Vlasic and Ounahi denied as Morocco earn opening draw against Croatia | World Cup 2002

The drums of the Morocco ultras behind the goal suggested the outcome had been favourable. A high tempo rat-a-tat-tat broke out on the final whistle, at a tempo that echoed the energy of the north Africans’ performance as they took a point from the 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in an engaging goalless draw.

Clearcut chances were limited at the Al Bayt stadium, but both goalkeepers had to make decisive interventions either side of half-time as first Nikola Vlasic then Azzedine Ounahi had a chance to open the scoring.

This was another fixture which offered the dissonant effect of a patchy crowd but a lusty atmosphere. The crowd of 59,407 was nearly 10,000 under capacity, according to official figures, but with the vast majority supporting Morocco there was a consistent, engaging noise. It seems likely that this equivalent to a home support helped the men in red give a high energy performance.

Morocco had the better of a first half of few chances, consistently unsettling Croatia with an effective press and midfield physicality. The Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri was a danger, stretching a Croatia backline that included the 33-year-old Dejan Lovren. In the centre of the field, Sofyan Amrabat was enjoying his engagement with Luka Modric, throwing his weight into every challenge.

Morocco and Croatia compete for the ball
Morocco’s energy deservedly earned a point against the 2018 World Cup finalists. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Beyond one smart Achraf Hakimi cross that eluded En-Nesyri’s forehead, however, Morocco did not create any clear openings and Croatia should have opened the scoring as half-time approached. A long-range pass from Modric forced Bono to charge to the edge of his box and punch clear ahead of Andrej Kramaric. Mateo Kovacic immediately recovered possession, however, and slipped the ball to the left and the full-back Borna Sosa whose low cross found Vlasic six yards out. The former Everton and West Ham man should have scored but somehow Bono got down quickly enough to save a low poke with his legs. Seconds later Modric had an opportunity to drive home from the edge of the box, only to flash his shot over the bar.

Zlatko Dalic replaced Vlasic with Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic at half-time and the game resumed in the manner it had finished. Within seconds of the restart Morocco had fashioned their first real chance of the game with Sofiane Boufal forcing Dominik Livakovic to parry the ball with a fierce drive, the ball dropped into the path of Ounahi, whose stooping header was on target but blocked by the keeper.

Quick Guide

Qatar: beyond the football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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Immediately after that chance the ball ran up the other end and Hakimi was forced to turn a Josip Juranovic cross behind for a corner. The delivery from Modric was typically devilish and Bono had to get low again to push the ball away. Kovacic’s follow-up shot was then blocked by Amrabat before the ball was finally cleared.

A flurry of substitutions followed, some because of injury as in the case of Morocco’s Noussair Mazraoui, others to maintain the level of commitment as this early afternoon fixture played out in the heat. The tempo and rhythm was predictably disrupted, however, and as the game moved into its final stages it became clear that the two sides respected each other enough to be accepting of a draw.

Raheem Sterling is in a rut but has the steel to prove his worth to England | World Cup 2002

England were well on their way to defeat in Stockholm by the time Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched himself into the air and prepared to embarrass Joe Hart. An experimental lineup had collapsed at the end of a ramshackle friendly with Sweden and, for all the fanfare over Steven Gerrard winning his 100th cap, the only thing anyone wanted to talk about after the game was the moment when Ibrahimovic made it 4-2 with a preposterous overhead kick in the 90th minute.

Ten years on, the ponytailed striker’s chutzpah still inspires awe. Ibrahimovic had already scored a brilliant hat-trick, but his fourth goal was the pick of the lot. It left Hart red-faced and, if there was a consolation for England, at least Sweden’s biggest star had dragged the attention away from their struggles.

This was a very different England side to the one that will face Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday. They were coached by Roy Hodgson, captained by Gerrard and bruised after a drab performance at Euro 2012. Gary Cahill, who announced his retirement this past week, was in central defence and a 31-year-old Leon Osman was one of six debutants. Rejuvenation was the focus for Hodgson. He took the opportunity to have a first look at Steven Caulker, Carl Jenkinson and Ryan Shawcross; he even dipped into the Championship, calling up Wilfried Zaha and bringing the Crystal Palace youngster off the bench with five minutes left.

Quick Guide

Qatar: beyond the football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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Of course, Zaha ended up switching his allegiance to Ivory Coast. The player he came on for against Sweden, though, has become part of the furniture. Last Monday marked the 10th anniversary of Raheem Sterling’s England debut and, even though his form for Chelsea is a concern, it would represent a major surprise if he does not start against Iran.

The England shirt no longer weighs heavily on Sterling. This is the 27-year-old’s fifth international tournament, underlining his importance to the side, and it is startling to consider how much has changed in the last decade. To put it into context, Gareth Southgate was working on the Sweden game as a pundit for ITV. Sterling was 17 and had just broken into the Liverpool side. He was exciting but raw and there were times when he frustrated fans with his indecisiveness in the final third.

The mind goes back to Sterling facing Italy in England’s opening game at the 2014 World Cup and letting fly from long range early on. Everyone watching on television saw the net ripple and thought it was in; in reality the ball had flashed past the left post, merely brushing the side-netting, and England would go out before the group stage was over.

Raheem Sterling takes on Italy at the 2014 World Cup.
Raheem Sterling takes on Italy at the 2014 World Cup. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

That near miss felt symbolic for Sterling. There was a time when he dreaded international duty. He received heavy criticism after England lost to Iceland at Euro 2016 and it was not long before he was being targeted with racial abuse.

Yet adversity brought out the best in Sterling. Off the pitch, he has become a pioneering voice in the fight against discrimination. Sterling, who will win his 80th cap against Iran, is a leader. He looks after young players when they enter the England setup. He is the most-capped player in this squad – Harry Kane is second on 75, Jordan Henderson and Kyle Walker are joint third on 70 – and there is no bigger fan of him than Southgate, who tends to respond to criticism of Sterling by arguing that none of the other attacking midfielders at his disposal can match his goal threat.

Still Sterling, who has 19 goals for England, is in danger of losing his place as an automatic starter. He was England’s best attacker during their run to the final of Euro 2020, troubling opponents with his pace and scoring three goals. He is devastating when in the mood. His runs in behind keep defenders guessing and England tend to be at their best when Kane is releasing Sterling with clever through balls.

However the question is whether opponents have grown wise to that line of attack. True, nimble creators such as Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are likely to play in front of defences. They like the ball to feet, whereas Sterling runs in behind. For Southgate, the risk of dropping Sterling is that England find themselves without enough pace and get bogged down.

England's Raheem Sterling is challenged by Sweden's Martin Olsson during their international friendly soccer match at the Friends Arena in Stockholm in November 2012.
Raheem Sterling is challenged by Sweden’s Martin Olsson on his England debut in November 2012. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

The counter is that Sterling’s recent performances for club and country have been underwhelming. Gone is the level that made his partnership with Kane crucial to England picking Spain off on the break in October 2018 and earning one of the best wins of the Southgate era. Sterling is in a rut. He decided to leave Manchester City in the summer after losing his place as a regular in Pep Guardiola’s side, but he is yet to hit his stride at Chelsea. The sacking of Thomas Tuchel has changed things for Sterling. Tuchel wanted him to be the main man; Graham Potter has often used the former City winger as an auxiliary wing-back and the results have been unconvincing. One goal in his last 10 games for Chelsea speaks volumes.

It feels unsustainable. Southgate has backed Sterling, but he is goalless in his last five internationals for England and was poor against Italy in September. At some point Southgate will have to look elsewhere. Bukayo Saka has been in outstanding form for Arsenal. A rejuvenated Marcus Rashford is an obvious alternative on the left. Foden, Mount and Grealish are also pushing for starts, though James Maddison’s knee injury is likely to keep him out against Iran.

Equally Sterling, whose England record is worthy of more respect, has seen it all before. He was pilloried after Euro 2016 but responded by helping England reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. His mentality is rock solid. Sterling will remember how there were similar doubts over his place before the Euros and his response was to score the winner when England beat Croatia in their opening game. Something similar against Iran would not go amiss.

Gareth Bale ready to seize moment as Wales’s World Cup ‘dream’ kicks off | World Cup 2002

He is the boy from Whitchurch, north Cardiff, about to lead Wales on the world stage. Gareth Bale’s first World Cup memories are a little hazy – probably France 98, he says – not helped by the sustained absence of his country and a team to truly get behind. But a moment that perhaps seemed as though it would elude a glittering, superstar career stacked with honours and individual accolades is finally here. Towards one end of the Corniche, Doha’s opulent waterfront, an industrial-sized image of Bale, plastered on to the facade of a sparkling skyscraper, glistens above the city.

Bale remains a big deal, a commercial entity in his own right, but the fire in him to prove he can still do the business on the pitch burns brightly. Recent evidence has already suggested as much: a fortnight ago he scored an 128th-minute leaping header to help Los Angeles FC lift the MLS Cup. For Wales to be able to lean on their captain, a player who has a handy habit of calmly rising to the occasion, is something of a priceless commodity at their first World Cup finals for 64 years. Bale and his teammates are determined to enjoy however long this latest ride lasts.

The past six years have brought Wales three major tournaments, including that unforgettable and mesmeric run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016, which Bale began with a darting free-kick against Slovakia in Bordeaux. For the younger generation of fans, Wales’ recent success may have blurred the lines. “They don’t realise how spoiled they are,” Bale says. That endearing, goofy grin follows.

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Qatar: beyond the football


This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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After all, it has not always been this way. “Watching Brazil and Argentina and those big teams play and now to be in that tournament is quite a cool feeling to have, especially as growing up there was not a Wales side [at a World Cup],” he says. “For the kids now to be able to have Wales, being able to watch them and have the poster up on the wall to mark out each game will be incredible.”

Bale, not for the first time, will go where others have failed. When the goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, Bale’s best friend in the squad and, like him, a fellow Wales centurion, recently told of his pride at representing his country at a World Cup, he almost sounded a touch embarrassed at doing so knowing his idol, Neville Southall, never made it this far. The same applies to Ian Rush, whose goalscoring record Bale broke four years ago, Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed, Mark Hughes and John Toshack, who handed a 16-year-old Bale, then a fizzy left-back on the books of Southampton, his senior debut in 2006.

A giant poster of Gareth Bale hangs from a skyscraper in Doha
A giant poster of Gareth Bale hangs from a skyscraper in Doha. Photograph: ANP/Alamy

The magnitude of wearing the dragon on his chest – as well as at least two armbands, only one of which is endorsed by Fifa – at a finals is not lost on Bale. “It is a very proud moment. Not only for us as players but the whole nation. Every time there has been a failure it has been ‘we want to get over the line eventually’ and the longer time went on it became an even bigger task, I guess. To be the ones to achieve it has been incredible and something we have all dreamed of since we were young – it is crazy now that the tournament is upon us and we are just going to try to enjoy it.”

Rob Page, the Wales manager, insists the team are not as reliant on Bale as they once were and that is a sentiment shared by the midfielder Jonny Williams, who made his international debut in 2013 when he replaced Bale as a substitute. Williams, who would have been lining up for a Swindon Town side that lost at home to Crewe in the fourth tier on Saturday had he not been here, is actually Wales’s leading goalscorer at club level this season, not that he has been ribbing Bale about that fact. “I couldn’t do that,” he says, typically modestly. “They’ll just say ‘it’s in League Two’ so I’ll get there first and say it myself.”

How has Bale evolved over the years? “Into a real leader of the team and a leader of men,” Williams says. “There is no ego or big-time [nature]: ‘I am not going to do this’. He just treats everyone with respect. He makes people feel a part of something. I have played in changing rooms where that has not necessarily been the case – and that is with players that are of a lot less ability than Gareth.” Williams breaks into a smile. “Fair play, and credit to him and his parents.”

Bale had a quick, understated word with Luke Harris and Jordan James to instantly put the teenage pair at ease on their first Wales camp at their team base in Hensol in September. It was a similar story with Sorba Thomas earlier this year. “I said to Sorba: ‘Have you met Gareth before?’” Page says. “He said: ‘Well, only playing Fifa on PlayStation.’ The next thing he’s sat having dinner with him and I watched Sorba and he was looking up in awe of his hero who is standing above him and talking to him on a level. But Gareth’s got a knack of doing that, he just makes people feel at ease.”

Gareth Bale

The thing that has not changed with Bale is the gaze that follows him. “He just lights the room up just with his presence, with him just being there,” Page says. “I used to liken it to club management when you’re writing the team sheet down and you want the best players on the team sheet because you know the impact it’s going to have on the opposing manager. Gareth’s goals have taken us to the World Cup … but without what everybody else has done on that pitch, doing the hard yards, the graft, to get opportunities and give him the chance to put a free-kick in, it doesn’t happen. It’s a massive team effort.”

For Bale, this is his final guaranteed appearance on the biggest stage and almost certainly his last at a World Cup. Depending on how Wales fare in Group B, he could bow out in nine days’ time against England, of all teams. It is too early to say how this will play out but Wales, despite the strides they have taken in recent years, will still undoubtedly look to Bale for inspiration. “He has been doing it for years and is still massively capable even at his age,” Williams says. “He is 33 now, scoring huge goals in America and having big moments for us, in the [World Cup playoff] semi-final [against Austria, in which he scored twice]. We still look to him as the main man.”

Security guards at Doha World Cup park claim they are paid just 35p an hour | Workers’ rights

Migrant workers employed as security guards in a huge park that will be at the heart of Qatar’s World Cup festivities appear to be being paid as little as 35 pence an hour.

The men are stationed across Al Bidda Park, a pristine green space adjoining the Fifa Fan Festival. Throughout the tournament Al Bidda Park will be packed with football fans enjoying the sweeping lawns, shaded picnic spots and views over Doha. The guards interviewed are not contracted to Fifa or deployed in the Festival.

But long after fans have retreated to their hotels, the guards will stay on. In fact, it appears that fans are likely to see more of Doha in a week than these men will see in years. The guards say they work 12-hour shifts, and claim they usually get just one day off a month.

“We just go between our duty and our accommodation,” said one holding out his phone. “You can show me anywhere in Qatar and I won’t know where it is.”

The claims come on the eve of the start of the men’s Fifa World Cup, which is due to start on Sunday amid widespread international criticism of the host nation’s record on migrant worker and LGBTQ+ rights.

In recent weeks Fifa and the Qatari authorities have battled to turn the spotlight away from workers’ and LGBTQ+ rights, with Fifa’s general secretary Gianni Infantino saying World Cup teams they should “focus on the football” and warning them against “handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world”.

The Guardian’s findings are based on interviews carried out over the past few months with park guards working for Al Nasr Star Security Services. Guards and “marshals” employed by other companies also work in the park. There is no suggestion they are subject to the same claims over conditions.

Analysis by The Guardian of workers’ pay notifications, corroborated by workers’ accounts of their working hours and pay, suggests that the guards are typically paid 1330 rials (£310) a month for 348 hours on duty, plus a small food allowance. It is understood that this includes 104 hours of overtime, for which they are paid 150 rials, which if correct equates to less than 35p an hour.

Such working hours and overtime pay appear to be in breach of Qatar’s labour laws.

View of Doha from Al Bidda Park, Qatar.
The Al Bidda Park, which opened in 2018, adjoins Fifa’s fan festival and is likely to attract many football supporters. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

The security guards say they know they are being underpaid but feel powerless to act. “It’s illegal, but the government keeps quiet, so what can we do?” claims one.

“We put up with it because we need the money,” said another, revealing the predicament faced by many low-wage workers in Qatar. Others are grateful to at least have a job that pays more than they can make at home. “I’m happy because I get something … It’s a struggle but I don’t care because I don’t have anything,” one said.

An Amnesty International report in March this year found exploitation in the private security sector was commonplace in Qatar.

“Security guards are integral to the smooth running of the World Cup … No one should have to work under these conditions and anyone who has suffered abuse must be provided redress,” said Ella Knight, researcher on migrants’ labour rights at Amnesty.

Knight suggested the Guardian’s findings are, “another clear example of the shortcomings of the reform process and how remaining gaps in enforcement of laws continue to afflict the lives of migrant workers in the country.”

Qatar’s labour reforms should mean the Al Bidda Park guards are able to transfer to a better-paying job, but the workers say in practice it is very difficult, and believe that they still need their employer’s permission to seek other work. “If they gave [permission] … 90% would have changed jobs,” said one. “Even when we are sleeping, we dream of changing our job,” added a colleague.

Separately they all claim they had been forced to pay illegal recruitment fees – in the region of £1,175-£1,650 – to recruitment agents in their home countries to secure their jobs, effectively forcing them to work for up to five months just to repay the fee. And, while some football fans will enjoy the most opulent hotels in the world, some of these men sleep in bunk beds in over-crowded labour camps on the edge of the desert.

The Guardian visited one camp which houses the guards and found rooms with four bunk beds crammed end-to-end around the edge of a tiny space. There were no lockers, so the men shared their beds with their belongings or a suitcase. Cooking utensils were stuffed under the beds. Two large grimy kitchens and foul-smelling toilet cubicles stood outside. One guard said the toilets were so bad in his camp that he preferred to wait and use the ones at the park.

It is a world few football fans will see. Turn off a four-lane highway out of Doha and on to a potholed road and the only traffic is an endless flow of buses and minivans shipping men to and from their workplace. The road leads to dozens of accommodation blocks amid wasteland covered in litter. Outside each block, men sit on rocks scrolling through their phones while stray dogs play in the dust. A homemade basketball hoop is the only sign of normal life.

Today the Building and Wood Workers’ International, a trade union which has worked in partnership with the Qatari authorities to improve workers’ rights in the country, issued a strong-worded statement saying, ‘there is no sign that sustainable change [for migrant workers] is forthcoming.’

A Qatari government official said, “Over the past decade, extensive action has been taken to combat exploitative labour practices and provide accessible channels for workers to make complaints … When violations are recorded, corrective action is taken, and offending companies are penalised.”

The official said over 420,000 workers have changed their employer since a new law was introduced in 2020, which made it easier to change jobs. Last month, 3,712 labour inspections were carried out, he added, and 97% of workers are covered by the wage protection system, “which ensures all wages are paid in full and on time.”

“Systemic change does not happen in an instant – it takes time to transform a labour market. In other countries, this was a decades-long process, and in many countries – including in Europe – this process is still ongoing.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers have benefited from our labour reforms, and our commitment to improving the lives of every expatriate who has made Qatar a second home will continue long after the World Cup,” the official said.

The managing director of the Al Nasr Star Group confirmed the guards work 12-hour shifts but said that they get two hours’ break each day and one day off a week. The security guards who spoke to the Guardian claim they do not routinely get breaks during their working day, although one worker did say he was given breaks from work during the summer months.

The company did not respond to repeated requests for a written response to the allegations put to the Guardian by its workers or provide timesheets or information on pay for security guards working at Al Bidda.

World Cup 2022 team guides part 16: Tunisia | Tunisia football team

This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 November.

The plan

Tunisia changed coach in January, Jalel Kadri replacing Mondher Kebaier, but are playing with the same system they have done for years. After all, they did reach the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals this year, and the semi-finals in 2019.

Most of the players who played at the 2018 World Cup are still in the squad but since 2019 a good deal of work has been done to attract new dual-nationality players such as Hannibal Mejbri, Aïssa Laïdouni, Omar Rekik, Yan Valery, Chaïm El Djebali and Anis Ben Slimane.

They arrive at the World Cup in good shape. The 5-1 defeat to Brazil in September was Tunisia’s first under Kadri. They won the Kirin Cup in Japan after beating Chile 2-0 and the hosts 3-0, their first victory over Japan.

Quick Guide

Tunisia group fixtures


v Denmark Tue 22 Nov, 1pm Education City Stadium

v Australia Sat 26 Nov, 10am Al Janoub Stadium

v France Wed 30 Nov, 3pm Education City Stadium

All times GMT

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Of the Brazil defeat Kadri said: “We respected Brazil too much. We were by no means unworthy in the second half, but we were completely overwhelmed at the start of the match. It was still a good test against a team that has big ambitions for the World Cup. We must not be ashamed of the result and we must learn from our mistakes.”

One concern is that the 32-year-old captain, Youssef Msakni, sustained an injury playing for Al Arabi in the Qatar Stars League. He missed the 2018 World Cup with a cruciate ligament injury but he seems to have recovered well this time.

Kadri usually deploys an offensively minded 4-3-3 formation, but uses a 4-5-1 against better teams. Strong midfielders are key.

Tunisia topped their qualifying group before beating Mali 1-0 on aggregate to secure their sixth World Cup appearance.

The coach

The open-minded 50-year-old Jalel Kadri was appointed manager after several head coaching jobs at clubs in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Libya. He has also twice been an assistant coach for Tunisia. The public fell in love with him when he oversaw a precious victory over Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations in January while the then manager, Mondher Kebaier, was absent with Covid-19. After the tournament Kadri was given the top job and has lost only one game, registering five victories and two draws, with seven clean sheets. “If we do not reach the knockout phase, I will leave,” Kadri said recently on TV. “I have a contract based on results and being eliminated from the group stage will be a failure for me.”

Star player

Youssef Msakni. Maybe people in Tunisia dreamed of a better club career for Msakni but he chose to join Al Duhail in Qatar in 2013 and his only spell in Europe was six months with KAS Eupen in Belgium. He is a key player for Tunisia though, providing solutions in difficult situations. This World Cup may be his last and the fans are expecting a lot. They know what he is capable of but can be critical.

Youssef Msakni celebrates scoring against Madagascar.
Youssef Msakni has a huge weight of responsibility on his shoulders as Tunisia’s main goal threat. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Unsung hero

Aïssa Laïdouni. The 25-year-old Ferencvaros midfielder chose to play for Tunisia ahead of Algeria and France. Calm with the ball and very efficient in his play, he has played 24 times since he joined the national team setup in March 2021. Has the potential to be a hero at the World Cup and his talent is sure to attract the interest of elite European clubs. Tunisians expect he will leave Ferencvaros soon.

Probable lineup

Tunisia probable lineup

Qatar stance

Players in Tunisia avoid talking about problems outside sport. In addition, more than 30,000 Tunisians work and live in Qatar, while many players and technical staff are with Qatari clubs. Qatar and Tunisia are Muslim nations, and they have a strong relationship. Human rights concerns have not even been discussed in the media. For the players, staff and administrators issues beyond sport are not forbidden topics but nor are they a priority.

National anthem

Ḥumāt al-Ḥimá (Defenders of the Homeland) is the national anthem of Tunisia. The text was written in the 1930s by the Lebanese-born Egyptian poet Mostafa Saadeq Al-Rafe’ie and Tunisian poet Aboul-Qacem Echebbi, who wrote the last verses (1955). The music is written by Ahmed Kheireddine. The national anthem was adopted in November 1987 and is popular one. The chorus translates as: “O defenders of the Homeland! Rally around to the glory of our time! The blood surges in our veins! We die for the sake of our land.”

All-time cult heroes

Many players have made history for Tunisia, but the best-known ones are Tarek Dhiab, who was African player of the year in 1977, and Hamadi Agrebi. The pair were in the squad at Argentina 78 and contributed to Tunisia’s first World Cup victory, a 3-1 win over Mexico in Rosario. Dhiab works for beIN Sports while Agrebi died in 2020.

Adala Ahmed works for Radio Mosaique FM. Follow him here on Twitter.

World Cup 2022 team guides part 14: Denmark | Denmark

This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 November.

The plan

Denmark have continued on the same path that took them to the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2021 and the only real worry is the long search for a centre-forward to fit Kasper Hjulmand’s 4-3-3 system. Denmark may have lost twice to Croatia in the Nations League but they beat France twice. In Paris they won 2-1 against a full-strength French team with a couple of late goals from the substitute Andreas Cornelius and, in the final game before the World Cup, they beat the world champions 2-0 at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

“We have a fantastic squad and we are full of confidence because we know what our players can do,” Kasper Schmeichel said. “But when we play France at the World Cup, it will be a different match.”

Quick Guide

Denmark group fixtures


v Tunisia Tue 22 Nov, 1pm  Education City Stadium

v France Sat 26 Nov, 4pm Stadium 974

v Australia Wed 30 Nov, 3pm Al Janoub Stadium

All times GMT

Thank you for your feedback.

Christian Eriksen, who, of course, had a cardiac arrest at Parken during Euro 2020, was magnificent against France, leading Mikkel Damsgaard to say: “We have great self-confidence going into the World Cup. We will make some noise, we aim to go far and hopefully win the whole damn thing.”

Hjulmand often deploys a 3-4-3 formation against strong opponents but switches to a more attack-minded 4-3-3 against weaker teams. He is adept at changing tactics during games, either through a switch of formation or substitutions.

Denmark topped their qualifying group four points ahead of Scotland, winning nine of their 10 games and with a goal difference of +27.

The coach

The open minded and eloquent 50-year-old Kasper Hjulmand has restored the public’s affection for the national team since taking over from Åge Hareide in 2020. From day one he has, almost like a missionary, talked about the team belonging to every Dane. For a long time friendlies in Copenhagen were far from sellouts but now they are always full, no matter the opposition. He was widely praised for how he dealt with the fallout from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, and his contract runs for another two years.

Star player

Christian Eriksen literally came back from the dead in June 2021 when he suffered a cardiac arrest four minutes before half-time in Denmark’s first match at the Euros. He has shown incredible willpower to continue his career at the top level and is now at Manchester United after a successful six-month spell at Brentford. An efficient, reliable player who wants to succeed at a major tournament after missing out last year.

Thomas Delaney gets to grips with Kylian Mbappé as Christian Eriksen closes in during Denmark’s victory over France at Parken Stadium in September.
Thomas Delaney gets to grips with Kylian Mbappé as Christian Eriksen closes in during Denmark’s win over France at Parken Stadium. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Unsung hero

Thomas Delaney is often praised by Hjulmand, who is keen to point out the Sevilla midfielder’s incredible work rate and efficiency at set pieces. It is quite easy to be overlooked when you are playing in a midfield also comprising Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg but Delaney adds something important to the team and contributes with the odd crucial goal, as he did in the Euro 2020 quarter-final against the Czech Republic. “We had a plan, but my goal was not part of the plan,” he said with a chuckle after the game.

Probable lineup

Denmark probable lineup

Qatar stance

“Ask any football player and he will call it a disaster,” Thomas Delaney said in a documentary about the Qatar World Cup last year. “And that’s how I see it. No one here thinks it is a good idea.” Kasper Schmeichel added: ”I’m glad that I will be playing at a World Cup, but am I content with where it’s being held? No, I am not. But I can’t change it, only voice my dissatisfaction.” The Danish Football Federation chief executive, Jakob Jensen, has said it will not host any fan areas in Qatar – “We don’t want to support the country” – and Denmark’s kit manufacturer, Hummel, has made shirts that criticise the human rights record of the host nation, with a black option to honour migrant workers who died during construction for the tournament.

National anthem

Der er et yndigt land (There is a lovely country) from 1819 is an anthem full of praise for Denmark, its nature and history. The lyrics were written by Adam Oehlenschläger, a famous poet and playwright and one of the principal pioneers of the romantic movement in Europe. The music is written by Hans Ernst Krøyer. Der er et yndigt land is actually one of two national anthems, the other being Kong Christian (King Christian), a bombastic song about the bravery of the king and other war heroes at sea.

All-time cult hero

The 1984 European Championship semi-final between Denmark and Spain went to penalties and the last Danish player to take his spot-kick was Preben Elkjær. The forward was already a hero back home after scoring the winner against Belgium in the final group game. He had a strong attitude and a big mouth – but in a charming way – and for the shootout against Spain his shorts had been torn so his backside was showing. The No 10 missed his penalty but no one blamed him. He was also part of the successful team at the 1986 World Cup and is now a TV pundit.

Jesper Engmann writes for Jyllands-Posten. Follow him here on Twitter.

Peter Tatchell stopped in Qatar while staging LGBT+ rights protest | Peter Tatchell

The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been stopped in Qatar while staging a protest against the Gulf state’s criminalisation of LGBT+ people.

Tatchell’s protest outside the National Museum of Qatar in the capital, Doha, comes less than a month before the start of the Fifa World Cup, which is expected to attract 1.2 million visitors from around the world.

Reuters reported two uniformed police officers and three plain clothes officials arrived at the scene. They folded up his placard and took photos of Tatchell’s passport and other papers, and those of a man accompanying him. Police left after shaking hands with Tatchell, who remained on the sidewalk.

The veteran campaigner, whose whereabouts are unknown, was holding a placard that read: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’ #QatarAntiGay.”

The Peter Tatchell Foundation said this was the first LGBT+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state.

The incident adds to mounting pressure on Qatar over its treatment of the LGBT+ community and migrant workers, as well as other human rights concerns.

Qatari law criminalises both male and female homosexuality, with sentences of one to three years for adults convicted of consensual gay or lesbian sex.

Speaking from Qatar shortly before his protest, Tatchell said: “There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Qatar. It is a homophobic, sexist and racist dictatorship.

“Qatar cannot be allowed to sportswash its reputation. It is using the World Cup to enhance its international image. We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory.

“I did this protest to shine a light on Qatar’s human rights abuses against LGBT+ people, women, migrant workers and liberal Qataris. I am supporting their brave battle against tyranny.

“LGBT+ Qataris face police harassment, online entrapment, ‘honour’ killing, arrest, three years’ jail and potentially the death penalty. Qatar has secret gay conversion centres where LGBT+ people can be detained and subjected to abusive attempts to turn them straight.”

Last month, European football federations announced their intention for team captains – including England’s Harry Kane – to wear “One Love” rainbow armbands to symbolise opposition to LGBT+ discrimination in Qatar.

Tatchell added: “Despite Fifa saying that discrimination will not be tolerated, if a Qatari footballer came out as gay, he would be more likely to be arrested and jailed than be selected for the national team. That’s discrimination and against Fifa’s rules.

“Fifa has failed to secure change in Qatar. There have been no legislative reforms on LGBT+ or women’s rights. Improvements for migrant workers have been patchy at best. Fifa is letting Qatar evade many of its pledges when it was granted the right to hold the World Cup.”

Tatchell’s arrest comes as Qatar’s ruling emir attacked criticism of his country over its hosting of the World Cup, describing it as an “unprecedented campaign” targeting the first Arab nation to hold the tournament.

In a televised speech before the emirate’s legislative body on Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said: “The campaign tends to continue and expand to include fabrications and double standards that were so ferocious that it has unfortunately prompted many people to question the real reasons and motives.”

Human rights groups have credited Qatar with improving its labour laws since it won the right to host the world’s biggest sporting event, such as dismantling the kafala system, for example, which tied a worker to a single employer, and introducing a minimum monthly wage. However, activists call for more to be done.