Qatar coach: Team must shut out ‘noise’ in World Cup opener

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar coach Felix Sanchez says criticism of the World Cup host will not be allowed to destabilize his team.

Qatar kicks off the tournament against Ecuador on Sunday with the eyes of the world on the emirate, which has faced criticism for its human rights record, including its treatment of migrant workers and the LGBTQ community.

Sanchez, a Spaniard who led Qatar to triumph in the 2019 Asian Cup, said he and his players have had to shut out the issues that have surrounded the conservative Muslim nation in the run-up to the tournament.

“The best thing that can happen is to focus on football, keep calm and avoid the noise and rumours,” he said Saturday. “Obviously we don’t like it when people criticize our country. We managed to have great preparation, kept calm and that’s how we planned this.”

Sanchez dismissed as “misinformation” an unsubstantiated rumour that attempts had been made to bribe Ecuador players ahead of the match.

“For many, many years we’ve been training and preparing. We are together strong. No one will be able to destabilize us,” he said. “We are motivated and happy to play in the World Cup tomorrow. We need to control our emotions and bring our A game and don’t take anything else into account.”

Qatar, which is playing its first World Cup, is in Group A together with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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