England delight in their chaotic complacency, but the World Cup draw is a lot more difficult than it might seem

Some lessons, it seems, are never learned. Gareth Southgate may have been characteristically reserved in his reaction to Friday’s World Cup draw, but most seemed to agree with Kyle Walker’s statement that “you have to be happy with the teams that we drew”.

The triumphalism wasn’t quite as strident as it was before World Cup 2010, but if other sides are truly inspired by the misunderstood irony of the Three Lions, England’s group stage opponents will rage over some of yesterday’s headlines.

Aside from the dangers of chaotic complacency, this is not an easy lot. “Some of the ties might be more difficult than the rankings,” Southgate said, but the rankings are difficult enough. According to the FIFA rankings, this is the toughest group.

Partly this is a result of the uncertainty about the final European team due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This unknown team was classified as a Pot 4 team at the draw, but of the three teams involved, only Scotland would be a Pot 4 team; Wales and Ukraine would have been in Pot 3.

But here we are already talking about the trifles of football. That’s what sportswashing does and why it’s so insidious, infecting a cause we love that we end up ignoring the cheesy horror of the spectacle.

England’s first Group B game will be played at the Khalifa Stadium, where British construction worker Zac Cox fell to his death in 2017. His death was one of only three work-related deaths on World Cup construction sites recognized by the Qatari authorities. Amnesty International doubts these figures.

At least 6,500 migrant workers have died in infrastructure projects in Qatar. When Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan worker, raised concerns about working conditions, he was held in solitary confinement for a month before finally being allowed to leave Qatar two months later after paying a fine for spreading “fake news”.

The draw focused on Qatar’s culture of hospitality. Wealthy Europeans seem to enjoy it. But LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are still waiting for basic assurances. Last week, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, chairman of Qatar’s national counter-terrorism committee, said rainbow flags could be confiscated to “protect” the person carrying them.

This inspires little confidence and appears to be in direct contradiction to Rules 15 and 23 of the FIFA Statutes, which state the responsibility of members and confederations to “prohibit all forms of discrimination”.

It was striking how aggressive the Qatari tone has been in recent days, as the general secretary of the Supreme Handover and Legacy Committee Hassan al-Thawadi urged the Norwegian Football Association president Lise Klaveness to “enlighten” herself after she suggested that “the injured migrant workers, the families of the deceased must be cared for”.

Of course, this reconnaissance process could be easier if journalists – like the Norwegian film crew arrested last November – were not intimidated into trying to cover such issues. If this is the approach now that it’s time to prepare a PR strategy, ask yourself what can happen when the chaos of the tournament itself arrives.

A Honduran delegate insisted that this was neither the time nor the place for such discussions. But if not now, then when?

And so back to the group. As Southgate pointed out, Game 3 will be difficult for whoever qualifies. It could be Ukraine, who with all the emotions of war and the feeling of fighting for a cause, will be very different from the side that beat England 4-0 at the European Championships last summer.

History also offers no grounds for optimism against the USA, as England have failed to win either of their previous two World Cup clashes. There was Rob Green’s roar and the 1-1 draw in Rustenburg in 2010. And 60 years before that, the 0-1 defeat in Belo Horizonte. The USA were then a motley crew of mostly amateur players, but today they have what is arguably the most promising squad in their history, with players who are regulars at Chelsea, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona.

England start against Iran, a country they have never played against before. The UK imposed sanctions on Iran in 2007 and although last month’s release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori removes an immediate flashpoint, there will be inevitable political tensions. Iran is probably not the 21st best team in the world, even if the Fifa rankings say so. They have only won two games at the World Cup, one of which was against USA in 1998. Solid and well organized, they have conceded just four goals in ten games in the third round of Asian qualifying.

group of death? Well, at this World Cup they are all, and the metaphor should probably be withdrawn for reasons of taste. Group of confusing complex politics? Well, in modern times, obviously. It’s likely that England will pull through, that it will be a slog and there will be big outbursts of frustration, talk of the need to unleash this great generation of attacking talent, based in part on the underestimation of England’s opponents.

And it doesn’t matter because world championships aren’t won in the group stage, they’re won in knockout matches against the elite. And none of that will matter, because football shouldn’t be a propaganda tool and its great tournaments shouldn’t be made possible by exploited labour.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/world-cup/england-rejoice-in-jingoistic-complacency-but-world-cup-draw-is-far-trickier-than-it-may-appear-41515360.html England delight in their chaotic complacency, but the World Cup draw is a lot more difficult than it might seem

Fry Electronics Team

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