A World Cup like no other set to crown a unique champion.

HE heat is still stifling. A stroll down the Doha corniche, closed for traffic in order to allow fans to congregate, in the evening is sure to leave one drenched.

Imagine what it will be for the players.

'The heat is quite powerful so we're trying to train as late as possible,' Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey told reporters at a news conference at their training base on Friday, ahead of their opening World Cup game against the United States on Monday.

Reminded that their second Group 'B' game against Iran is at 1:00pm, Hennessey said: 'Fingers crossed on acclimatising.'

The searing desert heat of this tiny Gulf State was the primary reason why the first World Cup in an Arab country, and the last in the 32-team format before it is expanded to 48 from 2026, was moved from its traditional slot in June and July to winter. Day-time temperatures, though, are still hovering around 32 degrees Celsius.

Luckily for the players, all eight stadiums Qatar has built for the World Cup will be air-conditioned, maintaining temperatures from 18-24 degrees Celsius.

But moving the World Cup from the usual time slot has brought its own challenges, forcing a mid-season break for the leagues in Europe and allowing little time for rest and recuperation for players - most of whom played their last club game just a week before the World Cup kicks off on Sunday when hosts Qatar square off against Ecuador.

'The last time, we had a month together before the tournament began,' noted France defender Lucas Hernandez, a member of the side that lifted the trophy four years ago in Qatar, on Friday. 'This time, it's been just a week.'

An unfortunate byproduct of having the World Cup in the middle of the season is injuries dashing players' dreams of featuring at the tournament.

'Injuries are always sad ,' former Germany World Cup winner Juergen Klinsmann, a part of FIFA's Technical Study Group, said in response to a question by Dawn at a news conference on Friday. 'The tournament will be tough but hopefully the teams wouldn't use it as an excuse.'

It was particularly heartbreaking for Senegal and their star forward Sadio Mane. Mane got injured playing for Bayern Munich on Nov 8, just 12 days before the Lions of Teranga face Netherlands in their Group 'A' opener.

Argentinean forwards Nicholas Gonzalez and Joaquin Correa were ruled out due to injury having arrived in Qatar with the squad.

Argentina, though, have Lionel Messi - for many the 'Greatest Of All Time'. And Qatar...

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