Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
UEFA’s plan to spread out fixtures during international weeks makes perfect sense and should bring an end to those strange weekends during the season with no top class soccer, when I find myself watching rubbish old B-movies and darts.
The idea would see a national team play on Thursday for example and then Sunday, or Friday and Tuesday like now or Saturday and Tuesday.
The “week of football” as UEFA dubs it will also mean the big soccer fans can watch lots of live international football day after day rather than trying to catch the highlights of 20 games all played one one evening.
Clubs can’t moan either as they will still be getting their players back on a Wednesday before a club match as currently happens after the reasonably recent change to play second matches of international double headers on Tuesday.
It was no classic but Porto cemented themselves as one of Europe’s top sides on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over compatriots Braga in the Europa League final in Dublin, surely the start of better days for the Portuguese game.
Key to this is that Porto’s coach Andre Villas-Boas and figurehead striker Radamel Falcao have agreed to stay at the club, a nice touch in the fast-paced football world where players and coaches come and go all too often.
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.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s match-winning performance against Olympique Marseille on Tuesday has helped defuse the fierce criticism he attracted for his irresponsible sending off against Almeria at the weekend.
The Portuguese forward, a world record signing for the La Liga club in the close season, apologised for the two yellow cards he picked up — one for ripping off his shirt to celebrate a goal (which had the effect of showing off his bulging muscles to the cameras) and the second for recklessly kicking an opponent.
France ensured the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry will be at the World Cup in South Africa next year after winning through with a goal that has left Irish fans seething.
There was nothing wrong with the finish from William Gallas, but Thierry Henry admitted using his hand to keep the ball in play and commentators and Irish supporters are already talking of “The Hand of God II” and “The Hand of Henry” in reference to Diego Maradona in 1986.
Depending on the results of the second legs of the UEFA World Cup playoffs on Wednesday, next year’s tournament in South Africa could contain rather too many of football’s lesser lights for some fans out there.
Portugal, France and Russia, could all perish and the tournament, which is supposed to be the pinnacle of the game, could have a cast list including Honduras, New Zealand, North Korea, Slovakia, Bosnia and Slovenia.
Draw for the European World Cup playoffs:
Republic of Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia
Two-legged ties to be played on Nov 14 and 18.
Is that the sound of a World Cup playoff shock I hear? France, 2006 runners-up, will have to beat Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland over two legs to reach South Africa next year and that is no easy feat.
So now we know which European teams are in the World Cup playoffs and we have a pretty good idea of the seedings, though FIFA’s updated rankings out at the end of the week will provide confirmation ahead of Monday’s draw.
It looks like Russia, France, Greece and Portugal will be the seeded teams with Ukraine, Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia playing them. After Argentina’s qualification in the final match against Uruguay, it looks increasingly likely that all the big teams will be there in South Africa.