From a tabloid newspaper firing back after a rival coach’s cheeky comments to a crushing injury blow for a Brazilian superstar, there is plenty happening in Qatar.
Plus – England reveals the full extent of FIFA’s threats over the rainbow armband row.
Here is the latest in the World Cup Daily!
ENGLAND REVEALS FIFA’S ‘UNLIMITED’ THREATS OVER ARMBANDS
The head of English football said FIFA threatened “unlimited” sanctions against players who wore the “OneLove” rainbow-themed armband for World Cup matches in Qatar.
England, Wales and five other European nations planned to wear the armband to promote diversity, but abandoned the initiative after football’s world governing body threatened them with sporting sanctions.
The armbands were widely viewed as a response to the laws in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said the FA believed FIFA were effectively threatening to ban players.
“It was unlimited. They would take disciplinary action against any player that was wearing the armband on top of having a yellow card,” he told ITV Sport.
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England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland said they had written to FIFA in September informing them about the “OneLove” armband, but did not receive a response.
“We had a lot of meetings with FIFA over that period and on Saturday before the game we felt we’d reached an understanding where we would wear it,” added Bullingham. “We hadn’t got permission but we would face a fine for it.
“Unfortunately then, on the day of the game, they gave us 10 minutes’ notice — two hours before we were due to go to the game.
“They came here with five officials and they ran us through a scenario where, at a minimum, anyone wearing the armband would be booked and face disciplinary action on top of that.” Germany’s players covered their mouths for the team photo before their match against Japan on Tuesday in protest at FIFA’s stance and the German football federation (DFB) has said it will investigate whether the threat to sanction players for wearing the armband is legal.
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TABLOID PAPER’S X-RATED RESPONSE TO FIRED-UP RIVAL COACH
Canadian men’s national team head coach John Herdman sent a warning shot to Croatia ahead of their World Cup meeting on Monday and now one of their tabloid newspapers has hit back.
Herdman was fired up after Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium in their World Cup opener, having still failed to win despite outshooting the opposition 22-9.
“I told them they belong here,” Herdman said of what he said to the playing group post-game.
“We’re going to go and F Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”
Herdman later apologised and clarified his comments but not before 24sata — one of the country’s biggest tabloid’s newspapers — sent him a cheeky message,
The paper featured a photoshopped image of Herdman, naked with a maple over his mouth and private parts, along with the question: “You have the mouth but do you have the balls as well?”
Herdman said he did not mean to disrespect Croatia with his comments after the Belgium loss, explaining he was simply trying to fire up his team.
“I mean, you say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle,” Herdman said.
“And when you’re asked a question ‘What did you say in that huddle?’ It’s what I said. It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where we’re at on the world stage, but in that moment you enter that next place, you take your team to that next place that we’re here to be fearless and to bring everything we’ve got to that game.
“I mean no disrespect to the Croatian team and Croatian people, but at the end of the day it’s a mindset that Canada is going to have if we’re going to have three points against one of the top teams in the world. And it’s the mindset we took to Belgium. We have to; it’s part of ‘New Canada.’”
ARGENTINA FANS PRAY FOR MARADONA MAGIC
Argentine football greats and thousands of World Cup fans paid tributes Friday to Diego Maradona on the second anniversary of the football icon’s death.
Many choked the narrow alleys of Doha’s main market on the eve of Argentina’s must-win clash against Mexico, waving Maradona flags and chanting his name along with that of current number 10 Lionel Messi. Police barricaded entrances into Souq Waqif because of the numbers.
Argentina has barely recovered from Maradona’s death from a heart attack on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60 after years of drug and alcohol troubles.
The Argentine played in four World Cups, lifting the trophy in 1986 when he scored his “Hand of God” goal against England. He was kicked out of the 1994 tournament after failing a drug test.
Former teammates from that 1986 team — Claudio Ruggeri, Nery Pumpido, Jorge Burruchaga, Ricardo Giusti, Sergio Batista, Claudio Borghi, Carlos Tapia, Jorge Valdano and Hector Enrique — attended a tribute at a South American confederation (CONMEBOL) fan zone in Doha.
They were joined by members of the 1978 winning team — Ubaldo Fillol, Mario Kempes, Daniel Bertoni, Ricardo Villa, Omar Larrosa and Alberto Tarantini.
“Like the great masters of painting, he made sketches until completing his most wonderful work against England,” said Valdano, recalling Maradona’s superb second goal against England in the 1986 quarter-final.
Some fans shouted “Viva Diego” as South American confederation president Alejandro Dominguez and FIFA chief Gianni Infantino both called Maradona “immortal.
The FIFA president said he wanted a ceremony for Maradona at every World Cup. Kempes, an attacking midfielder in the 1978 side, praised Maradona as an “excellent” character.
“If you knew him you thought he would do one thing, but he would do completely the opposite — that is genius,” the 68-year-old told reporters.
Many fans went to a Maradona FanFest in a hangar near Doha airport where there was memorabilia and a private jet painted with the footballer’s portrait.
A folk singer performed Argentine pop songs that told of Maradona’s fame as well as his battle with cocaine and drink.
Argentina fans also gathered on the Doha seafront to unfurl flags in honour of Maradona.
Many hope he will pass his magic to Messi for Saturday’s group game against Mexico. Argentina — stunned by Saudi Arabia in their opening game — must win to retain a realistic hope of reaching the second round.
“Diego is a god and you have to ask the gods for things and you have to thank them,” said 23-year-old Santiago Corbetta.
“So I hope he gives us a little help now with the match against Mexico.” “His death is something Argentina has never got over,” said Daniel Luque, who unfurled a flag with Maradona’s portrait at the World Cup countdown clock early Friday.
“He was a player and a phenomenon. His troubles just made him even more a man of the people. If he had stood for president he would have won,” added the 47-year-old.
NEYMAR VOWS TO RETURN AFTER CRUSHING INJURY BLOW
Neymar will sit out Brazil’s next World Cup game after he suffered an ankle injury in his team’s opening win against Serbia, the team doctor said.
The Paris Saint-Germain star suffered the injury in the 2-0 victory against Serbia on Thursday when he collided with Nikola Milenkovic during the second half.
The 30-year-old tried to continue but was substituted with about 10 minutes to go and underwent an examination on Friday.
Rodrigo Lasmar, the doctor for the Brazilian football federation (CBF), said Neymar had suffered “ligament damage” and would miss the match against Switzerland on Monday.
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“Today is one of the most difficult moments of my career… and again in a World Cup,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.
“I have an injury yes, it’s annoying, it’s going to hurt but I’m sure I’ll have the chance to come back because I’m going to do my best to help my country, my team-mates and myself.” Brazil right-back Danilo will also miss the second Group G game with an ankle strain.
“We will not have these two players for our next match but they continue their treatment with the aim of recovering in time for the rest of the competition,” the doctor said in a video released by the CBF.
Coach Tite was optimistic after the Serbia match that Neymar would be back to lead Brazil’s bid for a record-extending sixth World Cup crown.
“You can be certain that Neymar is going to play in the World Cup,” Tite said, adding that the attacker had initially stayed on the pitch after hurting his ankle “because the team needed him”.
Neymar’s career has been peppered by injuries which have impacted on his previous two World Cups.
In 2014 he suffered a fractured bone in his back in the quarter-final win over Colombia, meaning he was sidelined when the hosts were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals.
Four years later he raced to recover from injury in time for the tournament in Russia, but Brazil never hit the expected heights before losing to Belgium in the last eight.
The former Barcelona star, who has 122 caps for Brazil, also missed the 2019 Copa America after suffering torn ligaments in his right ankle.
In 2021 Neymar was out for about 10 weeks of the French season after suffering ligament damage to his left ankle.
This time he arrived fit and firing in Qatar after a fantastic start to the season with PSG, in which he has scored 15 goals in 20 games.
“We have talked about Neymar and this being his competition. He’s in the form of his life this season and it is a worry when he goes down like that,” Sky Sports’ Micah Richards told the BBC.
“Let’s hope it’s not too serious – you don’t want your main man injured especially in the first game.”
Neymar, who is playing in his third and possibly last World Cup, needs just two goals to equal Pele’s all-time record tally of 77 for the South American nation.
Without him, Brazil still boast an impressive array of attacking talent including Richarlison — who scored both of Brazil’s goals against Serbia — Raphinha and Vinicius Junior. And they were able to bring Rodrygo and Gabriel Jesus off the bench on Thursday.