2014 World Cup

FIFA World Cup playoffs begin Wednesday; Mexico, Uruguay favored … but on the spot


Mexico has done this before, positioning its kickoff for an afternoon start – the better to exploit all its advantages of playing at Azteca Stadium. Who could blame them? All is fair in love and $650 million World Cup berths.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. locally (or 3:30 p.m. ET); the game can be seen on ESPN, Univision or Univision Deportes.

Why get started during the day when more Mexicans could take in an evening kickoff time, which is more typical of a mid-week match? New Zealand players will struggle to deal with the thin air (altitude is over 7,000 feet) as it is. All the better if they also must deal with the hottest possible afternoon temperatures, not to mention a time of day when smog levels reach their ickiest.

All of this is after the All Whites traveled halfway around the world to arrive over the weekend into Mexico City.

More on the match itself Wednesday at ProSoccerTalk on Wednsday.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that Jordan and Uruguay also begin their home-and-away playoff; Wednesday’s first leg is in Amman, Jordan. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez is warning anyone who will listen that Jordan cannot be taken lightly by his country.

But the oddsmakers say: uh, go ahead and take them lightly. If you know a guy who knows a guy, the odds you’ll get on Jordan getting past Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the rest of Uruguay’s talented team, never mind that wobbly World Cup qualifying effort, land anywhere from 9-1 to 16-1.

Them ain’t good odds.

More on Jordan is here.

The European playoffs (also home-and-away sets with a berth in Brazil on the line) begin Friday. As a reminder, here are those matchups:

  • Greece-Romania
  • Portugal-Sweden
  • Ukraine-France
  • Iceland-Croatia

Ferguson still being asked about Moyes: “We chose a good football man”

David Moyes Alex Ferguson
AP Photo/Martin Rickett/PA
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In some ways absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it seems Sir Alex Ferguson‘s life after Manchester United has been filled with second guessing.

Whether the sales of Paul Pogba and Gerard Pique or the appointment of David Moyes, “Fergie” apparently can’t rest on his title-winning laurels.

[ MORE: Tax evasion charges dropped against Messi, but not his father ]

One thing that seems to bug him more than anything, though, is the idea that he hand-picked David Moyes to be his successor, and should be responsible for his failings.

In a new documentary, Ferguson both defends the appointment of Moyes and explains the process behind his choice.

From the BBC:

“I don’t think we made a mistake at all. I think we chose a good football man,” Ferguson says. “Unfortunately it didn’t work for David.

“Jose Mourinho was going back to Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti was going to Real Madrid, Jurgen Klopp had signed a contract with Dortmund, Louis Van Gaal was staying with Holland for the World Cup.”

The article also makes another key point, according to Ferguson: the manager claims he only gave United a few months notice that he’d be stepping down. That certainly didn’t provide a lot of lead time to secure a big boss.

What do you make it of it? If your answer is, “When can we stop talking about Moyes and United?” I tend to be with you, but it’s a talking point.

Tax evasion charges against Messi dropped; Case vs father continues

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2013 file photo, Barcelona F.C. star Lionel Messi, left, arrives at a court to answer questions in a tax fraud case in Gava, near Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona prosecutors are calling for the arrest of Messi's father in a tax fraud case. Prosecutors have cleared Messi of wrongdoing but are seeking an 18-month prison sentence for his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, for allegedly defrauding Spain's tax office of 4 million euros ($4.5 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)
AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
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Lionel Messi will not face charges that he and his father defrauded the government in millions of unpaid taxes, though his father is not so lucky.

Messi’s father, Jorge, could face 18 months in jail and an approximate $2.25 million fine despite a voluntary payment of $5.5 million in 2013 to “correct” the missed taxes.

[ WATCH: Hilarious spoof pegs Messi, Ronaldo as “Friends” ]

The Barcleona star had plead ignorance to the charges, something that failed to impress prosecutors. But, it apparently worked out in his favor on Tuesday.

From the BBC:

Prosecutors allege that Jorge avoiding paying tax on his son’s earnings by using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009.

Messi’s lawyers argued that the player had “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing” the contracts, El Pais newspaper reported.