FIFA hands Switzerland one of seven World Cup seeds – Is it deserved?

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When it comes to the FIFA world rankings procedure, ANYTHING is possible.

Like, for example, Switzerland being one of the European teams handed a seed in the World Cup.

Yep, that happened.

Not the Netherlands. Not Italy. Not England.

Switzerland. As in fondue, big mountains and absurdly nice people.

La Nati was handed the seed after finishing 7th in the recent FIFA rankings, released earlier today. The other six nations being put in the top pot of seeds are Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay.

Uruguay’s place in the top pot is subject to their winning the intercontinental playoff against Jordan. In the event they fail to do so, the Netherlands will move into the top pot.

Only the top pot is seeded for the World Cup draw in Bahia on December 6th, with the remaining pools based on geography to ensure a spread of nations in each group. Each group can only have one team from each confederation, with the exception of Europe which will have two nations in four or five groups.

Assuming Uruguay qualify, the geographical draw pots are fairly easy to forecast. One pot may contain eight European countries, another would have the four Asian countries and four from CONCACAF (or New Zealand, depending on the result of their playoff with Mexico), and a final pot of Chile, Ecuador and the five African qualifiers. A separate pot would then contain the lowest-ranked UEFA side, who would be drawn against a non-European team from the seeded pot – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia or possibly Uruguay.

Switzerland grabbed the seed by defeating Albania away 2-1 on October 11th and Slovenia at home 1-0 four days later. Those results saw Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side shoot up seven spots to 7th in the FIFA rankings, taking full advantage of Italy’s costly draw with Armenia.

Although Switzerland’s seeding will come as a surprise to many, they are unbeaten in their last 14 matches, including a 1-0 victory over Brazil. That form is thanks to a group of seasoned veterans Stephan Lichsteiner (Juventus), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Tranqillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen) gelling well with a pool of strong young talent in Fabian Schar (Basel), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg).

The FIFA rankings will always provide controversial results. But perhaps this time around they have exposed a nation that deserves the footballing world’s adulation for their consistency and compelling upward swing.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”