Sat, 03 Dec 2022

Qatar take on Ecuador to launch 2022 World Cup

RFI
20 Nov 2022, 20:47 GMT+10

A capacity crowd of 60,000 is expected at the Al Bayt Stadium in Doha on Sunday night to watch Qatar and Ecuador launch the 2022 World Cup.

The hosts, who are 50th in the world rankings, will be playing their first tie at the World Cup which is being held in the Middle East for the first time.

On Friday, Qatar face Senegal and on 29 November for their final Group A match they take on the Netherlands.

"We'll be playing against teams who have a lot of players who are the best in the world in their position," said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.

"There will be players who have World Cup and Champions League experience.

"I'm not saying we're going to win the World Cup, but we will put in a performance of the highest level."

Attempt

Qatar - nicknamed al Annabi - enter their tournament not only with the pressure of hosts but also with the burden of trying to switch attention away from the off-field debates that have dogged its organisation since world football's governing body Fifa awarded the country hosting rights in 2010.

Qatari authorities have come under fire for their attitudes towards the plight of the thousands of migrant workers involved in the construction of the World Cup projects.

There has been criticism too of its treatment of the LGBT+ communities.

And on the eve of the tournament, organisers courted even more controversy by banning the sale of alcohol around the eight venues for the matches.

"Following discussions between the 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," Fifa said.

Change

The British based Football Supporters Association, which campaigns for fans on issues such as cheaper ticket prices and better behaviour at grounds, questioned the timing of the move.

"Some fans like a beer at the match, and some don't," said an FSA statement.

"But the real issue is the last minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem - the total lack of communication and clarity from the organising committee towards supporters.

"If they can change their minds on this at a moment's notice, with no explanation, supporters will have understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues."

Plea

At the start of November, Fifa boss Gianni Infantino wrote to the football associations of all 32 participants at the 2022 tournament pleading with them to concentrate on the football.

It was a request that he appeared to throw out of the window on the eve of the opening match when he said that western critics of the Qatari authorities were not in a position to lambast their mores.

"I'm European," he said. "For what we Europeans have been doing around the world in the last 3,000 years, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people."

Infantino, who was born in Switzerland after his parents moved there from Italy, said Qatar had made progress.

"I came to Qatar six years ago and addressed the matter of migrant workers straight on, in my very first meeting," he added.

"How many of these European or western business companies, who earned millions and millions from Qatar and other countries in the region - billions every year - how many of them addressed the rights of migrant workers with the authorities?"

French squad

Defending champions France kick off their campaign to become the first squad since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to retain the trophy.

Didier Deschamps' men take on Australia in Group D at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday night before playing Denmark and Tunisia.

The squad suffered a blow on Saturday when star striker Karim Benzema was ruled out of the tournament with a muscle tear in his left thigh.

Benzema wrote on Instagram: "In my life I have never given up but I have to think about the team, as I have always done, so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our group make a good World Cup."

At the start of November, Deschamps lost the services of midfielder Paul Pogba who scored in the 2018 final against Croatia. In October, N'Golo Kante, another star of the previous campaign, was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

"I am extremely sad for Karim who had made this World Cup a major objective," said Deschamps.

"Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the huge challenge that awaits us."

Originally published on RFI

More Brazil News

Access More

Sign up for Rio de Janeiro News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!