Sport

Host nation Qatar braces for World Cup fever ahead of opening night

The World Cup begins this weekend in Qatar as football fans fix their attention on the first Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament.

The tournament’s 64 matches will take place in eight different stadiums across the tiny country from November 20 to  December 18.

The opening game between Qatar and Ecuador in Group A will kick off at 19:00 local time in Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor City, some 35 kilometres north of the capital Doha. It has a capacity for 60,000 fans.

The tiny Middle Eastern nation has unveiled a 6,000-cabin fan village in an isolated lot near its airports, an offering for housing toward the lower end of what’s available for the upcoming tournament just days away from kick-off.

The site in theory could hold as many as 12,000 people if booked at capacity, officials said.

The cabins make up “around 24%” of total bookings, said Omar al-Jaber, the head of accommodation at Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the World Cup.

In the lead-up to the tournament, concerns about hotel room space and the high prices attached to rooms available have trailed Qatar, which lacks hotel capacity for all teams, workers, volunteers and fans at the World Cup. As an alternative, Doha has created camping and cabin sites, hired cruise ships, and encouraged fans to stay in neighbouring countries and fly in for games.

Qatar has estimated it will have 130,000 rooms per day for the tournament.

France seek to retain trophy

As well as coping with injuries, defending champions France has the weight of World Cup history to contend with in Qatar.

France arguably boasts the best attack in the world ahead of the competition with Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema alongside 2018 World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, with either Antoine Griezmann or Olivier Giroud to support them.

France’s national team, which arrived in Doha on Wednesday, is looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

But the defending champions, grouped with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia, are without first-choice midfield pair Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

Karim Benzema, who has missed a series of games for Real Madrid this season because of an injury, is set for his first World Cup appearance since 2014.

England train in 30°C temperature

Meanwhile, the England football team trained in the 30°C midday heat on Thursday as they continued their preparation for their opening game against Iran on Monday.

The only absentee was forward James Maddison who joined the team huddle before the session started but then left the training pitch.

Maddison spoke to the media on Wednesday after being called up to the England team for the first time in three years and said he was confident of being fit for their first match in Group B after limping off in Leicester’s 2-0 win at West Ham last Saturday.

Despite not winning their last six games, England is looking to continue their upward trend under manager Gareth Southgate at major tournaments, having reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the final of last year’s delayed Euro 2020.

Source: Euro News

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