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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.

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday