• Former Argentina midfielder Mascherano appeared in four World Cups, including a run to the final in 2014
Former Argentina captain Javier Mascherano is full of anticipation for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar and keen to see how the compact nature of the tournament will boost performances on the pitch. The 38-year-old former defensive midfielder appeared in four World Cups for La Albiceleste, including a run to the final in 2014. In total, he earned 147 caps for his country and scored three goals.
With Qatar 2022 on the horizon, the FIFA World Cup Ambassador gave his thoughts on this year’s tournament, which will get underway at Al Bayt Stadium on 20 November when hosts Qatar face Ecuador. Excerpts
The longest distance between stadiums is just 75km in Qatar – how will the compact nature benefit the players and fans during the World Cup?
It makes things easier from a logistical point of view. Fans will be able to attend more than one game a day and players will not need to travel from city to city. They will be in one place throughout the tournament – making it easier to focus on training and recovery. It’s very positive for the players.
How will the timing of this year’s World Cup – from November 20 to December 18 – help the players?
Many of the players will arrive fresher, as they will only be midway through their club seasons. We will see the players at a different level of energy compared to previous tournaments. Hopefully, the players will be able to perform at a higher level, which will be exciting for the fans.
You played in South Africa 2010 – the first tournament in Africa. Qatar 2022 is the first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world – how important will this be for the region?
Football is the most popular sport in the world. It belongs to everyone. It’s great that the Middle East will host its first World Cup. It’s important to give new countries the opportunity to host this type of event.
What can Argentina fans expect when they arrive in Qatar?
Qatar is a country that invites you to come and have a great time. It is very safe and the weather will be fantastic in November and December. It’s a great opportunity for Argentina fans to learn about the history and culture of this country and region.
You played in four World Cups – what does the tournament mean to you?
The World Cup is always special. For a footballer, it’s the pinnacle. Some of my fondest memories involve playing for Argentina.
Argentina secured their spot for Qatar 2022 last November. With such a talented squad of players, what are your hopes for La Albiceleste at this World Cup?
We have a very competitive team and winning last year’s Copa America was a very important achievement. I’m confident we can make an impact at this World Cup.
Among the other qualifiers from South America, which teams do you think will make an impact in Qatar?
Brazil are always one of the favourites due to their history. They have a very competitive team. Uruguay is a team to fear and Ecuador have done very well recently. I expect all four qualifiers from South America to do well in Qatar.
What are your thoughts on the host nation Qatar and their preparations for this World Cup?
Qatar have done very well in recent years and that was reflected when they won the Asian Cup. They have played in tournaments like the Copa America and showed they are a good side. The World Cup is a huge challenge and they will need to showcase all the hard work they have put in to prepare for this competition.
What do you think of football’s power to unite people?
Football is a cultural tool that brings us all together, regardless of your religion or culture. It’s a very inclusive sport and an outlet to unite the world, which is more important than ever with the current state of things around the globe.