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Infantino calls for focus on football

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DOHA:

England and the Netherlands became the first World Cup heavyweights to touch down in Qatar on Tuesday as FIFA president Gianni Infantino again urged teams to focus on the football.

Gareth Southgate’s England side, spearheaded by striker Harry Kane, are seeking to become world champions for just the second time after crashing out in the semi-finals four years ago in Russia.

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They raised the hopes of their passionate fans by reaching the final of last year’s delayed Euro 2020 tournament but have struggled for form in recent months.

“Excitement is building among everyone,” said Kane. “We’re happy to be here and looking forward to being out on the training pitch.”

The Netherlands, whose outspoken coach Louis van Gaal has not hidden his opinion that Qatar should never have been allowed to host the World Cup, also arrived.

“Hello @FIFAWorldCup, we’re here! Can’t wait to get started!” the Dutch team tweeted, along with arrival pictures.

The Dutch were runners-up in 2010 and finished third four years later but did not qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

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Defending champions France and two-time World Cup winners Argentina are due to arrive in Qatar on Wednesday.

Pleas from football’s world governing body FIFA for a switch in focus to the football have fallen on deaf ears in some countries as the countdown to Sunday’s kick-off has intensified the focus on Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

FIFA launched its “Football Unites the World” campaign with a video featuring star players including Neymar, Karim Benzema and Edouard Mendy.

Infantino said: “Although football is and should be our main focus, the FIFA World Cup is also about values and causes that extend far beyond the pitch and we are delighted that football stars past and present have joined us to promote and highlight these topics, which also unite the whole world.”

USA coach Gregg Berhalter explained why his team are displaying a rainbow logo at their training base in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

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“We think it’s important, wherever we think that when we are on the world stage and in a venue like Qatar, to bring awareness to these issues,” he said.

“We recognise that Qatar has made major strides and there has been a ton of progress but there is some work to do.”

Qatar has rejected the accusations against its rights record as “racism” and the chief World Cup organiser said attacks on the Gulf state had been launched because it “competed as equals and snatched” the World Cup from rival bidders.

Iran’s players are being watched closely in Qatar for signs that they support demonstrations in the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly flouting the strict dress code for women.

But coach Carlos Queiroz, who compared the situation to players in England taking the knee in anti-racism protests, told a press conference his men had the “right to express themselves”.

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Cristiano Ronaldo was attracting attention even before the 37-year-old arrives in Qatar to play in his fifth World Cup, launching a stinging tirade against the club.

Ronaldo, who has been a peripheral player this season, said he felt “betrayed” by the Premier League club and that he has no respect for new manager Erik ten Hag.

He also hit out at the club’s US owners, the Glazer family, stating they care far more about the money-making potential of United than results on the pitch.

Lionel Messi, the player who has competed with Ronaldo as the world’s best player for more than a decade, says he is cautious over Argentina’s chances as he hopes to crown a glorious career by lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time.

The South American side have won the trophy twice – in 1978 and 1986 – with Messi a defeated finalist in 2014.

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“We are very excited,” 35-year-old Messi said in an interview with CONMEBOL, the South American football federation.

“We have a very nice group that is very eager, but we think about going little by little. We know that World Cup groups are not easy.”





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Uruguay held by South Korea in goalless stalemate

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Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after they were held to a 0-0 draw in Group H on Thursday in a contest where both teams struggled to find the clinical edge.

Clear-cut chances were rare for either side at the Education City Stadium and although Uruguay created more goalscoring opportunities, neither team were able to register a shot on target.

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Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork while South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams to rue missed chances before group rivals Portugal and Ghana meet later on in the day.

Uruguay’s first sight of goal came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who connected with Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and took a touch before firing a half-volley towards goal, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.

The South Americans had begun to find their footing when South Korea, having been patient so far, disrupted their rhythm and launched a counter-attack from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour mark. Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside, skipping past two Uruguay defenders before curling a right-footed effort towards goal, but left back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it away. South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim fizzed the ball into the penalty area and into the path of Hwang in front of goal, but the forward could not keep his composure and sent it over the crossbar.

The closest Uruguay came to scoring in the first half was just before the break, when centre back Godin rose highest to power a header from Valverde’s corner but it bounced off the left post and away from goal. Gimenez made a crucial tackle to deny Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing move from South Korea, while Jung Woo-young blocked midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s powerful strike at the other end. Uruguay saw more of the ball but found few chances to break through the South Korean defence until the closing stages, when Valverde unleashed a thunderbolt in the final minute of regulation time that struck the top of the post.





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World Cup fans in Qatar introduced to Islam

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DOHA:

The Katara Cultural Village Mosque in Qatar’s capital of Doha has become the focus of attention for World Cup fans who want to get to know about Islam.

Multilingual male and female preachers at the mosque explain the religion and tolerance of Islam to tourists.

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Electronic boards about Islam in more than 30 languages at the door are positioned to allow visitors to view them on their phones. And booklets introducing Islam in different languages ​​are distributed to those who want them.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Qatar also launched a pavilion to introduce Islam and its teachings during the World Cup 2022.

Also read: Batshuayi fires Belgium to World Cup

World Cup fans encounter hadiths — words, actions or habits of Prophet Muhammad — on the walls of streets, describing the importance of good deeds.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was last Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

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The tournament’s official mascot, La’eeb, whose name is an Arabic word that means super-skilled player, along with the flags of all 32 participating nations were waving on the field.





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Ronaldo and Brazil enter World Cup fray after Swiss win

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DOHA:

Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to put his painful Manchester United divorce behind him at the World Cup on Thursday as Brazil also make their bow following a win for Switzerland in the early kick-off.

Ronaldo’s preparations for what is likely to be his last World Cup have been overshadowed by his sudden departure from Old Trafford this week after he lambasted the club in a TV interview.

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The Portugal superstar’s form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at glory in Qatar after leading his team to the Euro 2016 title.

The 37-year-old, whose club future is uncertain, is aiming to become the first player in history to score at five World Cups.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his men were entirely focused on their opening Group H match against Ghana despite the distractions of the media circus surrounding their captain.

“The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing,” he said.

“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”

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World Cup favourites Brazil launch their bid for a record-extending sixth global crown against a dangerous Serbia side.

Brazil boast a frightening array of attacking talent including Paris Saint-German forward Neymar and Real Madrid pair Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Coach Tite will be wary of his Group G opponents after witnessing shock defeats for Argentina and Germany already in Qatar.

“In my opinion these players (attackers) will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him,” said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

“The atmosphere in the squad is super-healthy,” he added. “The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection.”

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Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and exited in the first round.

“We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hopes prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for the match at the Lusail Stadium.

Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.

The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.

Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.

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“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon — I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”

Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups — a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.

Son Heung-min was named in the starting line-up for South Korea’s Group H opener against Uruguay at 1300 GMT even though he was wearing a mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye earlier this month.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso selected Luis Suarez up front, with fellow veteran Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Germany coach Hansi Flick said no member of his team was safe after their shock 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday.

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The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.

“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.





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