Qatar22 FIFA World Cup is almost upon us with the host nation — hoping to progress to the Group of 16 (second stage) — all set to challenge Ecuador, the fourth smallest nation in South America in the inaugural match on Sunday (Nov 20). Easily one of the greatest sports spectacle in the world ever since it was founded in 1930, the sport of football — that earned the sobriquet” The Beautiful Game” and was popularised by the greatest ever player — Brazilian Pele — has a mass appeal nonpareil. The Arab world’s first World Cup will be FIFA’s 22nd and the title has been won by Brazil five times, Germany and Italy four times each, Argentina, France and Uruguay two times each and England and Spain once each. As usual Brazil is the strong favourite to win the title and give Neymar his first World Cup, followed by Argentina which hopes to win the Cup and decorate Lionel Messi’s illustrious career. Cristiano Ronaldo will take the centre stage once again but his team Portugal is not as fancied as Brazil and Argentina or even Germany, England and France, the winner of the title four years ago in Russia. The Italians will be missed, but 32 qualifiers in eight groups will portray their brand of football to the millions watching the matches at the venues and on the small screen.