Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Why Norway look doomed in World Cup playoff race

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Europe's 53 national teams have been split into nine groups with the winners of each qualifying directly for South Africa. The best eight runners-up will play off among themselves over two legs next month for the remaining four slots. The runner-up with the worst record will miss out on a playoff berth entirely.

Usually, deciding the worst runners-up would be a simple case of comparing the respective team records. But there is one small snag -- namely Group Nine, which has only five teams while all the others have six sides.

Somebody in FIFA then had a brainwave: in the groups with six teams, the results against the last-placed team will not count when it comes to deciding the eight best runners-up.

This little gem means we have to wait to find out who is going to finish bottom of Groups One to Eight before we can even think about who might be the worst runner up. It also means that losing a match to the bottom team could ultimately benefit a side finishing in second place, as they would not have so many points lopped off their final tally.

from UK News:

Minister warns against “contaminating” 2012 Olympics

BRITAIN/Clerics and police have expressed concern, and now the Olympics minister has - London could see a proliferation in prostitution and human trafficking during the 2012 Games.

Some have warned the Olympics could see a repeat of the "mega brothels" set up in German cities for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Maradona untouchable despite latest defeat

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Those waiting for Diego Maradona to resign or be sacked after yet another dismal Argentina performance in the World Cup qualifiers forget that he is untouchable.

Maradona will press on blindly, brushing off criticism with remarks about having always fought adversity and come out on top.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

England sail through, but how are their World Cup chances?

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So, once again, England qualify in style. The garages can start stocking up on plastic flags of St George, the breweries can breathe a sigh of relief and the tabloids can start their gradual shift from cautious support to the crescendo of expectation that will accompany Fabio Capello and his squad to South Africa next year.

But is there any evidence that "this time, more than any other time, they'll do it right"?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

World Cup will survive without Messi and Ronaldo

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"Ronaldo and Messi could miss the World Cup!" screamed the headlines after Portugal drew 1-1 in Denmark and Argentina were humiliated 3-1 at home to Brazil.

It sounds awful, doesn't it? How will we ever manage without Cristiano and Leo, two of the poster boys for the elite, Masters of the Universe level of footballer we've come to know and love?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?

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Ten wins in a row and unbeaten for eighteen games. The run includes 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Italy, 4-0 wins in Uruguay and Venezuela, 3-0 in Chile and, of course, Saturday's 3-1 demolition of Argentina, the first time Brazil's arch-rivals have lost at home for 16 years. Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of Dunga's Brazil and and a sixth world title.

There's only one small problem: everyone was saying the same about Carlos Alberto Parreira's team four years ago after they won the Confederations Cup with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final. Like Dunga's team, they were Copa America champions at the time and their so-called Magic Quarter of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano looked unstoppable.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Americans fall for soccer but can MLS cash in?

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The US national team beat European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup and give Brazil a scare in the final. In the NFL heartland of Baltimore, 71,000 turn out to watch Chelsea v AC Milan.

In Pasadena, Chelsea v Inter Milan pulls in 81,000.

David Beckham gets booed and jeered on his return for L.A Galaxy and the American sporting public laps it up – top sports talk shows, which usually ignore soccer other than to mock the game occasionally, lead their bulletins on the issue.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more?

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The Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, rarely captures the imagination but fans in the United States aren't lacking enthusiasm for the tournament after their team produced a major upset by defeating European champions Spain 2-0.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey ended Spain's world record run of 15 successive victories and their 35-match unbeaten sequence, a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FIFA's global rankings.

Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front

SOCCER-CONFEDERATIONS/The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.

Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks’ decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

In defence of Giuseppe Rossi

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American soccer fans aren't noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.

What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then -- to add insult to injury -- celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.

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