Congratulations to Russia and Qatar.
Russia, I'm sure you'll be a fine host. Summer in Russia's fine; you've put a lot of work lately into your soccer product. You're not as good as you were as the Soviet Union, but that's to be expected; some of the former Soviets are now playing as members of other countries, most notably Ukraine.
Qatar, though, is a bit perplexing, having beaten the United States straight-up 14-8 in the finals of the 2022 vote.
The heat in Qatar- it's the Middle East, in case you haven't heard- and the size of Qatar- smaller than Connecticut, the detractors appear fond of saying- are being brought up most often. The surrounding neighborhood is also a concern of many. I'm not terribly worried there; though 2022 is over a decade away and anything could happen, as things stand, the safer parts of the Middle East don't really tend to get hit. They're where all the money is, and if you're engaging in illicit behavior that requires money, that's probably where you get a lot of that money. You don't want to go mess that up.
What I'm worried about is the team itself.
Remember, a host nation is granted an automatic bid- the only automatic bid- into the Cup. We have just given the Qatari national team a spot in the 2022 World Cup.
Unless they qualify for 2014 or 2018, it will be their first. Qatar has never qualified for the World Cup.
Let's go over their previous attempts, beginning in 1978:
ARGENTINA 1978: Were placed into a first-round qualifying group with Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. The UAE withdrew. Qatar came in last of the remainder, winning 1 and losing 3. Kuwait, who advanced, came in 3rd out of 5 in the second and final qualifying round.
SPAIN 1982: Qatar was placed in a 5-team group in the first round alongside Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. They came in third with 2 wins, 2 losses. Saudi Arabia, who advanced, finished last in the final qualifying group.
MEXICO 1986: Placed in a 4-team group with Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Lebanon withdrew; Qatar came in second to Iraq, who despite playing their home games on neutral ground due to the Iran-Iraq War, wound up going to the World Cup. They came in last in Group B alongside Mexico, Paraguay and Belgium.
ITALY 1990: Qatar advanced out of their opening qualifying group for the first time, beating out Iraq, Jordan and Oman. There were two spots in the Cup on offer from a six-team group; Qatar came in third, one point short. South Korea and the UAE qualified; China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea rounded out the group. Losing 2-0 to last-place North Korea was probably what did Qatar in.
UNITED STATES 1994: Qatar came in second in their 5-team first round qualifier; North Korea would come in first, clinching two matchdays early. Then the North Koreans brought up the rear again in the final qualifying group.
FRANCE 1998: Qatar drew luckily in their first round qualifier, cruising past Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines. They came in fourth in their second-round group, losing 1-0 to group winner Saudi Arabia on the last day, who qualified right there as a result. Had Qatar won that game instead, they would have gone through. Second-place Iran went to a playoff with Japan, lost, went to another playoff with Australia, and qualified on the away goals rule.
KOREA/JAPAN 2002: The frist qualifier was another formality, blowing by Palestine, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The second round, though, was another elimination, as Qatar came in 4th out of 5. China qualified automatically in a rout; the UAE went on to be eliminated by Iran in the playoff.
GERMANY 2006: The first round was comprised of twelve weenie teams, of which Qatar was not one, so they entered in the second round. They lost their luck at the first hurdle, drawing against Iran, who would move on and eventually qualify. Jordan also finished in front of them, but hey: they beat Laos.
SOUTH AFRICA 2010: Everybody was drawn into an opening knockout round aside from the top five teams as per the FIFA Ranking; these were Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran. (Please note that there were 4.5 spots available to Asia for this Cup.) Qatar was ranked 16th. They drew Sri Lanka, ranked 30th, and blew by them 6-0 over two legs. The second round saw a four-team group with Australia, China and Iraq. Australia and Qatar both moved on, and were placed into the third round. The ten teams left were split into two groups; in each, two would qualify and the two third-placed teams would play off to see who would go up against the Oceania winner. Qatar came in fourth in their group over right games, four points adrift of the money and nine adrift of automatic qualification, behind Australia, Japan and Bahrain.
In the Asian continental cup, the Asian Cup, Qatar has consistently qualified, but has only once advanced past the first round, that happening in Lebanon 2000. And that really only happened because there were three transfer spots in a four-team group and Uzbekistan was the fourth. Uzbekistan drew one and lost two; guess who they drew against. China then dispatched Qatar 3-1 in the quarterfinals, Qatar's goal only coming after China had done their damage. Their all-time record in the Asian Cup: 4 wins, 11 draws, 10 losses.
And then there's the Gulf Cup of Nations, open only to eight teams in the Middle East. There have been 20 of these; Qatar has won two, both as hosts in 1992 and 2004. This cup has a group stage, and in two of the last three, Qatar has failed to get out of it. The club teams aren't so great either; here's how they've done in continental competition. The last and only win by a Qatari club was Al Sadd in 1988-89; that was prior to the major growth of soccer in Asia.
And they're going to host the World Cup now. We're going to put that in the World Cup, folks.