FIFA given ‘red flag’ about Qatar team just before World Cup opener

Aaron Ramsdale World Cup preview press conference

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FIFA have been alerted to an ‘unusual’ trend in Qatar’s World Cup warm-up matches by one of their integrity partners. The warning reportedly surrounds penalties awarded to the tournament hosts, with their opener against Ecuador on Sunday edging closer. 

Qatar are currently ranked as the 50th-best men’s international team in the world, sandwiched between the Republic of Ireland and Saudi Arabia. Regular warm-up matches have been taking place since the end of July, with many of them played behind closed doors. 

That much is to be expected given that they have never qualified for a World Cup since gaining independence in 1971. In Group A, Qatar have been dealt a relatively favourable line-up with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands all attempting to make it to the knockout stages. 

But according to The Daily Mail, a ‘red flag’ has been raised by one of FIFA’s integrity partners, relating to Qatar’s friendly results in the lead-up to the World Cup. 

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Allegedly, an ‘unusually high number of penalties’ were awarded during their warm-up fixtures, many of which were untelevised with no fans in attendance. Although the alert serves as a warning to FIFA, it adds that the claim cannot be verified. 

Qatar should be well-prepared for their home tournament compared to many other nations, given that they have contested seven fixtures since July. England, by comparison, have only played two as their World Cup opener against Iran beckons. 

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Five of Qatar’s seven warm-up fixtures were supposedly played behind closed doors with sponsors kept at arms length and minimal information released. While even FIFA’s match monitoring partners have struggled to gain access to data on the matches in question, manager Felix Sanchez’s preparation has included draws with Jamaica and Chile, as well as a defeat to Canada. 

All eyes have been on Qatar over the past couple of weeks as the first Middle-Eastern nation to host the World Cup since its inception in 1930. The country’s alcohol policy has been a key area of focus with tournament sponsors Budweiser taking a hit under pressure from the Qatari royal family. 

Late changes of heart have also impacted the controversial paid-for scheme. A selection of fans from each competing nation have been flown out to the tournament with their accommodation paid for to chant at games and spread positive messages about their experience, but the previously-promised £60-a-day allowance has supposedly been cut.

It won’t be long until the focus is firmly on football with Qatar set to contest their first-ever World Cup match on Sunday.

Regarding FIFA’s integrity alert, the QFA have been contacted for comment. 

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