It’s time FIFA reconsiders the Confederations Cup bid to the Oceania region


Everybody loves an underdog. Everybody enjoys rooting for those with the odds stacked against them. It makes for a great story, makes for great television, and makes for great sport.

Unless those underdogs get slaughtered. Over and over and over.

Since FIFA took over the King Fahd Cup and made it the Confederations Cup in 1997, it’s been about bringing the best from every region and pitting them against each other in a warmup tournament for the World Cup.

Obviously, some regions are typically much stronger than others. Europe has dominated world soccer for a long time, with both top teams and wonderful depth. But every now and then countries from other regions such as South America, Africa, and even North America have made noise on an international level, and even Asia has a touch of ability.

Underdogs such as Japan, Australia, and the United States have made noise in both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface on Cinderella stories over the years.

Then there’s Oceania. The bid from the Oceania region to the Confederations Cup is a stretch, and one that does nobody any good.

After watching tiny little Tahiti get manhandled at the hands of Nigeria in their opening match of this year’s competition, I cringe at the thought of them facing Spain and Uruguay in the coming days. The African representatives “only” won 6-1, but it probably should have been about 12-1 had they been more focused.

It’s all well and good to give countries a chance to compete at the highest level, and by all accounts it’s probably their “right” to appear in the tournament like any other region. But do we really want to allow countries like Tahiti to appear in the competition just to watch them get embarrassed in front of a worldwide audience every four years? New Zealand may have half a chance to grab a point or two, but is thay enough to justify it?

The little Oceanic country had one aim coming into the competition: don’t concede a goal for a half. They even scored a goal against a Nigerian team clearly looking ahead to other matches, a beautiful moment no doubt. But European oddsmakers set the chances for the Iron Warriors of Tahiti to beat Nigeria at 500/1, and odds to win the competition at anywhere from 1000/1 to 10000/1.

Since the birth of the modern Confederations Cup in 1997, teams from the Oceania region have amassed a measly 11 points in group play over the 7 tournaments. 10 of those points were obtained by Australia, who have now left the Oceania region to play in Asia.

That leaves New Zealand with the only point by any country currently in the region. Thrice the Oceanic country was blanked in group play.

The countries currently forming the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) are: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanutau. Kiribati, Niue, and Tuvalu aren’t even FIFA members. Only three of those countries have a population higher than 300,000 people.

Nigeria’s Nnamdi Oduamadi scored a hat-trick against Tahiti, the ninth hat-trick in Confederations Cup history. Five of those have come against Oceania opponents.

Only four times have a member of the OFC made it to the World Cup. The OFC are the only region which does not have a guaranteed World Cup spot – the top teams must compete in playoffs with other confederations for spots – so why are they guaranteed a spot in the Confederations Cup?

There are plenty of other ways to give out the spot in order to maintain an even eight members of the competition. The best idea I’ve been able to come up with is to give the spot to the highest-ranking country not already invited. The FIFA rankings are a bit arbitrary, but seeing as the competition is FIFA sanctioned, why not?

If FIFA is insistent on keeping the competition based on regional tournaments, they could just dub Europe as the dominant region and give it to the runners-up in the Euros. They could allow Oceania the ability to make the competition with a playoff against some other opponent, but it would probably be too much to expand a non-World Cup tournament into a “qualifier.”

Finally, there’s the option of just condensing Oceania into Asia either partially or altogether, but that would put a burden of high expense on small countries in Oceania to travel long distances on a regular basis, and it would obviously have widespread consequences on the Asian Cup, World Cup qualifiers, etc.

I understand it’s a world competition, and therefore the right of everyone to take place in the tournament. However, it must be earned to play at the highest level. Oceania flat out hasn’t proven they have the ability to have any chance of competing. And it’s not like they’d be completely eliminated from contention. Anyone in the world can qualify through either hosting the World Cup, or winning the Big One. Clearly almost impossible if not incredibly unlikely, but aren’t their chances of making any noise in the Confederations Cup pretty much the same?

I give the Tahiti players an immense amount of credit for their bravery in taking this opportunity with open arms, and I’m sure these matches mean the world to them. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players.

However, it’s painful to watch these poor players play so hard and still get slaughtered. It’s a wonderful story for Tahiti to be in the competition, but it’s not fun to watch them get picked apart. They have one professional player, and it showed. It would make for much better competition and therefore a much better watch if the spot were given to a more deserving, worthy, and able opponent.

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool applauds the fans following their team's 2-1 victory during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 22, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of your title talk.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

After Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Saturday at Anfield and Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all dropped points this weekend, plenty of people are talking up Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

With nine games of the season gone, Liverpool sit joint-top with Arsenal and Man City on 20 points with Chelsea and Tottenham just behind them on 19 points.

It is tight at the top but whatever people are saying, Klop isn’t bothered.

“I don’t care. It is normal in football that when you are in a good position people start talking a little more positive. I don’t recognize so much what everyone is saying about us but of course I recognize the mood, I said it already, around LFC it is good. But we are still in October… unfortunately. There is a long way to go,” Klopp said. “Nothing to say about this. Hopefully you can ask these questions through the whole season and everything is good but at the moment I have no answer for it. It is good up until now. Not more but good. Let’s carry on.”

Liverpool’s attack has been mightily impressive this season with the fluid movement of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ripping teams apart. Klopp’s side are the highest scorers with 20 goals thus far but the one issues many have about them being genuine title contender is their defensive play. Klopp’s side have kept just one clean sheet in their nine PL games so far this season and they’ve conceded the most goals in the top six.

Klopp’s right, there’s a long way to go. But plenty are also correct to be positive about this Liverpool team.

Challenging for the PL title this season may just be beyond them but securing a top four finish certainly isn’t. Klopp is pushing Liverpool in the right direction. Any of us can see that, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Moussa Sissoko handed FA charge over elbow incident

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This was always likely to happen.

On Monday the FA charged Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko with violent conduct after he caught Bournemouth’s midfielder Harry Arter in the face with his elbow during the 0-0 draw at the Vitality stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

Sissoko, 27, was a second half sub for Mauricio Pochettino‘s side but he will now miss the EFL Cup game against Liverpool and the Premier League games against Leicester City and Arsenal after Tottenham accepted the charge.

In a brief statement on their website the FA said the following about Sissoko’s charge:

Moussa Sissoko has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. The Tottenham Hotspur forward was involved in an incident with AFC Bournemouth’s Harry Arter in the 79th minute of the game on Saturday [22 October 2016].

He has until 6pm on Tuesday 25 October to reply. Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials. Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

Speaking on Monday, Spurs boss Pochettino revealed that the club had accepted charge and must now move on for the next three games without Sissoko.

“We accept that as a club after viewing the video. We accept the charge and now we move forward,” Pochettino said. “After the game it was difficult. When you asked me, it was difficult for me to appreciate the situation on what happened on the action. Then when it was on TV, I need to say that it wasn’t the intention, but the elbow was in the face of [Harry] Arter. It was clear. We accept the charge and now we are set to move forward and he has to miss three games.”

Sissoko’s actions were played down my Arter after the game but the French international who joined on Transfer Deadline Day from Newcastle United will now have to sit out some huge games in the next 10 days.

With the referees not spotting the incident, the TV footage was always going to be used and it was pretty damning as Sissoko drove his elbow into Arter’s face off the ball.

Renato Sanches beats Rashford to win prestigious Golden Boy award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Renato Sanches (top) and Portugal players celebrate their team's first goal scored by Eder (obscured) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Renato Sanches has been named the top player in Europe under the age of 21, picking up the prestigious Golden Boy award from Italian outlet Tuttosport.

Sanches, 19, moved to Bayern Munich from Benfica this summer and shone for Portugal as they won EURO 2016 and he was named the best young player at the tournament.

[ MORE: Conte the new Mourinho?

The central midfielder finished ahead of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford who was second, while Juventus’ Kinglsey Coman was in third. 

In total there were four Premier League players in the top 10 as Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli and Manchester City’s duo of Leroy Sane and Kelechi Iheanacho also got plenty of votes.

Below are the top 10 players under the age of 21 in Europe, according to the Golden Boy award.

1 – Renato Sanches (19, Bayern Munich)
2 – Marcus Rashford (18, Manchester United)
3 – Kingsley Coman (20, Juventus)
4 – Dele Alli (20, Tottenham)
5 – Ousmane Dembele (19, Borussia Dortmund)
6 – Gianluigi Donnarumma (17, AC Milan)
7 – Leroy Sane (20, Manchester City)
8 – Marco Asensio (20, Real Madrid)
9 – Mahmoud Dahoud (20, Borussia Monchengladbach)
10 – Kelechi Iheanacho (20, Manchester City)

VIDEO: Harsh to book Kei Kamara for twerk goal celebration?

Kei Kamara
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Kei Kamara scored a beauty for the New England Revolution in their 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Sunday.

[ MORE: Who wins MLS Cup 2016? ]

Of course, the victory wasn’t enough to see New England through to the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs, but Kamara had a pretty unique way to celebrate his goal.

The former Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew star twerked in celebration.

Yep. You read that correctly.

Kamra has seven goals in 21 MLS games for the Revs this season but he has also had some bizarre yellow cards as he was recently booked for changing his shorts on the field of play.

Take a look at the video below to see if he deserved a yellow for a twerk. Personally, I think it’s harsh. What’s wrong with having a bit of fun with a goal celebration?