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Canada's Alphonso Davies lands as Doha heats up ahead of World Cup kickoff

DOHA, Qatar — A smiling Alphonso Davies landed in Doha on Friday, a late arrival after undergoing therapy for a hamstring strain back in Germany.
People pose for a photograph with a FIFA World Cup sign in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. The day after its win over Japan in Dubai in its final World Cup warmup, Canada had no media availability Friday — leaving time to recover, assess and prepare for Wednesday's tournament opener against second-ranked Belgium. But while Canada laid low, the World Cup was hard to miss in downtown Doha. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Hassan Ammar

DOHA, Qatar — A smiling Alphonso Davies landed in Doha on Friday, a late arrival after undergoing therapy for a hamstring strain back in Germany.

"Brotherhood fully reunited again," Canada Soccer said in a social media post with a photo showing the Bayern Munich star giving a thumb's up.

"This is amazing," Davies said on a separate video as he walked into the Canadian team hotel complete with Maple Leaf flags and a banner saying "We are brothers. We stand on guard."

"I'm all right. I'm ready," he said after getting a hug.

The 22-year-old from Edmonton left Bayern's 3-2 win at Hertha Berlin on Nov. 6, clutching the back of his leg. Bayern subsequently said the injury was not as bad as originally feared and Davies' participation in the World Cup was "not at risk."

His arrival is a step closer to a return to action. He missed Canada's missed final warmup match, a 2-1 win over Japan in Dubai on Thursday.

The 41st-ranked Canadians, who did not have a media availability Friday, face No. 2 Belgium on Wednesday in their first Group F match. The Belgians were upset 2-1 by No. 39 Egypt in their final warmup match Friday in Kuwait City.

The next question is the status of influential midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, who sat out the Japan game after taking a knock in training.

On the plus side, captain Atiba Hutchinson saw 60 minutes of action while midfielder Jonathan Osorio got 30 minutes off the bench.

Both have seen limited action in recent months, with the 39-year-old Hutchinson sidelined by a bone bruise suffered in pre-season with Turkey's Besiktas and Osorio dealing with post-concussion syndrome after taking an elbow to the head in a Toronto FC game in Chicago.

The win over Japan, thanks to a stoppage-time penalty by Lucas Cavallini, provided several milestones.

Alistair Johnston started his 28th straight game for Canada, a men's national team record. The CF Montreal defender had shared the record for consecutive starts with former Canada captain Bruce Wilson, who compiled his streak between 1984 and '86, when Canada last appeared at the World Cup.

Junior Hoilett earned his 50th cap for Canada.

Hutchinson and veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan were first off the plane in Doha in the wee hours as the 41st-ranked Canadians left Dubai immediately after Thursday's victory over No. 24 Japan.

The World Cup is hard to miss in downtown Doha with soaring office towers adorned with giant colourful banners showcasing players like England's Harry Kane, Germany's Manuel Neuer, South Korea's Son Heung-min and the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk, among others.

Away from the city centre, the surroundings are largely one-colour — with many buildings a sand-like beige. But there are also spectacular structures, with sweeping curves.

The heat is everywhere and it gets toasty early here. We're talking prison planet temperatures. 

"Today's temperature is forecast to be NEARLY THE SAME as yesterday," said one weather website, citing the mid-afternoon temperature at 31 degrees Celsius, feeling like 34.

And tomorrow?

"Tomorrow's temperature is forecast to be NEARLY THE SAME as today."

For reporters whose luggage didn't make it to Qatar with them, a visit to the City Center Doha shopping mall provided some emergency supplies at prices that ranged from bargain-basement to severe sticker shock, often seemingly with no rhyme or reason.

Familiar North American names like Adidas and Quiksilver and British chains Boots and Debenhams were all to be found, although doors were shuttered during Friday prayers, which lasted about 90 minutes around the lunch hour.

A trip to an airport pharmacy found a range of small tubes of sunblock for $50. Pick the wrong one and you got sun protection accompanied by a bronzing effect that would have done George Hamilton proud.

Keeping hydrated will be a challenge, in some ways. The first Arab-hosted World Cup means adult beverages are scarce and/or expensive.

On Friday, the sale of beer at the eight World Cup stadiums was banned two days before the opening match. Non-alcoholic beer will still be sold at matches, likely not much of a consolation for some fans.

Two draft beers at a downtown hotel, where alcohol sales are permitted, cost 100 Riyals, about $36.60.

The tournament starts Sunday with No. 50 Qatar taking on No. 44 Ecuador.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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