The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off last weekend with Qatar hosting Ecuador in Doha. Former West Ham and Everton striker Enner Valencia netted the first goal of the tournament before claiming a brace in a 2-0 win.
There are 32 teams taking part at the tournament and they are divided up into eight groups of four with two teams from each group competing for a place in the first knockout stage. The competing nations will eventually be whittled down to two finalists who will go head-to-head in the showpiece event on December 18 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail.
Here is everything you need to know about how many teams qualify for the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, when those matches will be played and the potential matches.
How many teams qualify for World Cup knockout stages?
From the 32 teams who are taking part in the group stages, there will be 16 that advance to the first knockout round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They will be the eight group winners and eight second placed sides after every teams has played all three of their group stages fixtures. There will be a total of 48 group stage matches to determine the teams who advance to the Last 16.
World Cup knockout stage dates and format
The format of the first knockout stage will see the winners of their respective groups facing the runners-up of the group nearest to them in alphabetical order. For example, the first Last 16 match will see the winners of Group A taking on the runners-up of Group B and the last match will see the winners of Group H face the runners-up of Group G.
Here are the dates and fixtures for the first round of knockout stage matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup:
- Winners Group A vs Runners-up Group B (December 3)
- Winners Group C vs Runners-up Group D (December 3)
- Winners Group D vs Runners-up Group C (December 4)
- Winners Group B vs Runners-up Group A (December 4)
- Winners Group E vs Runners-up Group F (December 5)
- Winners Group G vs Runners-up Group H (December 5)
- Winners Group F vs Runners-up Group E (December 6)
- Winners Group H vs Runners-up Group G (December 6)
From there, four quarter-final matches will take place on December 9 and December 10, then two semi-finals on December 13 and December 14 before the final on December 18. There is also the third place play-off on December 17.
What are the potential World Cup knockout stage matches?
The first knockout round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has the potential to draw more than a few brilliant ties. The matches on December 5 and December 6 that see the winners and runner-up of Group E and Group F looks like being the most mouthwatering with potential ties including Spain or Germany vs Belgium or Croatia.
Meanwhile, the matches featuring the winners and runners-up from Group G and Group H could pair tournament favourites Brazil against Portugal or one of Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea.
As for England and Wales, they are both in Group B and will face a nation from Group A if they qualify. As mentioned, the winner of Group A faces the runner-up of Group B and the winner of Group B faces the runner-up of Group A. The four teams in Group A are: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.