“Argentina went to Russia in 2018 with a sense it was now or never. They had lost in the final of the previous World Cup. A great generation of attacking talent was ageing. Lionel Messi was 31 and two years earlier had flirted with international retirement after a second successive Copa América final defeat to Chile. And at last the Argentinian Football Association had managed to appoint, in Jorge Sampaoli, a dynamic and progressive coach who promised to restore the days of Bielsista optimism. Messi scored one brilliant goal, against Nigeria and there was a spirited exit against France in the last 16, but the last World Cup was a huge disappointment. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
“LE HAVRE, France — As the announcer at the Stade Océane cycled through Brazil’s team on Friday, before the squad dismantled Ghana, 3-0, a murmur of appreciation greeted each familiar, stellar name. Alisson was granted gentle applause. Thiago Silva earned a respectful, admiring cheer. Raphinha drew a sizzle of anticipation. And then, leaving just a hint of a dramatic pause, the announcer came to Neymar. There were, perhaps, mitigating circumstances. …” NY Times
“A proud footballing nation on a lean run of just one win in six games. A humiliating defeat at home against Hungary. And above all, a sense of stasis and frustration, a lack of creativity, the suspicion that for all the talent and trophies in this team, it remains considerably less than the sum of its parts. Germany and England may share a common predicament, but as they prepare to meet on Monday night only one of these nations is currently racked by existential crisis. …” Guardian
“Well, it is a pretty weird World Cup anyway. Can we asterisk this thing? Just a thought, but is it actually too late to boycott? Norway did the T-shirts. Good optics. For Gareth Southgate and England this was another cowed and pallid step towards Qatar 2022. What is the perfect prep for these four-yearly moments of destiny anyway? How about not scoring a goal from open play for almost 500 minutes? How about three defeats in five games, topped by a 1-0 here against a so-so Italy? How about getting relegated? …” Guardian
“The U.S. men’s national team had plenty of problems in a 2-0 loss to Japan in a friendly on Friday in Dusseldorf, Germany. But while those problems are concerning, particularly with just one game to go until the World Cup, few of them are new. Throughout World Cup qualifying, the U.S. did a lot of damage by pressing teams high and hard, winning the ball in dangerous positions, then attacking vertically and quickly. …” The Athletic (Video)
“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…” The Athletic (Video)
“Before every World Cup, we are struck with the unfortunate news of an injury to an important player. In 2018, it was Dani Alves for Brazil. Four years before that, it was the unlucky Marco Reus, who this weekend was stretched off against Schalke, with fears that he may also miss the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. And in 2010, it was Michael Ballack who sustained an ankle injury in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth. …” The Athletic (Video)
“Chile failed Friday in its latest attempt to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup, another setback in a high-stakes campaign that threatened to alter the field for the sport’s showcase championship only two months before the tournament’s opening match. An appeals committee at soccer’s governing body, FIFA, rejected Chile’s newest claim, agreeing with an earlier decision by a disciplinary panel to reject the contention that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. …” NY Times
“We’re currently 67 days away from the first ball being kicked at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and as we approach the first ever World Cup to be staged in winter rather than summer, players have less time and more pressure to impress their respective international managers. Some players have an almost guaranteed spot in their national teams regardless of their seasons – think Harry Kane and Achraf Hakimi. Others don’t have such a luxury and have a constant point to prove when they step out to play. Those are the players we’ll delve into in this article: players with a point to prove to be part of the travelling pack who jet off to Qatar in mid-November. …” Football Paradise
“England and the USA have goalkeeper injury concerns, Ricardo Pepi has made his debut in Holland but Arsenal’s in-form Gabriel Jesus is suddenly out of favour with Brazil. With the transfer window shut and September international fixtures looming, a relentless domestic and European calendar is providing opportunities for players to shine and prepare for Qatar. …” The Athletic (Video)
“Eight World Cup 2022 stadiums in Qatar will have the honour of hosting this winter’s tournament. The Middle Eastern state was announced as the surprise World Cup 2022 host back in 2010, and has since gone about building the infrastructure needed for a global tournament. Here, FourFourTwo gives you the lowdown on all eight host stadiums. …” FourFourTwo
“At club level, Martino is revered in Atlanta, the city where he led Atlanta United to an MLS Cup championship in 2018. But on Wednesday night, wearing a red Adidas Mexico national team tracksuit, Martino was booed and jeered by the over 50,000 Mexican supporters that attended El Tri’s friendly against Paraguay at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Fuera Tata chant was heard throughout the match. Mexico lost 1-0 in a non-FIFA sanctioned scrimmage that featured only Liga MX-based players, but even a loss in the low stake games are enough to rankle Mexico’s rabid fanbase. …” The Athletic W – Gerardo Martino
“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Dennis Bergkamp at the 1998 World Cup in France. …” The Ringer (Audio/Video)
“For the first time in years, several different U.S. men’s national team strikers are firing at the same time. Jeremy Ebobisse, Jesus Ferreira, Jordan Pefok, Josh Sargent, Brandon Vazquez and Haji Wright are all in fine form, with Ebobisse, Ferreira and Vazquez continuing their solid MLS seasons with some good play over the last month and Pefok, Sargent and Wright each off to strong starts in the 2022-23 campaign with their European clubs. …” The Athletic (Video)
“… The World Cup is just months away and the Al Janoub Stadium manager is showing a group of reporters around his pride and joy, the air-conditioned venue that will host seven games, including the holders France’s opening game against Australia on November 22. The Athletic asked the question which, to a Brit visiting Qatar for the first time, feels like the elephant in the room. This tournament has been relentlessly condemned by human rights groups for the circumstances in which these stadiums were built. How do tournament organisers respond to that? It’s not what they want to talk about now the football is about to begin. …” The Athletic
“The start date of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is set to be changed. FIFA is likely to move the start date from the 21st November to the 20th November. But why? What difference will it make? Matt Slater, Jacob Whitehead and Seb Stafford-Bloor explain.” YouTube
“At a flashy ceremony on Nov. 21 last year, some of Qatar’s most senior officials, including the Gulf nation’s prime minister, joined the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, top soccer executives and invited guests for a celebration. They gathered on Doha’s corniche, the sweeping promenade that hugs the city’s shimmering waterfront, to unveil an ornate countdown clock and to mark a milestone: the day they were celebrating was precisely one year before the opening of the 2022 World Cup. …” NY Times
“A little over 10 years ago, 10 miles north of Qatar would have been a sleepy fishing village, and not much else. This place would become the location for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Fast forward to today and a futuristic metropolis filled with the latest technology and engineering practices is nearing completion. Did Qatar build this city just for a World Cup? David Goldblatt reveals what this new city will be like. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.” YouTube
“‘Azmoun and Taremi get Iranians dreaming,’ was the headline for an article on Fifa’s website after ‘Team Melli’ were drawn to face England in their first match of the 2022 World Cup. Just a few months on and with the team’s star strikers at loggerheads over the future of coach, Dragan Skocic, however, it’s not exactly been the preparation Iran supporters had hoped for as the squad attempt to make history by progressing past the group stage in Qatar. …” Guardian W – Dragan Skočić
“The pinnacle of the game. A job reserved only for the very best. That was how an international manager’s role was viewed for decades. The World Cup was where the globe’s top coaches would meet in the dugout, just as the best players were doing so on the pitch. While the growing importance of domestic leagues and the Champions League has curbed international football’s reputation in the 21st century, there remains a special enchantment to leading a national team to glory. No other job in football gives a manager the chance to bring such unbridled joy to so many people. …” Guardian
“This past FIFA window for Mexico was replete with many of the same narratives that dominated their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goals were scarce, the team’s supposed stars underperformed and the Fuera Tata chants were heard in matches that were played both in the United States and in Mexico. Each one of those realities will shape Mexico’s run up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Head coach Tata Martino must solve El Tri’s goal drought, and perhaps recall Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernadez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, in order to do so. …” The Athletic
“Recent contests over the presidency of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have been keenly contested, with good reason. Nigeria’s size and football pedigree (the Nigerian men’s national team has qualified for the World Cup six times and won the African Cup of Nations three times) mean occupants of the NFF presidency have frequently used this position as a launch pad for more senior positions in both the continental (CAF) and global (FIFA) football governing bodies. Amaju Pinnick, the current president, is no exception. …” Africa Is a Country
“DOHA, Qatar — The sun comes up before 5 a.m. and immediately puts the entire city on convection bake. By lunchtime, the temperature has finished its methodical climb up the scale, from unusual through uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The wind off the bay offers no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot. This was to be the summer the World Cup came to Qatar, an idea that seems as preposterous now as it did a dozen years ago, when the tiny Gulf country, let’s just say, acquired the hosting rights to soccer’s biggest championship. …” NY Times
“The U.S. men’s national team ended its June international window, and its longest stretch of World Cup preparation, back where it set off on the road to Qatar. That September night in San Salvador, the U.S. was subjected to a raucous and deafening crowd that filled Central America’s largest stadium (despite pandemic limitations). There were fireworks during play, projectiles, and a motivated and energetic opponent. In short, the youthful visitors experienced a lot of what Concacaf has to offer. They escaped with a point and some valuable first-hand experience. On Tuesday night, with far lower stakes and amid rain-soaked conditions that somehow were significantly worse, the U.S. had to endure even more to earn yet another draw. …” SI
“Chile’s bid to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup failed on Friday when a disciplinary panel at soccer’s global governing body rejected a claim that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. The case involved the defender Byron Castillo, who Chile contended was not only born in Colombia but also three years older than is stated on the documents used to identify him as Ecuadorean. Chile’s soccer federation produced registry documents, including birth certificates, that it said supported its claim. …” NY Times
“CARDIFF, Wales — When it was over, when the referee blew his whistle and the crowd roared and Ukraine’s dream of earning a place in this year’s World Cup was gone, most of its national soccer team dropped straight to the grass. A few players held their heads in their hands. The rest simply stared off into space. The scoreboard confirmed what, in that moment, even the Ukrainians themselves could scarcely believe: Wales 1, Ukraine 0. A World Cup qualifying journey laced with symbolism and spirit and national pride, an opportunity delayed three months by war with Russia and reaching its denouement on a day that had begun with explosions in Kyiv, the first direct airstrikes on the capital in a month, had ended not in triumph but in the cruelest of twists: defeat to Wales on an own goal scored by a Ukraine forward, Andriy Yarmolenko. …” NY Times Guardian: Kyiv locals put Ukraine’s defeat into context after World Cup near miss
30 May 2022: Wydad fans during the CAF Champions League final.
“As Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly emerged from the subterraneous player tunnels at Stade Mohammed V, it was immediately clear that the visitors from Egypt stood virtually no chance in the CAF Champions League final in Morocco. That insight was not based on footballing analysis such as playing tactics, quality of personnel or coaching acumen. It was merely unimaginable that any group of players would be able to climb into that lion’s den and play through the palpable pressure emanating from the stands. …” New Frame
“For the layman, it was extraordinary. For Christian Pulisic, it was expected. And once again, the margin of victory for the U.S. men’s national team could be measured, in part, by the distance between Pulisic’s ability and that of the average—or even exceptional—player. Amid the heat and humidity of FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, and forced to work hard early by a Moroccan side as pressed for World Cup preparation time as the hosts, the U.S. men’s national team took a lead it never relinquished on another gorgeous, game-breaking play by Pulisic. …” SI
“For all the talk of samba football and Copacabana beach dudes juggling balls on the sand, Brazilian football is still largely anonymous to the rest of the world. Every four years, the media focuses on the Brazilian national team and expectation invariably exceeds reality – it is now 20 years since they won the World Cup, eight since they were humbled on their own turf by a rampant Germany. That’s international football, but what about Brazil’s domestic game, which despite exporting hundreds of players, is still something of a mystery? …” Game of People The Athletic: ‘Brazilian football has been in chains’ – Is this its Premier League moment?
Nigeria will miss the World Cup for only the second time since 1994.
“In those initial moments of agony in March after Nigeria was eliminated from qualification for this year’s World Cup, the most immediate thoughts of Amaju Pinnick, the president of Nigeria’s soccer federation, were of the disappointment being felt by his 200 million countrymen in Africa’s most populous nation. He needed only to look down on the scenes unfolding inside Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to see what it meant. Thousands of angry supporters had poured onto the field after the final whistle to vent their anger, knocking over the advertising boards, chasing the players from the field and clashing with security officers. …” NY Times
“With the beginning of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looming nearer every day, those that intend to attend will be looking for accommodation. But as a recent investigation by the Associated Press news agency revealed, there are not nearly enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone at the tournament. So where will they stay? David Goldblatt explains the current situation, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.” YouTube
“Accusations of cheating are nothing new in South American football. The latest scandal, however, could have major implications ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It involves an international court battle between the Ecuadorian and Chilean football federations that is surrounded by nationalism, name-calling in the press and decades-old grudges. …” The Athletic
Ecuador’s Byron Castillo has faced questions about his nationality for several years.
“Qualification for this year’s soccer World Cup, already disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now faces more uncertainty after Chile this week called on FIFA to throw out Ecuador and hand its place in the tournament to Chile instead. Chile contends that its South American rival fielded an ineligible player who is in fact Colombian. …” NY Times
“VAR has arrived in Scottish football. On Tuesday, the SPFL’s member clubs passed the motion to introduce video assistant referees to the Premiership from midway through next season — after the winter break for the World Cup finals in November and December. While VAR is, and almost certainly will continue to be, a divisive topic among supporters, all 12 of Scotland’s top-flight clubs enthusiastically supported its implementation in the league. Here is what has happened so far, and what comes next. …” The Athletic
David Beckham has been a regular visitor to Qatar since signing a deal to promote the country.
“For Gary Lineker, a starring role in Qatar’s big show was not an option. Sure, he had hosted a World Cup draw before. And as a former top scorer in the tournament who now works as a popular television broadcaster he has an ongoing professional relationship with the tournament’s organizer, FIFA. But fronting the glamorous event in Doha last month that set the matchups for this year’s World Cup in Qatar — a hosting choice he hasregularlycriticized — was not something, Lineker decided, that he could consider. So in a conversation with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, Lineker said no. …” NY Times
29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …” New Frame
Senegal’s Sadio Mane, left, celebrates after scoring a penalty during the World Cup playoff match between Senegal and Egypt.
“DIAMNIADIO, Senegal — Standing on the sidelines of Senegal’s brand-new national stadium, Aliou Cissé, the biggest fan of his own team, waved his arms at 50,000 fans, exhorting them to cheer even louder, his signature dreadlocks bouncing on his shoulders. Fans roared back, clapping and blowing their vuvuzelas at a more deafening pitch. Minutes later, Senegal defeated its fiercest rival, Egypt, earning a qualification for soccer’s World Cup, which begins this November in Qatar. …” NY Times
“Previously, teams could only bring 23 players to the World Cup. The pandemic changed the nature of international soccer, however, leading to expanded rosters during the course of qualifying and in international tournaments over the last year. FIFA hasn’t yet made a final ruling on how large the squads will be for the 2022 World Cup, though USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said on CBS Sports’ Golazo Show last week that he’s hearing teams will be allowed to bring an expanded group of 26 players to the tournament. …” The Athletic
“When the war broke out in the early hours of 24 February, Oleksandr Petrakov, the manager of Ukraine’s men’s national football team, chose not to leave his home in the capital, Kyiv, as the Russians advanced and shells dropped, but to try to join the fight. … A Russian speaker from childhood, Petrakov now sticks to Ukrainian in public and while some are sad about Vladimir Putin’s war and others are angry, he admits to a more visceral emotion. ‘It’s just hate. It is not anger, but people hate those who invaded their land. We need time to calm down but for now it is just hate. They have broken our countries for years.’ …” Guardian (April 1) W – Oleksandr Petrakov
“After thirteen long, hard-fought games, the Canadian Men’s National Team have officially qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With 8 wins, 4 draws and just 1 loss in the final stage of qualifying, John Herdman’s men sealed their spot with a game to spare, after thumping Jamaica by a smashing score-line of 4-0. In the final stages of the competition, Canada smartly stuck by a 4-4-2 formation, maintaining consistency and chemistry en route to an impressive run to the finish line. Here is our analysis of how Canada used the 4-4-2 to success, and stood strong to stand on guard for thee. …” The Mastermindsite
“Gianni Infantino strode into the bright lights of a packed convention center alongside the emir of Qatar on Friday and declared that he expected this year’s World Cup to be the best ever. … It was here where yet another of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change, the kind of bold but ultimately failed plan that has marked his presidency of soccer’s global governing body, finally came to an end. The divisive efforts to double the frequency of the men’s World Cup, to milk FIFA’s multibillion-dollar cash cow every two years instead of every four, are over. …” NY Times
“We are just over seven months away from the World Cup finals in Qatar and Joe White is yet to decide if they will be there to follow England’s latest bid for football glory. There is a reluctance to entirely rule out travelling in November but the doubts are abundant and persist. … The countdown to the 2022 World Cup begins in earnest on Friday as the great and the good of international football gather at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. It promises to be a typically glitzy, polished event as groups are drawn and schedules set with a worldwide audience watching on, but the controversies surrounding a World Cup staged in Qatar are not easily quelled. …” The Athletic
Jude Bellingham was named man of the match at Wembley “England’s 3-0 friendly victory against Ivory Coast at Wembley was as routine as it comes, but there was still plenty for manager Gareth Southgate to ponder as the countdown to the World Cup in Qatar continues. Southgate will discover England’s group opponents at Friday’s draw, then will further fine-tune his plans when they return to action against Hungary, Germany and Italy in the Nations League in June. England delivered pretty much all Southgate would have wanted in two Wembley wins against Switzerland on Saturday and here against a disappointing Ivory Coast, but it all gets harder from now on and he has issues to consider. …” BBC (Video) W – Jude Bellingham
“Argentina’s last home game before the World Cup turned into an unexpected love-in at La Bombonera on Friday. The penultimate qualifier for the already qualified nation (they play Ecuador away in their last fixture) became the emotional send-off that is usually organised with that specific purpose but which the new calendar means will be impossible at a later point in the year. Asked after the game about his future with the national team post-Qatar, Lionel Messi replied with a ‘who knows’, so potentially this was his last appearance on Argentinian soil wearing the oversized Argentinian strip, which ironically feels too small for him, at least in official competition. …” Guardian
Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …” New Frame
“The final celebration was muted, more of a full-body manifestation of a sigh of relief than an explosion of joy: A fist pump, a high-five, a slap on the back and a quick exit to field level to congratulate the team. Not that U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and U.S. men’s national team GM Brian McBride were that composed for the duration of the USMNT’s critical 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Thursday night. The former U.S. internationals, who both played in qualifiers at the Azteca, were visibly tense throughout, watching the match on a platform near the press tribune in the upper bowl of the cavernous stadium. The pair spent most of the game in a strained silence that was only punctuated by brief moments of encouraging applause and a couple instances of agonizing disbelief. Their anxiety was understandable. …” The Athletic (Video) The Athletic – ‘Positive disappointment’: After struggles in Mexico, a young USMNT must show their resilience once again NY Times: U.S. Ties Mexico as World Cup Remains Just Out of Reach (Video)
Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….” BBC
Southgate voices England concerns about human rights at Qatar World Cup
“Gareth Southgate says it is vital that sections of England’s support are given stronger assurances about their safety at the World Cup in Qatar, and that it will be ‘horrible’ if people feel unable to travel because of human rights concerns. Among the many issues clouding this winter’s tournament is the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while there are also serious problems surrounding women’s rights. While officials in the country have repeatedly stated that all supporters will be safe, there remains significant disquiet. Southgate explained that he has researched the problems that have caused alarm since Qatar was awarded hosting rights in 2010. …” Guardian
“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …” NY Times
“… His story is emblematic of the lives of migrant workers who have helped shape Qatar’s football vision. Their own hopes are often dashed by deceptive recruitment practices, wage abuses and strenuous working conditions enabled by the kafala or sponsorship system. Yet Qatar and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the local organising committee for the World Cup, have trumpeted that labour reform is real. …” New Frame