Another day, another World Cup upset. This time it was Japan’s turn to upset the odds, with a fantastic 2-1 win over a toiling Germany team. Earlier, Croatia drew 0-0 with Morocco. It was the third goalless draw of the tournament already.
Spain also got off to a great start. They were in complete control as they smashed Costa Rica 7-0.
Belgium put up a surprisingly weaker performance against Canada, as they secured a narrow 1-0 win. Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes has insisted that Portugal won’t be distracted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s dramatic exit from Manchester United.
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World Cup 2022 - latest news and reaction
Ecuador are facing a FIFA charge over chants made by their supporters during their 2-0 win over hosts Qatar in the World Cup opener on Sunday. FIFA’s disciplinary committee confirmed it has opened proceedings against the Ecuadorian Football Association on the basis of article 13 of its disciplinary code.
The chants in question are understood to have been directed towards Chile, who had brought a legal case against them prior to the tournament over an alleged ineligible player.
In an unrelated incident, Ecuador fans chanted “we want beer” during the match in protest at organisers’ belated decision to ban the consumption of alcohol at games.
Gareth Southgate is concerned that England being used as an example at a pre-World Cup referee meeting could cloud their judgement in awarding penalties to his side.
England were denied what looked like a clear spot-kick when Harry Maguire was grabbed by Rouzbeh Cheshmi early on in their 6-2 win over Iran on Monday. The VAR decided not to intervene but later alerted the referee to a tug on a shirt in the England box which resulted in Mehdi Taremi scoring a last-gasp penalty, while a similar offence resulted in a spot-kick in Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina had singled out England during a pre-tournament briefing – also open to the media – showing a clip of Kalvin Phillips blocking to create space in the box for Maguire to score in England’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania last year. The Italian said such a goal would be disallowed at the World Cup and Southgate has been left with concerns by the potential ramifications of England being the team highlighted ahead of the finals.
“What worries me is we were used in an example in the referee’s video,” he said after the Iran win. “What we were shown, the incident in the first half (with Maguire), we were told that would be a definite penalty.
“We’ve got to have that dialogue with FIFA and just make sure… we want clarity, otherwise, we don’t know where we stand. Goals are going in and we don’t know whether they stand or not. The bit that worries me is we were the example we were shown.
“Maybe there’s a shirt pull (for the Iran penalty) – we’ve got to be better on that – but I’m a bit worried we were the example shown, and then to get a decision as happened in the first half, we need some clarification really as to how it’s going to be.”
Hosting the World Cup will not deliver meaningful change in Qatar, a senior MP has said, amid ongoing concerns over the Gulf state’s response to LGBTQ+ symbols. Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said “nothing about their behaviour has changed” since the country was awarded the hosting rights in 2010.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Qatar has “taken real steps” to ensure that “gay football fans are safe and do feel secure”. But several LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the tournament in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.
Kearns, when asked about her hopes for the tournament to deliver change in Qatar, told the PA news agency: “Yes, we should always be hopeful, but I do not meaningfully believe that holding the World Cup in Qatar is going to change anything on the ground. Because if it was going to, we wouldn’t have seen human rights abuses taking place, there wouldn’t have been the loss of life that we’ve seen taking place.
“Qatar has shown since it received the nomination to hold (the World Cup) that nothing about their behaviour has changed domestically or even regards to workers. So I really don’t think, unfortunately – and I wish this was not the case – that we can have any hope that things will meaningfully change.”
Cleverly said gay rights is an issue he has “brought up over a number of years” with Qatar.
He told the BBC: “I’ve made it clear that we feel very strongly about this issue and, actually, one of the advantages about having a strong relationship with other countries is you can have these difficult conversations. The Qataris know how seriously we take this issue and they have taken real steps to ensure that gay football fans are safe and do feel secure and can enjoy the football.”
It’s 0-0 at half-time in the Group F match between Morocco (ranked 22 in the world) and Croatia (ranked 12).
Luka Modric’s Croatia made the final in 2018, but they’ll be hard pressed to reach those heights again.
Bruno Fernandes insists Portugal are “focused 100%” on the World Cup despite the distraction of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United. Ronaldo said it felt like “the right time for a new challenge” after his contract with Manchester United was terminated.
The 37-year-old’s position at Old Trafford looked untenable after his explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticised manager Erik ten Hag and club officials.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s game against Ghana, Fernandes said: “We are all focused 100% on the national team and the World Cup. We are all aware of what we have to do. We are in a championship that is the dream of every player and a competition where every player wants to play.”
Asked if he would feel uncomfortable with his former club team-mate, Fernandes added: “I don’t feel uncomfortable, I don’t have to pick a side. Cristiano has always been an inspiration for me, so it was a dream come true to be able to play with him, but we know nothing ever lasts forever. It was good while it lasted. We have to respect his decision, whether we agree or not.”
Japan have just defeated Germany 2-1 in their Group E match.
They came from behind with late goals from Asano and Doan to stun the Germans.
For a nation with such a long-standing footballing pedigree, Germany were only ranked #11 in the world coming into this tournament, after a poor run of form in the Uefa Nations League.
Nevertheless, an opening defeat to Japan will still come as a shock, and puts their progression to the knockout stages in serious doubt. Especially because their group also contains Spain. That could be some match on Sunday evening.
Before the match, Germany’s players covered their mouths for their team photograph in protest at being blocked from wearing an anti-discrimination armband.
The German football federation, the DFB, said in a tweet on its official account: “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser, who was sitting close to FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the VIP box, wore a OneLove armband in support of the national team.
The Football Association has declined to comment on whether it will follow Germany’s lead and make the ‘covered mouth’ gesture before England’s next match against the United States.
After Argentina and Germany suffered shock defeats, Spain are finding it much more straightforward against Costa Rica.
The 2010 World Cup winners are currently three goals to the good in their Group E match - from Olmo, Asensio and Torres (pen).
The Spaniards do seem to have rediscovered the tiki-taka style that brought them so much success over a decade ago. They have just become the first team on record (since 1966) to complete more than 500 passes in the first half of a World Cup match.
It doesn’t get much more dominant than that. The rest of the world will be looking nervously in Spain’s direction, after they absolutely battered Costa Rica 7-0.
The goals came from Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio, Ferran Torres (a double), Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata.
An utterly ruthless performance, and Spain’s biggest ever World Cup win. Good luck to Germany when they play each other on Sunday...