar is imprisonment of between one and three years. 

ECUADOR

With three of their squad currently sitting seventh in the Premier League with Brighton and other players at the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Real Valladolid, Ecuador’s relative youth belies a fair amount of top-level experience.

One to watch: Moisés Caicedo (midfielder)

A recent Human Rights Watch report quoted a Qatari bisexual woman who said Preventive Security officers “beat me until I lost consciousness several times. An officer took me blindfolded by car to another place that felt like a private home from the inside and forced me to watch restrained people getting beaten as an intimidation tactic”. 

READ MORE: World Cup winner Rose Reilly in National Galleries of Scotland honour

SENEGAL

An injury to his right fibula means talisman Sadio Mané won’t be fit for Senegal’s opener against the Netherlands and is considered a doubt for their remaining group stage fixtures. It was Mané who scored the crucial penalty as the Lions of Teranga won this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and he’ll be relying on the likes of Chelsea pair Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly to build on that momentum.

One to watch: Idrissa Gueye (midfielder)

According to Amnesty International, Qatari citizens have been arbitrarily detained after criticising the country’s government, before being sentenced based on confessions that were obtained through coercion. 

THE NETHERLANDS

HeraldScotland: Virgil van Dijk will be a key man for the Netherlands, and over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the country in 2010Virgil van Dijk will be a key man for the Netherlands, and over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the country in 2010 (Image: PA Images)

Having finished second in 2010 and third in 2014, the Dutch failed to qualify last time out. Legendary coach Louis van Gaal was in charge when they beat Brazil 3-0 in 2014’s third-place playoff, and he’s back at the helm with a squad that features arguably the world’s greatest defender. 

One to watch: Virgil van Dijk (defender)

As reported by i News, a gay man was lured to a hotel through a dating app, where he was sexually assaulted by six Qatari officials. He was then taken to jail, had his papers cancelled and was deported.

GROUP B

ENGLAND

One of international football’s most consistent nations, England are tipped to prolong a run of not winning this tournament that began in 1970. Coach Gareth Southgate achieved national treasure status with runs to 2014’s World Cup semi-final and the final of last year’s European Championships, but recent unconvincing performances mean much of the enthusiasm generated by those runs has evaporated.

One to watch: Harry Kane (forward)

David Beckham is being paid a reported £150 million to serve as an ambassador for Qatar. When Dr Nasser Mohamed - the only publicly out gay Qatari in the world - called Beckham out on Instagram, the former England international blocked him. 

IRAN

Former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz has returned for a second spell in charge, having guided them to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups before departing in 2019. They are yet to make it out of the group stage, and few would predict anything different in 2022.

One to watch: Mehdi Taremi (forward)

Of the 22 FIFA Council members who voted to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, seventeen have been either banned or indicted over allegations of corruption and wrongdoing.

USA

Cameron Carter-Vickers has proved a big hit at Celtic, and fans of the Glasgow club will also be familiar with Lille’s Timothy Weah. Borussia Dortmund forward Giovanni Reyna, meanwhile, is the son of former Rangers midfielder Claudio Reyna and was named after current Ibrox boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic is the squad’s biggest name, and the man known as ‘Captain America’ may be their biggest hope of progression to the knockout stage.

One to watch: Giovanni Reyna (forward)

After reporting in June 2021 that she had been raped, World Cup organising committee official Paola Schietekat was charged with having engaged in ‘extramarital sex’ and faced a punishment of 100 lashes and seven years in jail. As reported by the Mail, lawyers advised her that she could get round the charges by marrying her alleged rapist. She has since fled the country. 

WALES

Few teams in this tournament are as reliant on one player as Wales are on Gareth Bale. Despite dropping down from La Liga to the MLS, he remains a supremely talented individual capable of winning matches single-handedly. This is the nation’s first World Cup since 1958, when they reached the quarter-final before being knocked out by Brazil.

One to watch: Gareth Bale (forward)

As of February 2021, over 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the country in 2010. Of those, 37 were linked directly to construction of new stadia.

GROUP C

ARGENTINA

HeraldScotland: This could be Lionel Messi's last shot at winning the World Cup, and, in Qatar, women require permission from a male guardian in order to marry.This could be Lionel Messi's last shot at winning the World Cup, and, in Qatar, women require permission from a male guardian in order to marry. (Image: PA Images)

At the age of 35, this looks like being Lionel Messi’s last chance of winning football’s greatest prize. Two-time winners Argentina suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Germany in 2014’s final. 

One to watch: Lionel Messi (forward)

Under Qatar’s 2014 Cybercrime Prevention Law, anyone convicted of spreading ‘false news’ (the definition of which has not been settled) or posting content that ‘violates social values or principles’ or ‘insults or slanders others’ can face a maximum of three years in prison and/or a fine of around £115,300. 

SAUDI ARABIA

With Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski lying in wait, it would be understandable if Saudi Arabia approached this tournament with trepidation, but they have an experienced coach in two-time Africa Cup of Nations winner Hervé Renard. They reached the group stage at USA ‘94, where Saeed Al-Owairan scored one of the tournament’s greatest ever goals. 

One to watch: Salem al-Dawsari (forward)

According to Human Rights Watch, “under Qatar’s labour law, deaths attributed to ‘natural causes’ without being adequately investigated are not considered work-related and are not compensated.”

MEXICO

Having qualified from the group stage at seven consecutive World Cups, Gerardo Martino’s side will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986. Wolves forward Raúl Jiménez has made 95 appearances for his country, but he comes into the tournament having made just four appearances for his club so far this season. 

One to watch: Hirving Lozano (forward)

Advising fans that rainbow flags could be confiscated in Qatar, security official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari said “somebody else around him might attack” and claimed the flag would “insult the whole society”. 

POLAND

Czeslaw Michniewicz’s squad boasts nine players from Serie A, including midfielder Piotr Zieliński, who pulled the strings in Napoli’s 4-1 Champions League win against Liverpool. All eyes, however, will be on their striker. 

One to watch: Robert Lewandowski (forward)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has issued the following advice for journalists covering the tournament: “If you are travelling to Qatar, assume your devices and online activity could be monitored”. They add: “There is no culture of tolerance for critical reporting and legislation is based on a strict interpretation of sharia law, with stringent penalties including fines, detention or deportation.”

GROUP D

FRANCE

The holders will be among the favourites, despite being without the likes of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema says he’s “not 100%” after injury, so Kylian Mbappe could be their biggest threat.

One to watch: Kylian Mbappe (forward)

In Qatar, women require permission from a male guardian in order to marry. If they are divorced, they must still obtain a male guardian’s permission in order to act as primary guardian of a child.

AUSTRALIA

With seven players based in Scotland, it’s a former SPFL player whose presence will be most eagerly anticipated by the majority of Scottish football fans. Former Hibs, Rangers and Dundee man Jason Cummings scored on his debut against New Zealand in September, and whether he’s on the pitch or in the dugout it will be hard to take your eyes off him.

One to watch: Jason Cummings (forward)

Human Rights Watch documented the case of a transgender woman who was arrested by Preventive Security in Doha. She said: “They detained me twice, once for two months in a solitary cell underground, and once for six weeks. They beat me every day and shaved my hair. They also made me take off my shirt and took a picture of my breasts.”

DENMARK

With Christian Eriksen back at a major tournament, Denmark will surely be the neutral’s favourite. Sentimentality aside, he remains his country’s most important player. After reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2020, they will also be buoyed by wins home and away against France in the Nations League.

One to watch: Christian Eriksen (midfielder)

In May 2021, Kenyan labour rights blogger Malcolm Bidali was detained and held for nearly a month without charge in Qatar. Having lived in Qatar for three years, security guard Bidali had written about alleged labour rights violations and the living conditions of migrant workers. 

TUNISIA

The Eagles of Carthage have never qualified for the last-16, but pulled off only their second victory in the tournament when they beat Panama 2-1 in 2018. Coach Jalel Kadri took them to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final earlier this year.

One to watch: Hannibal Mejbri (midfielder)

Speaking to the Guardian this month, Dr Nasser Mohamed claimed gay people in Qatar have been captured and physically abused before being promised safety if they work for the Preventive Security department and help them track down other LGBTQ+ people within the country. 

GROUP E

SPAIN

Since 2010’s victory in the golden age of Xavi and Iniesta, Spain have disappointed at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. Under Luis Enrique they were only beaten on penalties by Italy in the Euro 2020 semi-final, and the former Barcelona boss can call on Sergio Busquets from 2010’s winning XI. 

One to watch: Pedri (midfielder)

According to Amnesty International, at least 100,000 migrant workers have been exploited and suffered abuse in the 12 years since Qatar were awarded the tournament. 

COSTA RICA

PSG keeper Keylor Navas remains the linchpin of Luis Fernando Suárez’s squad, despite being kept out of his club team by Gianluigi Donnarumma. Los Ticos reached the quarter-finals in 2014, but face an uphill struggle this year after being drawn in what could be the tournament’s toughest group.

One to watch: Keylor Navas (goalkeeper)

A 2019 National Library of Medicine Cardiology report said that as many as 200 cardiovascular disease deaths in Qatar between 2009 and 2017 “could have been prevented if effective heat protection had been implemented as a part of local occupational health and safety programs.”

GERMANY

HeraldScotland: Kai Havertz will be central to Germany's plans, and Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman called homosexuality 'a damage in the mind' Kai Havertz will be central to Germany's plans, and Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman called homosexuality 'a damage in the mind' (Image: PA Images)

The four-time champions suffered a humiliating group stage exit in 2018, and were then knocked out of Euro 2020 at the quarter-final stage. Old hands Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller will be among those charged with lifting a proud national team out of their doldrums. 

One to watch: Kai Havertz (midfielder)

Just days before the start of the tournament, fans were banned from drinking inside  grounds. You can, however, obtain alcohol if you have a corporate hospitality ticket. Prices start at £19,000.

JAPAN

Eyebrows were raised in Scotland when Celtic’s Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi failed to make the cut, but the SPFL champions will be represented by attacker Daizen Maeda. 20 years after hosting the tournament, Hajime Moriyasu will likely have to see off one of Spain or Germany if they want to progress.

One to watch: Takehiro Tomiyasu (defender)

Speaking on LBC in October, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told fans they “are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.”

He added: “Please do be respectful of the host nation.”

In response, English LGBTQ+ supporters group @3LionsPride tweeted: “To insinuate that an acceptable and proportionate safety measure is to ‘be less queer’ forces us back into the closet and risks mental health crises.”

GROUP F

BELGIUM

The high point for Belgium’s golden generation was a third-place finish in 2018’s World Cup, and the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku will know there are few opportunities left to improve on that. They do, however, possess one of the most technically gifted players at the tournament. 

One to watch: Kevin de Bruyne (midfielder)

Former Qatar international footballer Khalid Salman, who is an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup, this month told German broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality is a “damage in the mind.”

CANADA

Scottish viewers will be following David Woterspoon, after the St Johnstone midfielder battled back from an ACL injury sustained 12 months ago. Coach John Herdman led the country’s women to Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. 

One to watch: Alphonso Davies (defender)

As of February 2021, only 9.8% of seats in Qatar’s parliament were held by women. 

MOROCCO

Morocco’s appearance at the 2018 World Cup was their first since 1998, and they’ll be looking to improve on the solitary point they gained four years ago. Hopes will be pinned on PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi, who has already been capped 53 times despite only turning 24 earlier this month.

One to watch: Achraf Hakimi (defender)

According to Human Rights Watch, Qatar has no law on domestic violence or measures to protect survivors and prosecute their abusers. 

CROATIA

Zlatko Dalic’s men will go into the tournament full of confidence after topping a Nations League group that featured 2018 World Cup winners France as well as Denmark and Austria. Despite turning 37 in September, Luka Modrić remains one of the most skilful players on the planet. They will attract plenty of interest from Glasgow, with Celtic’s Josip Juranović and Rangers’ Borna Barišić both making the trip. 

One to watch: Luka Modrić (midfielder)

An individual convicted of having sex outside marriage in Qatar can be imprisoned for up to seven years.

GROUP G

BRAZIL

HeraldScotland: Neymar will have to deal with considerable pressure, but not pressure in the '12-hour day, 7-day week constructing a stadium in unbearable heat' senseNeymar will have to deal with considerable pressure, but not pressure in the '12-hour day, 7-day week constructing a stadium in unbearable heat' sense (Image: Herald Scotland)

No team is more synonymous with the excitement of the World Cup than Brazil. The five-time winners have now gone 20 years without lifting the trophy, and memories of 2014’s excruciating 7-1 semi-final defeat against Germany are still vivid. Neymar missed that encounter through injury, but if he remains fit the 30-year-old will be the focal point of Tite’s side. 

One to watch: Neymar (forward)

Migrant workers in Qatar are barred from forming or joining trade unions. According to Migrant-Rights.org, hundreds of migrant workers were arrested and deported in August after protesting in Doha because their employer had repeatedly failed to pay their wages.

SERBIA

A team packed with attacking talent also benefits from the presence of Ajax captain Dusan Tadic, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Juventus’ Filip Kostić in midfield. Dragan Stojkovic’s side will be favourites to join Brazil in the last-16. 

One to watch: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (midfielder)

A report by Danish broadcaster DR, Norwegian broadcaster NRK and Swedish broadcaster SVT said three of the hotels on FIFA’s official list of recommended accommodations refused to accept reservations for a gay couple, and twenty others said they would only accommodate them on the condition that they did not publicly show that they were gay.

SWITZERLAND

There will be much expectation on the shoulders of captain Granit Xhaka, who has been a consistently impressive performer in Arsenal’s run to the top of the Premier League. It was Switzerland who ensured Euro 2020 winners Italy would face a play-off to reach Qatar, which they duly lost to North Macedonia.

One to watch: Granit Xhaka (midfielder)

Human Rights Watch shared the story of a transgender woman who was arrested on the street in Doha. She said that Preventive Security officers accused her of “imitating women”, and that in the police car they kicked her in the stomach and beat her until her lips and nose were bleeding, with one officer saying: “You gays are immoral, so we will be the same to you."

CAMEROON

Aged just 17, Rigobert Song became the youngest player ever to be sent off at a World Cup when he saw red in Cameroon’s 3-0 defeat against Brazil in 1994. 28 years on, he’s in the dugout as the Indomitable Lions look to make it out of their group for the first time since 1990. 

One to watch: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (forward)

In April 2022, Amnesty International reported that security guards working on projects linked to the World Cups were effectively working in forced labour conditions. The workers spoke about regular seven-day weeks of 12-hour shifts, often going months or even years without a day off. 

GROUP H

PORTUGAL

Ronaldo will inevitably be the main story, but it’s hard to argue that he’s had a positive impact at club level this season and his recent interview with Piers Morgan is unlikely to have gone down well with club and international teammate Bruno Fernandes.

Coach Fernando Santos has been in place for eight years, during which time he’s won 2016’s European Championships but failed to go further than the last 16 in this tournament. On that occasion they were knocked out by Uruguay, who they face in this year’s group stage.

One to watch: Bernardo Silva (midfielder)

Qatari law allows for provisional detention without charge or trial for up to six months if ‘there exist well-founded reasons to believe that the defendant may have committed a crime’. These include ‘violating public morality’.

GHANA

Otto Addo’s team go into Group H as outsiders, and will have to massively exceed expectations in order to stand any chance of progressing. They’ll be counting on the talented Ajax midfielder, Mohammed Kudus, who has been in fine form for the Eredivisie side this season.

One to watch: Mohammed Kudus (midfielder)

Human Rights Watch report that, in order to be released after being arrested “based solely on their gender expression”, security forces mandate that detained transgender women must attend conversation therapy sessions at a government-sponsored ‘behavioural healthcare’ centre.

READ MORE: Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson's BBC woke talk is misguided

URUGUAY

HeraldScotland: Luis Suarez's World Cup record is infamous, just not as infamous as the hosts' human rights recordsLuis Suarez's World Cup record is infamous, just not as infamous as the hosts' human rights records (Image: Herald Scotland)

There have been few more infamous moments in World Cup history than Luis Suárez’s goalline handball at the 2010 World Cup, and he’ll be reunited with the nation who he thwarted when Uruguay meet Ghana in the final round of Group H matches. Uruguay won the inaugural World Cup in 1930, but have failed to lift the trophy since 1950.

One to watch: Luis Suárez (forward)

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, has criticised FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s failure to address the topic of compensation for migrant workers. Earlier this month he said: “Unless he breaks his silence on the issue of compensation, Gianni Infantino looks set to refuse a golden opportunity to leave a World Cup legacy that respects and honours the workers who made it possible. 

“He has been presented with reams of evidence about the human consequences of the last twelve years, and a concrete proposal to help victims and their families rebuild their lives, so the message from Zurich and Doha cannot simply be to focus on football.”

SOUTH KOREA

Son Heung-min is the one man capable of magic in South Korea’s squad, but his participation is in the balance after sustaining a fractured eye socket in Tottenham’s Champions League victory over Marseille earlier this month. The 30-year-old has travelled to Qatar, and coach Paulo Bento will be desperate to have his captain available. 

One to watch: Son Heung-min (forward)

Sepp Blatter, who was president of FIFA in 2010 when the tournament was awarded to Qatar, told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger this month that “the choice of Qatar was a mistake.”