USA and Iran politically charged in first World Cup in Middle East

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The most controversial World Cup ever will feature Qatar’s most politically charged matches. Just like in 1998, the United States will play the role of Iran with diplomatic relations yet to be restored between the nations.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The most controversial World Cup ever will feature Qatar’s most politically charged matches.

Just like in 1998, the United States will play the role of Iran with diplomatic relations yet to be restored between the nations. Throw yourself into Group B, England, whose government has endured strained relations with Tehran.

The group could still be completed by Ukraine, whose ability to qualify for the World Cup has been put off by being overrun by Russia. The Ukrainians will need to beat Scotland and then Wales in the playoffs to qualify for the tournament in November.

What is known is that Qatar will open their first World Cup against Ecuador on November 18 after qualifying for the first time as hosts.

The draw in Doha on Friday resulted in a thrilling match in Group E between Spain and Germany. Group C could see a recent FIFA Best winners encounter with Lionel Messi’s Argentina drawn to face Robert Lewandowski’s Poland.

The world champion will be crowned in December for the first time due to the final being moved from its usual July slot to avoid the fierce summer heat in Qatar.

Qatar has spent 12 years since winning the World Cup bid fighting to protect hosting rights amid corruption investigations and regional discord.

The implausibility of Qatar staging such a gigantic event within the congested confines of Doha was clear in the desert images that flashed on screens around the venue of the draw. Images of skyscrapers emerging from the sand served as a reminder of the vast projects needed to develop this gas-rich nation in recent decades.

“The world can see Qatar as promised,” the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, told the audience.

The suffering of low-paid migrant workers was not mentioned.

There was an oblique reference before FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s draw to the war on Ukraine launched in February by 2018 hosts Russia.

“Our world is divided, our world is aggressive,” Infantino said, “and we need opportunities to bring people together.”

There was a call for peace.

“To all the leaders and people of the world,” Infantino added. “Stop conflicts and wars. Please engage in dialogue. Please engage in peace. We want it to be a World Cup of unity and a World Cup of peace.

The day started with a demonstration in front of the FIFA headquarters in Zurich. German artist Volker-Johannes Trieb used sand-filled balls to protest the suffering of migrant workers in Qatar who worked on World Cup-related infrastructure.

___ AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar contributed to this report.

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Rob Harris, The Associated Press







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