In one month, the FIFA World Cup will return – this time in Qatar, the first country to host the World Cup in the Middle East. It will also be the first World Cup held in winter because of Qatar’s extremely hot climate, as well as the shortest in history due to the busy club football season schedules and the December holiday celebrations. As controversial as Qatar as a host has been, it sets the record for the least number of stadiums with the closest proximity to each other, reducing environmental and economic costs of flights and long journeys between matches – historically taking place in entirely different cities. 

It will also be the first World Cup without Queen Elizabeth II who was four years old when the tournament debuted in 1930. She later presented the 1966 World Cup trophy in London’s Wembley Stadium to team England who had won against West Germany, also the last time England took home the victory. With England reaching the finals in the UEFA European Championship against Italy in 2021 (originally meant to take place in 2020, postponed due to Covid-19), fans will keep an extra close eye on their Lions – this time without their queen, who was a keen football fan and the Head of State for several FIFA Member Associations during her reign. 

2022 FIFA World Cup Countdown. IMAGO’s Qualifier Highlights. 
IMAGO / PA Images / Andy Rain | Poland’s Jan Bednarek (left) and England's Harry Kane battle for the ball during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium, London. 31 March, 2021.

Unfortunately for Italy’s ‘azzurri’ fans who got a taste of victory in 2021 and have four World Cup wins under their belts, their blue pom-poms will not be of use this year with Italy being disqualified from the World Cup when losing against North Macedonia in the qualifying play-offs. Sweden, with world-class players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Emil Forsberg will also stay home this time around, being the second-highest-ranked European team not to make it to the 2022 World Cup. 

See IMAGO’s curated collection with highlights from the World Cup Qualifiers. 

Ukraine fans were at the edge of their seats as their team had almost qualified, but lost against Wales in the play-offs. Egypt, whose protege Mohamed Salah of FC Liverpool almost took home the FIFA Africa Cup of Nations trophy earlier this year after losing in penalty shoot-outs against Senegal, will also have to sit this one out. Argentina’s fans may have to prepare for their beloved Lionel Messi’s final attempt at a World Cup, and team Germany will be saying hello to the first World Cup with new trainer Hansi Flick, along with a young and eager roster plus some veterans like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller.

While IMAGO’s picture desk will be kept busy, to say the least, in covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, we are already gearing up with one month to go. With eventful qualifiers lending a glimpse into what’s in store, check out some of IMAGO’s highlights in counting down for football’s biggest event.

See IMAGO’s 2022 FIFA World Cup curated collections, The Game’s World Cup series, and find all necessary information on our landing page. Also stay tuned for our live picture desk coverage with matches, press conferences, events and more. 

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IMAGO / PA Images / Andy Rain | Poland’s Jan Bednarek (left) and England's Harry Kane battle for the ball during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium, London. 31 March, 2021.
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IMAGO / LaPresse / Fabio Ferrari | Italy vs North Macedonia - Playoff Qatar World Cup Qualifiers - Renzo Barbera Stadium of Palermo. 24 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Bildbyran / Joel Marklund | Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden looks dejected after the FIFA World Cup Qualifier playoff final between Poland and Sweden in Katowice. 29 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Schüler | Kai Havertz of Germany vs Davit Terteryan of Armenia during World Cup Qualifier. 14 November, 2021.
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IMAGO / Matthias Koch / Sebastian Räppold | Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during the World Cup Qualifier Germany vs Liechtenstein in Wolfsburg. 11 November, 2021.
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IMAGO / Laci Perenyi | Leon Goretzka injured during the World Cup Qualifier Germany vs Liechtenstein in Wolfsburg. 11 November, 2021.
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IMAGO / Bildbyran / Joel Marklund | Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden looks dejected after the FIFA World Cup Qualifier playoff final between Poland and Sweden in Katowice. 29 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Florencia Tan Jun | Leo Messi of Argentina during a qualifying match against Venezuela for the FIFA World Cup. 25 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Xinhua / Pedro Fuiza | Cristiano Ronaldo shoots during a world cup qualifier between Portugal and North Macedonia at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal. 29 March 29, 2022.
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IMAGO / Photosport / Thiago Ribeiro | Vinicius Junior and Neymar dance after scoring a goal against Chile, sparking controversy. World Cup qualifying match in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. 24 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Bilbyran / Ludvig Thunman | Robert Lewandowski celebrates during the qualifying play-off against Sweden in Katowice. 29 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / LaPresse / Fabio Ferrari | Italy versus North Macedonia - World Cup qualifier playoff in Palermo. 24 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / PA Images / Mile Egerton | Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko reacts following the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier play-off final match against Wales at Cardiff City Stadium. 5 June, 2022.
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IMAGO / Action Plus / David Young | Scotland versus Ukraine: Ukraine fans with anti-war banner during the World Cup qualifying match. 1 June, 2022.
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IMAGO / Pro Sports Images / Colin Poultney | Scotland versus Ukraine - World Cup qualifying match. 1 June, 2022.
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IMAGO / Zuma Wire / Hasan Mrad | Tunisia versus Mali, FIFA World Cup qualifier in Rades, Tunisia. 29 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Xinhua / Wu Tianyu | Algeria’s Islam Slimani (L) vies with Cameroon’s Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (R) during the second leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, qualifiers. 29 March, 2022.
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IMAGO / Xinhua | Peru’s Luis Advincula hits the post and loses the penalty against Australia during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. 13 June, 2022.