THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM
Absolutely nothing is off the table at these Human Rights World Cup finals. For all Gianni Infantino’s protestations, his “shut up and dribble” pre-tournament message has been about as effective as Serbia’s offside trap against Cameroon striker Vincent “Scoop” Aboubakar. So if HRWC 2022 proves anything, it’s that history is rarely forgotten. And that means you, Ingerlund-supporting berks who think it a wheeze to visit the actual Middle East clad in crusader costumes. Did you not do history at schoo … oh, what’s the use?
Wales v England will invoke plenty of historic cross-border overtones when they collide on Tuesday evening: Llywelyn The Great, Owain Glyndŵr, David Lloyd-George, Barry John, Max Boyce and all that. But for sheer geopolitical white heat, and with apologies to Plaid Cymru, it has nothing on the other Group B game played at the same time. A win for either Iran or the USA! USA!! USA!!! guarantees progress to the last 16. Those are the bare footballing facts, but the buildup has seen a heavy deployment of the chucking-in-the-kitchen-sink school of discussion heavily featured in this HRWC.
Tyler Adams showed genuine diplomacy when fielding a volley from one Iranian journalist about Black Lives Matter, having been initially upbraided for his pronunciation of the word “Iran”, something he apologised for. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, fresh from coating off Jürgen Klinsmann for cultural insensitivity, then invoked shootings in American schools. That came in response to the US Soccer Federation displaying an Iranian flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic in a now-deleted tweet; it’s by no means just the Iranians lobbing in that kitchen sink. That gesture clumsily poked the fires of serious, harrowing events back in Iran, where women fighting for basic human rights have a country teetering between sweeping social change and vicious crackdowns from the regime in Tehran.
The most significant political gesture of this tournament has been the Iran players’ refusal to sing their national anthem before their opener with England. It happened amid genuine, continuing fear of reprisal. Against Wales in their second match, the anthem was sung half-heartedly. Now for a match against the country known back home as “the Great Satan”, with whom diplomatic relations have been sketchy at very best since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. World Cup memories abound, of course, of the teams meeting in 1998, Iran winning 2-1 in Lyon, the players having got together for a chummy photo-call before the match. More of the same? The HRWC’s revival is a supreme test of that unifying force of football Infantino keeps wanging on about.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Join John Brewin from 3pm GMT for MBM coverage of Ecuador 1-1 Senegal, while Barry Glendenning will be on deck for Netherlands 2-0 Qatar at the same time. Then Rob Smyth will be your guide at 7pm GMT for Wales 1-1 England, when Tom Lutz will also be at the wheel for Iran 1-1 USA! USA!! USA!!!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They get on that until 4am or 5am and watch all the great comments and enjoy all that sh1te, and it affects the sleep patterns. You’re up until 5am looking at good comments, and the same people backing you are the ones killing you the day after. So just get rid of it, don’t look at it” – Australia coach Graham Arnold is warning his players over the perils of social media disgraces before their flamin’ final group game against Denmark.
The Big Website World Cup guide to all 830 players is a wonderful document (presumably no Football Daily input). However, the Senegalese defender with the No 24 has been included as ‘Moustapha Name’. Perhaps, for the sake of completeness, a bit more work was needed?” – John Lawton.
According to my research, England have been knocked out of the World Cup nine times in the knockout rounds. 1954, 1962, 1970, 1986, 1990, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2018. The one thing these games all have in common is that, on the television coverage, England start every one of these games attacking to the left in the first half. Coincidence? Of course not, can someone let Gareth know. PS. You might want to check my ‘research’” – Tim Evenden.
After the 3-3 draw with Cameroon I wonder if my Serbia are: 1) The laughing stock of this HR World Cup; 2) The most entertaining team; 3) The worst defence in the competition; 4) The most unpredictable team in Qatar; or 5) maybe all of the mentioned above. We may be all confused here (our defence is certainly 100% confused) about who we are, but at least it is never boring with our national team” – Bogdan Kotarlic.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet Football Daily while you can – hi Elon! – via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Bogdan Kotarlic.