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Soccer Break Wednesday

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SOCCER-FRIENDLY/Now the international period is over we can focus on domestic issues again, or can we?

Tuesday’s matches provided plenty of drama, from the battles Spain and the Netherlands had to fight to get through tricky Euro 2012 qualifiers, to Ghana’s lighting up of London, to Australia’s World Cup revenge against Germany in a friendly.

Brazil’s two-goal hero against Scotland continues to grab the headlines. Would you be interested in signing the talented 19-year-old Neymar?

For two of Europe’s biggest clubs there is bad news. The strike that could have seen the cancellation of La Liga matches this weekend has been called off, so Real Madrid must play three days before their Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur.

FIFA’s World Cup decision day — live

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We’ll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA’s executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.

Premier League season needs a grand finale

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The English Premier League has always reminded me of eating out at McDonalds. I always hope for something new but then end up getting the same as last time.

The new season hasn’t even kicked off yet, but if the experts are right, it’s already as good as over for nearly all the teams.

Oceania needs a rethink after New Zealand thrashing

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In the previous post, Martyn Herman looked at soccer’s international minnows while here Mark Gleeson discusses the particular plight of New Zealand.Oceania, as a confederation, threatened to disintegrate under the weight of a quick fire Fernando Torres hat-trick on Sunday night.The match-up in the Confederations Cup between European champions Spain and New Zealand, who represent FIFA’s smallest and least competitive confederation, was almost as one-sided as any major international in decades.As Torres banged in three goals in the first 17 minutes, so the legitimacy of the 11-member confederation came under a stark spotlight.Fortunately for Oceania’s cause, the Spanish managed just two more, albeit one profiting from a schoolboy error, but there will surely come a time when the gulf between the collection of Pacific island nations and the rest of the footballing world no longer produces a remotely equitable contest.Despite their best lobbying effort, Oceania are repeatedly denied a direct berth to the World Cup on sporting grounds. Their best team must playoff, usually against a South American country, or in the case for 2010, an Asian side, to qualify.Australia moved from Oceania to Asia because they felt it was uncompetitive and not advancing the standard of their game. Now New Zealand, where football is hoping to evolve from its current status as a minority sport, rules the roost against the islands, often barely breaking a sweat to dominate the confederation’s competitions.On the evidence of Sunday’s performance, New Zealand football would do well to join the Asian confederation too. They frankly need more exposure.Indeed Oceania’s collective cause is best served by folding into the Asian confederation where the island teams will find many other countries of the same footballing pedigree and have more competition too.Already Asia have created two tiers to accommodate its less proficient members and end years of ridiculous mis-matches.As Torres was riding roughshod in Rustenburg, I wonder whether that thought crossed the minds of any of FIFA’s top leadership.PHOTO: Spain’s Fernando Torres (C) rises above the New Zealand defence to score his third goal during their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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