One of the greatest footballers in history has been linked with an incredible move down under.
Portugeuse great Cristiano Ronaldo, who is preparing to compete in the World Cup in Qatar, appears certain to leave Manchester United after an explosive interview with broadcaster Piers Morgan.
His relationship with the club and manager Erik Ten Haag has detiriorated and the 37-year-old could reportedly have his contract at the English Premier League giants torn up.
With Ronaldo’s former teammate Nani currently at Melbourne Victory, the A-League has already registered an interest in Ronaldo should he become available.
“We haven’t been in Nani’s ear but we have certainly registered our interest in bringing him to Australia,” Australian Professional Leagues chief Danny Townsend said on SportFM.
“Obviously it’s a long shot but we have certainly got a compelling proposition for him here in Australia to consider.
“We’re in dialogue and we’ll see where that goes.”
ENGLAND’S BIZARRE PENALTY ROUTINE REVEALED
Dan King, The Sun
England is practising penalties without goalkeepers in a bid to avoid more shootout heartache.
Gareth Southgate does not want his stars’ confidence plummeting because his keepers are saving too many in training.
So the Three Lions, who agonisingly lost the Euro2020 final on penalties to Italy, are training for spot-kicks using a skill net which forces players to hit corners.
Keeper Aaron Ramsdale, 24, revealed: “It can become detrimental if they are taking them against goalkeepers because we then start to know where they are going.
“If I know where you are going seven times out of ten and I start cheating and going early and start saving them, you might start worrying about it.
“We have something which is called a skills net where the corners are open.
“At the moment the lads are just working on technique.
“Everybody can take penalties, it is just those fine pressure-margins which we can’t recreate out there unfortunately.”
Southgate’s attention to detail helped the Three Lions beat their spot-kick hoodoo in the last-16 win over Colombia at the last World Cup.
It was their first penalty shootout triumph in a World Cup — at their fourth attempt.
Southgate prepared his players for penalties at Russia 2018 by getting them to replicate the dreaded walk from the halfway line to take them in training.
But after misses from Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka in the Euros final against Italy 16 months ago, England have won just two from nine shootouts at major tournaments — their only other success coming against Spain at Euro 96.
Ramsdale says players will build up to practicing penalties in front of keepers — but he would never let one in to build their confidence.
THE QATAR RESULT ENGLISH BOOKIES FEAR MOST
Betting turnover on the World Cup will be in the billions of dollars — and bookmakers fear a big payout if Gareth Southgate’s England side finally win the trophy after a 56-year wait.
The World Cup generates huge interest from punters, in stark contrast to the other quadrennial global sporting showpiece, the Olympics, which “barely causes a ripple”, a leading English bookmaker told AFP.
Punters will cast their eyes over Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe on football’s greatest stage in Qatar from Sunday and beat a path to the doors of bookmakers round the world or bet online.
The Olympics may attract a global television audience to compare to the World Cup but with 32 different sports it does not whet the appetite of the betting public.
“The World Cup is by far the biggest betting event we see, with no comparison to the Olympics, which barely causes a ripple amongst punters,” David Stevens, head of public relations at Coral bookmakers, told AFP.
“Estimates for global turnover on this World Cup vary wildly. “While we’ll never know the exact figure, it’s fair to say it will be in the billions of dollars around the world, given the far-reaching appeal of the World Cup, from America to Asia and all points in between.” William Woodhams, CEO of the world’s oldest bookmakers Fitzdares, said the Beautiful Game appeals to all.
“Football is a mature betting market, the biggest in Europe and the World Cup is popular with the casual punter through to the seasoned professional or high-staking punter.” Woodhams and Stevens say the timing of the kick-offs, with Qatar three hours ahead of Britain and two hours ahead of Western Europe, is also a godsend for European punters and bookmakers alike.
This time-friendly scenario will also lend itself Woodhams believes to a significant rise in the amount of live betting during a game.
“This will probably be the first World Cup where the in-play market is at least one third of total bets,” he said.
“It’s the way the sport is going and it makes the 90 minutes a more exciting experience.” –
For Stevens the greatest fear on a business side is an England win and also if Wales — in their first World Cup finals since 1958 — go far into the tournament.
“A win for Gareth Southgate’s men is a real possibility, and with it a multi-million pound payout to patriotic punters,” said Stevens.
“In our favour, we have the likes of Brazil and Argentina running for us, these teams will have their backers, but not to the extent England will.
“That said, we’ve avoided an England World Cup win since 1966, so we can’t really complain if it finally happens this year!” Stevens sets aside his patriotic cap for his dream scenario — that the final goes to penalties, as most punters bet on an overall winner after 90 minutes.
“It’s going to be a massive few weeks, now all we need is England v Brazil in the final, and yes, you’ve guessed it, Brazil to win on penalties after a 0-0 draw!” Punters, though, are nothing but imaginative with the chances they see of making money as Woodhams discovered with one of their account holders.
“Someone wanted a bet on the first player to be expelled from Qatar,” he said.
“It wasn’t an actual person, just that a player would be expelled within the first five days of the tournament.
“We didn’t take the bet as we couldn’t agree with them on a price! They wanted 50/1.” Woodhams says there is still traditionally more money placed ahead of a match on the result or who will score first — and it is not just on the matches featuring the tournament favourites.
He said games with what he called a “strong narrative”, or interest beyond football, would attract bets.
For example, “I can see Americans popping a patriotic Franklin ($100) on their team against Iran.”
MUSK’S VIRAL WORLD CUP TWEET
As Twitter shutdown and RIP Twitter trend worldwide after Elon Musk’s takeover, the new owner of the social media giant has posted about the World Cup.
Musk urged Twitter users to “watch on Twitter for best coverage & real-time commentary.”
For the record, Twitter is not listed as an official media licensee of the Qatar World Cup.
Musk’s tweet will at least give hope to users of the social media site that it has a future beyond the weekend amid grim predictions, job losses and resignations.
DENMARK WON’T BE SILENCED ON QATAR CRITICISM
Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand said his team would not be silenced over the issue of human rights at the Qatar World Cup and hoped the tournament could spark reforms in football.
Qatar has faced criticism over its treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community in the run-up to the showpiece, which starts on Sunday.
Denmark has been a vocal critic of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup due to its human rights record and the country’s government and royal family have said they will not attend.
World governing body FIFA last week dismissed Denmark’s request to wear training shirts bearing the slogan “Human Rights for All” in Qatar, ruling that it was a political message.
Hjulmand shrugged off the shirt ban ahead of a training session, saying: “There are different ways of doing things”.
“Yeah, I could wear a T-shirt, but there’s also really hard work behind the scenes that you don’t see,” he said.
“We’re not being silenced. There is a lot of work going on from the Danish side, from the Danish team, from our sports director, from the board.
“There’s a lot of ways to try to change things and hopefully we won’t be put in this situation again.” Hjulmand said he had “two dreams” for what protest action could achieve. “One dream is that in the governing bodies of football, and maybe sports altogether, we have more progressive, young, diverse people in the places where decisions are being made,” he said.
“The second part is that we in the world have more empathy and listen and try to understand other people.” Denmark defender Rasmus Kristensen said the players supported the football association’s approach.
The Leeds United player said it was “a shame” that they were not allowed to wear the training jerseys with a message supporting human rights.
“It’s apparently FIFA rules,” he said, adding “we will see”, when asked if the players were planning any other protests.
“You can disagree and I think we do.”
Gaping hole in Qatar’s WC plans after viral video
GAPING HOLE IN QATAR’S WORLD CUP PLANS
By Jake Sanders, The Sun
The tournament kicks off when the hosts face Ecuador on Sunday but the build up hasn’t been without its challenges.
The prices of beer and food have been criticised, while the expensive rooms have been slammed.
But the latest problem in the Middle East comes as a surprise.
That’s because footage has emerged of a large hole in a walkway just metres away from the 80,000-seater stadium.
Fortunately, the Lusail Iconic Stadium, the biggest venue at the World Cup, doesn’t host its first match until 22 November when Argentina play Saudi Arabia.
But authorities will need to get the issue dealt with because it’s set to host 10 games, including the final on 18 December.
The video of the hole went viral on Instagram and users have been reacting.
One said: “The hate is crazy! There’s pot holes outside every stadium in UK.”
Another admitted: “I wonder if you were looking for holes at the Brasil World Cup or South Africa.”
A third joked: “It’s a tunnel, free ticket.”A fourth said: “Where there’s blame, there’s a claim.”
WILL ANY MUSIC STARS PERFORM IN QATAR?
Several global stars have refused to take part in the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup, and with two days to go, it is still not clear who will perform.
The most likely appearance is Jungkook of K-pop megastars BTS, who was rumoured to have already arrived in Qatar on Friday.
Britain’s Robbie Williams, who performed at the last World Cup in Moscow, is also considered a likely participant.
But several musicians have made clear they will not perform, in protest at Doha’s human rights records, particularly with regard to LGBT rights.
Rod Stewart: The rock legend gave a definitive no to organisers.
Stewart told The Times that he was “offered a lot of money, over $1 million, to play there 15 months ago”, but that he turned them down.
“I refused. It’s not right to go,” the 77-year-old British singer said, adding that it was “respect for human rights in general” that had led to his decision.
Dua Lipa: The 27-year-old British star, who has a huge LGBT fanbase, had also been tipped for an appearance, but she shut down the rumours in a post to her 87 million Instagram followers.
“I will not be performing and have not been involved in any negotiations to perform in Qatar,” the “Levitating” singer wrote, adding that she would support England “from afar”.
“I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host,” she added.
Shakira: Another name that had been slated to perform was Shakira, who has been a regular at previous World Cups while married to Spanish footballer Gerard Pique.
She was the voice of the 2010 edition in South Africa, alongside local group Freshlyground, for the official theme “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” and performed four years later in Brazil.
But her team recently told Spanish news outlets that she would no longer be performing in Qatar, without giving a specific reason.
Lil Baby?: US rapper Lil Baby, who has 32 million monthly listens on Spotify, released one of the official sponsorship songs this year, “The World Is Yours to Take”, which samples the Tears for Fears classic, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.
But he has remained silent on whether he will actually make an appearance in Qatar.
GERMANY ‘READY TO PAY FINES’ FOR CUP STANCE
German Football Association president Bernd Neuendorf said the organisation was ready to face financial sanctions for taking a stand on human rights issues at the World Cup in Qatar.
DFB chief Neuendorf said he was “irritated” by statements made by FIFA in the run-up to the tournament, which starts on Sunday.
The world governing body earlier this month told the 32 participating teams to “focus on football” and avoid ideological battles.
The build-up to the World Cup has been dominated by concerns over the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community.
Neuendorf said he “did not want to rule out further actions” in support of human rights.
Captain Manuel Neuer has committed to wear a “One Love” armband to promote diversity and inclusion — along with skippers from several other European teams — with Neuendorf saying it was unclear whether FIFA would take action.
He said wearing the armband “was not a political declaration, but a statement (of support) for human rights”.
“Should there be financial sanctions, I am personally ready to pay a fine,” he said.
He also reiterated that the DFB would not support the re-election of FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, who is running unopposed for a third term as head of the governing body.
“We need to send a signal,” he said. “His (Infantino’s) statement that human rights should not be focused on because of the World Cup, that really irritated me.” Four-time winners Germany play their first game of the tournament against Japan on November 23
Originally published as FIFA World Cup 2022: All the latest news from Qatar