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world cup Notebook

Germany offers silent protest against FIFA

Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouths during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

Germany’s players covered their mouths for the team photo before their opening World Cup match on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar, to protest against FIFA following the governing body’s clampdown on the “One Love” armband. The Germany team lined up in the traditional formation before its game against Japan and all 11 players covered their mouths with their right hands in a coordinated gesture.

“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after the match, which his team lost, 2-1.

The gesture was a response to FIFA’s effective nixing of seven European teams’ plans to wear armbands that were seen as a rebuke to host nation Qatar and its human rights record.

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Team captains, including Germany captain Manuel Neuer, had planned to wear the armband with the heart-shaped, multicolored logo, a symbol for inclusion and diversity. But the seven federations backed down after FIFA made it clear they would face consequences if they did not.

“We may have our bands taken away from us, but we’ll never let our voices be taken from us,” Neuer said. “We stand for human rights. That’s what we wanted to show. We may have been silenced by FIFA regarding the captain’s armbands, but we always stand for our values.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” armband in the stands at the Germany game, where she was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Faeser posted a photo of herself on Twitter wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.

At a later match, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wore the “One Love” armband when she met with Infantino at her country’s game against Canada. She also posted a photo of herself on Twitter wearing the band.

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Belgium disappoints Canada with 1-0 win

Thibaut Courtois saved an early penalty and Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal to give Belgium a 1-0 win over Canada at the World Cup, spoiling the North American team’s return to the tournament after 36 years.

The Canadians have yet to collect a point or even score a goal in four World Cup matches, which includes the three games from their debut in 1986.

Belgium's Michy Batshuayi celebrates Wednesday's game winner.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Still, they outplayed second-ranked Belgium at times at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, with Alphonso Davies — the star of Canada’s team — squandering the best chance when his penalty was blocked by Courtois.

With Eden Hazard ineffective and Kevin De Bruyne’s passing unusually awry, Belgium often relied on the long ball from the back and that tactic led to the 44th-minute goal. Center back Toby Alderweireld split the defense with his pass and Batshuayi ran through to guide a left-footed finish into the far corner.

Davies stood out with his driving runs from left back while captain Atiba Hutchinson, at the age of 39, became the oldest outfield player to start a World Cup match.

They had 14 shots in the first half alone, the most by a team at the World Cup without scoring in 16 years.

Gavi, 18, scores for Spain

Not since Pelé in 1958 had someone as young as Gavi scored a goal at the World Cup.

The 18-year-old midfielder led the way as Spain pulled off the biggest World Cup victory in its history, routing Costa Rica, 7-0.

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“I could never have imagined it,” said Gavi, who was named the game’s most valuable player. “I know I’m the youngest in the team and I respect everyone, but on the field it’s different and I bring out my best.”

Morocco holds off Croatia in scoreless draw

Another surprisingly strong performance by an Arab country at the World Cup in Qatar stifled the threat of Luka Modric and held 2018 finalist Croatia to a 0-0 draw.

Morocco managed to do enough to rein in Croatia captain Modric, who was still his team’s best player in their Group F opener and had one of the best chances when his shot just rose over the crossbar in the first half. Dejan Lovran got a shot off at a corner in the second half and Sofyan Amrabat cleared off the line for Morocco to preserve the draw.

“It was a difficult game, especially in the first 15 minutes,” Modric said. He said Croatia “missed something up front.”

Luka Modric and the Croatians were held scoreless Wednesday.Lars Baron/Getty

Modric didn’t have nearly the same kind of impact he had throughout the last World Cup in Russia when he led Croatia to its first final before losing to France.

That was largely down to Morocco, who harassed and harried the Croatians at every turn, buoyed by their red-shirted fans, who outnumbered and made much more noise than the Croatian supporters.

“They played their hearts out. I congratulate them on that,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. “They had a really energetic game and they had great support.”

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Injured Harry Kane could play against US Friday

England captain Harry Kane trained and could be recovered from his ankle injury to play against the United States in the World Cup. Kane was injured Monday in England’s 6-2 win over Iran.

“I think he’s good,” said England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. “He will probably be a little bit sore, but I think he’s fine. He’s out on the grass with us today and that’s good. He’s our captain and he’s fine.”

11.7 million watch US opener against Wales

The United States’ opening 1-1 draw with Wales at the World Cup was viewed by 11.7 million for its English- and Spanish-language broadcasts.

The game Monday, which kicked off at 2 p.m. EST, was seen by 8,306,000 for Fox’s English-language telecast and 3.4 million for the Spanish-language offering on Telemundo, Telemundo digital and Peacock, part of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.

Fox said the match was viewed by 563,000 on streams, the network’s group-stage high since taking over U.S. English-language rights for the 2018 tournament. There were 1.0 million streams on Telemundo and Peacock, the most-streamed Spanish-language World Cup match.

The 2014 US opener in Brazil, which started at 6 p.m. EDT on a Saturday in mid-June, was seen by 11.1 million on ESPN and 4.8 million on Univision.

Brazil wants to dance after goals

Brazil coach Tite pleaded for “respect” if his players celebrate goals at the World Cup by dancing.

Forward Raphinha revealed earlier this week that the team has prepared dances “up to the 10th goal” ahead of Brazil’s debut against Serbia on Thursday.

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Fellow forward Vinícius Júnior was criticized in Spain for dancing after his goals with Real Madrid this season.

“It’s not making fun of anyone — no way whatsoever,” Tite said. “This is one of our characteristics and we have to do it naturally wherever we may be. Just like we respect all other cultures, like we respect the Arab culture, the culture of other countries, please respect ours.”

“We must respect the way we are. It is happiness,” Tite said through an interpreter. “There are moments when we can have fun.

France’s Lucas Hernandez suffers ruptured ACL

Another one of France’s 2018 World Cup -winning team is injured and was ruled out of the title defense and likely for the rest of the season.

Lucas Hernandez, the starting left-back four years ago, lasted just eight minutes of France’s opening game against Australia on Tuesday before suffering a ruptured ACL in his right knee.

“We’re losing an important element,” coach Didier Deschamps said in French soccer federation statement. “Lucas is a warrior.”