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FIFA battens down the hatches as allegations mount

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SOCCER-WORLD/The chill winds of corruption allegations swirling once again around FIFA’s Zurich HQ have got world soccer’s bosses busy battening down the hatches in the forlorn hope that, if ignored, they will all just blow away.

But if they were to peep out of the windows of their ivory tower overlooking the Swiss financial centre they might see that, in the eyes of much of the world, it is their credibility that is blown and that the process of selecting the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals has been seriously tainted.

Allegations aired in a British television documentary by the BBC that three long-standing members of FIFA’s executive committee had received bribes from the body’s marketing partners ISL and that a FIFA vice-president had ordered World Cup tickets for himself to sell on to touts were bad enough.

Those claims followed hot on the heels of an entrapment operation on FIFA bosses by London’s Sunday Times. The newspaper sting resulted in two executive committee members being fined and excluded from office for indicating their willingness to “sell” their votes to the best bidder in Thursday’s ballot.

A not so happy birthday for Maradona

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SOCCER/Diego Maradona is spending his 50th birthday on Saturday far from the two things that have dominated his life — soccer and being constantly in the public eye.

That leaves Argentina’s greatest player at a crossroads a few short months after a humiliating 4-0 defeat by Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals cost him the job as coach of his beloved Argentina.

Paul the Octopus will predict no more…

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GERMANY-OCTOPUS/SOCCERIt is with great sadness that we report the death of the world’s foremost psychic cephalopod.

Paul the Octopus, the mystic mollusc himself, became a more significant World Cup figure than Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo or Franck Ribery with his extraordinarily accurate predictions from his tank at Sea Life in Germany.

Calling time on extra-time

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OLYMPICS/YOUTHFIFA president Sepp Blatter is well known for coming up with some odd ideas and this latest seems as strange as any.

Blatter has admitted that there was too much negative football at the World Cup and believes that one way of improving things would be to scrap extra-time after drawn knockout matches.

Spain suffer Argentine embarrassment but write them off at your peril

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SOCCER-FRIENDLYTrying to read anything into Spain’s 4-1 defeat in Argentina is tough considering it was a friendly. Did the world champions take it too lightly? Was Del Bosque right to field Pepe Reina in goal with fringe players Nacho Monreal, Alvaro Arbeloa and Carlos Marchena in the back four for a match that was never going to be that ‘friendly’?

Or was it that Argentina really got it together under new coach Sergio Batista?

Spain started poorly conceding two goals in the first 13 minutes and the third came after an embarrassing slip from Reina in the 34th, but they responded well in the second half and hit the woodwork three times overall.

Capello faces tough task to change England’s “mentality problem”

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Watching a repeat on Saturday of a TV comedy show first shown early in 2010 offered a stark reminder of how quickly and deeply Fabio Capello’s stock has fallen in the eyes of the average England fan.

As Alistair McGowan gurned his best Capello impression, the Italian-accented words were all about England’s success in qualifying and how they were looking forward to the World Cup with such high hopes.

By the way…the European season has started

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RTR2E8Q7[1]ZANETTISMALLNevermind Iker Casillas hoisting the World Cup, it doesn’t seem five minutes since Javier Zanetti had the European Cup on his head while sporting that crazed grin back in May.

Yet here we are again at the start of another European season. In fact the likes of Juventus and Liverpool have already begun competitive action in Europa League qualifiers and this weekend France’s Ligue 1 begins and England’s Community Shield pits double winners Chelsea against runners-up Manchester United.

What’s behind Spain’s run of sporting success?

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Spanish sports fans have never had it so good.

The Iberian nation is celebrating its latest triumphs after a month of success that local media have called a golden age.

On Sunday, Alberto Contador sealed his third Tour de France title, Fernando Alonso won the German Formula One Grand Prix, and Jorge Lorenzo roared to MotoGP victory in the U.S.

Tired footballers? Cutting pre-season tours would help

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Critics said the World Cup lacked quality because the players were tired after a long, draining season.

Yet with the golden glow of Spain’s triumph still glistening in a Madrid trophy cabinet, clubs are already hawking their players around the world for pre-season friendlies. OK, those who reached the latter stages in South Africa are still on holiday but they will be back very quickly to join team mates who began their pre-season work at the start of July.

Uruguay’s performance not to be sneered at

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SOCCER-WORLD/URUGUAYUruguay’s achievement in reaching the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 40 years was greeted by a fair amount of sneering in some sections of the media.

The Luis Suarez handball incident — the Uruguay striker stopped a goal-bound shot on the line in the last minute of extra-time in their quarter-final against Ghana who missed the resulting penalty — which helped them into the last four led to suggestions that they should feel embarrassed or ashamed to be there.

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