Welcome to Sportstar’s build-up for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar with a day to go.
QATAR 2022 UPDATES
Benzema exits France training early, doubtful for Australia clash
France forward and Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema was reported to have left the training early with discomfort and is ruled out for France’s opening game against Australia in the FIFA World Cup 2022, 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.
Messi, Ronaldo pose over chessboard ahead of Qatar 2022
Football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on Saturday put up a post on Instagram together.
The post, sponsored by Louis Vuitton, went up at around 11pm IST from both the Argentina and Portugal footballers’ respective social media handles.
“Victory is a State of Mind,” read the post.
Argentina plays its first match of the World Cup against Saudi Arabia on November 22. Portugal, on the other hand, goes up against Ghana on November 24.
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.
The World Cup stage is set for perhaps one final shootout between the two greatest football players of the generation — and to many, the two greatest of all time.
‘Tragic’ Harit injury does not affect me for World Cup - France’s Disasi
France defender Axel Disasi said he had put behind him the injury to Morocco international Amine Harit that forced the striker out of the World Cup, and added that abuse on social media did not bother him.
AS Monaco’s Disasi collided with Harit, who plays for Olympique Marseille, on Sunday during their Ligue 1 match, with the Moroccan suffering a ligament injury that ruled him out of the World Cup hours before he was due to board a plane to Qatar.
The uncapped Disasi, who got a last minute call-up for the France team, said that while Harit’s injury was “tragic” it would not affect him at the World Cup.
“What happened on Sunday is tragic and very sad,” Disasi told a news conference on Saturday. “I cannot imagine being in his place. He was about to leave in a couple of hours and then he injured himself.”
Disasi received a torrent of social media abuse from angry Morocco fans but said neither the injury nor the attacks would preoccupy him in Qatar.
“On the pitch I try not to think about it. I don’t fill my head with all that,” he said.
“On social media we see everything that was going on. Personally it has not touched me and I had no time thinking about it. I am concentrated and focused on being on the French team.”
Absent Castillo will be with us in spirit, say Ecuador
Byron Castillo will not be on the pitch when Ecuador meet Qatar in the World Cup opener on Sunday but the defender will be there in spirit as a symbol of the adversity the South American side faced just to get to Doha.
The 44th-ranked Ecuadorians punched their way into the fourth and last spot from arguably the world’s toughest qualifying campaign, overcoming challenges on and off the field that resulted in Castillo being left off coach Gustavo Alfaro’s squad.
The Ecuadorean Football Federation (FEF) decided not to include Castillo after Chile took a claim to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that he had been ineligible to play in World Cup qualifying matches because his true nationality was Colombian.
Although the claim was dismissed, the disputes body ruled that Ecuador would lose three points ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and be fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($106,000) for using a document containing false information.
Not wanting to risk any further legal challenges, Alfaro made the painful decision not to call up Castillo.
“If you had only seen the pain that Byron had to endure,” recalled Alfaro during Saturday’s news conference. “If you had seen the pain from the whole squad, the love from the squad towards Byron.
“Byron for us is a symbol and he will be with us on the pitch tomorrow even if he is not there.”
Poland’s Cash asks Aston Villa teammate Martinez for Messi shirt
Poland defender Matty Cash had a special request for Aston Villa teammate and Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez ahead of their meeting at the World Cup: to get him Lionel Messi’s shirt.
Premier League colleagues Cash and Martinez will turn rivals when Poland takes on Argentina in Group C on November 30.
Asked if he had been in touch with Martinez ahead of the tournament, Cash told reporters on Saturday: “No bets. I asked him for Messi’s shirt, if that’s possible.
“Obviously, when we step on the pitch, we become rivals although we are teammates at Villa. It’s another massive game against a really strong opponent.”
In Qatar, English-born defender Cash will play his first major tournament with Poland after being granted citizenship last year.
The 25-year-old, who has seven caps for Poland, qualified for citizenship through his mother and grandfather.
All you need to know about tomorrow’s Opening Ceremony
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.
Is BTS star Jungkook performing at the opening ceremony?
Yes. While FIFA is yet to announce a complete list of performers for the 2022 World Cup opening ceremony, Jungkook, a member of the globally popular Korean boy band BTS, has confirmed his presence at the event. BTS has confirmed Jungkook will perform the official soundtrack of this edition of the World Cup, Dreamers, at the opening ceremony.
Eriksen says being back at FIFA World Cup after collapse is ‘very special’
Christian Eriksen says it is “very special” to be back at the World Cup as he seeks to complete a remarkable comeback from his cardiac arrest during the European Championship last year.
The playmaker collapsed on the pitch against Finland in June 2021 and had to be resuscitated in front of a stunned Copenhagen crowd and a television audience of millions.
On the way to hospital he told his wife Sabrina that he would probably never play football again but he was back in action eight months later.
The 30-year-old had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator fitted, which meant he had to quit Inter Milan due to rules in Italy.
But he signed for Brentford in the Premier League and also resumed his international career.
World Cup fans ‘can survive’ without beer
Infantino said that World Cup fans can survive for three hours a day without beer after sales were banned around stadiums.
“I think personally if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive,” he said. “The same applies in France, Spain, Scotland.”
World Cup chiefs on Friday banned beer sales around stadiums in Qatar in a stunning U-turn, just 48 hours before Sunday’s kickoff.
Alcohol is largely prohibited in the Islamic nation but the organisers sparked fury from fans with their dramatic late decision.
Football’s world governing body FIFA said beer would not be sold to fans around any of the eight World Cup stadiums following discussions with the hosts.
It said beer sales would be focused on fan zones and licensed venues, “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters”.
It gave no reason for the surprise decision but media reports said there had been an intervention by Qatar’s ruling family.
Dozens of Budweiser beer tents had already been set up at grounds ahead of the first game.
FIFA chief Infantino voices support for LGBTQ community, migrant workers
FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed support for the LGBTQ community and migrant workers in his opening press conference of the Qatar World Cup on Saturday.
“Today I feel Qatari, today I feel Arab, today I feel African, today I feel gay, today I feel disabled, today I feel a migrant worker,” he said.
The build-up to the tournament in the Gulf state has been dominated by concerns over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.
Qatar officials say their country has been the target of “racism” and “double standards”. They point to the reforms on working conditions and safety that have been hailed as groundbreaking in the Gulf region.
World Cup warm-up defeat to Egypt wake up call for Belgium, says coach Martinez
Belgium’s defeat to Egypt in Friday’s World Cup warm-up international was a wake up call before the tournament, said coach Roberto Martinez.
The Belgians, second in the FIFA rankings and semifinalists at the last World Cup, looked flat and out of form as they were beaten 1-2 in Kuwait City by a Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt, which is not going to the World Cup.
“Mentally we were not ready for this match. We were not good in possession, there was too little pace, no offensive balance, we rarely got to the second ball,” Martinez said as Belgium headed for its base at Salwa Beach in Qatar to prepare for its opening Group F game against Canada on Wednesday.
“Egypt were simply better than us. It was as if a lot of our guys just didn’t want to get hurt, while you saw with Egypt that they absolutely wanted to win this match.”
The World Cup is seen as the last chance for Belgium’s so-called golden generation to win a major title. It was top of the FIFA rankings for four successive years but since slipped to second behind Brazil.
Watch: How ‘Dr Cool’ is helping fans at the Qatar FIFA World Cup
German football boss criticizes FIFA for restricting human rights campaigns
German football federation president Bernd Neuendorf has criticized FIFA for its attempts to restrict national teams’ political activities when it comes to human rights.
Speaking at Germany’s first news conference in Qatar ahead of the World Cup, Neuendorf said on Friday he was particularly annoyed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s letter two weeks ago urging teams to “focus on the football” and leave political issues aside.
“That the topic of human rights should now no longer play a role, that we are now concentrating here on football only, that irritated us to a certain extent and disturbed us,” Neuendorf said.
He added the federation had to send a signal to show it will not be silenced.
Neuendorf also referred to FIFA’s decision to ban the Denmark team from bearing the slogan “Human Rights For All” on training jerseys.
“That was declared as a political statement and therefore prohibited,” Neuendorf said. “We’re not talking about a political decision that can be made one way or the other with a slogan like ‘Human Rights For All.’ It’s about human rights. And human rights are universal and binding all over the world.”
Neuendorf said Germany was cooperating with other European federations who want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games to protest against discrimination.
“It’s not a political statement, because it’s a statement for human rights,” said Neuendorf, who added if it was banned, “I would be quite prepared to accept a fine as well.”
Brazilians turn Sao Paulo streets yellow and green ahead of World Cup
Messi or Suarez should win Qatar World Cup if not Spain, says Luis Enrique
Spain coach Luis Enrique has said that if his team cannot triumph at the World Cup in Qatar he would like to see Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez crowned with Argentina and Uruguay respectively.
Luis Enrique, who coached Messi and Suarez in a successful stint with Barcelona from 2014 to 2017, said that the forwards deserved to retire with a world title under their belt.
“If we don’t win it, I would like Argentina. It would be very unfair for a player of Messi’s stature to retire without a World Cup. Also Uruguay for Luis Suarez,” Luis Enrique said in his Twitch streaming debut on Friday.
The 52-year-old coach also trusts his side to have a successful tournament despite Spain’s inexperienced base of players and said his team, who have been drawn in Group E with Germany, Costa Rica and Japan, are not afraid of anyone.
“I’m not worried about youth. Football has evolved, the young players have a lot of enthusiasm, the veteran players lead the group and the young players let themselves be led,” he said.
“Our aim is to finish top of the group. We already know who we would face in the last 16 and we would play someone from Brazil’s group in the semifinals, but who said we were afraid?”
“Hopefully it’s Spain who will be the surprise, although for me it wouldn’t be a surprise,” Luis Enrique added.
Spain kicks off its World Cup campaign on Wednesday against Costa Rica.
Women referees train in Doha ahead of 2022 World Cup
Italian referee Orsato to officiate Qatar vs Ecuador opening match
Italian referee Daniele Orsato was chosen on Friday to handle the opening game of the World Cup.
FIFA picked Orsato for Sunday’s match between host Qatar and Ecuador, describing him as “one of Europe’s most experienced referees.” He turns 47 on Wednesday.
Until 2016, FIFA imposed a mandatory age limit of 45 on match officials for international games.
Orsato, who was a video review official at the last World Cup, refereed the 2020 Champions League final when Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0. He worked three games at last year’s European Championship, which was won by his home country.
Italian referees have one of the best reputations in the modern era of World Cups, handling two of the past five finals.
FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina officiated the 2002 final and Nicola Rizzoli was picked for the 2014 final. - AP
Iniesta backs Spain’s youngsters to deliver at World Cup in Qatar
Spain’s World Cup-winning midfielder Andres Iniesta said head coach Luis Enrique’s youthful squad has plenty of first-team experience at club level to deliver international success.
The 2010 champion has opted for a new generation of talent with the likes of Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea left out.
A lot will be expected from exciting Barcelona teenagers Pedri and Gavi at the finals in Qatar and Iniesta said he had full confidence in the duo and the rest of the players.
“They’re young, but they’re first-team players, important and with a lot of responsibility. They have an opportunity to give their best,” Barca great Iniesta, who now plays for Japan’s Vissel Kobe, said.
“It’s a challenge they’re passionate about and they’re aware of being able to do well ... Personally, I love this team and I love the group that the coach has put together.”
Iniesta, who scored the winning goal that gave Spain its only World Cup title, wants to see it go all the way again.
“I hope and wish that the winners of the World Cup will be Spain,” Iniesta said. “My prediction is always ambitious.”
Spain faces Costa Rica in its opener on Wednesday before matches against Germany and Japan in Group E.
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