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England players may protest against Qatar once World Cup spot is confirmed | England

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England’s players plan to discuss how to express their concerns about human rights in Qatar once they have qualified for the 2022 World Cup.

Players from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have held on-pitch protests against Qatar during qualification for the tournament and there have been calls for Gareth Southgate’s side to speak out as well. England have so far preferred to keep the focus on reaching the World Cup but the mood is likely to change after Monday’s trip to San Marino.

Southgate’s team need only a point from their final Group I qualifier and Conor Coady, who is part of the squad’s leadership group, said the players will hold talks over opposing Qatar’s human rights record after they have qualified. “A conversation hasn’t been had yet because we’ve always said – obviously we are seeing quite a lot in the news at the minute – that we make sure we do our job first,” Coady said. “We make sure we try to get to that competition as quickly as we can and then I’m sure the conversation will be had with the players.

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Uefa World Cup qualifying play-offs

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1. There are three qualifying spots at Qatar 2022, to be played for by 12 teams: 10 group runners-up plus the two highest ranked winners of Nations League groups that have not qualified otherwise. Portugal, Scotland, Russia, Sweden and North Macedonia have qualified as runners-up. 

Several teams are guaranteed at least a play-off spot (including Poland, who stand only a theoretical chance of catching England).

Either Wales or the Czech Republic will be runners-up in Group E, but whoever is not will get a spot via the Nations League route. Austria are guaranteed a spot via the Nations League route. 

2. The six group runners-up with the best records, excluding games against the bottom side in six-team groups, will be seeded. 

Portugal and Russia are sure to be seeded. Scotland are outside the seeded spots so need a result against Denmark. Wales, who need to draw with Belgium to be sure of being runners-up, would likely be seeded if they were to win. 

3. The seeded teams will play at home in the one-off play-off semi-finals, on 24-25 March. The draw on 26 November will determine which semi-finals will provide the home team in the one-off finals, on 28-29 March.

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“If there is any way players can help going forward and help in different situations, I am sure us as players and part of the England setup will try to do that. At the minute it is tough to speak about it because it is not something we have had a real conversation about.

“We are not robots, we are humans, we are seeing things in the news that are going on every day. But we’ve always said to ourselves over the last year that the most important thing is to get to where we want to be, which is to Qatar, and honestly speak about the situation when the time is right.”

England’s players have made a difference on a number of social issues. Coady, who is expected to start in defence against San Marino, pointed to Marcus Rashford’s fight against child poverty and Jordan Henderson’s support for the NHS. “That is a fantastic part of this England group,” the Wolves captain said. “The players make an incredible difference trying to use that platform to help different people – try to help kids with Rashy, the NHS with Hendo.”

England, who have travelled to San Marino without Jack Grealish, Henderson, Mason Mount, Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling, have handed Conor Gallagher his first senior call-up. The 21-year-old midfielder has impressed since joining Crystal Palace on loan from Chelsea.

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