The data from the Country Similarity Index was used to find extremely different countries that are playing each other in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The index considers five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines many different data points to arrive at the conclusions. The following five group stage matches pit two extremely different countries against each other. Keep in mind, the Index does not include any information of the actual national teams in the tournament, just their country overall.
November 21 – Group A – 39.1 similarity
According to the Index, the least similar countries playing each other in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup are the Netherlands and Senegal. This match will happen on the second day of the tournament. The Netherlands is heavily favored to win the game.
While most people in the Netherlands have Caucasian ancestry, Senegalese have Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Furthermore, the Dutch tend to be wealthier and more educated. On average they are significantly taller than people from Senegal. Another difference is that the population in the Netherlands is much older, since they have fewer children and more elderly people.
Their cultures are far different as well. The vast majority of people from Senegal are devout Muslims, while most Dutch are not especially religious. Islam forbids drinking alcohol and eating pork, which are two popular Dutch exports. Although these countries both use the Latin script, their native languages are in unrelated language families. In contrast to the Netherlands, most males in Senegal are circumcised and female circumcision is also practiced there.
The Netherlands is more democratic than Senegal. They also have different systems of government. Their laws are especially different. Same sex marriage is allowed in the Netherlands, while it is criminalized in Senegal. Polygamy is allowed in Senegal, but criminalized in the Netherlands. Furthermore, abortion is legal in the Netherlands, unlike in Senegal. The drug laws in the Netherlands are also more relaxed.
The infrastructure of these countries is massively different as well. The Dutch have far more automobiles per capita. Their railroad network is also much more advanced. A far greater amount of energy per capita is used in the Netherlands. Its internet is one of the fastest in the world. Their medical infrastructure is also significantly better than Senegal’s.
Another difference is that the Netherlands is a far colder, since it is much further from the equator. It also has a significantly wetter climate than Senegal’s. It is much more densely populated as well. Still, the land in both countries is relatively flat. They also both border the Atlantic Ocean and only have one hour of time difference.
2) GHANA-SOUTH KOREA
November 28 – Group H – 40.1 Similarity
According to the Index, the second least similar countries playing each other in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup are Ghana and South Korea. It will be the second of three group stage matches for both teams. The last time these teams played each other, Ghana won the game 4-0.
While most people in South Korea have East Asian ancestry, Ghanians have Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Another difference is that South Koreans are wealthier and more educated. In fact, South Korea has the highest percentage of college graduates of any country. Furthermore the average age of South Koreans is much older than the average age of Ghanians.
The languages spoken in these countries are far different as well. Not only are they from different language families, they also use different writing systems. While both countries have a significant number of Christians, South Korea has more Buddhists, while Ghana has many Muslims. According to the Lewis Model, people from South Korea tend to be less outgoing than people from Ghana.
South Korea’s infrastructure is much more advanced than Ghana’s. Koreans have far more automobiles per capita. Their railroad network is also much more developed. South Korea’s internet is one of the fastest in the world. Although both countries drive on the right side of the road, they use different electrical outlets and different railroad gauges. South Korea’s cities tend to be full of skyscrapers, while there are relatively few high rises in Ghana.
In addition, Ghana is located in West Africa, while South Korea is in East Asia, so they are extremely far away from each other. Their climates are also different. South Korea is colder and gets more precipitation. It is also more mountainous. Their agriculture is different as well. Most farms grow rice in South Korea, while cocoa and cassava are popularly grown crops in Ghana.
November 20th – Group A – 41.7 similarity
Interestingly enough, the first 2022 World Cup game of the tournament features the host country, Qatar, versus Ecuador. According to the Index, this is the third least similar matchup of teams in the group stage. It will be Ecuador’s first World Cup since 2014, while Qatar has never played in it before.
Many people have a mix of Native American and European ancestry in Ecuador. Although most native people from Qatar are Caucasian, a high percentage of the country consists of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Qatar also has a far higher percentage of males than females, since many people living there are construction workers. Furthermore, the citizens of Qatar are wealthier on average than those in Ecuador.
The majority of people in Qatar are Muslim. On the other hand, Ecuador is mostly Catholic. Their official languages are also far different. Arabic is from a completely different language family than Spanish. It also uses a different writing system. Due to immigration from the Indian subcontinent. Cricket is much more popular in Qatar than Ecuador.
The laws in Ecuador and Qatar are far different. Same sex marriage is allowed in Ecuador, while it is criminalized in Qatar. Polygamy is allowed in Qatar, but criminalized in Ecuador. Furthermore, prostitution is decriminalized in Ecuador, but it is not allowed in Qatar. Another difference is that Qatar is an absolute monarchy, while Ecuador is a democracy.
Qatar’s climate is much drier than Ecuador’s. It is also much more densely populated. Qatar’s terrain is quite flat, while Ecuador is located in the Andes Mountains. These countries are quite distant from each other since Ecuador is in South America, while Qatar is on the Arabian Peninsula.
November 24th – Group G – 41.7 similarity
Cameroon and Switzerland are yet another pair of extremely different countries facing each other in the group stage of the World Cup. Switzerland is favored to win the match. It has qualified for the last four World Cups, while Cameroon is making its first appearance since 2014.
While most people in Switzerland have Caucasian ancestry, Cameroonians have Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Furthermore, the Swiss tend to be wealthier and more educated. On average they are also significantly taller than people from Cameroon. Another difference is that the population in Switzerland is much older, since they have fewer children and more elderly people.
Switzerland is far more democratic than Cameroon. While Switzerland rotates its head of government and state each year, Cameroon’s president has been in power since 1982. Cameroon also has significantly less rule of law. Furthermore, same sex marriage is allowed in Switzerland, while it is criminalized in Cameroon. Polygamy is allowed in Cameroon, but criminalized in Switzerland. Furthermore, prostitution is legal in Switzerland, unlike in Cameroon.
Switzerland’s infrastructure is much more advanced than Cameroon’s. The Swiss have far more automobiles per capita. Their railroad network is also much more developed. Switzerland has more water reservoirs. It also uses significantly more energy per capita than Cameroon. Still, both countries do rely on hydropower to create electricity.
Their geography is also vastly different. Switzerland’s climate is much colder than Cameroon’s, since it is at a higher latitude. It is also more mountainous and has a higher average elevation. In addition, Switzerland is landlocked, while Cameroon borders the Atlantic Ocean. Switzerland is more densely populated and a higher percentage of its land is used for agriculture.
5) IRAN-UNITED STATES
November 29th – Group B – 43.8 similarity
Iran and the United States round out the five matchups of least similar countries in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is set to be the final match of the group stage for both teams. The United States did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but it is favored to beat Iran in this game.
While the United States is mostly Christian, Iran is mostly Muslim. Although English and Persian are both part of the Indo-European language family, they are far different. Furthermore, Persian does not use the Latin alphabet and instead uses a version of the Arabic script. While soccer is by far the most popular sport in Iran, Americans tend to be more interested in football and basketball.
Their governments are extremely different as well. In fact, citizens from Iran were temporarily banned from entering the United States in 2017. While Iran is an authoritarian theocracy, lead by a religious leader, the United States government was founded on the basis of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Iran’s laws are far more conservative. The country criminalizes same sex relations and abortion. It also prohibits Muslims from drinking alcohol.
These countries are quite distant from each other since the United States is in North America, while Iran is located in Asia. Iran’s climate also tends to be drier than most areas of the United States. The country is also more mountainous and a lower percentage of its land is forested.
Bonus) Japan – Senegal
The two least similar countries in the 2022 FIFA World Cup are Japan and Senegal. However, these countries do not play each other in the group stage. They have little chance of facing each other since the earliest they could play each other is the semi-finals. Two other pairs of extremely different countries could match up in the quarter-finals: Japan-Cameroon and Japan-Ghana.
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