Welcome to Sportstar’s build-up for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar with few hours to go before the opening ceremony.
QATAR 2022 UPDATES
Why was Ecuador’s goal vs Qatar ruled out by VAR ?
The first goal by Ecuador in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup against Qatar in the third minute was ruled out after a VAR check, leaving Ecuador fans bamboozled by the decision.
Know the reason here: Why was Enner Valencia’s first goal in Qatar 2022 ruled offside by VAR?
I will start Messi, drop Ronaldo and bench Kane: Rooney, ahead of the FIFA World Cup
England forward Wayne Rooney, in an pre-tournament interaction has said that given a choice between starting, benching and dropping Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane, he would ‘start Messi, bench Kane and drop Ronaldo’.
This is the first time Rooney spoke on television after Ronaldo’s explosive interview to Piers Morgan, where he had castigated his former Manchester United teammates Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney.
Read the full story here: I will start Messi, drop Ronaldo and bench Kane: Rooney, ahead of the FIFA World Cup
And the opening ceremony is underway! Morgan Freeman ( from Shawshank Redemption) starts the proceedings. Al Bayt stadium is all set to host the event, followed by the campaign opener where host Qatar faces Ecuador.
With the opening ceremony of perhaps the most opposed World Cup of recent times hours away, the streets of Doha – deserted and non-festive – seem to have missed the memo of Gianni Infantino. Click here to know why
OPENING CEREMONY - Jung Kook, Shakira and more
The opening ceremony of the World Cup will take place on November 20, ahead of the opening Group A match between host Qatar and Ecuador.
The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm IST.
The original plan was for the opening ceremony to be held before Qatar’s first game on November 21, which would have created the unusual situation of two games being held before it. The opening match was then brought forward by a day.
Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso said he will not attend his nation’s high-profile opening match against Qatar, citing domestic unrest.
While FIFA is yet to announce a complete list of performers for the 2022 World Cup opening ceremony, Jung Kook, a member of the globally popular Korean boy band BTS, has confirmed his presence at the event. BTS has confirmed Jung Kook will perform the official soundtrack of this edition of the World Cup, Dreamers, at the opening ceremony.
Memphis Depay to sit out Netherlands World Cup opener
Memphis Depay will miss out on the Netherlands’ opening World Cup game against Senegal, coach Louis van Gaal said on Sunday.
The forward hurt his hamstring playing for the Dutch against Poland in the Nations League in September but this week told reporters he was fit to play after participating in training.
“It will be a blow for us just like Sadio Mane missing for Senegal is a blow for them,” Van Gaal said of Monday’s Group A clash against the African champions in Doha.
Van Gaal has insisted that players selected for matches be 100% match fit and in form.
France coach Deschamps decides not to replace Benzema
France coach Didier Deschamps has decided not to replace injured striker Karim Benzema in his World Cup squad, leaving the reigning champions with 25 players for their title defence.
Benzema trained with the squad for the first time since arriving in Qatar on Saturday but was forced to leave the session early with a thigh injury and scans ruled him out of the tournament.
Asked on Sunday by TeleFoot whether he would replace the Ballon d’Or winner in his squad, Deschamps said “No”.
“This is a quality group,” he added. “In everything they do, both on and off the pitch, they are united. I have confidence in them.”
Benzema was the second French player to join the casualty list in less than a week after forward Christopher Nkunku was injured in a training session and replaced in the squad by Randal Kolo Muani.
Influential midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante were ruled out of the tournament by injury before Deschamps named his squad.
France open their campaign against Australia on Tuesday and also play Tunisia and Denmark in Group D.
Lukaku out of first two World Cup games: Belgium source
Romelu Lukaku will not play for Belgium at the World Cup until at least their final Group F match against Croatia, a team source told AFP on Sunday.
The forward did not take part in the Red Devils’ first proper training session since they arrived in Qatar on Friday as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 102 appearances and was called up to their World Cup squad despite coach Roberto Martinez admitting he was not fully fit.
The 29-year-old has endured a difficult past 18 months, moving back to Inter Milan on loan after a dismal season with Chelsea.
However, he has played just twice for Inter since August after first picking up the injury in a 3-1 defeat at Lazio.
He returned to action in style last month, scoring in a 4-0 win against Viktoria Plzen that ensured Inter’s passage to the last 16 of the Champions League but he then injured his hamstring again a few days later.
Belgium begin their World Cup campaign on Wednesday against Canada and also take on Morocco before meeting 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at the start of next month.
Martinez has to decide who will replace Lukaku up front. Fenerbahce forward Michy Batshuayi started in Belgium’s one warm-up match before the tournament, a 2-1 defeat to Egypt on Friday.
Batshuayi was replaced by Lens forward Lois Openda, who pulled a goal back in the 76th minute of the clash in Kuwait City.
Australia’s Boyle ruled out of World Cup by injury
Australia winger Martin Boyle was ruled out of the World Cup by a knee injury on Sunday, two days before the Socceroos open their campaign against world champions France.
The Scottish-born forward, who had been an injury doubt since the squad arrived in Qatar after suffering the injury playing for his club Hibernian, will be replaced by Marco Tilio.
“We all feel for Martin and it is a cruel blow for him on the eve of the World Cup,” coach Graham Arnold said in a statement.
“He has been an integral part of our journey to get to Qatar and we thank him for everything he has given the Socceroos during this campaign.
“He will be back and we can’t wait to see him in the green and gold again next year.”
Tilio, a 21-year-old winger, is in Qatar having arrived on Tuesday as precautionary cover for Boyle.
“Marco has done everything that has been asked of him to be ready for this tournament,” Arnold said. “He was an important member of our Tokyo 2020 Olympic team ... and he is familiar with the national team set up and we are looking forward to what he can bring to our squad for the tournament.”
Australia also plays Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.
FIFA revenue hits $7.5BN for Qatar World Cup period
FIFA has told member federations it earned record revenues of $7.5 billion in the four years of commercial deals tied to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
FIFA revealed its earnings Sunday to officials from more than 200 members. It is $1 billion more than income from the previous commercial cycle linked to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The extra income was buoyed by commercial deals with the World Cup host country. Qatar Energy joined as a top-tier sponsor and new third-tier sponsors include Qatari bank QNB and telecoms firm Ooredoo.
Most broadcast deals for this World Cup were signed in 2011 during Sepp Blatter’s presidency in two-tournament deals that included the Russia and Qatar tournaments.
Welsh First Minister tells Infantino to stop digging
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said that FIFA President Gianni Infantino was in a hole and should stop digging after he accused critics of World Cup host Qatar of hypocrisy.
Infantino rounded on European critics of the host nation over the issues of migrant workers and LGBT rights on Saturday, adding that engagement was the only way to improve human rights.
Drakeford, who is in Qatar to mark Wales’s first World Cup appearance since 1958, told Reuters on Sunday that Western countries should be prepared to review their own history but people’s rights “really matter”.
“I had two thoughts when I heard those comments. First of all, I think there is a serious point about being prepared to review our own history,” he said at an event in Doha.
“Wales is an outward looking inclusive nation where people’s rights really matter to us. But it wasn’t always like that. In our own history, we have had times when things that we have done, including things that we have done in other parts of the world, wouldn’t measure up to the sorts of beliefs and standards that we hold ourselves to today. So to take a moment to reflect on our own histories, it’s not a moment wasted.
“The second thought I had listening to what was said was to remind me of (former British finance minister Denis) Healy’s first law of holes, some people will remember Denis Healey, the great labour politician. And his first law of holes was when you’re in one, stop digging.”
Drakeford said he did have reservations about visiting Qatar.
“The debate about whether or not to come to Qatar was a finely balanced one,” he added. “There are many individuals who have chosen not to be here feeling that that is the best way to make a statement about the things that they think are important...
“On the other side of the equation are the arguments that say that when a small nation manages to be on the world stage, that there are extra obligations on some of us to be here to represent Wales to help to explain to the rest of the world what Wales has to offer, but also to explain about the things that are important to us as a contemporary nation.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is in ‘spectacular’ form, says Portugal’s Neves
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal team mate Ruben Neves says his captain is in “spectacular” shape as the team prepares for its opening World Cup match against Ghana on Thursday.
Wolves midfielder Neves, one the leaders of the changing room, dismissed any speculation that 37-year-old Ronaldo was not in peak form, saying he looked like his old self in training.
“From what I’ve seen in training, he’s in spectacular shape,” Neves told a news conference in tournament host Qatar on Sunday. “He doesn’t worry us at all, we as a team know perfectly well what we need to work on so that each individual stands out on gameday.”
“If we’re good as a team, Cristiano will be phenomenal.”
Neves also said Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive TV interview, in which the Manchester United forward said he had been betrayed by the club and was being forced out, had not been a distraction in the Portugal changing room.
He said the furore had nothing to do with the national squad.
“Sure, it’s impossible for us to walk around without been asked about the controversy, but I don’t think there’s any controversy at all between us in the changing room,” added 25-year-old Neves. “We have a spectacular environment right here.”
After missing Thursday’s friendly against Nigeria in Lisbon due to a stomach problem, Ronaldo trained normally on Saturday, smiling and joking with his team mates.
Portugal is in World Cup Group H with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea.
Benzema ruled out of World Cup
France forward and Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the FIFA World Cup 2022 with a thigh injury, the French National team confirmed on Saturday.
“Hit in the quadriceps of the left thigh, Karim Benzema is forced to give up participating in the World Cup. The whole team shares Karim’s sadness and wishes him a speedy recovery,” Les Blues wrote on Twitter.
RELATED: Benzema and the curse of Ballon d’Or
Earlier, the forward was reported to have left the training early with discomfort, L’Equipe reported.
Benzema and Manchester United defender Raphael Varane trained with the French team for the first time in Qatar, but the former’s session reportedly came to an abrupt end.
“In my life I have never given up but tonight I have to think of the team as I have always done so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our group to make a good World Cup,” Benzema posted on his Instagram page.
The Real Madrid striker had been recovering from muscle fatigue while playing for the Los Blancos and a suspected injury may just dent the hopes of title defence for France in Qatar 2022.
Will Messi and Ronaldo face off in FIFA World Cup: Probability of Argentina vs Portugal?
Argentina is drawn in Group C alongside Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia, where Messi will face Robert Lewandowski, the No. 9 of his former club, Barcelona.
Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, is drawn in Group H, where it will face old rival Uruguay, which had knocked the side out in the round of 16 in the previous edition of the World Cup, four years ago.
There is a chance of a Portugal vs Argentina match-up in the 2022 World Cup, where Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will lock horns against each other.
Following are the scenarios to have a Messi vs Ronaldo match-up in the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Note: The match-up scenarios have been made keeping in mind that Argentina and Portugal would win the knockout matches
Argentina and Portugal can meet in the FIFA World Cup final if Argentina tops its group and Portugal comes second in its group, or vice-versa.
Saudi crown prince MbS in Qatar for World Cup opening ceremony
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, arrived to Doha late on Saturday to attend the 2022 Qatar World Cup’s opening ceremony on Sunday in a show of Gulf solidarity after a three-year regional dispute ended last year.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, the deputy of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was at the reception of Prince Mohammed upon his arrival to Doha, the Amiri Diwan of Qatar said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt had severed ties with Qatar from 2017 to January 2021 over accusations that Doha supported “terrorism” - a reference to Islamist groups. Doha denied the charges.
Riyadh and Cairo have since led efforts to mend ties and appointed ambassadors to Qatar, while Abu Dhabi and Manama have yet to do so. All but Bahrain have restored travel and trade links.
Prince Mohammed visited Doha late last year in his first official trip to Qatar since he was named crown prince in 2017.
The World Cup is being staged in the Middle East for the first time, with Doha hoping the event will bring various economic benefits which it aims to share with Gulf neighbours.
Messi does light training away from Argentina team
Lionel Messi did light training away from his Argentina team mates on Saturday, triggering speculation among some fans that he may be nursing an injury three days ahead of his team’s World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia.
But Argentinian media said the 35-year-old captain, who is competing in his fifth and last World Cup, was being kept apart as a “precautionary” measure due to muscle fatigue.
Messi, whose team is among the favourites in Qatar to lift the one major trophy that has eluded his brilliant career, also stayed away from main training at the Qatar University on Friday, remaining in the gym with some other players.
Messi missed a Paris St Germain game earlier this month due to an inflamed Achilles tendon. But Argentinian media said there was no real doubt that he would miss the Saudi Arabia game.
Argentina will also face Mexico and Poland in Group C.