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Germany are "quite willing to accept a fine" to allow their players to wear a rainbow armband at the Qatar World Cup, association chief Bernd Neuendorf said on Friday.

The 'One Love' diversity campaign in support of LGBTQ+ rights.was launched in September amid concerns over human rights in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

Part of that movement entails a number of captains wearing a distinctive rainbow heart-adorned armband at the tournament to raise awareness against discrimination.

This breaks FIFA regulations, which prohibit teams from choosing their own armband designs at the World Cup, though nations such as England have suggested they will defy those rules.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino wrote a letter to all 32 teams who will play at the World Cup, encouraging them to focus on football.

Neuendorf insists the German Football Association (DFB) would risk any such sanction from FIFA, indicating there will be no backing down.

"I am quite willing to accept a fine," Neuendorf told reporters. "This is not a political statement, but a statement for human rights."

Neuendorf's comments come in the wake of France captain Hugo Lloris opting not to wear the rainbow armband, having initially agreed to do so, saying players should "show respect" in Qatar.

Lloris declared it should be politicians rather than footballers who are pressured into discussing human rights issues, adding: "There's too much pressure on the players. We are at the bottom of the chain.

"You have to understand that for players this opportunity happens every four years and you want every chance to succeed. The focus has to be on the field. The rest is for politicians. We are athletes."

There has also been controversy over workers' rights in Qatar, with reports of thousands dying while building the seven new stadiums and infrastructure involved in staging the tournament.

Germany's players are donating €1million to a children's village in Nepal in solidarity with the migrant workers.

Neuendorf said: "The money comes directly from the players. It was a special concern for the team. Four hundred thousand migrant workers come from Nepal. We want to support the people where they come from in order to relieve the migration pressure."

With Germany's tournament set to get under way against Japan on Wednesday, Neuendorf feels confident heading into that match, saying: "I am firmly convinced that we will have a positive start and will certainly win the game."

Following the Japan fixture, Hansi Flick's men will take on Spain and Costa Rica in Group E.

England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is confident the World Cup ball will not join the list of controversies at Qatar 2022 – describing it as "better for goalkeepers" and dismissing any comparison to the much-criticised Jabulani.

The tournament will feature the Adidas Al Rihla ball, which Ramsdale has been involved in trialling given his club side Arsenal have a kit deal with the German manufacturer.

The 2010 tournament in South Africa featured criticism by a host of goalkeepers of the Jabulani ball, another adidas model, with Spain's Iker Casillas and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon among them.

That ball was defended by FIFA and its designers but has become a touchstone for measuring future World Cup balls against, and it was mentioned in England's press conference on Friday.

"That's obviously in the past and everything changes now," Ramsdale said. "We trained with it a couple of [England] camps ago, so we got used to it then, and obviously being with Arsenal, being Adidas, we've had time to test it as well for FIFA, so I've had quite a lot of exposure to the football."

Ramsdale is unlikely to start in England's opening match against Iran on Monday, accepting Jordan Pickford has performed "extremely well" for manager Gareth Southgate.

Pickford will also have plenty of experience of playing with the Al Rihla, and Ramsdale said: "It's probably one of the better Adidas balls I've played with. I've never felt another World Cup ball, so I can't go off that, but I've played with Adidas balls before, and European Championship balls and stuff, so it seems fine to me.

"It seems like it's got better for goalkeepers as well as keeping it for the strikers, so hopefully there'll be lots of saves but also lots of goals as well."

Ramsdale, 24, suggested that of greater concern was the heat in Qatar, pointing to England players having on hand "ice packs, ice vests which we can use when resting".

"I knew it was going to be hot," Ramsdale said. "I've been to Dubai on numerous occasions for football or on holiday, so I knew it was going to be hot, but I think adapting to it quick will be the difficult thing.

"Obviously for us, it's normally going into Christmas, dark nights and dark mornings, so how quickly we can adapt to the weather is crucial for us."

The sale of beer around stadiums during the World Cup has been banned after talks between FIFA and Qatari tournament chiefs.

It was revealed on Friday by FIFA that alcohol would not be available as expected in the perimeter area of stadiums.

Budweiser is a major FIFA sponsor and sales of its product had been expected to be allowed close to the stadiums; however, only its alcohol-free variant will now be available.

The news was swiftly criticised, with England's Football Supporters' Association questioning whether such an apparent U-turn could be followed by more promises not being kept.

Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe (FSE), expressed similar concern, describing the news as an "extremely worrying" development.

FIFA said in its announcement: "Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar's FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.

"Host country authorities and FIFA will continue to ensure that the stadiums and surrounding areas provide an enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans."

Referencing Budweiser's parent company, FIFA added: "The tournament organisers appreciate AB InBev's understanding and continuous support to our joint commitment to cater for everyone during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."

Reports said Budweiser posted on Twitter "Well, this is awkward", before deleting the post.

The Football Supporters' Association (FSA) said its concern was less about the beer decision but about the prospect of fans being affected by possible further unexpected decisions at the controversial mid-season World Cup.

The FSA said in a statement: "Some fans like a beer at the match, and some don't, but the real issue is the last-minute U-turn which speaks to a wider problem – the total lack of communication and clarity from the organising committee towards supporters."

It condemned the lack of explanation and said fans would have "understandable concerns about whether they will fulfil other promises relating to accommodation, transport or cultural issues".

FSE's Evain added on Twitter: "For many fans, whether they don't drink alcohol or are used to dry stadium policies at home, this is a detail. It won't change their tournament.

"But with 48h to go, we've clearly entered a dangerous territory – where 'assurances' don’t matter anymore. This is extremely worrying."

Brazilian players Rodrygo and Marquinhos have warned their teammates about the dangers of buying into their own hype, saying nothing good can come from expecting to win as favourites.

Boasting one of the strongest teams on paper, Brazil's squad includes world-class centerpieces such as Neymar and Vinicius Junior, and they have made two Copa America finals since the 2018 World Cup, winning in 2019 and falling 1-0 to Argentina in 2021.

They will also play in Group G, where they will be joined by Cameroon, Serbia and Switzerland in three matchups Brazil will be heavily favoured in.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Real Madrid's Rodrygo said while he understands the pressure on his side to perform in Qatar, he would prefer to let their play do the talking.

"We know that we have a great national team, that we are among the favourites," he said. "But there are also other very good teams as well.

"It's no use saying we are favourites and then arriving on the pitch and not showing it. We know that everyone was in good form with their clubs and that's why they're here – many good players were left out."

Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Marquinhos agreed, saying they will need to play hungry to fulfill their potential.

"If we think we are favourites, that we are the best, we will not go forward," he said. "We've seen how things are in this competition, which is very difficult. 

"All the teams are ready and very balanced, they can make life difficult. That's the [World] Cup. 

"It's no use coming here and talking about the future. We have to get through the [group stage] first. It will be three very difficult games."

Brazil kick off their campaign on Thursday, November 24 against Serbia.

Atlanta United star Thiago Almada is heading to the World Cup in Qatar after being called up as an injury replacement by Argentina.

Almada's inclusion was confirmed hours after Inter forward Joaquin Correa had to withdraw because of a knee problem sustained in the friendly win against the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old midfielder only made his Albiceleste debut in September's friendly victory against Honduras, and now has the chance to join Lionel Messi and co. in trying to win their first World Cup since 1986.

Almada joined Atlanta in February in a $16million deal from Velez Sarsfield and recorded 18 goal involvements with the Major League Soccer side (six goals, 12 assists).

The announcement came shortly after it was confirmed that Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa had been called up to replace Nicolas Gonzalez, who was also forced to withdraw due to injury.

Argentina's campaign at the World Cup begins with a clash against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, before they also face Mexico and Poland in Group C, with the defeated 2014 finalists widely regarded to be among the favourites for this year's tournament.

Joao Felix backed Portugal to go all the way at the World Cup after Fernando Santos welcomed a selection headache following a 4-0 friendly thrashing of Nigeria.

Bruno Fernandes' first-half double, coupled with late strikes for Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario, saw Santos' side to a comfortable triumph on Thursday before setting off for Qatar.

Atletico Madrid attacker Joao Felix did not manage to get on the scoresheet but impressed in Lisbon, with Santos noting a credible performance from the 23-year-old.

"He was one of the best, with some others. They were all better, nobody plays alone," the Portugal coach said.

"Joao played a good game too, at the level of what the others did. I have 26 players knocking on the door. Every day they knock on my door in training.

"They all knock on the door and they all have reasons to play. That's certainly good for the coach."

Joao Felix suggested he enjoys more attacking freedom for Portugal than Atletico Madrid, as he backed Santos' side for glory in Qatar, where they face Ghana in their Group H opener next Thursday.

"I have more freedom of movement with the national team because we are very mobile," he said. "I felt good and the team had a great game.

"I think we are prepared to win the World Cup. We looked for the goal and I helped the team, which is my mission as a striker. 

"The goals did not appear in this game, but they will happen in the World Cup."

Santos will also have to consider the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the friendly victory due to "illness" as the aftermath of his scathing interview on Manchester United continues.

Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa has joined Argentina's squad for the World Cup in Qatar, after Nicolas Gonzalez was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury.

Capped 22 times by Argentina, Correa was not selected in Scaloni's initial 26-man squad for the tournament, which kicks off on Sunday, but was among a provisional 55-man list.

Scaloni said on Wednesday that late changes to the squad could be required ahead of their opening game against Saudi Arabia, with FIFA rules allowing changes before a team plays their first match at the tournament.

Fiorentina's Gonzalez suffered a muscle injury in Thursday's training session, Argentina announced, with Correa joining the squad ahead of Tuesday's first game for them in Group C.

Correa has not been a regular starter for Diego Simeone's Atletico side this season, with 10 of his 14 appearances across all competitions coming off the bench.

Argentina's campaign at the World Cup also sees them face Poland and Mexico, with the defeated 2014 finalists widely regarded to be among the favourites for this year's tournament.

Sadio Mane has been ruled out of the World Cup with a fibula injury, the Senegalese Football Federation confirmed on Thursday.

Mane sustained the leg issue while playing in Bayern Munich's 2-0 win over Schalke on Saturday, though he was deemed fit enough to be included in Aliou Cisse's 26-man squad.

It was announced on Tuesday that Mane would not play any part in Senegal's opening matches, Cisse's side saying they "will have to rely on playing the first games without Sadio".

But Thursday's update confirms Mane's injury will need surgery, thus ruling him out of the entire tournament in Qatar.

A short statement from the Senegalese Football Federation read: "The FSF wishes a speedy recovery to its player Sadio Mane."

It comes as a huge blow for both Mane and Senegal after he played an instrumental part in their Africa Cup of Nations triumph, scoring the winning penalty in the final against Egypt in February.

Senegal face Netherlands in their Group A opener on Monday before meeting Qatar and Ecuador, though they will have to attempt to reach the knockout stages without their star attacker.

New River Plate head coach Martin Demichelis is in "no doubt" that Argentina will make it to the World Cup final.

Argentina were last crowned world champions when Diego Maradona inspired the 1986 triumph in Mexico, and have since lost in the final at the tournaments in 1990 and 2014.

Demichelis made 51 appearances for his country between 2005 and 2016, appearing at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups in South Africa and Brazil respectively.

The 41-year-old was unveiled as River Plate's new boss on Wednesday and is confident La Albiceleste will make it to the final of Qatar 2022 on December 18.

"We are days away from the start of the World Cup, so I want to wish [Lionel] Scaloni a successful World Cup, to all the players, to the entire squad," the former Manchester City and Bayern Munich defender said.

"A very special mention for the only Argentine player who also ended up joining the squad and who is ours: Franco [Armani], whom we need to support 100 per cent. My congratulations to him.

"I have no doubt that Argentina will play all seven games. I believe that by arriving only seven days before the World Cup, when normally a team is always working for three, four or five weeks, Argentina have the advantage that comes with a very solid base, with good energy, with a very strong emotional determination.

"I have no doubt that Argentina will play all seven games. I wish them all the best."


Former England captain Terry Butcher believes the Three Lions could benefit from scaled-back expectations at the World Cup after enduring a torrid Nations League campaign.

Gareth Southgate's team are the only nation to reach the semi-finals at each of the last two major tournaments, having been beaten by Croatia in the last four at the 2018 World Cup before losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy. 

Despite their strong tournament record in recent years, England arrive in Qatar in poor form after being relegated from Nations League Group A3 following a winless campaign in the competition.

However, Butcher believes England may replicate their feats from four years ago by springing a surprise in Qatar.

"I think a lot of people will see them as less looking like winners, because this year has been very disappointing for England," Butcher told Stats Perform.

"When you look at it and you step back, it's dropped the expectations. The expectation levels are down now, compared to what they were at the start of the year. 

"I think a lot of that is very similar to Russia in 2018, when a lot of people were not expecting them to do particularly well.

"I think there'll be more determination with the pressure off, like it was in Russia. Then you've got the timing of the tournament and English players will be fresh. 

"There's a few injury problems and concerns, but there's no burnout, and there's no mental tiredness like there is when it comes to the summer championships. This is unique for the English players as well. So I think that'll benefit us very much.

"You think well, 'you've had a taste of the semi-finals, you've had a taste of the final', they would have learned a lot from that."

Despite overseeing two memorable major tournament campaigns since taking charge in 2016, Southgate has been subject to fierce criticism in recent weeks. 


However, Butcher believes Southgate's record cannot be questioned and says the depth of talent at England's disposal makes them genuine contenders to win the World Cup.

"There aren't many England managers that have won cups and titles and all that sort of thing," Butcher said when asked about Southgate.

"He's got problems in terms of who to leave out as much as who to put in. There is a plethora, if you want to use that word, of talent. It's about finding the right blend on the day. 

"But it's a lovely position to be in. I just hope now that England can take the shackles off and have that belief that they can win it. That'd be really nice if they could do that. 

"There's no doubt the talents there. Fitness will be there. The mental strength will be there, which I hope has been even made more acute by the failure last year to win the final."

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