Even the England band couldn’t ruin what was, by some distance, the most commanding tournament performance by an England team in decades. It was…
Welcome to Day 5 of the FIFA World Cup as the games keep coming thick and fast. On top of the action on the pitch, there’s plenty happening off it, too.
Here’s what’s making news behind the scenes in Qatar.
Germany’s players have been widely-praised for their gesture of ‘allyship’ after posing with their hands covering their mouths for their team photo ahead of their World Cup defeat to Japan, a gesture taken to show solidarity with the LBGTQI community after the ‘OneLove’ armbands that they had planned to wear were outlawed by FIFA.
One prominent Qatari journalist, Mohammed Saeed Alkaabi, was widely criticised for tweeting “This is what happens when you don’t focus on football” about the photo incident – prompting thousands of fans to tweet screenshots of Qatar’s 2-0 defeat to Ecuador from the opening round.
The move was widely praised in the rest of the media, with several writing that the gesture itself was more important than the result.
“Even if Germany’s protest had directly contributed to their defeat, it would have still been the right thing to do,” wrote Sean Ingle in The Guardian, while Amy Lawrence, in The Athletic, said that the German team had decided to “be an ally” to the LGBTQI community.
On UK television, Roy Keane said that the gesture was a good start, but that players could have done more – including wearing the armband.
“Use their voice!” he said. “Wear the armband! Leadership is about action. Go and do it. It’s a gesture, and it’s a start, but they can do more.”
The DFB, Germany’s national governing body, tweeted during the first half that “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
Goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer – who would have worn the armband – said that the decision had been taken as part of the player’s leadership group earlier in the week.
“We talked about it and all agreed that we really wanted to do something,” he said. “We said they can take our armband, but as much as FIFA might want to, they will never silence us. We stand for our values and for human rights. We wanted to show that.”
Meanwhile, FIFA’s ban on captains from seven nations wearing pro-LGBTQI armbands brandishing “One Love” continues to cause waves amongst the member federations involved, with the Danish Football Association (DBU) proposing to withdraw from FIFA in the latest development.
“It is not a decision that has been made now,” said DBU chairman Jesper Moller.
“We have been clear about this for a long time. We have been discussing it in the Nordic region since August. I have to think about the question of how to restore confidence in FIFA. We must evaluate what has happened, and then we must create a strategy – also with our Nordic colleagues.”
Asked pre-match about the ban and whether his side had any response planned at the Khalifa International Stadium, Die Mannschaft manager Hansi Flick, with a smirk, simply responded: “We’ll see.”
“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect,” read a statement from the German Football Association (DFB).
“Human rights are non-negotiable. That should go without saying. Unfortunately it still isn’t. That is why this message is so important to us. Banning us from the bandage is like banning our mouths. Our stance stands.”
The DFB have also taken the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
At time of writing there was no official response from FIFA on either the German protest or Denmark’s threats of withdrawing from world football’s governing body.
Canadian coach John Herdman has rallied his troops after their 1-0 defeat to Belgium with a stunning on-pitch team talk in which he declared that his side are going to ‘F- Croatia’ in their next game.
Herdman, who is the first manager to lead a team to both the men’s and women’s World Cup, was asked afterwards what his words of wisdom had been for his boys, who were the better side but failed to score against the team ranked second in the world.
“I just told them they belong here,” he said. “And we’re going to go and ‘F’ Croatia next. It’s as simple as that.
“I’m proud of the performance. But you need to take three points in your first game. We had an opportunity tonight to be top of the group, that was the mission, and we missed it.
“But I’m proud of the performance. These lads showed that they can live on this stage and I think they made the fans proud and made them feel that they belong here.”
There was time for more confusion: Kevin de Bruyne was named man of the match, but seemed peturbed to have picked up the award.
“I don’t think I played a great game,” he told FIFA media. “I don’t know why I got the trophy. Maybe it’s because of my name.”
Bruno Fernandes was left in an awkward situation at their pre-match press conference, with the Portugal media manager asking him not to speak in English to avoid questions about former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo – prompting FIFA to turn off the automatic English translation.
The discourse around Portugal has been widely overshadowed by the fallout from their most prominent player’s departure from United, with several players and their manager, Fernando Santos, expressing their exasperation at the continual conversation about non-World Cup matters.
“I don’t have to pick a side,” said Fernandes in Portuguese. “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 will last forever.
“It was good while it lasted, we have to respect his decision, whether we agree or not.”
Santos, seated next to Fernandes, was visibly perturbed by the line of questioning from British journalists at the presser ahead of Portugal’s opening game with Ghana at 3am AEDT tonight.
“It hasn’t even been discussed,” said the coach of Ronaldo’s situation. “The conversation hasn’t come up at any moment, not only from him. If the players are talking about that in their rooms alone, I can’t say. They can do what they want, but the important thing is they are absolutely focused and realistic about the challenges they are facing.”
It has become one of the enduring memes of international tournaments – and it has returned for another run in Qatar. After pulling off a stunning turnaround to defeat Germany 2-1, the Japanese fans inside the Khalifa International Stadium promptly grabbed garbage bags and began tidying their sections of the stadium.
It has become a trademark move for Samurai Blue supporters, who clean up their bays as a sign of respect to their hosts.
They began the tradition in Russia in 2018 and some were even spotted picking up litter after the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador last Sunday (local time). It is common behaviour in Japan but was unknown outside of the country until the last World Cup.
Somewhat lost in all the praise for England’s 6-2 rout of Iran on Tuesday was Harry Kane’s early exit due to an ankle knock.
The Three Lions captain was brought down with a lunging tackle early into the second half. Kane was able to continue but was later replaced by Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson, who went on to set up Jack Grealish’s 90th-minute goal.
Gareth Southgate confirmed his star No.9 will undergo a scan on his ankle before England’s second group game, against USA on Saturday morning (AEDT).
“I think Harry’s fine,” said the England manager.
“It looked like a bad tackle but he carried on in the game. We took him off because we felt it was a moment in the game we could do that.”
FIFA have doled out the first charge of the 2022 World Cup to Ecuador over discriminatory chants perpetrated by their supporters in the 2-0 win over Qatar on the opening day.
The governing body said the Ecuadorian fans’ songs contravened the discrimination section of its disciplinary code.
The chants in question were not related to FIFA’s backflip on the sale of alcohol within stadiums during the tournament, but rather directed in rivals Chile’s direction after the failed legal bid to take Ecuador’s spot in the World Cup.
Chile and Peru, who were in prime position to replace Ecuador in Qatar, claimed that defender Bryan Castillo was actually born in Colombia and was not permitted to participate in Ecuador’s qualifying campaign. A FIFA committee ultimately ruled there had been no wrongdoing.
A reporter in Qatar covering the World Cup claimed he was “hassled” by locals and Qatari police after his regional Brazilian flag was mistaken for the rainbow pride flag.
The state flag of Pernambuco, in the northeast of the South American nation, is reminiscent of the pride flag with its bright colours.
“This guy wearing a white dress grabbed the flag, threw it on the ground and started stomping on it,” the journalist told Reuters.
“I took my phone (out) to record a video but he grabbed it from my hand and said he would only give it back if I deleted the video. Then an officer arrived and tried to intervene. He grabbed the phone from the other guy and ordered me to delete the video.”
The news comes after American journalist Grant Wahl was “briefly detained” for wearing a rainbow shirt in solidarity with the LGBTQI community, and the fallout from FIFA’s decision to ban players from wearing a One Love armband on-field continues.