Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (2R) and his teammates arrive at Hamad International Airport in Doha on November 17, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament.

Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi (2R) and his teammates arrive at Hamad International Airport in Doha on November 17, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo: Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Argentina and superstar Lionel Messi arrived in Qatar early Thursday for the World Cup, just hours after a 5-0 warm-up victory, and defending champion France also touched Doha.

Messi, 35, has a sackful of trophies, but the tournament in Qatar will likely be his last chance to equal Argentine great Diego Maradona’s success in leading his country to World Cup glory.

He landed in Doha, the capital of Qatar, from Abu Dhabi, where his Argentina team beat the United Arab Emirates 5-0 in a friendly match where Messi scored on Wednesday.

The South Americans, one of the favorites of this year’s World Cup, will begin their fight against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Group C, which also includes Mexico and Poland.

The 1978 and 1986 World Cup winners extended their unbeaten streak to 36 games as Messi scored his 91st international goal.

Messi has been cautious about the team’s chances in Qatar despite being among the favourites.

“We have a very nice group that is very enthusiastic, but we are thinking of going slowly. “We know that World Cup groups are not easy,” the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner said in an interview with South American football federation CONMEBOL.

Champions are coming

The bus carrying the players of France arrives at the team hotels in Doha on November 16, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament.

The bus carrying the players of France arrives at the team hotels in Doha on November 16, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

France arrived in Doha on Wednesday to become the first team to hold the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Ten names from 2018’s championship-winning roster make up the roster, including Captain Hugo Lloris, Kylian Mbappe, and Antoine Griezmann.

But the defending champions grouped with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia are not the first choice for midfield doubles Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who missed a series of games for Real Madrid this season due to injury, will make his first World Cup game since 2014.

The United States is returning to the pinnacle of football after an eight-year hiatus, and Christian Pulisic says this World Cup is an opportunity to change the global perception of American football.

“This is what we came here for,” Pulisic told AFP. “Maybe it wasn’t the best sport in America or whatever.

But we want to change the way the world looks at American football. That is one of our goals.”

Concerns over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community dominated the formation of the tournament in Qatar.

The desire of FIFA, the governing body of the football world, to focus on football was not taken into account by some countries.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal said on Wednesday that fans boycotting the tournament were “right to do so”, but said he hoped his team did enough to persuade fans at home to follow them from afar.

“I hope we play so well that when we play the final at the end of the tournament, they will look at the TV and see how good we are.”

The senior coach went up against FIFA earlier this year and called his decision to award the World Cup to Qatar “ridiculous”.

“I think you have to play in football countries. (They) have more experience in everything,” he said.

‘Fake fan’ controversy

As Gareth Southgate’s team entered the World Cup base on Tuesday, the number of England fans from India outpaced those from England by almost 10.

Fans said they were angered by reports in the British and French media that they were “fake fans”.

Sajidh, 29, said he was “outraged” by reports suggesting that Indian football fans in Qatar were paid to wear World Cup jerseys.

“This is completely false news and I would like to make it clear that none of us were paid in any way,” said Sajidh, who gave only a name.

“We are staunch England fans.”

World Cup organizers weighed in on Wednesday, saying fans from around the world added to the local atmosphere.

“Many journalists and commentators on social media have questioned whether these are ‘real’ fans,” they said in a statement.

“We totally reject these claims, which are both disappointing and unsurprising.”

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