Welcome to Sportstar’s build-up for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar with two days to go.
QATAR 2022 UPDATES
- ⦿Belgium loses warm-up to Egypt
A strong Belgium outfit lost its pre-FIFA World Cup warm-up fixture 1-2 against Egypt on Friday at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait.
Other warm-up results: Cameroon 1-1 Panama – (Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi), Portugal 4-0 Nigeria – (Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon), Bahrain 1-5 Serbia (Barain National Stadium, Riffa)
- ⦿FIFA World Cup: Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski unsure if Qatar 2022 will be his last
Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski said he is preparing for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar as if it could be his last, but the 34-year-old added that he would still be physically fit to play at the next edition in 2026.
Poland’s record goal scorer Lewandowski has been in terrific form for his La Liga club Barcelona this season, having scored 18 times in 19 games across all competitions.
Poland is in Group C at the World Cup and begins its campaign against Mexico on Tuesday. It also faces Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
- ⦿England captain Williamson says she has no interest in the men’s World Cup
England captain Leah Williamson said on Friday that she had no interest in watching the upcoming men’s World Cup in Qatar, adding that the tournament has a huge shadow over it.
The 25-year-old Arsenal defender, who lifted the European Championship trophy earlier this year, said she wanted to use her voice to focus on the controversial issues regarding the tournament.
The country has come under intense pressure over its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws, leading many participating teams to raise concerns. Qatar has denied claims that workers were exploited.
“It’s a shame that we are heading into what should be the greatest show on earth with this huge shadow over the top of it,” Williamson told the BBC.
“I’m disappointed and I think it is a shame as growing up, watching the World Cup was one of the things that brought everybody together.”
Williamson stated she would still support her male counterparts but that she no longer feels an interest in the tournament.
- ⦿FIFA tech promises faster, more accurate offside decisions in Qatar
VAR offside decisions will be quicker and more accurate at the World Cup after the introduction of new technology developed by FIFA over the last three years, referees chief Pierluigi Collina said on Friday.
The “semi-automatic offside technology” will rule on even the tightest offside decisions more quickly than under the previous system and a 3D animated rendering of the incident will be broadcast for fans in the stadium and on TV.
“(It) gives us the possibility to be faster and more accurate in terms of decisions about offside,” Collina told reporters in a briefing ahead of the tournament.
“Just to be clear, being faster does not mean we will have instantaneous assessment of offside. It will be less than now, certainly, but we cannot have an answer one-second, or basically live.
“One thing I want to underline is the final decision always belongs to the match official -- on the VAR, the video assistant referee, on the field of play, to the referee.”
Twelve cameras in each stadium will track 29 points on the body of each player and a sensor inside the match ball will send data to the VAR operations room 500 times a second to allow a highly accurate assessment of when the pass was played.
- ⦿World Cup refs to crack down on dangerous play: Collina
World Cup referees have been ordered to crack down on foul play in a bid to protect players from injury, FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina revealed on Friday.
Collina said that all 32 teams at the World Cup had been warned that match officials in Qatar have been instructed to take a hardline against any player endangering an opponent.
“The World Cup is the most important tournament on earth in our sport with the best players in the world,” Collina said.
“It would be a shame if some of these players wouldn’t be able to play due to an injury caused by an opponent. So the first message to our referees is to protect the players safety,” the Italian added.
Collina, widely regarded as the greatest referee of all time, said FIFA refereeing officials had visited World Cup teams in Qatar to inform them of the directive.
- ⦿Masked Son will play in Korea’s World Cup opener, says ex-skipper
Son Heung-min will defy a nasty facial injury to play in South Korea’s opening match at the World Cup, a former international team-mate said on Friday.
South Korea’s talisman and captain had surgery after suffering a fracture around his left eye while playing for Tottenham in the Champions League earlier this month.
The 30-year-old forward trained on Friday in a black face mask.
Son was seen readjusting the mask several times as he went through drills with the rest of the South Korean squad in Qatar.
South Korea plays its opening match against Uruguay on November 24.
- ⦿Iran closes ranks amid uncomfortable questions on solidarity with women
Iran’s Karim Ansarifard and Morteza Pouraliganji refused to answer questions on solidarity with women in their country on Friday, a day after Alireza Jahanbakhsh suggested the questions were a ploy to distract them before the World Cup.
Several Iranian sportsmen and women have used international competitions to show their support for the protests that have rocked the country since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police in September.
Jahanbakhsh had accused the English media of distracting the Asian side ahead of Monday’s Group B opener against England and Ansarifard jumped to his defence at a news conference, repeatedly stressing team unity.
“It’s my professional duty to play football and your professional duty to ask questions, but we all need to do things appropriately in our profession,” Ansarifard told reporters through a translator at Iran’s training camp at Al Rayyan.
“This is why we always defend each other and say the truth... Yesterday there was a question asked of Jahanbakhsh, more or less the same question.
“What we say is interpreted in another way in the media. Personally, I came here out of respect. Because of what happened, what I say will be interpreted differently.”
When the question was posed to Pouraliganji, the co-ordinator stepped in and requested questions on the World Cup only.
- ⦿Spirit of Euro 2020 still present for Denmark as Eriksen returns for Qatar, says coach
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand believes the wave of emotive support that helped propel his side to the European Championship semifinals 18 months ago is still present and hopes to use it for the World Cup in Qatar.
Denmark bounced back from the shock of seeing midfielder Christian Eriksen suffer a heart attack in their opening game to reach the final four of the Euros, willed on by sympathetic support and a determined spirit.
“I think definitely it’s still here,” he told Reuters in a interview on Friday as Denmark prepared for their opening Group D game against Tunisia on Tuesday.
“When we went back after the Euros and started the World Cup qualification games, we didn’t know if it was only Euro football fever in Denmark. But it turned it was just football fever and it’s been crazy in Denmark ever since.”
- ⦿Poland World Cup team escorted by fighter jets
Robert Lewandowski and his Poland teammates enjoyed a special World Cup send-off accompanied by fighter jets but critics questioned the use of military resources.
Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak took to public radio on Friday to defend the decision to escort the team plane through Polish airspace the previous day.
“It’s a good sign showing support for our players,” he said.
Blaszczak on Thursday tweeted: “Our players are already on the way to the World Cup in Qatar. They are being escorted by F-16s to the border. Good luck!”.
Blaszczak said the escort was nothing more than regular pilot training.
- ⦿Spain’s Gaya out of the World Cup
OFFICIAL STATEMENT: José Luis Gayá will not be with Spain in the World Cup in Qatar. After carefully analyzing the situation, and always consulting with the medical services of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Luis Enrique has made the decision to replace the Valencia full-back, who was accidentally injured last Wednesday during afternoon training in Amman.
The RFEF wants to have a message full of affection for Gayá, who had earned his own merit to defend Spain in the World Cup in Qatar after four years defending the team’s jersey at the highest level.
As Luis Enrique well explained after the victory in Jordan, Gayá’s injury has been the worst news since the concentration began. The coaching staff understands that they need the 26 players in full to face the challenge of the World Cup, as demanding as it is exciting.
Gayá, as confirmed in the MRI to which he was subjected, suffered a low-grade lateral sprain in his right ankle. He will return to Spain in the next few hours.
- ⦿FIFA World Cup: France is out to correct Euro 2021 failure, says Rabiot
France midfielder Adrien Rabiot on Friday praised the defending world champions’ preparation for the Qatar World Cup as it looks to make amends for the early exit at last year’s Euro championship.
Making his first World Cup appearance after having failed to make the squad that won the title four years ago, Rabiot said the team was able to prepare without distractions in Doha, Qatar, which had not been the case last year.
“The most important point is we have to stay united. So we don’t look outside the group for things that can harm our morale. We have the potential to do better than we did in the Euro,” Rabiot said ahead of its opening World Cup match against Australia on November 22.
“It is true that we have a lot of luxury this time around. We live in this little bubble. In the Euro, it was mid-COVID with a lot of restrictions and it made daily life difficult.”
The world champions crashed out of the Euros last year at the round of 16 stage after losing to Switzerland.
- ⦿World Cup poorer without Sadio Mane, says ex-Liverpool teammate Van Dijk
Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk says the World Cup will be poorer without his former clubmate Sadio Mane, even though the Dutch now face a weaker Senegal side in their Group A opener on Monday.
Senegal’s talisman Mane was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar late on Thursday after his team’s doctors re-examined a latest batch of scans of his knee injury, suffered playing in the Bundesliga for new club Bayern Munich earlier this month, and said his recovery could take several months.
Mane was Van Dijk’s teammate at Liverpool up to the end of last season and the pair were set for an on-field reunion as the Netherlands and Senegal kick off their World Cup campaigns at the Al Thumama Stadium.
“I am very sorry that Sadio misses the match against us because this World Cup simply deserves the best players, Sadio is one of them,” said Van Dijk.
“Sadio is world class, he is my friend and I will miss him.” Van Dijk also echoed coach Louis van Gaal’s sentiment from earlier in the week that the Dutch could be strong competitors at the tournament.
- ⦿Brazil’s Vinicius Jr wants to use football for the greater good
Vinicius Jr said he was eager to ease the pressure on Brazil forward Neymar, 30, who has carried the hopes of a nation almost single-handedly throughout his international career.
“Neymar went through so much as a young player, having to play at such young age and with a lot of pressure. So he is the one that makes sure today that everything is easier for the new generation,” Vinicius told Reuters in Turin on Thursday, where Brazil is training before flying to Qatar on Saturday.
“It is a dream because we grew up idolising him. It is very important what he does as a leader. He knows that by helping us, we can help him a lot too, make a great World Cup. And that’s good for us. It is good for the Brazilian people that want us to win.”
- ⦿Senegal’s Mane ruled out of Qatar WC due to leg injury
Senegal forward Sadio Mane has been ruled out of the World Cup in Qatar in a crushing blow to his team’s chances after officials confirmed on Thursday he would need surgery on a leg injury sustained in the run-up to the tournament.
Mane had been a doubt for the west African side after injuring his right fibula playing for German club Bayern Munich.
“Unfortunately, today’s (Thursday) MRI shows us that the recovery is not as favourable as we hoped and we unfortunately resolve to declare Sadio’s withdrawal from the World Cup,” Senegal team doctor Manuel Afonso told reporters.
- ⦿Maddison misses England training for second consecutive day
England’s James Maddison could be at a risk of missing the World Cup in Qatar.
According to Sky Sports, Leicester City midfielder Maddison missed training for the second consecutive day on Thursday. He had left the pitch after 25 minutes in the club’s final Premier League game while holding his leg.
- ⦿Ronaldo not thinking about ‘predicted final’ against Messi’s Argentina
Portugal legend Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that his team will not give in to favouritism among fans or speculations at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
“If we are to reach the final, we need to play at the best of our abilities in the first six matches. First things first, let us play well to earn a passage to the knockout. We are ready to battle it out in Qatar,” he said.
- ⦿Qatar announces no alcohol sales at World Cup stadium sites
“Following discussions between host country authorities and Fifa, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the Fifa fan festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s Fifa World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” said a statement from FIFA.
“There is no impact to the sale of Bud Zero which will remain available at all Qatar’s World Cup stadiums.
“Host country authorities and Fifa will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.”
The decision comes only two days before games start in Qatar.
Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, pays tens of millions of dollars at each World Cup for exclusive rights to sell beer. The company’s partnership with FIFA started at the 1986 tournament.
When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to respect FIFA’s commercial partners, and again when signing contracts after winning the vote in 2010.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country was forced to change a law to allow alcohol sales in stadiums.
-Team Sportstar with inputs from AP
- ⦿Injured Alphonso Davies on way to join Canada at World Cup
Alphonso Davies is on his way to Qatar to join his Canada team mates for the World Cup, coach John Herdman said on Thursday, but may not be fit to play in the team’s opener against Belgium.
Davies, Canada’s most dynamic player, has been recovering from a hamstring strain he sustained in early November playing for Bayern Munich.
Herdman confirmed Davies was en route to Doha after Canada scored a late penalty to beat Japan 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai.
“Phonzie (Davies) is en route now to join us and we’ll assess him as soon as he arrives just to see if we can get him near his top speed,” Herdman said. “Progressively, we’ll just see how that one goes.
“Tonight we showed we’ve got the spirit the collectiveness to have a next-man up but we also know that there is only one Alphonso Davies and we are really keen to get him back.”
- ⦿Brazil will only pick Tite’s successor in January, says CBF
Brazil will only choose the next coach of its national team in January, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Thursday, denying rumours of talks with the likes of Pep Guardiola to replace outgoing boss Tite.
Tite, who has coached the “Selecao” since 2016, has announced he will leave the post after the World Cup, leading to a flurry of speculation in Brazil on who could be next.
But the CBF “is 100 per cent focused on winning a sixth World Cup under Tite’s command,” it said in a statement.
CBF president Ednaldo Rodrigues, who took office in March, “has never spoken with any football director about the coaching job after the World Cup,” it said.
“Any news to the contrary is a lie,” Rodrigues said in the statement. “That issue will only be addressed in January.”
The statement came after rumours this week that ex-national team coach Mano Menezes (2010-2012), currently at Brazilian league runner-up Internacional, could return to the job.
Other names floated include Dorival Junior of Copa Libertadores champs Flamengo and Manchester City boss Guardiola - though the latter would reportedly demand too high a price for the CBF.
- ⦿Argentina’s Joaquin Correa, Nico Gonzalez ruled out with injuries
Argentina forwards Nico Gonzalez and Joaquin Corrrea are ruled out of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after injuries.
Gonzalez, who has 21 caps to his name, suffered a muscle injury in a training session.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said on Wednesday after his team thrashed the United Arab Emirates 5-0 in its final warmup game that “some players are not 100 per cent, we have a few small problems”.
Gonzalez, 24, was one of the players who sat out the match in Abu Dhabi as Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 36 matches. Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa has been drafted into the squad.
The 28-year-old Correa played 45 minutes in the win over the UAE and even scored in the 60th minute. It was reported that he complained of persistent pain in his left knee after the game.
Correa has four goals in 19 appearances for Argentina and scored three goals for Inter Milan this season. Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada, who has one senior team appearance, has been named as a replacement.