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Qatar World Cup is a joke and only a Lionel Messi win can save it

Let’s just hope the football makes up for the chaos this tournament has created

A victory for Lionel Messi and Argentina could save the World Cup. Photo: Ryan Lim/AFP via Getty Images© AFP via Getty Images

John Aldridge is greeted by Ireland manager Jack Charlton on being substituted in the World Cup quarter-final against Italy in Rome in 1990. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Harry Maguire's loss of form could be a real problem for England. Photo: Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images© The FA via Getty Images

Former FIFA chief Blatter© Getty Images

John AldridgeSunday World

The World Cup gets underway today –and,to be honest, I’m notthatinterested in it.

It’s criminal on so many levels that the greatest tournament in football has been diluted to the point where a lot of us are not too bothered about watching it.

My passion for international football has waned in recent years, partly because Ireland struggled so badly – and also because club football is a much better spectacle to watch.

Roll the clock back to the World Cups I was so proud to play in during Jack Charlton’s time as Ireland manager, it really felt like we were playing on the biggest stage in the world.

Yet, I wonder whether the players who will play for their national teams in Qatar over the next month will feel that same sense of pride.

John Aldridge is greeted by Ireland manager Jack Charlton on being substituted in the World Cup quarter-final against Italy in Rome in 1990. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Only a week ago, all of them were playing for their club sides, with FIFA’s ludicrous decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in the summer, and then move it to the winter, coming home to roost now.

We all knew they couldn’t play a tournament in this part of the world in June and July, but we also know why the decision was taken to put it there.

Jamie Carragher called the FIFA decision-makers who gave Qatar the World Cup corrupt, and I would agree with that.

You can’t prove anything dodgy went on, but it’s tough to get away from the reality that the decisions made 12 years ago to give this World Cup to a country that couldn’t host it in the summer have ruined it for everyone.

Once the matches start and we get stuck into the action, some of us will change our tune a little because, at the end of the day, I love watching football.

Yet, we all love the World Cup because it is an event that sparks our summers every four years. However, this tournament feels like it has been squeezed into the season as an afterthought.

This is not me having a go at Qatar, because I’m all for spreading the game far and wide.

Yet, the way this has been done – and the idea that we are playing a World Cup in a country that is not the size of Co Wexford – is pretty ridiculous.

I watched my first World Cup in 1966 and have great memories of that tournament.

Every four years after that, there are memories etched into all our minds of Brazil’s incredible team in 1970, a memorable World Cup in Argentina and then Diego Maradona’s brilliance in 1986.

The pride I had when pulling the shirt on for Ireland four years later in Italy gives me goose-bumps to this day, and that’s the way it should be for the players of this era now.

Instead, we have seen players on TV in recent days saying this tournament should not be happening in November and apologising for Qatar’s human-rights record.

It’s not the players’ job to get involved in that kind of politics and when we are watching this World Cup, remember that it is the clubs paying these lads their wages, while the domestic season is stopped to pander to FIFA’s dodgy deal from over a decade ago.

Whatever we make of this mess, I’d love to see Lionel Messi win the World Cup at last in Qatar.

He has been a magnificent player and far more likeable than his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has made so many headlines with his big interview slagging off Manchester United in recent days.

I spend a lot of my time in Portugal as I have a house in the Algarve, so I’d like to see them do well, and it would also be nice to see Wales have a run.

Harry Maguire's loss of form could be a real problem for England. Photo: Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images© The FA via Getty Images

England have a decent chance to make progress in the competition, but they have problems defensively, with Harry Maguire horribly out of form. That’s a problem for them.

Without any build-up games and after a long list of big-name players pulled out of the competition due to late injuries, we are heading into the unknown with this World Cup.

That could open the door to some big upsets and just two days after the final is played on December 18, Liverpool will play Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.

I don’t know how football has allowed this madness to take place, but let’s just hope the football makes up for the chaos this tournament has created.


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