Doha: A World Cup buildup laced in controversy and geopolitical undertones has conjured up the most politically charged of matchups on the field in Qatar.
Just like at the FIFA showpiece in 1998, the United States will play Iran with diplomatic relations yet to be restored between the nations since being severed in the 1970s.
The Mother of All Games Part II.
(A) political group, but I’m not political, Iran’s Croatian coach, Dragan Skocic, said.
I focus on football. I think this is the best way in sport and also we should give people the chance to make the situation better.
The hope will be for a repeat of the tranquility around the 1998 encounter in France where the Iranians brought white roses for their American opponents before winning 2-1.
It’s 24 years later from 1998 and further removed from the 70s and both nations have evolved tremendously since then, U.S coach Gregg Berhalter said.
For us, it’s a soccer game.
But if Group B needed any more intrigue it was provided in Friday’s draw in Doha by the headline participant being Euro 2020 runner-up England, whose government has endured tense relations with Tehran.
And the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which spilled into the Doha convention center, were evident in the final team drawn in the group. Ukraine’s ability to qualify for Qatar has been delayed by the war halting football in the country. But if they beat Scotland and then Wales in the playoffs in June, the Ukrainians will contest a World Cup for the first time since 2006.