FIFA confirms controversial dates for Qatar 2022
FOOTBALL fans' worst fears have been realised with the revelation the 2022 World Cup will indeed be the first winter edition of the tournament.
The 2022 World Cup will kick off on November 21, with the final to be played on December 18 - just a week before Christmas.
The news was confirmed as FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed the 2018 competition in Russia as the best ever.
"For a couple of years I have been saying that this will be the best World Cup ever and today I can say that with conviction - it is the best World Cup ever," he said.
"I would like to thank everyone. The main actors are on the pitch - the players, referees and coaches - but, of course, there are also all those who have worked to make sure everything has worked smoothly.
"A big thank you to the Russia government and Vladimir Putin, the local organising committee, the Russian Football Union, the volunteers, the heart and smile of the World Cup, all those people, more than 100,000 who helped in one capacity or another.
"Everyone discovered a beautiful country, a welcoming country, that is keen to show the world that everything that has been said before might not be true.
"A lot of preconceived ideas have been changed because people have seen the true nature of Russia."
The Swiss also revealed he was pushing ahead to expand the competition to 48 teams for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
While FIFA have set in stone the 28-day window between November 21 and December 18, Infantino is still determined to force through the expansion.
"We will decide whether it's 48 or 32 teams in the next few months," he said.
"We must have discussions with the Qataris and then if there is a possibility with the FIFA Council and stakeholders. Then we will decide calmly and quietly what the decision is.
"For now it's a World Cup with 32 teams but everybody is open-minded and we will have a frank and open debate."
That would include playing games in other Gulf states outside Qatar - despite the current trade and border blockade between the tiny country and it's Saudi-backed neighbours.
Infantino added: "I will be happy if it stays at 32 teams as previously established. Qatar could insist on 32.
"But if everybody comes on board and thinks it might be positive to change to 48 we can have a look. All options will be on the table.
"Maybe, through FIFA and football, we could bring countries together and allow them to start having dialogue. Football can open up the doors to communication between nations."
This article originally appeared in The Sun