The week-long countdown to the World Cup in Qatar began on Monday as the world’s leading footballers focused their attention on one of the most controversial tournaments in history.
After a last weekend of action, domestic leagues paused for six weeks for the global showpiece but preparation time is short for the teams.
The first World Cup to be held in the Arab world will kick off on Sunday when the host nation face Ecuador.
Holding football’s showpiece event in a desert state has necessitated an unprecedented reorganisation of the international football calendar, shifting the World Cup from its normal slot in the northern hemisphere summer to avoid the Gulf’s scorching heat.
Two of Europe’s big guns, England and the Netherlands, are among the teams due to arrive on Tuesday.
As teams rushed to submit their final squad lists, Iran named Sardar Azmoun, their star player who has expressed support for the demonstrations in his homeland, in their final squad.
Azmoun, who plays for German club Bayer Leverkusen, has posted several social media messages in support of the protests that were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Dozens of people, mainly demonstrators but also security personnel, have been killed during the protests, which the authorities have branded as “riots”.
Activists have called on fans…