Kane calls for united approach in highlighting Qatar concerns

By Sports Desk March 23, 2022

England captain Harry Kane has called for a collective effort from his fellow international skippers to highlight the human rights issues in Qatar ahead of this year's World Cup.

Qatar's poor human rights record has been a concern during the build-up to the 2022 finals.

The nation's stance towards women and the LGBTQ+ community was widely raised as an issue before FIFA awarded it the tournament in 2010. 

Meanwhile, the deaths of thousands of migrant workers have been reported during preparation for the finals, although Qatar's organising committee disputed what it called "inaccurate claims" around the number of fatalities.

England manager Gareth Southgate described it as a "great shame" after learning of female and LGBTQ+ supporters who were subsequently staying away from the tournament.

Southgate led a briefing to his squad at St George’s Park on Tuesday about the issues surrounding Qatar's hosting of the finals – most notably the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community and migrant workers.

There was also input from other FA staff members including chief executive Mark Bullingham and Edleen John, the director of international relations, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Skipper Kane mentioned his Tottenham team-mates Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min – who captain France and South Korea respectively – as he called for a united approach and strength in numbers to drive lasting social change in the country.

Addressing the media ahead of England's friendly against Switzerland on Saturday, the striker said: "I feel as a group, we've never shied away from important issues, and we've always had our opinions and tried to show unity in anything we've done.

"That's what will happen now over this camp and the next camp to try to help in any way we can to support those issues.

"As players, we didn't choose where this World Cup was going to be. But what it has done is shine a light on important issues which might not have come to light if the World Cup wasn't there.

"We have to try to help as much as possible to understand the issues and the situations. We're no experts in that field at the moment in terms of what we know but as always, we try to help in any way we can, we try to use our platform to help in any way we can.

"I understand there has been some progress on certain issues in the country so far. What my hope is that having the World Cup there and having this light on the country will help try and progress some of the issues which have been going on for a long time.

"There's a couple of other national team captains in my team at Tottenham, maybe [I will be] talking to other national team captains to see whether we can be unified in what we try and do and approach it.

"That's something myself and some of the senior players in the team will look to try to achieve over the coming months.

"There's still a lot of progress to be made. But hopefully all of us, like we have done in the past, can try to make change with the platforms that we have."

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  • Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations

    Luke Shaw says England are extra motivated heading into their World Cup clash with Wales after their opponents wildly celebrated the Three Lions' exit from Euro 2016.

    An infamous video circulated following England's embarrassing last-16 defeat to Iceland six and a half years ago showing Wales' players lapping up their fierce rivals' demise.

    Wales surpassed expectations by making it to the semi-finals of that competition, despite losing to England in the group stage, but they have had less success at Qatar 2022.

    The Dragons require a victory against England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium if they are to avoid a group-stage exit and must hope the United States and Iran play out a draw elsewhere.

    A four-goal win for Wales against their neighbours on Tuesday would also be enough, but they have not so much as avoided defeated against England in their past six meetings.

    Shaw, who played a full part in England's 6-2 win over Iran and goalless draw with the USA, believes the scenes from 2016 will add more spice to an already feisty fixture.

    "I think you could say that," Shaw said. "But our motivation in itself has to be at its highest level. We are at the World Cup. We have great aims for what we want to achieve.

    "We have to have the maximum motivation at every game. I don't think there's any more motivation than what we have already. 

    "It wasn't nice. I don't want to dwell too much on that. I want to focus on what we do on the pitch. We can say things in interviews and I'd rather do our talking on the pitch."

    Asked if England's players would consider recording similar scenes of celebrating should they knock out Wales, Shaw said: "I think we are a respectful group.

    "We do things in the right way. That's the example Gareth [Southgate] wants to set. We are fully behind that. We are fully respectful.

    "I think their motivation is going to be extremely high. They are going to give everything to win. It's not an easy game. But we need to focus on what we do."

    England will advance to the knockout stage if they avoid a heavy loss to Wales, though Southgate's side will be targeting a victory to make certain of top spot in Group B.

    Speaking ahead of England's first ever World Cup match against a fellow British side, Southgate said: "We have got to play well. 

    "We are going to play an opponent that is wounded and, like everybody else, desperate to beat the English. We've got to play an intelligent game, play well and match their spirit.

    "I would be very disappointed if someone says their players will want it more than ours. I'd be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have been for five years."

    England have lost their third and final group-stage game in just two of their 14 participations at the World Cup (W7 D5), doing so against Spain in 1950 and Belgium in 2018.

  • Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job

    Carlos Queiroz has demanded Jurgen Klinsmann resign from his FIFA position after making a string of accusations about Iran's World Cup team, labelling the German's comments "a disgrace".

    Iran head coach Queiroz reacted after his team were accused by Klinsmann of having "worked the referee" during the 2-0 win against Wales on Friday.

    Working as a BBC pundit, Klinsmann suggested Iran getting to the match officials and pushing the boundaries of acceptability was "part of their culture".

    In response, Queiroz suggested California-based Klinsmann's "outrageous remarks" stemmed from his "American/German" background.

    He said Klinsmann should visit Iran's training camp to learn more about the team, but must step down from FIFA's World Cup technical study group beforehand.

    Prompted about the conduct of Iran's players in the Wales game just staying on the right side of the game's laws, Klinsmann said: "That's their culture, that's their way of doing it, and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well the Iranian national team.

    "He struggled in South America and failed with Colombia to qualify, and then he failed with Egypt to qualify as well, and he went back right before the World Cup and guided Iran, where he worked already for a long, long time.

    "This is not by coincidence. This is just part of their culture, that's how they play it. They worked the referee. You saw the bench, always jumping up and always working the linesman and fourth referee on the sidelines, they are constantly in their ear.

    "This is their culture; they make you lose your focus, make you lose your concentration and what's important to you."

    Klinsmann said there could have been a "big difference with another referee" and added: "Let's say it did not play into the hands of Wales."

    Queiroz responded on Saturday with a string of withering Twitter messages aimed at Klinsmann, who was a 1990 World Cup winner as a player with West Germany and later coach of Germany and the United States.

    Queiroz began by saying: "Even not knowing me personally, you question my character with a typical prejudiced judgement of superiority.

    "No matter how much I can respect what you did inside the pitch, those remarks about Iran culture, Iran national team and my players are a disgrace to football. Nobody can hurt our integrity if it is not at our level, of course.

    "Even saying so, we would like to invite you as our guest, to come to our national team camp, socialise with Iran players and learn from them about the country, the people of Iran, the poets and art, the algebra, all the millennial Persian culture…

    "And also listen from our players how much they love and respect football. As American/German, we understand your no support. No problem. And despite your outrageous remarks on BBC trying to undermine our efforts, sacrifices and skills, we promise you that we will not produce any judgements regarding your culture, roots and background and that you will always be welcome to our family.

    "At the same time, we just want to follow with full attention what will be the decision of FIFA regarding your position as a member of Qatar 2022 technical study group.

    "Because, obviously, we expect you to resign before you visit our camp."

    This is former Manchester United assistant boss Queiroz's third consecutive World Cup as Iran boss. His short spells with Colombia and Egypt followed the 2018 tournament, with Queiroz leading Egypt to this year's Africa Cup of Nations final.

    They were defeated in that game on penalties by Senegal, and Egypt also lost by the same method to the same opposition in a World Cup play-off, with Queiroz departing and returning to the helm with Iran in September.

  • Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far

    Ghosts everywhere. In the stands, where the spectre of Diego Maradona was waving his fists, wondering how Argentina could put in such a vapid performance.

    On the pitch, where the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were sprinting through the middle, looking for a pass or clearing a path for Lionel Messi.

    The ghosts of Argentina's past haunted them for large parts of Saturday's game against Mexico, as the present almost became a living nightmare.

    Lionel Scaloni's team were in dire danger of heading out of this World Cup after two games, the champions of South America last year vulnerable to a humbling on the global stage, until a flash of Messi magic changed everything.

    A swish of that left boot from 25 yards, and the ball zipped into the bottom-right corner. It had to be him.

    On the night Messi matched Maradona's Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, he also moved level with El Diego on eight goals in his career at the finals, two behind national team record holder Gabriel Batistuta. For Messi, those World Cup goals have all come in the group stage, something he came to Qatar to change and still might.

    Losing to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was bad enough for Argentina, but at least there would be a reaction against the Mexicans. Perhaps it might be the spur they needed, and perhaps it could still be Messi's World Cup.

    Those were theories that were widely voiced, yet for an hour they looked to be utter bunkum.

    Even at 90 minutes, with a 2-0 scoreline barely reflecting the flow of the game, you were left fearing Argentina might find a way to trip up against Poland next time out. If they finish second in this group, it will almost certainly be France waiting for them in the second round, and on the evidence so far, Argentina would be mauled by Les Bleus.

    Messi and Co arrived at this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten run, but such has been their languid start you would have been forgiven for guessing they played all 36 of those games in the last month.

    Here they were off the pace from the start, lacking any obvious strategy, down on energy, praying for Messi to conjure something. It had an air of Barcelona in the final days of Ronald Koeman's reign about it.

    Scaloni has backed Lautaro Martinez to be his lone striker, and there might have to be a rethink on that score. Martinez has a shot conversion rate of 12.9 per cent this season for Inter, which is not ideal for a striker, and has been finding the net at club level every 206.25 minutes.

    He has Edin Dzeko up alongside him for the Nerazzurri, who has been more clinical with his chances, but with Argentina it is Martinez who leads the line ostensibly alone.

    This team used to have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and they desperately miss prime era Higuain and Aguero.

    Martinez has a strong scoring record for his country, but he was ineffective here, his second game at his first World Cup.

    When a clear chance came his way in the 40th minute, after a fine cross from the right by Di Maria, he planted a header way off target. It was his one goal attempt. Argentina only had five shots all night, which was still one more than Mexico. Their combined total of shots is the fewest ever recorded in a World Cup, based on studies of matches going back as far as 1966.

    There was a moment late in the first half that looked to be typifying Argentina's night: Mexico's Alexis Vega had a free-kick well saved by Emiliano Martinez shortly before half-time and Argentina went on the break, with Messi looking to dance down the right and make something happen.

    Except, those feet don't dance as quickly as they once did, and the ball was soon swept into touch. At Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for company, the gradual decline of Messi is not quite so obvious. He can be a joy to behold in that company still, but when all the attention of defenders is on him, as it inevitably was this time, he was being too easily crowded out and barged off the ball.

    In the second half, Erick Gutierrez hacked down Messi when he got close to the edge of the box and began to sprint, and Argentina had the chance they wanted. Messi punted it over the crossbar, and you just sensed it would not be his night.

    And then Messi decided that, actually, yes it would be.

    At the age of 35, he cannot win a World Cup by himself, but he can still come up with magical moments, and it was a goal for the career showreels, a stroke of familiar genius at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will stage this tournament's final.

    For the second time in his career, Messi has scored in six consecutive international games for his country. He remains a joy of a player, and his country's biggest hope.

    Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a late second goal that flattered Argentina, and it made the Benfica player, at 21 years and 313 days, the youngest Argentina scorer at a World Cup since the 18-year-old Messi announced himself at the 2006 finals. The past might still be a haunting influence, but here was a glimpse into the future.

    A smiling Messi celebrated with relieved supporters at the end. For just a fleeting moment in this game, he had been afforded a yard of space and made it count.

    Friday marked two years since the death of Maradona. He is Argentina's past, yet you still almost expect television cameras to pan to him in the stands.

    Messi has spent his life trying to live up to the legend of Maradona, and that shared super-natural brilliance has just about kept Argentina's hopes alive in Qatar.

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