Armed gangs kill 12 in Haiti as public security crisis deepens | News

Gangs that control much of Haiti have been targeting city of Cabaret for months, displacing thousands of people.

Gang members have killed at least 12 people and burned down houses in a town near the capital of Haiti, according to the mayor.

Joseph Jeanson Guillaume on Wednesday said police and residents forced gangsters out from the town of Cabaret, north of capital Port-au-Prince, several days ago but they returned and attacked.

“This morning we found several charred bodies,” Guillaume said.

Much of Haiti is controlled by powerful gangs that have been targeting Cabaret for months.

The attacks on the town disrupt traffic and trade as it sits along a major road, the mayor said.

In July 2021, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated which exacerbated political instability and a continuing economic crisis.

The volatility led to gangs taking more control and becoming more powerful, while thousands of people have fled the country.

The police force had 13,000 officers as of September, according to the United Nations, meaning the police are outnumbered – one for every 1,000 people.

“Nearly 96,000 people have been displaced by gangs in the capital alone,” Al Jazeera’s Prue Lewarne reported from Port-Au-Prince.

The displaced residents of the Cite Soleil neighbourhood in the capital said they did not have water, food or a place to sleep. According to the UN, about 19,000 residents of Cite Soleil face catastrophic hunger, Lewarne said.

The UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Ulrika Richardson, has said that 195 murders were recorded in October – about three per day – along with 102 kidnappings.

Armed gangs that control approximately 60 percent of the territory in Port-au-Prince are using “sexual violence, including rape … to instil fear and to punish and to terrorise the local populations”, Richardson has said.

In October, UN officials reported that gangsters blockading a major fuel terminal in Haiti were causing catastrophic hunger on the island, with more than four million people facing severe insecurity and more than 19,000 others suffering from famine.

Haiti in October formally requested international assistance to help it regain control but nothing has come of the appeal.

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Two Palestinians killed by Israel in Jenin refugee camp raid | Israel-Palestine conflict News

The Israeli military has killed two Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp after heavy clashes erupted, Palestinian officials have said, bringing the number of Palestinians killed in the last 72 hours up to eight.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the men killed on Thursday were 27-year-old Naeem Jamal al-Zubaidi and 26-year-old Mohammed Ayman al-Saadi. Another man was also injured.

The Jenin Battalion of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades told Anadolu Agency that the men killed were two of its leaders.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

The bodies of the two men were carried by Palestinian crowds from the Ibn Sina Hospital through the streets of the Jenin refugee camp.

Fatah and other Palestinian factions have called for a strike in Jenin on Thursday in protest over the killings.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian during a raid in Yabad, near Jenin, medical and military officials said.

WAFA named the 25-year-old as Mohammed Tawfiq Badarneh.

Israel’s military said it had entered Yabad to arrest Abd Al-Ghani Harzallah, who it “suspected of terrorist activity”.

The army added that it opened fire after “armed suspects fired at the soldiers and explosive devices were hurled in the area”.

This week’s deaths raise the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel this year to 210, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israel regularly raids the West Bank, which it has illegally occupied since 1967, but has stepped up the frequency this year in an attempt to crack down on growing resistance from Palestinian armed factions, particularly in Jenin and Nablus.

The near-daily raids regularly result in Israeli forces killing Palestinians.

Thirty-one people in Israel and the occupied West Bank have also been killed in Palestinian attacks this year, according to Israeli military figures.

Israeli unit removed from West Bank

The Israeli military separately said on Wednesday that it was temporarily removing a unit of ultra-Orthodox soldiers out of the occupied West Bank after a 78-year-old Palestinian American man died following an arrest by its soldiers early this year.

The army said the Netzah Yehuda (Judea Forever) Battalion will be moved to the occupied Golan Heights by the end of the year.

The announcement made no mention of the death of Omar Assad, who died after being arrested, handcuffed and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers.

Instead, it said the decision “was made out of a desire to diversify their operational deployment in multiple areas, in addition to accumulating more operational experience”. It said the unit would return to the West Bank at the end of next year.

Netzah Yehuda is a special unit for ultra-Orthodox Jewish soldiers. The unit was formed to encourage religious men, who often receive special exemptions from compulsory military service, to join the army. But its members have been implicated in past cases of abuse.

Last January, troops from Netzah Yehuda detained Assad at a checkpoint, binding his hands and blindfolding him. Troops then unbound his hands and left him face-down in an abandoned building.

The elderly man, who had lived in the United States for 40 years, was pronounced dead at a hospital after other Palestinians found him unconscious. It was unclear when exactly he died.

An autopsy undertaken by Palestinian doctors found Assad suffered from underlying health conditions, but also found bruises on his head, redness on his wrists from being bound and bleeding in his eyelids from being tightly blindfolded.

After an outcry from the US government, the Israeli military said the incident “was a grave and unfortunate event, resulting from moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers”. It said one officer was reprimanded and two other officers reassigned to non-commanding roles, over the incident.

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S Africa’s Ramaphosa faces impeachment threat over farm scandal | Corruption News

An independent panel appointed by the speaker of South Africa’s parliament has found preliminary evidence that President Cyril Ramaphosa violated his oath of office, findings that could lead to his eventual impeachment.

Parliament is set to examine the report, which was submitted on Wednesday, and decide whether to push ahead with impeachment proceedings next week.

This comes just weeks before an elective conference that will decide if Ramaphosa gets to run for a second term on the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) ticket at 2024 polls.

The president immediately denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes.

“I categorically deny that I have violated this oath in any way, and I similarly deny that I am guilty of any of the allegations made against me,” Ramaphosa said in a statement issued by the South African presidency after the findings were released on Wednesday.

In June, it emerged that an estimated $4m in cash was stolen from Ramaphosa’s game farm in 2020, raising questions about how the billionaire president, who took to power on the promise of fighting corruption, acquired the money and whether he declared it.

The three-person panel was set up in September and tasked with ascertaining whether there was sufficient evidence to show that Ramaphosa committed a serious violation of the constitution or the law or grave misconduct, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said when she was handed the report earlier on Wednesday.

The panel said Ramaphosa should face further scrutiny on his ability to stay in office.

“In all the circumstances, we think that the evidence presented to the Panel, prima facie, establishes that the president may be guilty of a serious violation of certain sections of the constitution,” the report found.

These include not reporting the theft directly to police, acting in a way inconsistent with holding office and exposing himself to a clash between his official responsibilities and his private business.

While Ramaphosa has confirmed that a robbery occurred at his farm, he said the cash was from proceeds from the sales of game. He has denied breaking the law or any regulations relating to his office.

‘Untenable position’

John Steenhuisen, the leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said Ramaphosa was in a tight bind, Reuters news agency reported.

“The report itself leaves the president in a virtually untenable position, particularly as it relates to his own party’s step-aside rules and the strong line that he has taken against others within his party,” he said.

Ramaphosa came to power in 2018 on a promise to root out graft after the corruption-stained era of his former boss, Jacob Zuma, and has generally insisted that any party official accused of corruption leave office pending investigations.

The alleged cover-up has tarnished the president’s reputation and overshadowed his bid for re-election at the helm of the ANC.

Ramaphosa, 70, is the favourite to win at the ruling party’s December 16-20 conference, where he faces a challenge from Zweli Mkhize, 66, an ex-health minister who resigned from the government last year amid corruption allegations.

In November, the spokesperson to the president, Vincent Magwenya, told journalists that Ramaphosa would “gladly step aside” if he were to be criminally charged.

The chances of impeachment are slim given the ANC’s dominance of parliament, where it holds 230 seats, or nearly 60 percent of the total, and typically votes along party lines. Impeaching a president requires a two-thirds majority.

Ramaphosa is expected to answer questions in parliament on Thursday and could face a tough time from opposition politicians.

The inquiry is separate from a criminal investigation that police are conducting, and which Ramaphosa has welcomed.

The report will be debated in the national assembly on December 6, said the speaker, Mapisa-Nqakula.

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World Cup 2022: Belgium vs Croatia match preview | Qatar World Cup 2022 News

Who: Belgium vs Croatia, Group F

Where: Al-Rayyan Stadium

When: Thursday, December 1, at 6pm (15:00 GMT)

FIFA ranking: Belgium (2), Croatia (12)

Speculation over Belgium’s demise is greatly exaggerated, Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic said ahead of Thursday’s decisive showdown between the two Group F sides.

“We are playing against the second-best football team in the world and they were number one,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Indeed, the Red Devils, as Belgium are known, are currently ranked behind only Brazil by FIFA. But while Dalic knows his team can’t take them lightly, Belgium stand on the precipice of a shock World Cup exit as they head into Thursday’s match.

Belgium’s opening game against Canada saw them outplayed for large parts of the 90 minutes, and they were lucky to escape with three points after some wayward finishing from the opposition.

KDB
Kevin de Bruyne was not impressed with his team’s performance against Morocco [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

They were further humbled in their second match when a rampant Morocco defeated them with two second-half goals. Belgium’s flat performance led Kevin de Bruyne to say his team, which came third at the 2018 World Cup, is “too old” to achieve World Cup success this year.

Later, reports emerged that there had been a dressing room argument between De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and veteran defender Jan Vertonghen. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has since dismissed these reports as “invented stories”.

What’s definitely real is the risk of elimination the Belgians face as they take on Croatia, who have enjoyed a better start to the World Cup.

Croatia played out a cagey goalless draw against Morocco in their opening match but fired four past Canada in their second game.

Morocco vs Croatia
The masked Croat Josko Gvardiol will start as centre-back against Belgium [Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera]

Both teams reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, with Croatia beating England 2-1 in extra time and Belgium narrowly losing to eventual winners France 1-0.

Belgium, who head into the final group stage match with only three points, must win to guarantee qualification. A draw would suffice only if Canada beat Morocco by a margin of four goals in their Group F game, which will be played at the same time.

Croatia have a simpler route to the Round of 16. A draw would guarantee qualification. But Dalic ruled out any notion that his team would be happy to play for a draw.

“We will play as we did against Canada, high quality, high tempo. It’s going to be a difficult game,” he said.

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been struggling with a thigh injury, could start for Belgium after coming on as a substitute against Canada. Defensive midfielder Amadou Onana is suspended after receiving two yellow cards in the first two games and will likely be replaced by Youri Tielemans.

Despite the team’s struggles so far, Belgian defender Timothy Castagne dismissed suggestions that the side was in trouble.

“The first two games were not as good as we hoped. We didn’t show everything we are capable of,” Castagne said. “But we are not in crisis.”

It’s unclear whether Ivan Perisic, the Tottenham Hotspur winger who claimed two assists against Canada, will be able to start for Croatia after being hurt. He might be replaced by Dinamo Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic.

The game between the top-ranked sides of Group F was always going to be a tough contest. As one of the final matches of a still-undecided group, it is now a decisive contest that could crush dreams or lift hopes.

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World Cup 2022: Germany vs Costa Rica match preview | Qatar World Cup 2022 News

Hansi Flick’s side need to beat Costa Rica to stand a chance of qualifying for the Round of 16.

Who: Germany vs Costa Rica, Group E

Where: Al Bayt Stadium

When: Thursday, December 1, 10pm (19:00 GMT)

FIFA rankings: Germany (11), Costa Rica (31)

Wounded Germany will have their backs to the wall when they take on Costa Rica in their final World Cup Group E match on Thursday and know they must bag their first win of the tournament, preferably by a large margin, to have any chances of advancing.

The Germans are bottom of the group having gained only one point from their two matches so far, raising the spectre of another first-round exit following their early elimination in Russia four years ago.

Even victory over the Costa Ricans may not be enough, and Germany will be looking to Spain to inflict defeat on Japan to open the door to the next round. A draw between Spain and Japan — or a win for Japan — would bring goal difference into play, if Germany does defeat Costa Rica.

Spain top the group on four points ahead of Japan and Costa Rica, both on three.

Scoring has not been a strong point for German coach Hansi Flick’s team but centre forward Niclas Fuellkrug’s excellent run for club and country in recent months has improved their prospects. The 29-year-old, an unlikely addition to the squad prior to the tournament, snatched a late equaliser against Spain after coming on as a substitute to keep their hopes alive going into the final group match.

germany
Niclas Fullkrug came off the bench to equalise for Germany against Spain [Matthew Childs/Reuters]

The burly striker is now a serious option to lead the line on Thursday with many German pundits and fans demanding he start.

However, assistant coach Marcus Sorg dampened expectations over Fuellkrug, saying he was “not a cure-all” for the team’s problems.

“We have to see what effect which player has at any given time,” Sorg said. “We need a certain structure, stability and security. Security comes with consistency.”

Whatever line-up Germany go with, they know their task is to preserve what remains of their once powerful tournament reputation, having failed to win the first two matches in a World Cup group for the first time.

Germany’s opponents on Thursday haven’t had a great time of it either — Costa Rica have had just one shot on target in their two matches.

Still, that shot resulted in the goal that brought them victory over Japan and kept their qualification hopes alive. If they defeat Germany and Spain beat Japan, they will finish second in the group. It would be some story for a team that lost its first game 7-0 to make it to the Round of 16.

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Asia’s factory activity shrinks as China lockdowns weigh on firms | Manufacturing

Slumping output highlights darkening economic outlook for Asia in 2023 as China’s lockdowns upend supply chains.

Factory output slumped widely across Asia in November as slowing global demand and uncertainty over the fallout from China’s strict COVID-19 lockdowns weighed on business sentiment.

The results highlight  Asia’s darkening economic outlook for 2023, as the lockdowns disrupt international supply and heighten fears of a further slump in its economy, the world’s second-largest.

Amid the pandemic curbs, China’s factory activity shrank in November, a private survey showed on Thursday. The result implied weaker employment and economic growth in the fourth quarter.

Manufacturing activity also contracted in export-reliant economies, including Japan and South Korea, and in emerging nations, such as Vietnam, underscoring widening damage from weak global demand and stubbornly high input costs, surveys showed.

“Cooling market conditions, sustained cost pressures and weak underlying demand, both domestically and internationally, were reportedly pivotal factors contributing to the declines,” said economist Laura Denman at S&P Global Market Intelligence, which compiles the survey on Japan.

China’s Caixin/S&P Global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) stood at 49.4 in November, up from 49.2 in the previous month but still below the 50 mark, which separates growth from contraction. It has now been below 50 for four consecutive months.

The figure followed downbeat data in an official survey on Wednesday that showed manufacturing activity had hit a seven-month low in November.

Japan’s au Jibun Bank PMI also fell, to 49.0 in November from October’s 50.7. That was the first contraction since November 2020.

South Korea’s factory activity shrank for a fifth straight month in November but the downturn moderated slightly, possibly suggesting the worst was over for businesses.

Still, South Korea’s exports in November suffered their steepest annual drop in two and a half years, separate data showed on Thursday, hit by cooling global demand in major markets led by China and a downturn in the semiconductor industry.

Lockdowns in China have hit production at a factory there that is the biggest producer of Apple. They have also stoked rare street protests across many cities.

The effect of China’s woes was felt widely across Asia. Taiwan’s PMI stood at 41.6 in November, up slightly from 41.5 in October but remaining far below the 50 mark.

Vietnam’s PMI fell to 47.4 in November from 50.6 in October, while that for Indonesia slid to 50.3 from 51.8, the private surveys showed.

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Japan court upholds ban on same-sex marriage but offers hope | LGBTQ News

A court in Japan’s capital has upheld a ban on same-sex marriage but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage and its constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the Tokyo district court said the ban was constitutional but added that “the current lack of legal framework that allows same-sex partners to become family is a serious threat and obstacle” to individual dignity.

This creates an “unconstitutional situation”, the court said.

Nobuhito Sawasaki, one of the lawyers involved in the case, called the decision “a fairly positive ruling”.

“While marriage remains between a man and a woman, and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Japan does not permit same-sex couples to marry or inherit each other’s assets, such as a shared home, and denies them parental rights to each other’s children – even hospital visits can be difficult. Though partnership certificates from municipalities cover about 60 percent of Japan’s population, they do not give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The Tokyo ruling promises to be influential as the capital has an outsized influence on the rest of Japan.

It had been keenly awaited after hopes were raised by a 2021 ruling in the city of Sapporo that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, although another decision in Osaka in June upheld the ban.

Plaintiffs hold placards that read read "A step towards Marriage Equality".
Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage [Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters]

The eight plaintiffs in the Tokyo case had said the ban contravened their human rights and demanded damages of 1 million yen ($7,215), which the court rejected.

“This is hard to accept,” said Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan.

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be able to benefit equally from the system of marriage, as everyone is equal under the law, he added. “It [the ruling] clearly said that is not possible.”

Yet the recognition that same-sex families lacked legal protections was “a big step”, he said.

‘This is just the beginning’

The plaintiffs, who unfurled a banner outside the court that read “A step forward for Marriage Equality” after the ruling, said they were encouraged.

“There were parts of this that were disappointing but parts of it gave me hope,” said one of them, Katsu, who gave only his first name.

Two more cases are pending in Japan and activists and lawyers hope an accumulation of judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will eventually push legislators to change the system, even if this is unlikely to happen soon.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s conservative ruling party has revealed no plans yet to review the matter or propose changes but several senior members support same-sex marriage.

Plaintiff Chizuka Oe said she hoped Wednesday’s ruling would spur a debate in the Japanese parliament.

“I was glad that the ruling acknowledged we have a right to be families,” she told a news conference, adding that her partner of more than 20 years “is my invaluable family no matter what anyone says”.

Oe said the fight would continue until there was real progress. “This is just the beginning,” she said.

Supporters hold a banner that says 'Marriage for all Japan'
Supporters wait outside the court for the ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, in Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2022 [Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters]

Amnesty International also called the Tokyo court’s acknowledgement of the rights of same-sex couples to have families as “a cause for hope”.

“This is not the ruling the LGBTI community wanted, but it is still an important step forward for same-sex couples and LGBTI rights in Japan,” said Amnesty’s East Asia Researcher Boram Jang. “Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to combat the discrimination faced by LGBTI people in Japanese society. It is time for the government to change course on LGBTI rights.”

Recent years have seen Japan take small steps towards embracing sexual diversity.

Tokyo began issuing certificates recognising same-sex couples this month, allowing them to apply for public housing in the same way as married couples, enjoy access to medical data and be named beneficiaries in car and life insurance. Since 2015, more than 200 smaller towns have taken similar steps but they are not legally binding and still not the same as in marriage.

The situation has limited the talent pool for global firms, say groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

“Thinking about the future of their lives, they don’t see anything in Japan,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of prime services at bank Goldman Sachs and a member of the group Marriage for All Japan.

“So they move to more friendly jurisdictions, like the United States.”

The Tokyo court ruling came a day after the US Senate passed a same-sex marriage protection bill and Singapore lifted a ban on gay sex but limited the prospects for legalising same-sex marriage.

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Hong Kong protester shot by police jailed for six years | Hong Kong Protests News

Judge tells 23-year-old Chow Pak-kwan he has only himself to blame for the physical injuries and mental trauma he suffered.

A Hong Kong man who was shot by police at close range during the 2019 democracy protests has been jailed for six years on charges including obstructing a police officer and attempted robbery of the officer’s gun.

Chow Pak-kwan, now 23, lost his right kidney and was injured in his liver and spine after he was shot at a road intersection during a fracas between protesters and police.

Footage of the incident on November 11, 2019 showed an armed police officer grappling with another protester on the street and Chow then appearing at the crossing.

Shortly afterwards the officer, who was assigned to the traffic division, fires at the black-clad Chow, who was unarmed. Another man then appears to try and grab the officer’s gun, after which the officer fires two more shots. The entire incident was live-streamed on Facebook.

On Wednesday, Judge Adriana Tse sentenced Chow to six years in jail on charges that also included an attempt to escape from custody.

The judge said Chow’s attempt to grab the officer’s gun could have inflamed the crowd’s emotions and was a factor contributing to the lengthy sentence. Chow’s defence lawyers had argued he was not trying to grab the gun but to push it away.

Woo Tsz-kin, also a defendant in the case, was also jailed for six years after being found guilty of obstructing a police officer and attempted robbery of the officer’s gun.

The incident took place as protesters tried to mobilise Hong Kong for a general strike, blocking roads as part of the action.

Woo and Chow, who pleaded not guilty, were convicted in August and remanded in custody. Both men said they had been traumatised by what had happened, with Chow reporting serious damage to his health.

Tse told them they had “only have themselves to blame” for the physical injuries and mental conditions they suffered, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

The protest took place at the height of the 2019 protests, which began in opposition to a proposed extradition bill but evolved into calls for democracy and sometimes turned violent.

Protesters accused the police of brutality and an investigation into police actions was one of their key demands. Rights groups said police sometimes used excessive force to quell the protests, with Chow’s shooting sometimes cited as an example.

Police say officers deployed to the protests acted in accordance with the law and followed internal protocols.

The officer who shot Chow was granted anonymity by the court and referred to only as “Officer A”. In a testimony, he said he had felt his life was in danger.

After the incident Amnesty International called for the officer’s immediate suspension and an investigation into his decision to fire live rounds into the crowd. A spokesman for the force said that the officer had not deviated from its guidelines.

By August this year, Hong Kong had arrested nearly 10,300 people over the 2019 protests and prosecuted or initiated legal proceedings against 2,900 of them, according to police.

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World Cup recap day 11: Australia, Argentina make knockout stage | Qatar World Cup 2022

Day 11 of the World Cup in Doha saw wild celebrations as Australia made it to the tournament’s knockout stage for the first time since 2006, while Argentina cruised into the knockout round with a comfortable win over Poland.

It was a day of disappointment for Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Denmark, however.

Here is a quick recap of all you need to know from day 11 – Wednesday, November 30 – of the Qatar World Cup 2022.

A goal by Mathew Leckie gave Australia a 1-0 victory over Denmark and sent the Socceroos through to the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

Denmark, ranked 10th in the world by football’s governing body FIFA, needed to win the match at the Al Janoub Stadium to progress.

There were no goals in the first half as Australia frustrated Denmark’s attempts to move forward and mounted a few counterattacks of their own.

It was about the one-hour mark when Leckie broke the deadlock with a moment of magic, outsmarting Danish full-back Joakim Maehle before powering the ball past Kasper Schmeichel and into the far corner of the net.

“I’m proud, exhausted, everything really. It’s hard to describe the emotions right now,” Leckie told Australian broadcaster SBS after the game.

“We always knew we could do it as a group. We had our doubters but our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are as a group shows on the pitch. The last 15, 20 minutes, we battled until the end.”

Mathew Leckie watches as the ball goes beyond the finger tips of blond-haired Danish goalkeeper and into the net
Australia’s Mathew Leckie scores their first goal at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Group D, Australia vs Denmark, Al Janoub Stadium, November 30, 2022 [Pool via REUTERS/Alex Grimm]

There were celebrations in Australia and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed what he called a “magnificent win”.

Australia now face Argentina on Saturday.

Argentina vs Poland

It was a comfortable win for Argentina over Poland as the South American giants topped Group C and confirmed their place in the knockout stage.

Helped by a relentless Lionel Messi, Argentina notched up a 2-0 victory at Stadium 974, with both goals coming in the second half.

Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez’s goals capped a dominant display by coach Lionel Scaloni’s players with tens of thousands of raucous supporters packing the stadium to cheer on their team.

Messi never stopped surging forward and posed a menace to Poland throughout the game with his dribbling ability and vision.

His glittering performance stood in stark contrast to that of Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski who failed to make an impact.

Argentina's Lionel Messi in action with Poland's Bartosz Bereszynski
Argentina star Lionel Messi was a menace to Poland throughout the match [Jennifer Lorenzini/Reuters]

Messi, 35, has admitted that Qatar will probably be his last World Cup while Lewandoski, who is a year younger, has said he is unsure if he will make it to the next tournament, which is being held in North America in 2026.

Despite Poland’s lacklustre performance they still managed to make it through to the knockout phase on goal difference. They will take on France in the last 16 on Sunday.

Tunisia vs France

France, the defending champions who had already booked their place in the knockout stage, fell to Tunisia in a shock 1-0 defeat at the Education City stadium.

France-born Wahbi Khazri scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute as Tunisia had caused a serious upset.

It was only the third victory in six World Cup tournaments for Tunisia. They were eliminated when Australia beat Denmark in the other group match.

Tunisia score against France
Tunisia beat defending champions France but failed to qualify for the last 16 [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

France, who won their first two matches, finished top of Group D on goal difference from runners-up Australia.

Mexico vs Saudi Arabia

It was a night of celebration and sadness for Mexico as they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a thrilling match but failed to make the knockout stage.

Henry Martin and Luis Chavez both scored in a thrilling Group C match, with the two goals coming in quick succession early in the second half.

The Mexicans needed one more goal to overtake Poland on goal difference and get through the group but it was the Saudis who scored in the dying moments of the game, making it 2-1.

“It’s a hard blow, there are no words,” said Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez. “The team went out looking for it from the start and we had a lot of chances. But we couldn’t score and that leaves a bitter taste.”

The loss was a further disappointment for Saudi Arabia who started the tournament on a high, beating Argentina 2-1.

A Mexico fan wearing the team shirt and a straw hat with Mexico written in red and green on the upturned brim watches the match. He looks tense
A tense Mexico fan watches from the stands as the team beat Saudi Arabia but still failed to make it to the knockout stages [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The loss to Mexico followed a 2-0 defeat to Poland and means Saudi Arabia finish bottom of the group.

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Photos: Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 but neither are celebrating | In Pictures News

With two rapid-fire goals scored in the early minutes of the second half, Mexico managed to defeat Saudi Arabia 2-1 but failed to advance to the last 16 because group-rival Poland secured the same number of points but had let in one less goal.

Coming into the match, Saudi Arabia needed a win to advance to the next round, whereas Mexico’s fate would be determined by the size of their victory and the result of the Poland-Argentina match that was taking place at the same time.

After an uneventful first 45 minutes, the second half of the match caught fire in the 47th minute with a goal from Mexico’s Henry Martin, followed five minutes later with a blistering free kick from Mexico’s Luis Chavez.

Mexican fans, who had one eye on the result of the Poland-Argentina match, were excited as it appeared their side was going to advance on yellow cards – but their dreams were crushed when Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aldawsri scored in the 95th minute.

The late Saudi goal was not enough to change their fate but it did prevent Mexico from moving ahead, leaving Poland to advance to the next round by a single goal differential.

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