The international break ended this week, and there were plenty of things to take from it.
The countdown to Qatar is well and truly on. There are now just over seven weeks until the opening game, with no more international football to be played in between.
Here is a recap of the latest World Cup news.
Top countries underwhelm in Nations League
There was an extra edge to the latest international break, as they were the last matches many of these countries will play before the World Cup. This gives us some level of insight as to how they could perform at the tournament. If this is anything to go by, we shouldn’t expect much from the European nations.
England suffered relegation to League B, failing to win any of their six outings. France almost joined them, avoiding the drop by just one point. Germany have won just once in their last seven games. Belgium finished way off top spot. Portugal choked late on. Even Spain, who reached the semi-finals, lost at home to Switzerland last week.
Of the very top European teams, only Netherlands head to Qatar in good form. But their recent record at major tournaments is shocking, having not won a knockout game since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
This could pave the way for a dark horse to reach the latter stages. Croatia and Denmark have done this in recent years and hope to do so again. Meanwhile, Switzerland and Serbia have proven that they are also capable of an upset.
CONMEBOL titans flying
In contrast, the two major nations in South America have been in brilliant form.
Argentina have not lost a game since the 2019 Copa America semi-final. If they can avoid defeat in the group stages, they will set the record for the longest unbeaten run in the history of international football.
Meanwhile, Brazil have only lost three games since the last World Cup. They enter the tournament off the back of seven consecutive victories, scoring 26 while conceding just two.
It’s been 20 years since a South American side won the World Cup. If you trust the form book, you should expect that run to end this year.
Denmark reveal human rights statement
As we head towards the opening match of the competition, the dark cloud of Qatar’s human rights record continues to linger. It’s been discussed for over a decade, but how football intends to address these issues remains unknown.
Denmark have long been touted to take a strong stance against Qatar. Now they have shown their hand – they will wear symbolic kits that criticise the Gulf state. The new shirts are almost completely plain, coming in red, white, and black.
In a statement on Instagram, kit manufacturer Hummel said: “We’ve toned down all the details for Denmark’s new World Cup jerseys, including our logo and iconic chevrons. We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives. We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation.”
COVID-19 vaccination NOT required to attend World Cup
The Qatari government have confirmed that fans will not need proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend matches.
However, many regulations remain in place. Visitors will have to present a negative PCR test within 48 hours of arriving in the country or a Rapid Antigen test within 24 hours.
Furthermore, masks are still required on public transport and in hospitals, and anyone who tests positive is required to isolate. Spectators must also download the Ehteraz tracing app and display their ‘green’ status to enter indoor public spaces.
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