World champions France arrived in Doha on Wednesday looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.
Ten members of the 2018 title-winning squad return, including captain Hugo Lloris, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
But the runners-up, grouped with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia, are without their first-choice midfield pairing of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who has missed a number of Real Madrid games this season through injury, is set for his first World Cup match since 2014.
The United States have returned to soccer’s top table after an eight-year absence and Christian Pulisic says this World Cup is an opportunity to change the global perception of American soccer.
“That’s what we’re here to do,” Pulisic told AFP. “Maybe it’s not the number one sport in the United States or whatever.
“But we want to change the way the world sees American football. That’s one of our goals.”
The creation of the tournament in Qatar has been dominated by concerns about Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has heard calls from some countries to shift their focus to soccer.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said fans boycotting the tournament on Wednesday had “the right to do so” but hoped his side would do enough to convince home fans to stay away.
“I hope we play so fantastically that at the end of the tournament when we play the final we look at the TV and see how good we are.”
The veteran coach hit out at FIFA earlier this year, calling the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar “ridiculous”.
“I think you have to play in football countries. (They) have more experience with everything,” he said on Wednesday.
England supporters in India outnumbered England fans almost 10 to one when Gareth Southgate’s team entered the World Cup base on Tuesday.
Supporters said they were angered by the British and French media as “fake fans”.
Sajidh, 29, said Indian football fans in Qatar are “outraged” by reports suggesting they were paid to wear the nations’ World Cup shirts.
“This is pure fake news and I would like to say loud and clear that none of us have been paid in any way,” added Sajidh, who only gave his name.
“We are die-hard England fans.”
World Cup organizers weighed in on the issue on Wednesday, saying fans from around the world contributed to the local atmosphere.
“Many journalists and commentators on social media have questioned whether these are ‘real’ fans,” they said in a statement.
“We absolutely reject these claims, which are both disappointing and unsurprising.”