Over the last week, qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began in Europe, with plenty of surprises, lopsided wins, and controversies.
Five talking points from the first three rounds of qualifiers are examined by AFP Sport:
Germany has hit a new low
Germany, the four-time world champion, suffered an almost unprecedented 2-1 home defeat by North Macedonia, which was even more humiliating than the 6-0 thrashing they received against Spain last November.
With Joachim Loew’s 15-year run as coach coming to an end after Euro 2020 later this year, concerns will be raised about his desire to coach for another 15 years.
Despite missing out on the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and being barred from participating in 1950, Germany has never failed to qualify for the tournament.
However, they are now in third position in Group J, three points behind Armenia and on goal difference behind North Macedonia.
Teams protest in support of human rights.
Several teams, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, have expressed their displeasure with the treatment of migrant workers participating in the construction of venues for next year’s finals in Qatar.
Denmark’s players wore jerseys with the slogan “Football supports Progress,” while Norway’s players wore t-shirts with the slogan “Football supports CHANGE.”
Denmark’s players wore jerseys that read “Football supports CHANGE,” while Norway’s players wore t-shirts that read “Human rights, on and off the pitch.”
However, the majority of those participating in the demonstrations have ruled out a World Cup boycott.
“A boycott would probably not change much about the situation for the workers there,” said Germany midfielder Toni Kroos.
Why isn’t there any video technology?
Danny Makkelie, the referee, apologized for his error, which revealed the lack of VAR and goalline technology in qualifying.
Because of the difficulties in implementing VAR at all stadiums due to Covid-19, it is not being used.
“When the ball went in, we scored a goal that was not given,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos informed RTP. “That isn’t possible in a match of this level.”
North Macedonia was refused a second-half penalty for a possible handball by Emre Can on Wednesday, among other controversies.
Is the Nations League supporting small countries?
One of the selling points of UEFA’s Nations League was that it would provide weaker teams with more competitive matches against countries of equal quality.
Not only for North Macedonia, but for some of Europe’s typical minnows, those games seem to be paying off.
Luxembourg won just their sixth World Cup qualifying match, a 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, before pushing European champions Portugal to a 3-1 defeat.
Malta, who have just two World Cup qualifying victories in over 100 matches, gave Russia a scare before losing 3-1, and took a two-goal lead over Slovakia before settling for a 2-2 draw on the road.
Georgia just lost to Spain due to an injury-time winner, while Cyprus drew with Slovakia and defeated Slovenia, which had just defeated 2018 runners-up Croatia.
Kazakhstan also managed a 1-1 draw against Ukraine.
Yilmaz-inspired Turkey impress
After impressive victories over the Netherlands and Norway, Turkey has made a strong start in what appears to be a competitive Group G.
Burak Yilmaz, a veteran Lille forward, has scored four goals in three games, including a hat-trick against the Netherlands, ahead of his club’s Ligue 1 match against Paris Saint-Germain this weekend.
Despite a 3-3 draw with Latvia, Turkey, who have not qualified for the World Cup since finishing third in 2002, is a point ahead of the Dutch, Norway’s Erling Braut Haaland, and Montenegro.