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It’s going to be amazing for the players in Qatar: Townsend

its going to be amazing for the players in qatar townsend
its going to be amazing for the players in qatar townsend
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Excitement is building ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and one player excited to see preparations for the tournament was Everton winger Andros Townsend. The 31-year-old was in Doha recently receiving treatment at Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital after suffering a serious knee injury while playing for the Toffees last season.
His time in the country included a visit to the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s (SC) Legacy Pavilion, where he found out more about this year’s tournament, which will take place from 20 November to 18 December. Townsend, who scored three goals in 13 appearances for England, spoke to about his Qatar experience, along with his anticipation ahead of international football’s showpiece event. Excerpts:

How is your recovery from knee surgery going?
It’s going well. I’m four months in now, which is probably just over halfway. I came to Qatar to see a specialist, so I’ve had an amazing week here and learned some new things that I will take back to my rehab back in England.

Tell us about your experience at Aspetar.
It’s such a good complex. I’ve been to other ones, but this one is at a different level, in terms of the facilities and the people working there like Dr Enda King, who is the best in his field. It’s been an amazing experience to go and work there on a consistent basis for the past week.

When do you hope to return to the football pitch?
Anywhere between October and just after the World Cup. There’s a big window there, where if I want to push it, I could return before the World Cup begins, but if I want to be safe, it would be after the World Cup.

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How have you found the hospitality during your stay here in Qatar?
It’s been amazing. Not only at Aspetar, but the hotel and the people at the SC have been so welcoming and polite, so it’s been a great experience. I will definitely come back to Qatar, for sure.

How much are you looking forward to the World Cup?
Very much so. Obviously, being English and an England fan, to see us come so close in the Euros last year, it will be interesting to see how England get on. Can we go that one step further? It will be an exciting tournament, as you’ve obviously got Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who could potentially be in their last World Cup, so there are so many things to look forward to and I can’t wait to watch it as a fan.

This will be the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world. How important is it to stage the tournament in different parts of the world?
I think it’s very important. As players, we’re used to playing in England and Europe, so we really don’t get to experience football outside of Europe very often. You might get to go on a pre-season tour to Australia or the USA, but we rarely get to come to places like Qatar, so it’s going to be amazing for all the players to come here, experience a different culture and the way they like to do things. It will be a great experience.

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This will be the most compact FIFA World Cup in modern history. For the teams and players, they will be able to stay and train in one location during their stay. How much of a difference will that make to their preparations and their recovery time between games?
Honestly, it will do the players the world of good to know that wherever they’re playing, they don’t have to leave their base camp and they can stay where they’re settled. They don’t have to fly anywhere, it’s all short journeys by coach. Honestly, I don’t think people realise how much that plays into the minds of players and how well they can perform off the back of it.

This World Cup is also taking place in November and December, which will be the midway point of the European club season. How will that impact the players in the tournament?
You would like to think players will be in better shape, playing in the middle of their seasons as opposed to after the end of a long, hard campaign.
This is especially true for players who play in European competitions.
I like to think it will be a better quality of competition because of that.

As an England international, how do you assess the Three Lions’ chances at this World Cup?
I’m pretty confident, which is always a worrying place to be as an England fan! I think we’ve done well in the last few years, probably because the expectations have not been there. To get to the final of the Euros and to a semi-final in the previous World Cup were great achievements, so I think myself and a lot of other England fans are expecting us to go at least to a semi-final. Hopefully, we can go one better from the previous tournament. I’m confident, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad.

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Who do you think will be England’s key players at Qatar 2022 and why?
I think it’s difficult to look beyond Harry Kane. For me, he is the best striker in the world. He’s in the prime of his career, so this could be a tournament where he really makes a big impact. I know he won the Golden Boot at the previous World Cup, but hopefully, this can be the tournament where he really takes it by the scruff of the neck, wins another Golden Boot and helps England progress far.

Do you think Gareth Southgate’s side has what it takes to win the title?
I like to think so. They got to the final of the Euros, didn’t lose a game there and were one penalty kick away from winning the whole thing, so they will be better for that experience. They got to the semi-final of the previous major tournament, so it seems they are going one better each time. Hopefully, this can be the time this squad are all reaching their prime and bring the cup home.

Which teams do you think will make the World Cup final?
Outside of England, I think France will be there. I’ll be very, very surprised if they are not. I think they’re the team to beat. I’m sure the Belgians won’t be far away as well. They seem to get bad luck with draws in major tournaments and end up not progressing as far as they would like.      

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