WC 2022 briefing: Will Spain and Germany reach heights on day four?  |  WC 2022

WC 2022 briefing: Will Spain and Germany reach heights on day four? | WC 2022

World Championship
Compiled: Guardian

The main event

While he doesn’t shy away from confrontation – and certainly doesn’t pick his team based on what will endear him to the Real Madrid hierarchy – Luis Enrique has saved himself a lot of grief by bringing Dani Carvajal and Marco Asensio to this World Cup. At Euro 2020, he named a squad which, in a first for Spain at a major tournament, did not include a single Madrid player.

Despite some of them, notably Sergio Ramos, having been hampered by injury, many of Madrid’s cheerleaders cried conspiracy and accused the coach of being biased in favor of Barcelona. Carvajal, for his part, later told Marca: “When I have heard that opinion, I have tried to explain that he is not… [he] trying to call up the people he thinks will help him with what he wants, regardless of the team they play for.” Not that it made much of a difference.

While it pales in comparison to the controversies of a tournament plagued by a series of extremely serious problems, Luis Enrique has avoided a repeat in Qatar. Carvajal is likely to be the first choice at right-back, while Asensio should get minutes from the bench. The coach remains a polarizing figure at home after crossing over classical split, a reverse Luís Figo did by leaving Madrid for Barcelona as a player in 1996. He became a folk hero in Catalonia before returning to lead Barça to the treble as manager. Given how many people see the Spanish national team through the lens of classicalhis decisions inevitably come under microscopic scrutiny.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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Quick introduction

Qatar: beyond football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has reported on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is brought together on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football website for those who want to delve deeper into the issues off the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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Luis Enrique has taken eight Barça players to Qatar, up from seven after he replaced the injured José Gayà with Alejandro Balde. The disparity is partly explained by the fact that Barça have 12 senior players eligible for Spain, while Madrid have seven. Of the seven, only Carvajal and Asensio have made 15 appearances or more in all competitions this season.

Then again, given the prominence of outside players classical duopoly – not least Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte, Villarreal’s Pau Torres, Atlético Madrid’s Álvaro Morata and Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simón – Luis Enrique has more important things to think about than which of the eternal rivals is best represented. Life is certainly easier when the two sides of La Liga’s eternal war call a temporary truce, but for the national team to succeed in Qatar, they need the 16 players who do not play for any of Luis Enrique’s former clubs to coalesce into something cohesive.

Talking points

You don’t imagine all that extra time
Sean Ingle in Doha has pressed Fifa on why we have seen such long periods of extra time added to matches. They confirmed that there is a new directive to ensure that any “unnatural lost time” is added at the end of each half. In Qatar, it has asked officials to more accurately monitor when a match is stopped for goal celebrations, time-wasting, video assistant referee decisions, substitutions, penalties and red cards – even if that means extending a match by many minutes. On Monday, England’s 6-2 victory over Iran lasted a record 117 minutes, while Argentina endured 111 in Tuesday’s defeat to Saudi Arabia. The sense of relief when only five minutes were added at the end of Denmark’s draw against Tunisia was palpable.

Ranking of all-time Mondial Cupsets
While they have struggled in recent tournaments, Saudi Arabia qualified for the round of 16 at the 1994 World Cup, beating Morocco and Belgium in the group stages, so they are no strangers to victory. But beating Argentina is certainly one of the biggest World Cup shocks of all time. The USA, wonderful England in 1950, is often quoted, although it is a rather Anglocentric view, bolstered by the almost certainly apocryphal story of Fleet Street papers getting the 0-1 result over the wires and assuming it must be a typo for 10-1. Senegal beating holders France 1-0 in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup is also often cited as an example – although this should perhaps be tempered by the fact that a French side in disarray managed to finish bottom of Group A with their only point from a draw 0-0 with Uruguay. Regardless of where it ranks, Saudi Arabia has declared Wednesday a national holiday as a result of the win.

‘Messi, where are you?’: Saudi fans celebrate shock win over Argentina – video

Incidents involving Football Association of Wales staff and Wales supporters confiscating rainbow bucket hats ahead of the Group B opener against the USA are being swiftly investigated by authorities. Fifa and the Qataris were in talks on the matter on Tuesday, with Fifa reminding their hosts of their pre-tournament assurances that everyone was welcome and rainbow flags would be allowed. The state flag of Brazil’s Pernambuco also fell foul of the ban. It has a rainbow-like device, and Brazilian journalist Victor Pereira filmed security personnel trying to confiscate it.

Chegaram a pegar a bandeira de Pernambuco, jogaram no chão e pisaram. Quando algumas pessoas intervieram e amenizaram a situação.

O vídeo em que eu registro o que fizeram com a bandeira fui OBRIGADO a deletar! pic.twitter.com/WUti5vyL9D

— Victor Pereira (@ovictorpereira) November 22, 2022


Chegaram a pegar a bandeira de Pernambuco, jogaram no chão e pisaram. Quando algumas pessoas intervieram og amenizaram a situation.

O vídeo em que eu registro or que faján com a bandeira fui OBRIGADO a deletar! pic.twitter.com/WUti5vyL9D

— Victor Pereira (@ovictorpereira) 22 November 2022

The response to the armband edict has become stricter in Germany. The major grocery chain Rewe has scrapped its advertising campaign with the German Football Association following the crackdown on players wearing OneLove bracelets in support of diversity. The move by Rewe makes it the first sponsor to take action after Fifa threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the multi-coloured armband during the World Cup.

In Iran, the position of the players who refused to sing their national anthem on Monday looked more vulnerable. While Iran’s heavily censored media made very little mention of the team not singing the national anthem, Mehdi Chamran, head of the Tehran city council, said on Tuesday: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag”, and a restaurant in Tehran that had supported England on his Instagram page, was closed and sealed by the authorities.

Global media watchdog

Argentina’s media were understandably unimpressed La Albiceleste. Daniel Lagares wrote for Clarín that the team lost because “they played badly, they underestimated the game and they were unlucky”. Lagares said “Messi must have played one of his weakest games in his long career with the national team” and complained “there was no plan B, exacerbated by very low individual performances”. Football writer Diego Macias called the result “a hammer blow” and said “Argentina lost much more than a game against Saudi Arabia. It forgot its football principles in the dressing room and started the World Cup in the worst possible way.”

Lionel Messi looks dejected after Saudi Arabia's second goal.
Lionel Messi looks dejected after Saudi Arabia’s second goal. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The Danish press was not particularly enthusiastic about the opening either. Tabloid BT described the draw against Tunisia as “close to a true disaster”, complaining that “the first half was the worst 45 Danish minutes under Kasper Hjulmand” and mused: “Was it the heat? Was all the fuss about Qatar, OneLove and bracelets filling your head with the wrong stuff? Or was it just a Danish national team that couldn’t cope with the insane pressure that 30,000 passionate Tunisians put on the Danish boys?”

The Internet is responding

If Argentina mourned their shock defeat, the result went down well with Brazil fans. A reworked version of Argentina’s triband flag – in which the yellow sun in the center wept uncontrollably – went viral on social media.

🚨URGENTE: Argentina acaba de sofrer alteração na sua bandeira. pic.twitter.com/1zfGBB1EdP

— CHOQUEI (@choquei) November 22, 2022


On Monday, USA winger Tim Weah became the first player to find the back of the net against Wales in a World Cup match since a 17-year-old upstart named Pelé eliminated the Dragons from the quarter-finals back in 1958. On Tuesday, George Weah – the only African winner of Fifa’s World Player of the Year award and Ballon d’Or, who serves as Liberia’s president – played the role of proud dad after his son managed to score in the tournament he had never had a chance to enter.

Just had dinner with my son Timothy Weah. Proud daddy. pic.twitter.com/Jrx2vT3iAa

— George Weah (@GeorgeWeahOff) November 22, 2022


Today’s matches

Morocco v Croatia (Group F, 10am GMT, ITV1) After finishing top of their Nations League group in September, drawing and winning against France plus two wins against Denmark on the road, Croatia have ominous momentum behind them. The beaten finalists in Russia go into this game on the back of five straight wins. Morocco will be difficult opponents, with one of Europe’s most dynamic defenders in Achraf Hakimi and a mercurial creative maestro in Hakim Ziyech. They must suppress the enduring brilliance of Luka Modric, still Croatia’s leading man at 37.

Germany v Japan (Group E, 1pm GMT, ITV1) After limping through Russia 2018 and Euro 2020, Germany are trying to restore pride in Qatar. Joachim Löw has gone to the big coaching conference in the sky and in his place stands his former assistant Hansi Flick. Germany have lost just once in 16 games under Flick – a shock 1-0 loss to Hungary in the Nations League – but have been strangely inconsistent. Japan, meanwhile, have a smattering of Premier League players past and present in Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino and Maya Yoshida. They succumbed to a 2-1 loss against Canada in their final warm-up game.

Thomas Müller reaches for the ball during Germany training
Thomas Müller reaches for the ball during Germany training. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Spain v Costa Rica (Group E, 4pm GMT, ITV1) While Spain are inevitably among the favorites in Qatar, there is a question mark over whether their high-risk style under Luis Enrique will pay off. They come in strong form, but a 2-1 loss against Switzerland in the Nations League in September shows that they have holes in their armour. Costa Rica are unlikely to produce a goal feast, with Luis Fernando Suárez dependent on his steely defence.

Belgium v ​​Canada (Group F, 7pm GMT, BBC One) Belgium have spent much of the last decade being tipped for big things, but only have a third-place finish at Russia 2018 to show for it. They may not be particularly fancy this time around, with Eden Hazard treading water and Romelu Lukaku struggling with a thigh injury that will keep him out of this game, but they have gamechangers in Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne. Their defense has been a nagging weakness under Roberto Martínez. With fantastic young players in Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies, Canada can cause serious problems.

Player to watch

Junya Ito Having risen to prominence under Hajime Moriyasu, Ito is Japan’s main attacking outlet. A winger blessed with a sprinter’s pace and a dancer’s feet, instantly recognizable by his mop of blond hair, he has excelled at Reims in Ligue 1 this season and could be a handful for Germany.

Japan winger Junya Ito takes part in a training session
Japan winger Junya Ito takes part in a training session. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

And finally…

Yesterday we mentioned that England’s Jack Grealish had dedicated his goal celebration to an 11-year-old fan with cerebral palsy whom he had met, promising that he would dance with wavy arms the next time he scored. Speaking to the media on Tuesday morning, Finlay Fisher, the boy in question, said he almost missed the England game as he had been in A&E with a leg injury, but he returned home 10 minutes before kick-off. Of watching Grealish dance, he said: “It feels like a dream come true, I can’t say how happy I am. I still haven’t gotten over it yet.”

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