Feast of football awaits in 2021

  • 2021 is upon us at last

  • Highlights aplenty to look forward to over the coming 12 months

  • Overview of the main dates in the 2021 footballing calendar

2021 is finally upon us, after the COVID-19 pandemic certainly left its mark on 2020. One thing is for sure: things can only get better!

The last few months have had a profound effect on the world, with football not being spared. A number of youth tournaments have been postponed or cancelled, and for months now, spectators have been prevented from attending matches in most places around the world. Despite this, the coming year has plenty of highlights for us to look forward to out on the pitch.

The FIFA Club World Cup heads to Qatar

Before the new-style FIFA Club World Cup™ is introduced, having been put back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar will be home to the last edition of the current version of the tournament – and the first time that the country will have been on hosting duties. Liverpool were the winners around 13 months ago when they defeated Flamengo to become the 2019 champions, but they will not be able to defend their title.

Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League last summer and will be looking to take home their second FIFA Club World Cup after 2013. Since the tournament was created back in 2000, European clubs have won 12 titles with four going to South America. Which confederation will bag the trophy before the new format is brought in?

Fighting it out for a spot at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

  • Tournament: FIFA World Cup™ qualifying

The last two confederations will get qualifying under way in March for the world’s foremost tournament, to be held in the winter of 2022. The teams are under starters orders in Europe and North and Central America and the Caribbean. Who will book their tickets for Qatar?

Olympics here at last

  • Tournaments: Olympic Football Tournaments Tokyo 2020

  • Dates: Men’s: 22 July to 7 August; Women’s: 21 July to 6 August

In the men’s tournament, Brazil finally broke their duck and won a long-awaited gold medal on home soil in 2016. A Seleção will therefore be looking to become only the fifth country to defend their Olympic title (after Great Britain in 1908 and 1912, Uruguay in 1924 and 1928, Hungary in 1964 and 1968 and Argentina in 2004 and 2008).

In the women’s event, we already know that Germany will not repeat their gold-medal success of 2016. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ also served as a qualifying tournament for European nations, with Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden securing the three spots. USA will of course be favourites for gold, having won four of the first six Olympic football tournaments as well as the past two FIFA Women’s World Cups. Competition is likely to come from Brazil, host nation Japan and the three European nations, with all of them having serious medal pretensions.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Neymar of Brazil bites his medal after the Olympic Men's Final Football match between Brazil and Germany at Maracana Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Kings of the virtual game

  • Tournaments: FIFA eWorld Cup, FIFA eNations Cup

  • Dates: 4 to 8 August, 18 to 22 August

August will see the best players in the world hitting the consoles and showcasing their skills on the virtual pitch. Who will follow in the footsteps of 'MoAuba' and France as FIFA eWorld Cup and FIFA eNations Cup winners respectively?

On the sands of Moscow

  • Tournament: FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™

  • Dates: 19 to 29 August

The 11th edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup™ will be held in Moscow this year. A total of 16 teams will be taking part in the final phase of a tournament that was first held in 2005 in Rio de Janeiro. The most recent event was in 2019 in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, with Portugal defeating Italy 6-4 in the final to win the tournament for the second time.

All under one roof

Lithuania will be hosting a FIFA tournament for the first time in its history, and is already pulling out all the stops to ensure its success, as president of the Lithuanian football federation Tomas Danilevicius explained to us a few months ago. "We are a small nation but one that has so much to offer culturally. The size of the country means that it is easy to travel around and get from one venue to another." And once he got onto the subject of the three venues – Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda – there was no stopping Danilevicius.

"The architecture in the centres of the three host cities is something to behold, and there will be brand-new modern arenas where the fans can expect incredible atmospheres. In this country, we’re used to going to venues like these to watch sport. Basketball is very popular here and the matches always attract great crowds, so I’m sure that it will be the same for the World Cup."

The eight previous editions of the tournament have seen just three different winners, namely Brazil (five titles), Spain (two) and Argentina (one, reigning champions). Will 2021 see a new country crowned in futsal?

Other important dates in the footballing calendar

  • UEFA EURO 2020 (11 June to 11 July)

  • Copa America (11 June to 11 July)

  • Concacaf Gold Cup (10 July to 1 August)