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Why were Qatar in the Gold Cup?

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The decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup brought up a litany of human rights issues and problems.

However, the event is now just a month away with the wheels fully in motion for the first tournament to be held in the Middle East.

Qatar have never previously competed in a World Cup and don’t have strong football ties around the world, though that has changed in recent years as they looked to improve the competitiveness of their side.

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Qatar are not recognised as members of CONCACAF, North American’s football confederation, but were invited to compete in the 2021 edition of the tournament. They became the second team from Asia to participate in the Gold Cup.

Governing football bodies in the Asian and CONCACAF regions began working together in 2018, targeting an established “framework to strengthen collaboration, encourage knowledge exchange and further develop football in their respective territories”.

“We are very proud to expand the collaboration with AFC. This MoU represents an important step forward in achieving our ONE CONCACAF Vision as we continue our efforts to advance the game,” said CONCACAF President, Victor Montagliani.

“The agreement opens a new range of opportunities that provide a development platform to empower Member Associations and contribute to the sustainable growth of football.”

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The agreement looked to extend competitive opportunities, including referee exchanges and sharing best practices regarding World Cup hosting.

Qatar won Group D, beating Grenada and Honduras after an opening 3-3 draw with Panama, and reached the semi finals after overcoming El Salvador 3-2.

However, they were beaten by eventual champions United States courtesy of Gyasi Zardes’ 86th-minute winner.

They were invited to both the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups back in 2023, so will compete again in that competition next year. They are not the only team to have been invited to participate, with sides like Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador all competing previously to boost the playing standard despite not being part of CONCACAF.

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Qatar also faced European opposition during World Cup qualifying throughout 2021, facing sides like Portugal, the Republic of Ireland and Serbia. They won two games, against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.

Qatar at regional tournaments

FIFA World Cup

This is the first time Qatar will feature at a World Cup finals. Their returns in qualifying have grown steadily in recent years, recording 20 points as they failed to reach the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

AFC Asian Cup

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Qatar have qualified for the Asian Cup ten times and are the reigning champions, having won the competition for the first time in 2019. They won all seven games, scoring 19 times and conceding just once.

FIFA Arab Cup

Qatar have never won the FIFA Arab Cup, competing in it three times. Their debut in 1985 ended in a fourth place finish but they finished in the top three in their two subsequent appearances in 1998 and 2021.

Copa America

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Qatar were invited to compete at the Copa America in 2019 and were drawn in Group B alongside Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay.

While they recorded a respectable draw in their first game with Paraguay after going 2-0 down, defeats to Colombia and Argentina saw them finish bottom of the group and eliminated.

Gulf Cup

The Gulf Cup sees the eight member nations of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation compete in a biennial competition.

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Qatar are three-time champions, having won in 1992, 2004 and 2014. Mansour Muftah is their all-time top scorer in the tournament, netting 13 times.



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Katie Zelem discusses the ‘catch 22’ Man Utd face ahead of Old Trafford return

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Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has described the two-week break since a momentous WSL win over Arsenal as ‘catch 22’ for the squad because that time out of action before facing Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday has both positive and negative implications.

Having lost to Chelsea in early November, their first league defeat of the season, United responded by mounting a 3-2 comeback win at the Emirates Stadium when club football resumed after the recent international break.

Another two-week pause in the club schedule, during which time United have played a behind closed doors friendly, has offered both the chance for rest for starters and minutes for those less involved so far this season. But there is a risk that positive momentum fades.

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“It’s catch 22 in football. Everyone is dying for a break, but equally when you’ve got a good run of momentum, you want to keep it going,” Zelem said of the paradoxical situation.

“We’ve got to look at it as a positive. People were able to get minutes in a friendly match we played. We obviously had a hard week of training and it means we’ve been able to prep properly for the Villa game. Often, when there are really busy three game weeks, it reduces your prep time.

“As a team, we’re in a really good place going into the weekend and we all can’t wait.”

United manager Marc Skinner welcomed the opportunity for rest, insisting that it is the team that is responsible for nurturing momentum.

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“It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we’re competitive within the team because that’s the real driving factor for us,” Skinner explained.

“I’ve said this before, whether it’s a loss going into a break, or a win going into a break, it’s about us taking charge of momentum.”

As far as the game itself, United have won on both previous occasions they have played at Old Trafford – against West Ham in 2021 and Everton earlier in 2022 – and find familiarity that the pitch dimensions are actually the same as at usual home stadium Leigh Sports Village.

Even if the setting will obviously be different because of the much larger stands that surround the grass, it feeds into their preferred style of play and makes the transition smoother.

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“We pride ourselves on keeping the ball and building our attacks. For us, at Old Trafford that will be vitally important,” Zelem went on to say.

“We know that Villa will try and catch us on the break and they’ve got a lot of attacking threats. We need to look at it like we’re playing at Leigh…it’s obviously a lot harder when there are so many more people and huge stands around you. It’s just another game for us and that’s how we’re taking it.”

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!





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Club Leon appoint Nicolas Larcamon as new head coach

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Club Leon has appointed Nicolas Larcamon as the new head coach, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura. 

He replaces Renato Paiva, who announced his departure just days ago.

Larcamon now joins after serving as head of Puebla for two years, where he managed a record of 27W-21L-32D in 80 Liga MX games total. During the 2022 Liga MX Apertura, Larcamon inspired Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarter-finals before falling to Club America. 

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He announced his resignation from Puebla shortly after being eliminated from the Liguilla, claiming the team needed ‘renewed energy’.

“The truth is that the decision is mine, obviously that the perspectives of what is coming for the team at all levels are taken into account a little, which is going to be very challenging,” he said to TUDN.

”That is why I understood it very fair to give the place to someone with renewed energy, with maximum motivation, the institution deserves it. There were four tournaments of great intensity, demands, where we were always at our best, and the decision had more to do with these issues. There was a lot of speculation, it coincided with Piojo in Tigres, but it has nothing to do with it. it was a decision made days before and we were only in negotiations.”

He will now take on new challenges with Club Leon. 

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The team concluded the 2022 Apertura in 10th place, qualifying to the Liguilla playoff match before losing 1-0 to Cruz Azul. 

Leon kicks off the 2023 Clausura on January 6, against Mazatlan.

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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