Hot on the heels concerns raised about human rights issues in Qatar Fifa was on Saturday warned of imminent plot to fix matches involving the host nation to ensure that the it progressed to the next round.
Of the 32 teams taking part in the elite football tournament, Qatar is arguably the weakest team and it would surprise the footballing world if scored a handful of goals, leave alone progressing to the round of 16.
The revelations contained in a report Fifa has received just hours to the kick-ff on Sunday November 20 further dents the integrity of the Qatar World Cup, which two week earlier had been called into question when former Fifa president Sepp Blatter disclosed that the tournament corruptly awarded to the Arab sultanate to host.
Further allegations of corruption emerged after it was revealed that the emirate may have hired foreign football fans to rally behind the host nation to intimidate visiting teams.
Consequently, Qatar’s results in the build-up to the World Cup have been called into question on the eve of their tournament opener against Ecuador, after FIFA received an integrity alert.
It has been claimed that that one of Fifa’s integrity partners have contacted the world governing body in the last few days highlighting “an unusually high number of penalties” awarded to Qatar in their pre-World Cup friendlies, many of which were staged behind closed doors and not televised or streamed.
The integrity alert is understood to have warned Fifa of suggestions that a high number of spot-kicks were awarded to ensure that Qatar achieved positive results in the tournament build-up, although it adds that this claim cannot be verified.
The red flag also notes that Qatar have had an unusual number of friendlies in comparison with other competing nations over recent months, with the hosts playing seven games since July compared to England’s two.
Qatar played five of those games behind closed doors over the summer, with even sponsors and dignitaries kept away from their training ground and little information relayed to the public.
Qatar were unbeaten in their first four games before losing 3-0 to Croatia Under 23s.
Fifa’s integrity warning also notes that even their match monitoring partners have struggled to unearth data on the games in question.
Qatar are the bottom-ranked team in Group A, which also features Holland and Senegal, but are under pressure from the government and ruling family to qualify for the knockout stages in their first major tournament.
After failing to qualify for 2018, Qatar enjoyed success under coach Felix Sanchez, winning the 2019 Asian Cup and reaching the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals last year. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Sanchez.
Secrecy and isolation have been a feature of their World Cup preparations, with a four-month training camp in summer followed by another behind-closed-doors trip to Spain last month. Fifa declined to comment. Qatar’s World Cup organisers could not be reached.
- A Tell / Daily Mail report