World Cup live updates: Qatar vs. Ecuador to kick off soccer’s premier event

DOHA, Qatar — Since the first World Cup 92 years ago in Uruguay, Planet Earth’s quadrennial bonanza of its favorite sport has never found itself in a setting this unusual. Here comes the oddest among the 22 World Cups to date, in the 18th World Cup country (counting one occasion shared among two), with all the odd charms and misgivings.

From the fifth-largest country in the world (Brazil) in 2014, to the largest country in the world (Russia) in 2018, the World Cup moves to the rich and tiny 164th-largest, Qatar, a country slightly smaller than Connecticut. From recent hosts Japan and South Korea (a combined 164 million people when they staged in 2002), to Germany (82 million), to South Africa (51 million), to Brazil (202 million), to Russia (144 million), the World Cup has come to a nation of about 2.9 million, the vast majority of them guest workers.

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