FIFA has moved the start of the Qatar World Cup forward by a day, meaning the tournament will now begin on Sunday, Nov. 20 rather than the initially scheduled date of Monday, Nov. 21.
The first game of the finals will now be the host nation Qatar’s clash with Ecuador on Sunday at 7 pm (4 p.m. GMT, 11 a.m. ET) rather than Senegal’s match against the Netherlands.
It means the World Cup will be extended to 29 days, with the final taking place on Sunday, Dec. 18.
The announcement was made on Thursday following an unanimous decision taken by the Bureau of the FIFA Council.
“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The decision followed an assessment of the competition and operational implications, as well as a thorough consultation process and an agreement with key stakeholders and the host country.”
Qatar’s opener was scheduled to be the third match on Monday at 7 pm local time (4 p.m. GMT, 11 a.m. ET), and sources have told ESPN that moving it to Sunday will allow the opening ceremony to take greater prominence.
Senegal vs. Netherlands will now be played at 7 pm on Monday — the slot left vacant by Qatar’s match being moved — with the other two games on that day — England vs. Iran and United States vs. Wales — unaffected.