World Cup in Qatar
It started with Lionel Messi delivering another soccer clinic. It ended with the Argentina superstar sporting a bloodied top lip, shouting abuse to opponents and even blasting the referee. And of course there were goals, too, for one of the greats of the game whose bid to win the World Cup for the first time is still on track. Messi is heading to the semifinals with Argentina after a penalty-shootout victory over Netherlands that had just about everything on Friday. Argentina took a 2-0 lead, conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time to send the match to extra time at 2-2, and then won the shootout 4-3 amid a deafening noise inside Lusail Stadium. Messi, who scored a penalty in regulation time, converted his penalty in the shootout while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made two saves to help Argentina secure a semifinal match against Croatia, which beat Brazil earlier Friday. After Lautaro Martinez scored the clinching penalty, Messi — with his arms outstretched — sprinted to jump into the arms of his goalkeeper. Also read: Croatia end Brazil's dream of 6th World Cup “We had to suffer,” Messi said. “But we got through.” Messi did, especially, in an often violent match that featured 17 yellow cards — a record for a World Cup match — two of which went to Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries as he was sent off after the game. Messi was critical of the Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu, saying: “I don't think he was up to the standard. He was very harmful for us.” And, in a side of Messi rarely seen, he broke off from his post-match interview on the field to shout abuse at the scorer of the Netherlands' two goals, Wout Weghorst. “What are you looking at, stupid?” Messi was heard saying. Messi and his teammates hung around on the field for 20 minutes at the end, taking turns dancing and jumping up and down in front of Argentina's celebrating, scarf-waving fans. Messi said the late Diego Maradona was looking over the team. “Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said of the former Argentina captain and coach who died two years ago. “He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end.” It is only the second time Argentina has reached the last four since 1990. In 2014, Messi was part of the team that lost to Germany in the final and he looks in the mood to get there again in a tournament that he is turning into his own personal highlight reel. Messi delivered a mesmerizing piece of skill and vision to set up the opening goal for Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute. He twisted free in central midfield and burst forward, unbalancing Netherlands defender Nathan Ake and then delivering a no-look reverse pass for Molina to poke in a finish for his first international goal. His penalty in the 73rd minute, which came after Marcus Acuna was tripped by Dumfries, was his fourth goal of the tournament and took him to 10 overall in the World Cup — tied with Gabriel Batistuta for the most for Argentina. Messi now has 94 goals in total in his 169 international games. His team trailing 2-0, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal sent on two tall strikers — Weghorst and Luuk De Jong — and even told center back Virgil van Dijk to play up front. The game suddenly changed. Weghorst glanced in a header from a right-wing cross in the 78th — five minutes after coming on — and then scored the latest second-half goal in a knockout-stage game at a World Cup. Off a cleverly worked free-kick routine learned by Weghorst at his Turkish club, Besiktas, Teun Koopmeiners feigned to take a shot at goal from the edge of the area but instead played it short and low into the middle of the area. It deceived the Argentine defense as Weghorst took a touch, held off his marker and slotted home a finish on the stretch. Enzo Fernandez hit the post near the end of extra time and was then the only Argentina player to fail to score in the shootout. Martinez's saves were from attempts by Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, after which he pulled his shorts high and danced a jig. The loss ended Van Gaal’s third stint in charge of the Netherlands and Messi shared a moment with the 71-year-old coach at the end. “Ever since we arrived here,” Van Gaal said, “we have been focused on penalties. We thought we were going to win the penalty shootout.”
FIFA has denied Belgium’s request to wear team jerseys with a “Love” label at the World Cup in Qatar because of a commercial link to a rave festival. Multi-color detail on the white shirt was described as a “symbol for mutual values on diversity, equality and inclusivity” at the September launch by Belgium’s signature electronic music event Tomorrowland. But FIFA rules on team uniforms and equipment forced Belgium to change its World Cup plans for its first alternate jersey to the traditional red. “We had to skip it for commercial reasons because of referring to Tomorrowland,” the Belgian soccer federation said Monday. FIFA declined to comment on its ruling regarding the second-choice jersey, which was made several weeks ago. Read more: What is ‘One Love’ armband and why is FIFA against it in World Cup 2022? The decision emerged Monday after FIFA flexed its power to crack down on Belgium and six other European teams for wanting their captains to wear the “One Love” armband with a multi-colored, heart-shaped logo in Qatar. The teams backed down when FIFA threatened instant yellow cards for each captain. The armband, which breaks FIFA equipment rules, was to support a Dutch anti-discrimination campaign that drew attention to the host nation’s record on human rights. The “One Love” campaign highlighted little-known FIFA rules that Belgium also fell foul of. All 32 World Cup teams had to seek FIFA approval for designs and colors of three contrasting team uniforms months ahead of the tournament. FIFA has now approved the white Belgium jersey with the same colored trim but the “Love” label covered up on the inside of the collar. “In principle we could play in it (at the World Cup),” the Belgian soccer federation said, “but meanwhile we chose to play in red for the group-stage matches.” Belgium starts its Group F program against Canada on Wednesday. The 2018 World Cup semifinalists then play Morocco and Croatia, the losing finalist from four years ago. Read more: FIFA’s punishment threat forces European team captains to abandon ‘One Love’ armbands A similar case enforced by European soccer body UEFA last year saw Ajax denied permission to include a "Three Little Birds" motif on a shirt inspired by reggae music icon Bob Marley for Champions League games. Ajax could wear the black shirt with gold, red and green trim to honor its fans' anthem but UEFA ruled the motif had to be removed from the back of the shirt.
Hip hop star Nicki Minaj has teamed up with Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma and Lebanese singer Myriam Fares for the latest addition to the official soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar. The single “Tukoh Taka,” with lyrics in English, Spanish and Arabic, was released on Friday, two days ahead of the start of the tournament. It’s the latest in a series of songs by artists from around the world released as part of FIFA’s official soundtrack of the 2022 World Cup. Also read: Portugal Squad Analysis for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar Maluma and Myriam Fares will perform at the opening of the FIFA fan festival in Doha on Saturday.
FIFA will put more World Cup tickets up for sale next week on a first-come, first-served basis. Soccer’s governing body said Wednesday that a total of 1.8 million tickets for the World Cup in Qatar have already been sold ahead of the next sales round, which opens Tuesday on the FIFA website. The tournament is being played from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18. The cheapest tickets for fans from outside Qatar are priced at 250 Qatari riyals ($69). Also Read: FIFA picks 2026 World Cup cities, predicts US `No 1 sport’ The tournament has a total capacity of about 3 million tickets, with about 2 million placed on general sale and 1 million allocated for FIFA stakeholders such as member federations and sponsors, plus hospitality programs. Organizers said last week that 40 million tickets were requested in the first two sales phases. The latest sales round closes Aug. 16, though more seats typically are available later as stakeholders return some tickets. Tickets can also become available during the World Cup from fans of teams that are eliminated.