Brazil’s Neymar, Danilo to miss rest of group stage

DOHA: Brazil duo Neymar and Danilo will miss their country’s remaining two World Cup group games and face a fight to be fit for the knockout stage after sustaining injuries in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Serbia, a source close to the team told Reuters on Friday.

Brazil top Group ‘G’ and next face Switzerland and Cameroon. The team’s doctor said that talisman Neymar and ever-reliable full back Danilo would only miss the Swiss game.

“Neymar and Danilo went through an MRI on Friday afternoon and we found ligament damage in the ankle of both of them,” Rodrigo Lasmar said in a statement shared by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

“They will miss the next game for sure and we will be cautious as they will undergo treatment in order to try to get them in shape so they can play again in the World Cup.”

Neymar has had problems with his right foot and ankle for several years and looked distraught when he left the pitch late in Thursday’s match.

His replacement should be Real Madrid prodigy Rodrygo, who played in Neymar’s position in Brazil’s three practice games that Reuters had access to in Turin in the week prior to the World Cup.

However, the biggest question mark is regarding Danilo’s replacement, as 39-year-old veteran Dani Alves is the only right back available.

The former Barcelona man played his last game for Mexican side UNAM Pumas in September and sustained a knee injury that has been troubling him since.

Brazil coach Tite tested Real Madrid centre back Eder Militao as a full back in their friendly match against Ghana and could be another option along with Liverpool midfielder Fabinho, who also has played as a right back before.

Winger Antony and midfielder Lucas Paqueta are both ill and could also miss the match against Switzerland on Monday.—Reuters

Germany pin hopes on Spain match

AL SHAMAL: Germany’s players have processed their shock World Cup opening defeat to Japan and despite bad tournament statistics in recent years they are determined to find their feet against Spain on Sunday.

Holding a 1-0 lead after a dominant first half, Germany crumbled after the break and let Japan score twice late in the game on Wednesday, earning scathing criticism from team captain Manuel Neuer and experienced midfielder Ilkay Guendogan.

The German media and pundits have not been any less vitriolic, comparing them with amateur teams. Germany have won just two and lost five of their last eight tournament matches at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as well as at last year’s Euros.

That statistic looks even worse when the 2022 Nations League matches are included with another four draws, one loss and only one win.

“It is difficult to say that statistic is in our favour but in the past few years there was an overhaul of the team, a change of coach and news players, and that plays a role,” said forward Kai Havertz on Friday at their training base in northern Qatar.

“But that is no excuse. At the end of the day what matters are the tournaments and when you see the statistic it is 1000% too small. We have to turn things around. We are all in the same boat and know what is at stake, and we will try to improve the statistic.”

A defeat to Spain could send Germany crashing out of the tournament in the first round for the second straight time after 2018 and the players are desperate to avoid that.

Germany also play Costa Rica, who lost 7-0 to Spain, in their last Group ‘E’ match on Dec. 1.—Reuters

Fans pause action for Friday prayers in Qatar

DOHA: As noon approached, muezzins across Qatar called Muslim football players, fans and officials to the first Friday prayers of the first World Cup to take place in a Muslim country.

At the Ibrahim al-Khalil Mosque in Doha’s West Bay, with its towering minaret and carved wooden doors, they gathered for the weekly congregational prayer.

Among the faithful were fans from Tunisia, Oman and India, a uniformed FIFA official, kids dressed in French football kits and hundreds of men and women from nearby hotels and tower blocks.

Unusually for football, Muslim fans say Qatar’s World Cup has accommodated them like never before — with stadium prayer rooms, concessions selling halal food and no beer-swilling supporters to contend with in the stands following a stadium alcohol ban.

“I came to an Islamic country to attend Friday prayer...This is what makes me happy in this competition,” said Yousef al Idbari, a visiting fan from Morocco.

Like all the other worshippers, al Idbari, removed his shoes and filed into the mosque’s main prayer hall.

While Muslims attending games in Qatar may be enjoying a better fan experience than they have had before, it is not clear whether this World Cup will change things for them in the long run.

“Early indications are that there is a conflation between criticism of Qatar and actual hostility towards Muslims,” said Imran Awan, a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University who is examining patterns of Islamophobia both on and offline to look for signs of a change in public opinion.

Qatar has faced criticism from some countries playing in the 32-team tournament over its rights record on migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

For now, Muslim fans are just enjoying an event that caters to their needs.—Reuters

De Bruyne says emotions can get the better of him

ABU SAMRA: Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne said on Friday that he needed to reign in his frustrations at the World Cup after several belligerent displays in his side’s first game but said sometimes his emotions got the better of him.

De Bruyne, 31, waved his arms in frustrations in the direction of coach Roberto Martinez in the first half of his country’s opening Group ‘F’ match at the tournament in Qatar as Canada dominated the midfield exchanges.

He did not celebrate when Michy Batshuayi scored a counter-attack goal near the end of the first half that eventually ensured an unconvincing 1-0 win for Belgium on Wednesday. He was also involved in a finger-wagging exchange with team-mate Toby Alderweireld as Belgium delivered an under-par performance, despite being second in the FIFA rankings.

“I do know that my reactions are not always good. I also look for moments afterwards to find that peace but people know that it’s my way to help the team play better and get more out of the game,” he told a news conference at Belgium’s team base on Friday, 48 hours ahead of their next match, against Morocco.

“But of course, I also have to learn to react in a better way. Every now and then the emotions spill over but that’s also part of the game.”—Reuters

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022

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