Feeling the Heat: How World Cup Qualifying is Preparing Teams for Hidden Challenges in Qatar
The pressure is on for squads entering the last round of qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup being hosted in Qatar. In CONCACAF the battle is on as several teams are vying for the top 3 automatic qualifying spots, with the final round of qualifying having teams play 3 matches in 7 days. In addition to contending with the competition on the field, players are battling altitude, heat, training, time zone shifts, travel, games, fatigue, and the pressure to succeed. All combined, these factors make this final round of qualifiers a dress rehearsal for the big tournament kicking off in November, 2022.
This World Cup, however, will feature challenges not often encountered in the long history of the international tournament. Since the Qatar World Cup announcement in December of 2010, peak high temperatures in Doha, Qatar during the month of November have reached a minimum of 91 degrees (F) each year. In fact, peak high temps in November have soared past 95 degrees (F) 6 times since then, topping out at 102 degrees (F) in 2013. Even with the adjusted November timeline, this year’s World Cup could still stand amongst the warmest ever.
While the stadiums in the competition have received much attention for innovative efforts to keep players and fans cool, the training facilities themselves will keep players and staff exposed directly to the elements for training sessions. This will undoubtedly require national teams to adjust their daily training schedule, which may not align well with optimizing performance for, or recovery from, matches.
Governing bodies of soccer have set a precedent in recent years with adjustments to matches being played in extreme temperatures, as mini-hydration breaks were introduced at both the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, as well as during the 2020 Euros.
Given the added physical demands of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, preparation is well under way with national teams across the globe, but especially in CONCACAF. Altitude challenges in Mexico, as well as the heat and humidity of regions throughout the Americas during the late spring and summer may help staffs develop and test plans to monitor how players are adapting to the environment.
And to the surprise of no one- hydration is perhaps the most common factor to be considered for helping guide player recovery and readiness in these harsh environments. Given that hydration is essential to performance as well as health and safety, effective and consistent hydration monitoring will be a critical tool to help national teams stay in the game during the big competitions lining up in 2022.
Hydration Monitoring When It's Needed Most
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