Sunday, May 26, 2024

Football world looks to Doha ahead of World Cup draw

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The 2022 World Cup draw has Spain facing Germany, England taking on the USA and reigning champions France meeting Denmark in the group stage as the focus turned to the football after a number of off-field issues dominated the leadup to the awarding of the tournament.

Here are the groups the teams have drawn:

Group A: Qatar (hosts), Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador

Group B: England, United States, Iran, Wales or Scotland or Ukraine

Group C: Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia

Group D: France, Denmark, Tunisia, Peru or UAE or Australia

Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica or New Zealand

Group F: Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada

Group G: Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon

Group H: Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, Ghana

The eight World Cup groups. © France 24 infographics studio

In a twist of fate, reigning champions France face a similar group to the one they played in during their sluggish start to a victorious 2018 World Cup campaign, in which they drew against Denmark and narrowly beat Peru.

The USA also have an interesting group, taking on England, their fellow Anglophones, the nation that invented football, and the Euro 2021 runners-up. Team USA also face geopolitical antagonists Iran in their first footballing clash since Iran beat them at France ’98.

The real group of death is Group E, featuring two of the strongest teams in national football, Spain and Germany.

Most controversial in historyOff the pitch, this is the most controversial World Cup in history, with Qatar dogged ever since it was named host in 2010 by accusations of vote-buying — which were hotly denied — and questions over the country’s suitability.

From human rights concerns to the ongoing war in Ukraine, it has been impossible to keep the spotlight solely on the sport, but FIFA president Gianni Infantino has repeated, as he did on Thursday, that it “will be a fantastic and unique World Cup”.

Concerns remain over the treatment of gay and transgender supporters coming to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers in the country, including those who built stadiums.

Thursday’s FIFA Congress in Doha saw Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian Football Federation, speak out to say that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been awarded “in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences.”

“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later,” she said.

“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers.”

The chief executive of Qatar’s World Cup Supreme Committee, Hassan al-Thawadi, countered by saying he was disappointed that Klaveness had made no attempt to talk to Qatari authorities before speaking out.

He said the first World Cup in the Middle East would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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