DOHA (Reuters) – FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed Qatar’s progress on infrastructure ahead of its 2022 World Cup and said the tournament is poised to be the best one yet during a visit to the next host nation on Tuesday.
Qatar’s tiny size, high temperatures and lack of ready stadium infrastructure have prompted some to question FIFA’s decision to make it host, but the desert state has since launched huge construction projects and promised to complete seven new stadiums by 2020.
“You can see the progress which is being made here four years before kick-off,” Infantino said via a statement from Qatar’s local World Cup organising committee after he toured the 40,000-seater Al Wakrah stadium.
“The stadium is very impressive. When you enter here you immediately feel how imposing it is.”
“The Russian World Cup has been the best ever but the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar – I am sure – will be even better,” Infantino added.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said his country would apply all its efforts to making a success of the 2022 World Cup.
He said his country would also try to outdo the success on the pitch of the Russian team, who surpassed expectations by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2018 edition.
“Although it will be hard to repeat that success as we’re a small country, but we are very keen on sport,” he said.
The next tournament’s logistics were further complicated last year when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.
Qatar has nonetheless said it is pushing ahead with ambitious infrastructure plans to host the World Cup – the centrepiece of Doha’s strategy to project itself on the global stage – and has since inaugurated a $7.4 billion port and expects to open its first metro by the end of this year.