Category Archives: FIFA

Mexico’s worrying injuries, ‘public enemy No. 1’ manager and low expectations

“Mexico lost to Colombia 3-2 in their second of two World Cup friendlies during the September FIFA window. Injuries to several key starters and the continued embattlement of manager Gerardo Martino dominated the headlines in Mexico. The Mexicans have one final World Cup tune-up against Sweden in Girona, Spain on November 16 before their opening match of the tournament against Poland. But this window left plenty to analyze. …”
The Athletic

The World Cup’s Carnival Comes at a Cost


“The good news is that it’s a yes from the gigantic, fire-breathing spider. It is hard, after all, to imagine a World Cup without its finest tradition: 50 tons of decommissioned crane arranged into the shape of a monstrous arachnid, pumped full of highly flammable fuel and then stocked with hopefully less flammable D.J.s. The spider will form the centerpiece of one of the cultural highlights of this winter’s World Cup in Qatar: a monthlong electronic music festival called the Arcadia Spectacular, staged just south of Doha and boasting what the promotional material calls an ‘electrifying atmosphere, extraordinary sculpted stages and the most immersive shows on earth.’ …”
NY Times
Guardian: What do Qatar’s World Cup workers fear most? Being sent home
Guardian: Migrant workers in Qatar left in debt after being ordered home before World Cup starts
Athletes, Fans Demand Remedy for Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

Poland’s Lewandowski ‘proud to wear Ukraine armband’ at Qatar World Cup – video

Robert Lewandowski received a captain’s armband in Ukrainian yellow and blue from Andriy Shevchenko. The Poland striker promised to ‘carry the colours of Ukraine to the World Cup.’ Lewandowski was one of the first elite athletes to rally to Ukraine’s cause back in February, days after Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, when he lobbied for the postponement of Poland’s international fixture against Russia. When he next took the field for Bayern Munich, his teammates wore black armbands to honour the victims of the invasion, while Lewandowski, the Bayern captain at the time, wore an armband in the colours of Ukraine. …”
Guardian (Video)
Guardian: Russia demands Uefa ban Ukraine’s manager for remarks about war

Chile Loses Appeal Seeking Ecuador’s Place in World Cup

“Chile failed Friday in its latest attempt to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup, another setback in a high-stakes campaign that threatened to alter the field for the sport’s showcase championship only two months before the tournament’s opening match. An appeals committee at soccer’s governing body, FIFA, rejected Chile’s newest claim, agreeing with an earlier decision by a disciplinary panel to reject the contention that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. …”
NY Times

2022-23 Premier League – Location-map, with 3 charts … Fulham, Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest.

“2022-23 Premier League – Location-map, with 3 charts. The map is a basic location-map, with an inset map of Greater London. Also shown are small labels which point out the three promoted clubs (Fulham, Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest). And there are three charts. The Attendance chart, at top-centre of the map page, shows 4 things for each of the 20 current Premier League clubs…A) 2021-22 finish (with promotions noted). B) 2021-22 average attendance [from home league matches]. C) Stadium capacity [2021-22]. D) Percent-capacity [2021-22]. At the right-hand side of the map page are two more charts. …”
billsportsmaps

Most Goals Scored in a FIFA World Cup by One Player


“The only players to score nine or more goals in a single FIFA World Cup did so between 1950 and 1970 – a competition with nearly a century of history cramming its one-tournament stars into two decades. It seems the game’s defensive focus and organisation had yet to catch up to its emerging individual attacking skill. It was a time of free goals, and in some places free love, and if you weren’t around to experience it in person, you’re left with grainy video – and of course the numbers. None of the five players to score that many did it in more than six games while the modern-day format for World Cup tournaments has made it possible for top goalscorers to get seven in should they reach the last four. …”
The Analyst

Dennis Bergkamp, the Non-Flying Dutchman Who Reimagined Space and Time


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Dennis Bergkamp at the 1998 World Cup in France. …”
The Ringer (Audio/Video)

Greek Football Fandom: A Season Preview

“As the football season kicks off around Europe, the Greek Super League may fly under the radar for many fans of the game. We explore the history of Greece’s top teams and interview experts, fans, and writers to determine each side’s chances of success. If you want passion, flairs, a rocking atmosphere, chanting from before to after a match and the occasional law informant intervention look no further than Greek football. The sport in Greece has suffered over the last decade or so, both financially and in its reputation. But one thing that cannot be denied is that the country holds some of the most vocal, passionate and football-crazy supporters in Europe. …”
Football Paradise
W – Greece national football team

2022-23 EFL League One [3rd division]

“… The map here is a new template, one which I will have for the top 4 divisions in England this year. The map is a basic location-map, with inset maps of both Greater London and Greater Manchester. Also shown are small labels which point out the four promoted clubs (Forest Green Rovers, Exeter City, Bristol Rovers, Port Vale). And there is an attendance chart. The attendance chart shows 5 things for each of the 24 current League One clubs. …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian – League One 2022-23 preview: the contenders, hopefuls and strugglers
W – 2022–23 EFL League One

Exploring Qatar’s eight World Cup 2022 stadiums and what fans can expect in November


“… The World Cup is just months away and the Al Janoub Stadium manager is showing a group of reporters around his pride and joy, the air-conditioned venue that will host seven games, including the holders France’s opening game against Australia on November 22. The Athletic asked the question which, to a Brit visiting Qatar for the first time, feels like the elephant in the room. This tournament has been relentlessly condemned by human rights groups for the circumstances in which these stadiums were built. How do tournament organisers respond to that? It’s not what they want to talk about now the football is about to begin. …”
The Athletic

World Cup Worries Mount With 100 Days (They Mean It This Time) to Go

“At a flashy ceremony on Nov. 21 last year, some of Qatar’s most senior officials, including the Gulf nation’s prime minister, joined the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, top soccer executives and invited guests for a celebration. They gathered on Doha’s corniche, the sweeping promenade that hugs the city’s shimmering waterfront, to unveil an ornate countdown clock and to mark a milestone: the day they were celebrating was precisely one year before the opening of the 2022 World Cup. …”
NY Times

Derby County: How one of England’s historic clubs was saved from a wild ride to ruin

“Looking back, football finance expert Dr Rob Wilson knew exactly what he was talking about. ‘This is last roll of the dice sort of stuff,’ he told BBC Sport before the 2019 Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Derby County. ‘It’s winner takes all and loser loses pretty much everything.’ Villa won that day at Wembley. Three years on, they spent pre-season on tour in Australia, preparing for a new Premier League campaign with Brazil star Philippe Coutinho in their ranks. Derby have just begun their first third-tier campaign since 1986, and only the fifth in their history, after local businessman and lifelong supporter David Clowes stepped in to save the club. …”
BBC

A Different Kind of Moneyball: Newcastle United Is Finding Out What Winning in the Premier League Really Costs

Last November, on an early-morning train from London to Newcastle, in the north of England, I saw a drunk fellow in a white robe. The outfit, I knew, was supposed to simulate the attire of a traditional Saudi Arabian man. It was not a breathable material, this cheap polyester ordered off the internet. It was absolutely roasting him. He was red-faced with the booze and the shame, but mostly the booze. His friends, all around him, were exuding the very specific aura generated by drinking bottles of Stella plucked out of plastic takeaway bags. They called him by his nickname, which also happened to be the name of a classic Disney character. Let’s say Cinderella. …”
The Ringer (Video)

Did Qatar build a whole city for the World Cup?

“A little over 10 years ago, 10 miles north of Qatar would have been a sleepy fishing village, and not much else. This place would become the location for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Fast forward to today and a futuristic metropolis filled with the latest technology and engineering practices is nearing completion. Did Qatar build this city just for a World Cup? David Goldblatt reveals what this new city will be like. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube

Philippe Coutinho: Revitalisation at Villa Park

“When you are not thriving at one place, you try to rediscover yourself by moving to another. Even after winning a Bundesliga and Champions League double in 2020 when on loan at Bayern Munich, ironically scoring against Barcelona en route to the final of the latter, Philippe Coutinho only reverted to the stagnancy he had undergone in Spain that made him transfer to begin with. Aston Villa have given the Brazilian a chance to rekindle past form and in doing so, add a further dimension to Villa’s creativity, and perhaps also boost Coutinho’s sense of importance to his team. …”
Football Paradise

State of Play: Stoke City – a club in exile

“STOKE CITY have been in a better place than they are today and not many people are predicting they will win promotion from the Championship in 2022-23. The “experts” believe Stoke will finish just above mid-table, which will be progress on the past four seasons and the best placing since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2018. …”
Game of People

2022-23 EFL League Two [4th division] – Location-map, with 2021-22 attendance…

“… The map here is a new template, one which I will have for the top 4 divisions in England this year. The map is a basic location-map, with inset maps of both Greater London and Greater Manchester. Also shown are small labels which point out the two promoted clubs (Stockport County, and Grimsby Town). And here is the part that makes this a new template: there is an attendance chart. The attendance chart shows 5 things for each of the 24 current League Two clubs. …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2022–23 EFL League Two

Iran’s World Cup hopes fading amid botched sacking and squad acrimony


“‘Azmoun and Taremi get Iranians dreaming,’ was the headline for an article on Fifa’s website after ‘Team Melli’ were drawn to face England in their first match of the 2022 World Cup. Just a few months on and with the team’s star strikers at loggerheads over the future of coach, Dragan Skocic, however, it’s not exactly been the preparation Iran supporters had hoped for as the squad attempt to make history by progressing past the group stage in Qatar. …”
Guardian
W – Dragan Skočić

Thirty years of the backpass ban: The story of modern football’s best rule change


“… This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the backpass law being introduced, following FIFA’s successful experiment in Italy a year earlier. It is arguably the most significant — and the best — rule change in the modern game. The mindnumbing sight of goalkeepers rolling the ball out to defenders, receiving it back, picking it up and holding it in their hands to kill games, was gone. …”
The Athletic
W – Back-pass rule

Shakhtar Donetsk seek €50m of damages from FIFA over lost transfer fees


Shakhtar’s chief executive Sergei Palkin is scathing of FIFA’s conduct
“Ukrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk are seeking €50million worth of damages from football’s world governing body and the club has filed papers in the Court of Arbitration for Sport appealing against a ruling by FIFA that allows foreign players to unilaterally suspend their contracts in the war-torn country. The Athletic can exclusively reveal that Shakhtar, who have won the Ukrainian championship 13 times in the post-Soviet independence era since 1992, filed the documents to Matthieu Reeb, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) director general in Switzerland, in July. …”
The Athletic

El Dorado: When Colombia Learned Money Talks In Football

“It’s hard to picture a time when being a professional footballer at the highest level did not mean astronomical wealth and lavish lifestyles. Yet, that was the reality for many of the world’s biggest stars in the early days of organised, professional football. There are bountiful stories of some of England’s biggest stars having to take summer jobs just to pay their bills in the early days as the Football Association and FIFA kept a tight lid on pay. Disgruntlement over finances was a common theme amongst players. It wasn’t exclusive to England either as Argentina was having its own issues with player wages in 1949. … They would soon find a home in, of all places, Colombia. …”
Longball Football

Blood, sweat and speeding plastic: 48 hours at the foosball World Cup


“In his 1928 novel Nadja, French surrealism ace Andre Breton described the city of Nantes as ‘perhaps with Paris the only city in France where I have the impression that something worthwhile may happen to me’. To think that he was still a good 94 years away from having the chance to wander around the bowels of his local sports arena in a vain attempt to track down the anti-doping officials at the foosball World Cup. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Acquitted of Fraud

“Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, and his onetime ally Michel Platini were acquitted of fraud on Friday in the latest attempt by Swiss prosecutors to win a conviction in a sprawling, seven-year investigation into corruption at the highest levels of world soccer. The trial, held in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona, was related to a $2 million payment arranged in 2011 by Blatter, who led world soccer’s governing body for 17 years, to Platini, a former France player who was at the time the president of European soccer’s governing body and a potential heir to Blatter as the most powerful executive in the sport. …”
NY Times

Mexico World Cup squad prediction 2.0


“This past FIFA window for Mexico was replete with many of the same narratives that dominated their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goals were scarce, the team’s supposed stars underperformed and the Fuera Tata chants were heard in matches that were played both in the United States and in Mexico. Each one of those realities will shape Mexico’s run up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Head coach Tata Martino must solve El Tri’s goal drought, and perhaps recall Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernadez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, in order to do so. …”
The Athletic

More than a national pastime


“Recent contests over the presidency of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have been keenly contested, with good reason. Nigeria’s size and football pedigree (the Nigerian men’s national team has qualified for the World Cup six times and won the African Cup of Nations three times) mean occupants of the NFF presidency have frequently used this position as a launch pad for more senior positions in both the continental (CAF) and global (FIFA) football governing bodies. Amaju Pinnick, the current president, is no exception. …”
Africa Is a Country

In Qatar’s World Cup Summer, the Mercury Rises and the Clock Ticks


“DOHA, Qatar — The sun comes up before 5 a.m. and immediately puts the entire city on convection bake. By lunchtime, the temperature has finished its methodical climb up the scale, from unusual through uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The wind off the bay offers no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot. This was to be the summer the World Cup came to Qatar, an idea that seems as preposterous now as it did a dozen years ago, when the tiny Gulf country, let’s just say, acquired the hosting rights to soccer’s biggest championship. …”
NY Times

Chile Loses Bid to Replace Ecuador at World Cup


“Chile’s bid to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup failed on Friday when a disciplinary panel at soccer’s global governing body rejected a claim that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. The case involved the defender Byron Castillo, who Chile contended was not only born in Colombia but also three years older than is stated on the documents used to identify him as Ecuadorean. Chile’s soccer federation produced registry documents, including birth certificates, that it said supported its claim. …”
NY Times

Eastern Promise for Russia


“Once Gazprom were cut as UEFA partners and Aeroflot was jettisoned as a blue chip Manchester United sponsor, an isolated discussion returned to the Russian football sphere – Europe can go get stuffed. And once clubs and national teams were banned from UEFA competitions on may We’re off to join Asia! …”
Backpage Football

Only in an alternate reality should Real Madrid be Champions League winners – that’s the beauty of football


“On another day, in some other timeline, maybe Real Madrid could have won the 2021-22 Champions League final. It would have been improbable in any universe, with the way Carlo Ancelotti’s team played, but you can imagine some alternate reality where the movements of bodies and balls are just a little less orderly, where football is a little less fair — who knows, maybe stranger things have happened in a world like that than a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. But yesterday was not that day, and this is not that timeline. Of course Liverpool are champions. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid analysis: Courtois’ saves and Klopp’s goalless finals
Guardian – ‘Don’t be sad’: Liverpool fans pack city streets to welcome heroes home
BBC – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Champions League defeat caps miserable end to magnificent season amid Paris chaos (Video)
NY Times: UEFA Blames Delay at Champions League Final on ‘Fake Tickets’

How U.S. Soccer and Its Players Solved the Equal Pay Puzzle


“The new collective bargaining agreements approved this week by the United States Soccer Federation and its men’s and women’s national teams will, at last, bring an end to a decades-long, emotionally exhausting and wildly expensive fight over equal pay. For the first time, the women’s team, which has won the last two Women’s World Cups and four overall, will be paid at the same rate for game appearances and tournament victories as the men’s team, which has historically (and persistently) failed to even sniff that kind of success. In addition to those new (and higher) per-game payments, the new contracts also include an unprecedented redistribution of the millions of dollars in World Cup prize money the men’s and women’s teams can earn by playing in the tournament every four years. …”
NY Times
The Athletic – USWNT, USMNT achieve equal pay: How they reached a historic benchmark
NY Times: U.S. Soccer and Top Players Agree to Guarantee Equal Pay

Amateurs & A Yorkshireman: Sweden’s World Cup Finalists


“Following the 1958 World Cup final, the Swedish FA informed their English head coach, George Raynor, that he would be relieved of his duties. Far from being an acrimonious disagreement between two parties, this was the Swedes being self-aware. There was no way Raynor wouldn’t have offers flooding in from back home. They were wrong. …”
The Longball Football
W – 1958 FIFA World Cup Final
YouTube: Brasil 5 x 2 Sweden – 1958 World Cup Final Extended Goals & Highlights (Live)

‘One of the greatest moments of my life’: Lampard revels in Everton survival


“Frank Lampard described Everton’s dramatic Premier League survival as the one of the greatest moments of his career after Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 85th minute winner completed a stunning comeback against Crystal Palace. … But a stirring second-half recovery, capped by the England international’s late diving header, preserved the club’s 68-year top-flight residence in remarkable style. The victory sparked a huge pitch invasion at Goodison Park. The celebrations were largely peaceful, certainly in comparison to the ugly scenes at Nottingham Forest and Port Vale, but Vieira appeared to kick out at an Everton fan who goaded him after the final whistle. The Palace manager declined to comment on the incident afterwards. …”
Guardian
BBC: Everton 3 Crystal Palace 2 (Video)

Scrutinized documents, a mysterious brother and lots of jokes: The legal battle between Chile and Ecuador with World Cup implications


“Accusations of cheating are nothing new in South American football. The latest scandal, however, could have major implications ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It involves an international court battle between the Ecuadorian and Chilean football federations that is surrounded by nationalism, name-calling in the press and decades-old grudges. …”
The Athletic

Chile Files Claim Seeking Ecuador’s Place in the World Cup



“Qualification for this year’s soccer World Cup, already disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now faces more uncertainty after Chile this week called on FIFA to throw out Ecuador and hand its place in the tournament to Chile instead. Chile contends that its South American rival fielded an ineligible player who is in fact Colombian. …”
NY Times

Soccer capitalism


“Soccer academies are springing up across Africa with remarkable speed, evidence of the immense popularity of the sport and the many aspirations it arouses. These academies—institutions that at their core combine a sportive and an educational system—first arrived in Africa from Europe in the late 1990s, following three interrelated processes: (1) the mistreatment by unscrupulous agents of young African players who migrated to Europe; (2) the Bosman ruling of 1995 that further increased the migration of African players to Europe; and (3) the introduction of new transfer regulations by FIFA in 2001 that aimed at curbing the abuse of young migrant players by making it harder for clubs to sign players under the age of 18. …”
Africa Is a Country

As World Cup Nears, Brands Weigh Cost of Teaming With Qatar



“For Gary Lineker, a starring role in Qatar’s big show was not an option. Sure, he had hosted a World Cup draw before. And as a former top scorer in the tournament who now works as a popular television broadcaster he has an ongoing professional relationship with the tournament’s organizer, FIFA. But fronting the glamorous event in Doha last month that set the matchups for this year’s World Cup in Qatar — a hosting choice he has regularly criticized — was not something, Lineker decided, that he could consider. So in a conversation with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, Lineker said no. …”
NY Times

Nigeria’s troubles are reflected in its football


29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …”
New Frame

Soccer Should Worry About the Product, Not the Packaging


“Everything started with a letter. In the summer of 1990, Daniel Jeandupeux, a young Swiss coach, was bored. More precisely, he was bored by that year’s men’s World Cup. The romance of Toto Schillaci, the joy of Roger Milla, the swelling aria of Nessun Dorma: None of it could quite dislodge his sensation that it had been, by and large, a deeply ‘ugly’ tournament. That thought inspired Jeandupeux to explore why that might have been. As he described it to the estimable Dutch news outlet De Correspondent, he used an early example of soccer analytics software, a platform called Top Score, to examine what form the game took, particularly in matchups in which one team took an early lead. …”
NY Times

England immortality beckons for Kane in Qatar


“Harry Kane has already written his name in FIFA World Cup™ history. By scoring six times at Russia 2018, the England captain earned himself the tournament’s adidas Golden Boot and, in doing so, followed in feted footsteps of men like Ronaldo, Gerd Muller and Eusebio. Kane, 28, is also already assured of his place as a Three Lions legend. No-one in the history of England’s national team has scored more often in competitive fixtures, and his overall record of 49 from 69 appearances stands comparison with anyone in modern-day international football. …”
FIFA (Video)

The Biennial World Cup May Be Dead, but FIFA’s Fight Isn’t Over


“Gianni Infantino strode into the bright lights of a packed convention center alongside the emir of Qatar on Friday and declared that he expected this year’s World Cup to be the best ever. … It was here where yet another of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change, the kind of bold but ultimately failed plan that has marked his presidency of soccer’s global governing body, finally came to an end. The divisive efforts to double the frequency of the men’s World Cup, to milk FIFA’s multibillion-dollar cash cow every two years instead of every four, are over. …”
NY Times

The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)

The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind

‘We are Ghana and we have what it takes to win’


Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …”
New Frame

2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations

Poland Refused to Play Russia Once. It May Have to Do So Again.


“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …”
NY Times

Liga MX suspended as Fifa condemns ‘barbaric’ riot that leaves dozens injured in Mexico


The match between Queretaro and Atlas was in its 63rd minute when fights between opposing fans broke out
“At least 26 people were injured, including three critically, on Saturday when fans brawled during a football game in central Mexico. The Liga MX match between the hosts Queretaro and Atlas from Guadalajara was suspended in the 62nd minute when fights broke out in the stands. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the stands. …”
Guardian
Dozens injured as fans clash at Mexico football match

Why Did Global Soccer Ban Russia, Really?


“Anything as popular as soccer, whose fans number in the billions, is bound to become currency. The game carries immense value for people who play and watch it, but also to anyone who wants to use it to reach hearts, minds, and wallets the world over. In the past 30 years, the commoditization of the world’s game has accelerated, both as a television product and as a means for the ultra-rich to blow their money and burnish their reputations. The highest tier of global soccer is so expensive now that there probably is no ethical way to afford membership. But the roster of EPL club owners is a who’s-who of murderous dictators; scions of other oil-rich, human rights-denying royal families; and oligarchs who pillaged state assets to make themselves rich as their countries privatized them after the Cold War. …”
SLATE
FIFA’s suspension of Russia is a rarity – but one that strips bare the idea that sport can be apolitical
ESPN – FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works (Video)
Forbes: FIFA Bans Russia, But Don’t Forget About Ukraine’s World Cup Dreams
Aljazeera: Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine (Video)
FIFA has finally acted against Russia, but it doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up to Putin (Video)

Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Stop War. We against war.” prior the Bundesliga soccer match, Germany

Could this technology solve offsides forever?


Ever since VAR was introduced, the area that has come under the most scrutiny is the application of the offside rule. FIFA have come up with an idea they hope can solve contentious offside decisions – semi-automated offsides. But what is that? How will it work? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains. Henry Cooke illustrates.
YouTube

Portugal 1986: Part 1: A Troubled Beginning, Part 2: The Saltillo Affair


“Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle of a player or coach’s career. To test yourself in the world’s premier tournament is the ultimate challenge and a dream come true for many footballers. However, there are times when the dream of participating in a World Cup can turn into a nightmare. No country would have such a nightmare of a tournament than Portugal in 1986. Prior to the mid-1980s, Portugal were unable to build on the success of the 1960s, where Portugal finished third in the 1966 World Cup and Benfica won back to back European Cups in 1961/62 under the coaching of Béla Guttmann. Since then, Portugal had failed to qualify for a World Cup or European Championship. …”
Breaking the Lines: Part 1, Part 2
W – Saltillo Affair
The Saltillo affair – the story of Portugal at Mexico ’86

FIFA Suspends Russia, Ejecting It From World Cup Qualifying



“World soccer’s global governing body suspended Russia and its teams from all competitions on Monday, ejecting the country from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only weeks before it was to play for one of Europe’s final places in this year’s tournament in Qatar. The suspension, which was announced Monday evening in coordination with European soccer’s governing body, also barred Russian club teams from international competitions. The decision came a day after FIFA was heavily criticized for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and amid mounting demands from national federations for stronger action. …”
NY Times

Reading boost survival hopes with win as Paul Ince takes interim charge


“Paul Ince has made a shock return to the dugout after agreeing to take interim charge of Reading, the troubled Championship club his son, Tom, joined on loan last month. Ince has not managed since being sacked by Blackpool in January 2014 but will take over from Veljko Paunovic, who took charge of Saturday’s 3-2 win at Preston – their first in 14 matches – while the club search for a new permanent manager. Reading are at risk of relegation to League One, five points and one place above Derby County, who have been administration since September. …”
Guardian

The Reason for the 3pm Saturday Blackout


“The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world. Mega TV rights deals have meant that fans across the planet can sit down at 3pm GMT on a Saturday and watch the games unfold. Except in the UK… But why? As Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, a little-known legislation is preventing fans in their own country watch Premier League games live. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube

Investigating the rise in football fan violence: missiles, cocaine and political agendas


“Kick-off is still 90 minutes away but Stoke City are ready. The car parks are open, the sniffer dogs have done their rounds and safety supervisor Craig Burton has just briefed the 100 or so stewards who will be working in the Bet365 Stadium’s South Stand. … Burton has been doing this for more than five years and before that, he spent 30 years as a copper on this patch. He is a Stoke City fan and loves his job. Even this season, despite it being… well, harder than most. Not as bad as at the start of his career, when he had to break up fights between 200 or more fully grown hooligans, but worse than the seasons immediately before COVID-19 arrived and clubs had to shut their doors for 18 months. …”
The Athletic

Birmingham City: A club at breaking point


“Perhaps Birmingham City’s most recent results can explain why supporting such a chaotic club is draining for even their most ardent followers. After 85 minutes of laborious, turgid, football against relegation candidates Peterborough United last Tuesday night, Lee Bowyer’s team somehow clawed back a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at home. Although half of the ground was unoccupied, the noise that followed their 88th-minute equaliser felt like a blast from the good old past. The stadium, on the outskirts of the city centre, has seen some wonderful days and there are not many venues in the country that can whip up an atmosphere like a packed-out St Andrew’s. …”
The Athletic
W – Birmingham City F.C.

The extent of the damage and work being carried out at St Andrew’s

2021-22 FA Cup, 4th Round: Location-map, with fixtures list & current home league attendances.


“… The biggest upset in the 3rd Round: Kidderminster 2-1 Reading. 6th-division side Kidderminster Harriers (of Worcestershire) defeated 2nd division side Reading. At kick-off, Kidderminster were 5th in the National League North [#120 in the League pyramid; although normally that would be #121, but there are only 23, and not 24, teams in the 5th division this season]. Reading were in 21st place in the EFL Championship [#41 in the League pyramid]. So the difference between Kidderminster and Reading was 4 League-levels and 79 league-places. …”
billsportsmaps
2021-22 FA Cup, 4th Round: Location-map, with fixtures list & current home league attendances
FA Cup
BBC FA Cup

Cliques in football dressing rooms: The good, the bad and the ugly


“‘When it comes to dressing-room dynamics, one of the major issues you’ve got is that there’s no other industry in the world where, on the most important day of the week, over 50 per cent of the workforce isn’t used for the big moment,’ a Premier League coach tells The Athletic. … We are talking about dressing-room cliques: why they form, what damage they can do, and how managers can try to prevent divides and schisms from creating bigger problems. …”
The Athletic

When Two Champions Leagues Titles in Eight Months Don’t Count



“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …”
NY Times

Africa Cup of Nations: Which Premier League players are going?


Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …”
BBC