The 2022 men's World Cup will feature female referees for the first time in the competition's history.

FIFA announced on Thursday the list of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match officials that have been chosen for the tournament, which is to be held in Qatar in November and December.

Three female referees, Stephanie Frappart, Salima Mukansanga and Yoshimi Yamashita, and three assistant referees, Neuza Back, Kathryn Nesbitt and Karen Diaz Medina, have been included.

Frappart has experience in top-level European football, becoming the first female to referee a Champions League match and European Championship qualifiers, while she has also taken charge of Ligue 1 games.

Mukansanga became the first woman to referee a match at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Yamashita was the first woman to officiate an AFC Champions League match.

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, said: "We are very happy that with Stephanie Frappart from France, Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan, as well as assistant referees Neuza Back from Brazil, Karen Diaz Medina from Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt from the USA, we have been able to call up female match officials for the first time in the history of a FIFA World Cup.

"This concludes a long process that began several years ago with the deployment of female referees at FIFA men's junior and senior tournaments.

"In this way, we clearly emphasise that it is quality that counts for us and not gender. I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women's match officials for important men's competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational.

"They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that's the important factor for us."

Premier League officials Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor are also part of the referee team.

"As always, the criteria we have used is 'quality first' and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide," Collina added.

"The 2018 World Cup was very successful, partly because of the high standard of refereeing, and we will do our best to be even better in a few months in Qatar.

"The pandemic affected our activities, in particular in 2020 and at the beginning of 2021. Luckily, the World Cup was still quite far, and we had enough time to provide the candidates with good preparation.

"We are announcing these selections well in advance as we want to work even harder with all those who have been appointed for the FIFA World Cup, monitoring them in the next months.

"The message is clear: don't rest on your laurels, keep working hard and prepare yourselves very seriously for the World Cup."

FIFA should set aside $440million of World Cup revenue as compensation for workers who have suffered during preparations for the 2022 World Cup, human rights group Amnesty International has said.

That sum matches the total prize money on offer to teams at the tournament, which takes place in November and December.

Amnesty, which as part of a coalition has written to football's world governing body to request a "comprehensive remediation programme", claimed there has been "a litany of abuses" since FIFA awarded the tournament Qatar.

It said a "lack of enforcement of Qatar's labour reforms, and the narrow group of workers covered by FIFA's commitments, have limited their impact".

In response, FIFA said the awarding of the World Cup has "served as a catalyst for landmark labour rights reforms in Qatar".

Amnesty, in a report published on Thursday, said that "the scale of abuses requiring remediation since 2010 remains vast", claiming thousands have been "cheated of their wages by abusive employers, made to work excessive hours, or subjected to conditions amounting to forced labour". It said some had died after working in inhospitable conditions, alleging "their deaths were rarely investigated, and their families hardly ever compensated".

According to Amnesty, FIFA "contributed to a wide range of labour abuses that were both preventable and predictable".

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, said: "Given the history of human rights abuses in the country, FIFA knew⁠ – or should have known⁠ – the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar. Despite this, there was not a single mention of workers or human rights in its evaluation of the Qatari bid and no conditions were put in place on labour protections. FIFA has since done far too little to prevent or mitigate those risks.

"Providing compensation to workers who gave so much to make the tournament happen, and taking steps to make sure such abuses never happen again, could represent a major turning point in FIFA's commitment to respect human rights.

"By turning a blind eye to foreseeable human rights abuses and failing to stop them, FIFA indisputably contributed to the widespread abuse of migrant workers involved in World Cup-related projects in Qatar, far beyond the stadiums and official hotels."

FIFA strongly denies it turned a blind eye, responding in a letter published by Amnesty by stating: "Human rights-related matters have been taken into consideration in FIFA World Cup 2022 planning from the very beginning, with the bid committee aiming to use the competition as an instrument to shape wider social change in Qatar."

The world body said "the due diligence put in place to protect workers involved in FIFA World Cup projects has been a source of continuous learning".

FIFA said "countless workers have received financial remediation" already, including outstanding wages and the repayment of $22.6m of recruitment fees by December 2021, with a further $5.7m allocated in that area.

The letter from FIFA, which is led by president Gianni Infantino, was signed by Andreas Graf, its head of human rights and anti-discrimination.

He added: "The work to hold companies to account on labour rights has not been without challenges and will continue to require serious efforts during the coming months.

"At the same time, we are pleased to have seen significant progress not only for FIFA World Cup workers but also in the country at large and which has led to tangible positive
changes for hundreds of thousands of workers in Qatar."

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador over the potential use of an ineligible player in their successful World Cup qualifying campaign.

Chile last week asked the world football governing body to investigate allegations that right-back Byron Castillo is actually Colombian and not eligible to represent Ecuador.

Castillo played eight times for Ecuador in South American qualifying, including a goalless draw with Chile in September and a 2-0 victory in November.

La Roja finished seventh, meaning they just missed out on a play-off spot, but believe Ecuador should be expelled from the quadrennial competition.

And FIFA confirmed on Wednesday that it is looking into the recent complaint made by the Federacion de Futbol de Chile.

The statement read: "FIFA has decided to open disciplinary proceedings in relation to Byron David Castillo Segura's possible breach of the call criteria for the indicated matches. 

"In this context, the FEF and the Peruvian Football Federation have been invited to present their positions before the FIFA Disciplinary Committee."

Ecuador have already been drawn in Group A at the World Cup, alongside hosts Qatar, as well as Senegal and the Netherlands.

FIFA sanctioned Bolivia for fielding ineligible player Nelson Cabrera in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Chile, awarding their opponents 3-0 wins in both instances.

FIFA has confirmed Brazil and Argentina will have to replay last September's abandoned World Cup qualifier after rejecting appeals from both countries' football federations. 

The original fixture in Sao Paolo was abandoned after just five minutes when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch, with players Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso accused by the Brazilian government of providing false information on their immigration forms and breaking the nation's Covid-19 laws.

FIFA's original ruling on the matter was announced in February, ordering the fixture to be replayed with all four of those players suspended and handing fines to both sides.

Both countries' federations subsequently lodged appeals against those measures, but FIFA has now confirmed the fixture will be replayed at an as-yet unspecified date and venue.

A statement from world football's governing body on Monday said: "The FIFA Appeal Committee has taken decisions on the appeals lodged by the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) and the Argentinian Football Association (AFA).

"After analysing the submissions of both parties and considering all circumstances of the case, the Appeal Committee confirmed that the match would be replayed and also upheld the fine of CHF 50,000 that was imposed on both associations as a result of the abandonment."

Brazil and Argentina have both qualified for the tournament in Qatar in comfortable fashion, with Brazil sitting top of the CONMEBOL qualification group with 45 points after an as-yet unbeaten campaign, and Argentina second with 39 points, meaning the replayed fixture will have no impact on the final standings.

Chile have demanded FIFA investigate allegations that World Cup qualification rivals Ecuador used an ineligible player during their successful campaign.

A statement from the Federacion de Futbol de Chile outlined their belief that right back Byron Castillo was born in Colombia in 1995, not in Ecuador in 1998, as had previously been thought to be the case.

Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador in their World Cup qualifying campaign, with La Tri set to take part in the tournament in Qatar at the end of this year.

Ecuador have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, as well as Senegal and the Netherlands.

However, Chile released a statement on Thursday detailing their allegations around Castillo and demanding an investigation from FIFA.

La Roja finished seventh in South American World Cup qualifying, just missing out on a play-off spot.

"We inform that, on May 4, through the Carlezzo Abogados studio, we sent to the FIFA Disciplinary Commission a complaint against the player Byron David Castillo Segura and the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF), due to the use of false birth certificate, false declaration of age and false nationality by the aforementioned player," the statement read.

"We understand, based on all the information and documents collected, that the facts are too serious and must be thoroughly investigated by FIFA.

"There are innumerable proofs that the player was born in Colombia, in the city of Tumaco, on July 25, 1995, and not on November 10, 1998, in the Ecuadorian city of General Villamil Playas.

"The investigations carried out in Ecuador, including a legal report by the National Directorate of Civil Registry, the highest authority in the matter in this country, declared the existence of inconsistencies in the birth certificate presented by the player, and reported that this document did not exist in its internal files, pointing out other weaknesses in the document, to conclude that it was possibly fraudulent.

"In addition, an investigative commission of the Ecuadorian Football Federation, aimed at clarifying the irregularities existing in the records of players before this federation, concluded that the player was Colombian.

"All that, obviously, was fully known to the FEF. The world of football cannot close its eyes to so many tests. The practice of serious and conscious irregularities in the registration of players cannot be accepted, especially when we talk about a world competition. There must be fair play on and off the pitch."

 

FIFA have ordered the Senegalese Football Federation to play a competitive match behind closed doors and fined them $180,000 after a series of incidents in March's World Cup qualifier against Egypt, including the use of laser pens to target Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

After Egypt and Senegal each claimed 1-0 home wins in their two-legged play-off for World Cup qualification, Salah was targeted by a number of laser pens as he missed his penalty in the decisive shoot-out in Dakar, which Senegal went on to win.

Egypt lodged a complaint after their defeat, which came little over a month after the Pharaohs had lost the Africa Cup of Nations final on penalties to the same opponents, also claiming Salah was subject to racist abuse and their team bus targeted by missiles before the game.

Just as he did in February's Africa Cup of Nations final, Salah's Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane netted the winning spot-kick to hand Senegal a place at the Qatar World Cup.

Now, FIFA's disciplinary committee has punished the African champions for a series of offences, including a "failure to implement existing safety rules and failure to ensure that law and order are maintained in the stadium."

Senegal have also been punished for an "invasion of the field of play, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, use of laser pointers and use of objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation have also been ordered to play a match behind closed doors, and received a fine of $154,000, after a pitch invasion that followed their away-goals elimination against Ghana in Abuja.

Senegal will be making their third appearance at the FIFA World Cup later this year, and will kick the tournament off when they face the Netherlands in Group A on November 21 – the first time since 1954 where the tournament's opening match doesn’t involve either the hosts or the defending champions.

The joined actions of some of the most powerful figures in modern football unwittingly created an ever mightier alliance on April 18, 2021.

The announcement of a new European Super League united Manchester, with fans and players of United and City joining those invested in the fortunes of Liverpool and the three London giants of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in opposition.

Although the reaction in Italy and Spain may not have been quite as damning, the protests that followed over the course of an extraordinary few days were enough to derail the plans.

A year on, Stats Perform looks back on one of the most controversial proposals in the sport's history and where it stands now.

What is/was the European Super League?

The past week has shown exactly what makes the Champions League great, whether Villarreal's upset of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid withstanding Chelsea's fightback, a thriller between Liverpool and Benfica in a tie widely considered over or the blood and thunder of Manchester City's defeat of Atletico Madrid.

But Arsenal and Tottenham did not qualify for the Champions League this season, while Barcelona and Milan failed to make it beyond the group stage.

In another season, another superpower – the clubs whose names and riches have made the Champions League what it is – might miss out on these great games.

That was the fear of a dozen leading sides, anyway. Barca had a prominent role, along with Real Madrid and Juventus, as the European Super League was launched.

The competition was to be backed by United States-based investment bank JP Morgan and managed by the owners of the founding clubs, who would be guaranteed entry to the competition.

Three clubs were hoped to join the initial 12, followed by five others qualifying each year to form a 20-team tournament, which would be split into two 10-team leagues prior to a knockout stage.

The idea was for the Super League to replace the lucrative Champions League, rather than domestic leagues – hence its inception on the eve of Champions League reforms. The interested parties even claimed the money raised would benefit "the wider football pyramid".

But the reception was widely critical, while there were notable absentees in the form of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, the previous campaign's Champions League finalists.

PSG had spent too much time – and, of course, money – establishing themselves among European football's elite to risk it all in the breakaway.

Meanwhile, Bayern, like most German clubs, are partly fan-owned. And it would soon become clear football fans in general were not enthused by the prospect of seeing Europe's best teams slog it out in a closed-shop tournament.

Then what?

The 12 clubs must have imagined some sort of response, but what followed appeared to stun those involved.

Their own players and coaches announced opposition, with many frustrated these plans had provided such a distraction at a key stage in the season. Notably, Jurgen Klopp fumed when Leeds United, Liverpool's next opponents, told the six-time European champions to "earn it" if they wanted to play in the Champions League.

The rest of football appeared united against those who had sought to cut loose, as former Manchester United captain Gary Neville called for the Old Trafford club to be relegated along with Liverpool and Arsenal.

Unsurprisingly, UEFA, FIFA and even the UK government railed against the Super League, too.

But most importantly, the fans – particularly in England – made clear they would not stand for this apparent betrayal of the sport and its roots.

Chelsea were the first team to back out of the European Super League while Petr Cech attempted to negotiate with furious supporters blocking the team's entrance to Stamford Bridge prior to a drab goalless draw against Brighton and Hove Albion.

With protests following at stadiums up and down the country, the Premier League clubs soon quit the breakaway competition, and they were joined by Inter, Milan and Atletico Madrid, as the Super League was declared dead mere hours after its birth.

Football had won, it was widely acknowledged.

And they all lived happily ever after?

Well, not quite. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have continued to pursue the European Super League, their owners refusing to relent.

The huge debts racked up during the coronavirus pandemic contributed to their desperation to land this lucrative deal, with Barca since forced to let club legend Lionel Messi leave on a free transfer due to their inability to afford a new contract for the 34-year-old.

Those who backed out of the controversial plans have at least returned to the European Club Association, in which PSG were huge beneficiaries of their reluctance to follow their elite rivals. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG president, now leads the ECA in a role that previously belonged to Juve chief Andrea Agnelli.

But even Barca, Madrid and Juve have been able to continue playing in UEFA competitions – those they have qualified for, anyway. Madrid have made the Champions League semi-finals as they bid for a record-extending 14th European crown.

And sceptics could be forgiven for wondering if the new Champions League format sounds a little 'European Super Leaguey'.

As of 2024-25, the group stages will be no more, replaced by – yes – a league. And although the competition is increasing in size to 36 teams, two of the additional four slots are reserved for clubs who have the highest UEFA coefficients but have qualified only for one of the organisation's lesser competitions.

Barca, who toiled in the early stages of this season, or Juve, facing a fight for a top-four finish in Serie A, would have to slump significantly not to be assured of a seat at the time.

The Super League is dead... but long live the Super League?

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA boss Michel Platini will go on trial facing corruption charges in June, Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court (FCC) has confirmed.

The pair were last year charged with fraud and other offences by Swiss authorities relating to a payment made in 2011.

Switzerland's attorney general's office (OAG) published an indictment following an investigation that began in 2015.

Both men "are accused of unlawfully arranging a payment of CHF2million from FIFA to Michel Platini", the OAG said at the time.

The date for the trial to start has now been set for June 8, with proceedings set to last until June 22.

The case centres on a payment made by FIFA to Platini in 2011, authorised by Blatter, which the OAG alleges "was made without a legal basis".

The indictment alleges that Platini demanded this CHF2million payment more than eight years after his work as a consultant for Blatter between 1999 and 2002 had come to an end, and that it "damaged FIFA's assets and unlawfully enriched Platini".

According to the indictment, Platini had allegedly been paid by FIFA an annual fee of CHF300,000 for his consultancy work. This amount had been agreed upon in a written contract, the indictment said.

Blatter was originally banned from footballing activities for eight years, reduced to six, by FIFA in 2015 following an Ethics Committee investigation that described the payment as "disloyal". Platini was also given an eight-year suspension.

Both Blatter and Platini have denied any wrongdoing, with the former FIFA president stating there was a "gentleman's agreement" over the payment.

Blatter has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. Platini has been charged with fraud, participating in misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.

The Arsene Wenger-fronted plan for a World Cup every two years was "more or less a nonsense" and FIFA saw sense by finally ditching the idea, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino last week indicated the world governing body had dropped the project, which had drawn strong criticism from European and South American authorities in particular.

Infantino said FIFA had never proposed the change to the tournament that has taken place every four years since the first edition in 1930.

But Infantino had been seen by many as a cheerleader for the switch, making a widely criticised claim in January that opportunities delivered by a World Cup every two years could provide impetus for African migrants to avoid treacherous crossings to Europe, suggesting they could avoid "death in the sea".

Ceferin told a news conference on Thursday: "We are happy FIFA ordered that it is finally off the table, the biennial World Cup.

"Formally it was not proposed by FIFA, but it was encouraged by FIFA. It's good they've listened to the football community.

"For me, it's very good that this project that is more or less a nonsense is off the table."

Former Arsenal manager Wenger, as FIFA's chief of global development, had been the main advocate for the biennial World Cup, promoting the concept widely ahead of a possible vote and nailing his colours firmly to the mast.

Infantino claimed the alterations would yield significant financial returns if the plans were approved, with a boost of $4.4billion in the first four-year cycle of a new international calendar, which would climb to $6.6bn if each confederation also switched its regional competition to become biennial.

A vote now appears highly unlikely to happen in the near future, and Ceferin questioned whether there should be any other major tournaments added to the international calendar.

"About new tournaments, I don't think there's much time for new competitions, but let's speak about it and let's see," Ceferin said. "For now, we didn't discuss it."

Ceferin said UEFA would take a decision "very soon" on Russia's possible involvement in the Women's European Championship, which begins in July and will be staged in England.

Despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led the country to be widely ostracised, a final ruling has yet to be taken on whether the women's football team should be allowed to take part.

The men's team were swiftly thrown out of the World Cup by FIFA, denied a place in a play-off to reach the Qatar 2022 finals.

Ceferin said: "There is a court case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case of the Russian Football Union. We expect some information from there as soon as possible, but we know we are in a hurry to decide about this issue. We know the Euro is very soon and that we'll have to take the decision soon, but we need some more information."

Asked whether Russian football authorities should be expelled by UEFA, Ceferin said there were "considerations about many things these days".

Russia has bid to host the Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 finals, in a move that has been met with widespread disbelief.

Ceferin will be aware of that sentiment and said of Russia's bid: "We are discussing it, and you will have the answer very soon."

Russia has withdrawn its appeal against a ban for its teams from FIFA competitions after World Cup qualifying continued without its senior men's national team.

Russian teams were suspended from FIFA and UEFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

The FIFA sanction meant Valeri Karpin's Russia could not compete in their scheduled World Cup play-off semi-final against Poland.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) asked for the ban to be delayed, with that match set for late March, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected its request.

It meant Poland progressed to a final against Sweden, who had defeated the Czech Republic. Poland won to advance to Qatar 2022.

With that tie settled and Poland drawn into a World Cup group alongside Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, CAS announced on Tuesday the RFU had withdrawn its appeal last week.

Russia's challenges of various bans – including from UEFA – appear set to continue, however.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for Italian authorities to honour the legacy of Paolo Rossi by naming the Stadio Olimpico after the former forward.

Rossi scored six goals to claim the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as Italy lifted the 1982 World Cup, while he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in the same year – the only player to win all four trophies in the same year.

During that competition, Rossi guided his side into the knockout stages as his hat-trick propelled Italy to a 3-2 group-stage victory over a formidable Brazil team, which included legends Socrates and Zico.

Rossi still remains Italy's joint-top scorer at World Cups, with his nine goals only matched by fellow attackers Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.

The former Vicenza and Juventus striker died aged 64 in 2020, and Infantino implored the Italian Football Federation (IFF) to mark Rossi's legacy by naming Lazio and Roma's Olimpico stadium after him.

"What are we waiting for to name the Olimpico after Paolo Rossi? There isn't another Italian who has given more to this sport," he said on Monday at an event to remember former IFF president Artemio Franchi.

"So, please I'm saying this to all the directors here. Please, help us, I think Paolo deserves it."

Infantino also recalled a meeting with former referee Abraham Klein, who officiated the meeting between Italy and Brazil in 1982 and ruled out what would have been Italy's fourth goal through Giancarlo Antognoni.

"Among other things, he admitted that Antognoni's goal [that was disallowed for offside] was valid, so let's rectify the result, it ended 4-2," he added on Klein before discussing the legacy of Franchi.

"I am president of FIFA, who for the first time in its history has appointed a woman general secretary. These are the values ​​that football gives and that we managers must protect, as did Artemio Franchi.

"It means listening, but also making decisions and acting: without this, Italy probably would not have won the European Championships and would not have qualified for the World Cup, UEFA would not have taken the steps it took at a time when Europe was uniform.

"As leaders, we must always seek, with diplomacy and emotion to bring the sport back to play this very important role of giving emotions to people."

England boss Gareth Southgate has expressed his support for proposed changes to 2022 World Cup squads.

FIFA is expected to announce an increase in squad sizes for the tournament in Qatar, with 26-man squads instead of 23 – akin to those permitted at Euro 2020 – expected to be allowed.

Coaches of the qualified nations are also pushing for 15-man benches at the competition after Euro 2020 regulations forced Southgate and other bosses to leave three players out of their matchday squads.

England will begin their 16th World Cup campaign with a first-ever competitive meeting with Iran on November 21, before rounding off their group-stage campaign with games against the United States and one of Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine.

Southgate has now claimed that coaches were "unanimous" in their desire to allow every player in a squad to be in matchday contention in Qatar at a recent meeting, making his strong support for the proposal clear.

"I think what everyone is saying is that if the squads are going to be bigger, then it needs to be a situation where everybody is able to change on a matchday," Southgate said. 

"That was unanimous in the room [at the coaches' meeting]. Whether a bigger squad is necessary... originally that was for COVID-19, there's now people talking about the [impact of] condensed fixtures. 

"I still think it's a bigger skill to pick 23 and to work all that out, but that decision will be made and I suspect it will be 26. 

"But I think everybody has to be available for all the games."

Southgate also highlighted some difficulties of managing a squad at an international tournament, noting the "challenge" of keeping players involved as a reason why some coaches may not elect to take extra players.

"You either get the difficult conversations in the middle of November or in the next few weeks," Southgate added. "That's how it was last summer.

"When you are picking a team, when you've got 11 who are happy and 15 who are disappointed, that's more of a challenge. That's managing. 

"That's why you don't have to take 26, I know Luis Enrique didn't last year [Spain took 24 players to Euro 2020]. That's something we'll have to think about, depending on what the Covid situation is and what our injuries might be."

England are the only European team to have reached the semi-finals of the last two major international tournaments (the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020), and sealed their place in Qatar via a dominant qualification campaign in which they scored 39 goals and conceded just three.

The top organiser of the Qatar 2022 World Cup has hit back at the Norway Football Association following damning criticism by the latter during FIFA's Congress in Doha on Thursday.

Hassan Al Thawadi accused Norwegian FA President Lise Klaveness of inflammatory comments over the country's human rights record ahead of the tournament, which begins in November.

This year's World Cup has been the subject of criticism since it was awarded to Qatar in 2010, with issues ranging from the treatment of migrant workers to the safety of the LGBTQ+ community.

During the 72nd FIFA congress, Klaveness – whose nation failed to qualify last year and had mooted plans to boycott if they did so – launched a blistering argument against its organisers.

"In 2010, the World Cup was awarded by FIFA in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences," she stated.

"Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football, were not in the starting XI until many years later.

"These basic rights were pressured on as substitutes, mainly by outside voices. FIFA has later addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go.

"There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers, no room for leaders that cannot host the women's game, no room for hosts that cannot legally guarantee the safety and respect of LGBTQ+ people coming to this theatre of dreams."

Thawadi, chief executive of the World Cup Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, refuted his counterpart's suggestions, and accused her of failing to open dialogue over her concerns.

"Madam president, you visit our country and made no request for a meeting," he added. "You did not attempt to contact us and did not attempt to engage in dialogue before addressing Congress today.

"I urge everybody, we have always been open for dialogue. We have always welcomed constructive criticism, criticism that is based on discussion, understanding the issues and understanding the context of the issues and the progress of the facts on the ground.

"We will always have our doors open for anybody who wants to understand the issues, who wants to educate themselves before passing any judgement."

Qatar will host the draw for this year's tournament on April 1, with 29 of the 32 sides set to compete confirmed ahead of final play-offs later this year.

The 2022 World Cup is now less than eight months away and the excitement will ramp up another notch on Friday when the draw takes place in Doha.

Qatar will become the first Arab country to host the global showpiece, 92 years after the inaugural event in Uruguay, in what is the 22nd edition of football's biggest tournament.

It will become the smallest host nation by area, with matches to be spread across five different cities, making this the most concentrated edition since Argentina 1978.

Twenty-nine nations have already booked their finals spot, 22 of which competed at the 2018 edition, with the automatically-qualified hosts the only side to make their debut.

Due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the fate of eight teams remains in the balance – only three of whom can still advance.

Wales will face the winners of the Scotland versus Ukraine play-off in June, while New Zealand take on Costa Rica and Peru meet either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.

To further whet the appetite ahead of Friday's draw, Stats Perform looks at some key questions to be answered with the aid of Opta data.

 


Will Europe continue to dominate?

The past four World Cups have been won by European teams: Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018.

That is the longest run of victories for a single continent in the tournament's history, with only one defeated finalist – Argentina in 2014 – coming from outside of Europe.

Indeed, a European team has triumphed in 12 of the previous 21 editions, with South America responsible for the other nine victors.

France are the reigning champions and are aiming to become the third team to retain the trophy after Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962).

However, a word of warning for Les Bleus – the past three defending champions have been eliminated in the group stage (Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018).

 


No Italy, but will it be a familiar winner?

Despite that, France will be fancied by many having reached the final in half of the past six World Cups –1998, 2006 and 2018 – which is more than any other country.

Another World Cup heavyweight will not be present in Qatar, though, as four-time winners Italy – only Brazil (five) have won more trophies – missed out in the play-offs.

Speaking of Brazil, they are taking part in their 22nd World Cup, making them the only team to have featured in every edition of FIFA's showpiece competition.

Like Italy, Germany have won four titles and they have reached the semi-finals on four of the past five occasions, which is double the number of any other team in that period.

No matter how strong a side, a perfect tournament is tough to come by – only Brazil in 1970 and 2002 have achieved that since the 1930s, when teams played just four games.


Or is it a chance for someone new to shine?

Canada will play in their first World Cup since 1986; that gap of 36 years the longest between appearances among teams confirmed to be taking part in this year's event.

Egypt and Norway had the longest gap at 56 years, though Wales will break that should they advance from their play-off to qualify for the first time since 1958 (64 years).

Qatar are the only new face and will aim to avoid becoming just the second hosts to be eliminated in the first round after South Africa in 2010.

Mexico will also have their sights set on the knockout stages, though no side has played as many games (57) as them without reaching the final.

Netherlands, meanwhile, have reached the final on more occasions (1974, 1978 and 2010) without lifting the coveted trophy than anyone else.

 


Can Ronaldo and Muller set new records?

Cristiano Ronaldo will appear at a record-equalling fifth World Cup and is out to become the first player ever to score in five different editions.

The Portugal forward has seven World Cup goals in total, nine short of the record held by Miroslav Klose, who netted all 16 of his goals from inside the penalty area.

Thomas Muller has an outside chance of catching countryman Klose in Qatar, having scored 10 times across his three previous participations – no active player has more.

The top scorer in a single World Cup is Just Fontaine, who scored 13 times in 1958, including a goal in all six of France's games.

Not since Gerd Muller in 1970, with 10 goals for Germany, has a player reached double figures in a single edition. Brazil great Ronaldo's eight in 2002 is the highest since then.

Russian teams will be welcomed back into world football immediately once the invasion of Ukraine ends, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has declared.

Infantino said FIFA "would be there the first day to play football again", as he spoke at the world governing body's congress in Qatar, this year's World Cup host country.

Infantino, who in 2019 was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by Russian president Vladimir Putin, said he was "devastated" by the news coming out of Ukraine.

But he said it was right that there was Russian representation at the congress, insisting the country's national federation had not been suspended by FIFA.

The country's national and club teams have been blocked from playing in FIFA and UEFA competitions, including the World Cup, but Infantino said it was important to maintain dialogue with federation officials.

Speaking in a news conference following the congress session, Infantino said: "I'm very sad of course for what is happening, and I'm as devastated as everyone."

He added: "We had to suspend Russia and Russian teams. It's not an easy decision of course, because it's about people who love football.

"We had to take the decisions, and now we have to look forward and hope the hostilities can stop, and we can bring a little bit of peace.

"The decision on Russia has been taken. The Russian Football Union has appealed the decision to CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] so we are waiting for the result of the CAS deliberations.

"We will see what comes next. I sincerely hope the conflict can end, and we would be there the first day to play football again, because that's what I think is needed in this country.

"Russia as a football union, like any other federation, has not been suspended as such by FIFA, it has been participating in this congress as well."

Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, and now Qatar, whose qualification as suitable hosts has frequently been called into question, will stage the tournament in November and December of this year.

Asked whether Qatar would be awarded a World Cup based on what FIFA considers are now increasingly robust methods of deciding who should be hosts, Infantino initially distanced himself from the decision that was made in 2010, when Sepp Blatter was the governing body's president.

"When it comes to the Qatar World Cup, the decision has been taken now 12 years ago, when I was far away from FIFA happenings in these days," said Infantino, who was UEFA secretary general at the time.

"We've now put in place a different bidding process, which I think is also pretty unique, and I said in the past bulletproof. I hope it will continue to be bulletproof. It's open, it's transparent, it's professional and you know why you vote for somebody when you vote for somebody.

"This is what has happened for the men's World Cup in 2026 and for the women's World Cup in 2023.

"We still see even in these decisions there are political votes rather than factual-based votes. That's probably part of the game.

"When it comes to Qatar, the decision has been taken. We'll organise the best World Cup ever here in Qatar, and in any case we shouldn't go back. We should look forward, and we should look at what has happened.

"All the changes that have happened in this country in terms of workers' rights and human rights, and so on, would not have happened or certainly not at the same speed without the projectors of the World Cup being there."

Speaking about Qatar, whose records have been criticised by human rights organisations, Infantino said the tournament would "show to the world there are people living here, and you can come here and feel safe and be safe".

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