Iran and USA vow to kick politics aside for Qatar World Cup

Iran and USA vow to kick politics aside for Qatar World Cup
Bitter geopolitical rivals Iran and the United States were both drawn in Group B for the World Cup set to take place in Qatar this November.
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Iran and the United States were both drawn in Group B at the glitzy World Cup finals draw in Doha on Friday [Eurasia Sport Images via Getty]

The coaches of bitter geopolitical rivals Iran and the United States vowed to put animosity aside when their sides meet in the World Cup finals in Qatar, after being placed in the same group.

The two countries were both drawn in Group B at the glitzy finals draw in Doha on Friday.

Iran and the United States - who severed formal diplomatic relations in 1980 - last met at the 1998 World Cup when the Iranians won a politically-charged game 2-1.

"Football transcends a lot of the political stuff and we are able to remain friends on the pitch," insisted USA coach Gregg Berhalter.

Iran's Croatian coach Dragan Skocic took a similar view of the hostilities that continue with US efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear programme.

"I don't care about this. Of course there is a story, but we are focused on the playing," he said.

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England are also in Group B and Gareth Southgate's side might come up against neighbours Wales or Scotland, although Ukraine could also take the last spot in the European play-offs, to be decided in June, after they were delayed by Russia's invasion.

In a break with recent tradition, hosts Qatar will not feature in the tournament's opening match on November 21, with that honour going to Senegal's Group A game with the Netherlands at 1:00pm (10:00 GMT). The Qataris, making their debut at a World Cup finals, will face Ecuador in the group's other game that evening.

Louis van Gaal, the veteran Dutch coach who has described the decision to hold the finals in Qatar as "ridiculous", had predicted his side would be drawn in the same group as the host nation.

"It was a gamble, but of course it's nice when a gamble becomes true," he said.

The first World Cup in the Middle East will also be the first played in November and December because of Qatar's extreme summer heat.

Europe's leading leagues will wrap up on the weekend of November 12-13 before players head to Qatar, leaving little time for national squads to prepare.

"Players will be fresher than they normally would be at a World Cup, but the lack of time is a handicap, albeit it is the same for everyone," said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

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'See Qatar as promised'

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, said in a speech at the draw he was "proud and happy that the world will see Qatar as we promised", vowing an "exceptional World Cup in our Arab world".

The build-up to Qatar 2022 has been dominated by off-field issues surrounding the awarding of the tournament.

It is the most controversial World Cup in history, with Qatar dogged ever since it was named host in 2010 by accusations of vote-buying - which were hotly denied.

Concerns remain over the treatment of gay and transgender supporters coming to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of migrant labourers.