World soccer’s governing body FIFA has branded the Crusader costumes worn by England fans as “offensive,” ahead of Saturday morning’s clash with the USA.
The replica costumes depict the English patron Saint George and are equipped with helmets, crosses and plastic swords.
“Crusader costumes in the Arab or Middle East context can be offensive to Muslims,” FIFA told CNN.
“That is why anti-discrimination colleagues asked fans to wear things inside out or change dress.”
During the tournament in Qatar, soccer fan attire has been in the spotlight – particularly any clothing or paraphernalia that has rainbow colors.
When asked to clarify the dress code, FIFA referred CNN to the tournament handbook, which stated “expats and tourists are free to wear the clothing of their choice, as long as it is modest and respectful to the culture.”
Socceroos in defensive reshuffle
The Socceroos have been forced into a defensive reshuffle with Fran Karacic replacing an injured Nathaniel Atkinson for the crunch World Cup game against Tunisia.
Right-back Atkinson has failed to recover from an ankle injury suffered in Australia’s 4-1 loss to France in their opener in Qatar.
The 23-year-old was troubled by an ankle ailment prior to arriving in Doha.
“He got a bit of a knock on the ankle again,” Australia’s coach Graham Arnold told reporters ahead of Saturday’s match.
“Fran Karacic will come in, we have got him ready for the game.”
The Australians must win or draw against Tunisia at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday to retain a chance of advancing from a World Cup group for the just the second time.
The Socceroos are also likely to summon influential midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who missed the opening game and hasn’t played since copping an ankle injury in Italian club ranks on October 3.
Coach Arnold rates Hrustic 95 per cent fit but, beyond Karacic’s inclusion, was reluctant to detail any other changes.
“He (Hrustic) trained well, he’s recovering well, he’s mentally and physically in good shape,” Arnold said.
“I don’t think there will be too many changes, we have got to put our strongest line-up out.
“It will be very, very physical game. The Tunisians like a physical game and we have got to match that physical aspect.”
Hrustic shapes as a potential replacement for Riley McGree in a fixture kicking off at 2100 AEDT, a prime time slot in Australia.
Socceroos defender Aziz Behich said the squad was boosted after their France failure by footage from Melbourne’s Federation Square of jubilant supporters celebrating Craig Goodwin’s goal.
“We all saw the footage after Goody scored and it gives us goosebumps that you do that to the nation back home,” Behich told reporters.
“It (the Tunisia game) is a perfect time for everyone back home.
“We’re going to go out there all guns blazing.
“And when that final whistle goes, we want to see more footage of everyone at Fed Square going crazy again.
“We know what is ahead of us … it’s going to be a fight and we have got to match that fight and then play our football.
“And that football we played against France in the first 30 (minutes), that has got to be 70, 80, 90 minutes.”
The Tunisians, who drew their opener against Denmark and are ranked 30th in the world, eight spots higher than Australia, have never progressed from the group in five previous cup campaigns.
This will be their first meeting at a World Cup – the past two encounters were an Australian 3-0 win in a 1997 friendly in Tunis, and a 2-0 loss at the 2005 Confederations Cup game in Germany.
Tunisia ready for physical football scrap
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold wants a footballing fight and Tunisia’s coach says he’s going to get it in their World Cup encounter.
Arnold has forecast a physical scrap of a clash at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday night (2100 AEDT kick-off) as both nations seek a lifeline in the cup.
And Tunisian coach Jalel Kadri says, from his scouting, that’s exactly what he’s preparing his players to expect from the Australians.
“These are the specificities of the Australian team, it has a high level of athletic performance,” Kadri told reporters.
“Nevertheless we are convinced of our capabilities.
“And we have players who are ready to face this challenge.”
After losing 4-1 to France, Australia have identified the Tunisia match as a must-win to have a hope of progressing to the knockout stage for only the second time.
Tunisia, who drew with Denmark first-up, have never advanced from the group in their past five campaigns.
“This is a key match for us and for Australia, you know how important this match is for both national teams,” Kadri said.
“The Australian team is a very respected team … I consider that it’s capable of playing a high level of matches.
“They have players who are able to run very rapidly, who can ensure a good exploitation of opportunities.
“Nevertheless they have some weaknesses which we will be able to invest in.”
The Tunisians will bask in a swell of support in Qatar, with Australia bracing for a hostile reception in the pro-Arab crowd.
“It is a great opportunity for us to participate at a World Cup in an Arab country where the Tunisian community is present strongly,” Kadri said.
“We know that this will give us a great push and is something that could be added to the performance.”
Senegal win leaves hosts Qatar on brink
The World Cup hopes of host Qatar were hanging by a thread after a 3-1 loss to Senegal that leaves them bottom of Group A and facing elimination just five days after a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.
Qatar showed some flashes of exciting attacking play, but the reigning Asian champions were undone by sloppy defending that was punished by a Senegalese side that were that little bit better in every department.
In truth, with the Netherlands still to come, the Qataris have next to no chance of making it out of the group, but coach Felix Sanchez told reporters that he and his team had never expected to set the world on fire, despite being at home.
“Expectations were set to give a good performance and organise a good World Cup, and that is the case,” he told a news conference.
He praised his players for their efforts. “We wanted to show what we could do on the pitch – most of our opponents are ahead of us in many ways, but we managed to show what we can do.”
The 46-year-old Spaniard pointed out how being a small country with a small population had hindered the national team
Now, though, they must meet the Netherlands in what will almost surely be their final game at this event.
“We have to prepare for the Netherlands, and we know it’s going to be an even tougher game against them – a great opponent, with some great players,” Sanchez said.