FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke holds the ticket of the United States during the draw ceremony for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Costa do Sauipe near Salvador, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

World Cup fixture times changed


Following Friday’s World Cup draw, FIFA has adjusted the scheduled kickoff times of seven matches. According to the FIFA website, the matches “have been adjusted following the draw to allow later kick-off times in the hottest venues.”

This is all well and good until you realize that certain matches, such as the meeting between England and Italy, have actually been moved forward, to 6 p.m. local time rather than 9 p.m. This means the game will now start at midnight in Italy and 11 p.m. in England. To accommodate the switch, Ivory Coast vs. Japan will now start at 10 p.m. local time.

The England national team doesn’t seem thrilled with the switch, with Club England managing director Adrian Bevington saying, “playing at 21:00 in Manaus is clearly helpful from our side and from a football point of view…we can’t deny that it’s better to play in Manaus later in the day.” To help England ready themselves for the jungle temperatures of Manaus, the national team, who’d already been planning a pre-tournament acclimatization camp in the United States, are hoping to switch their warm-up matches to Miami.

The United States is one of the countries to benefit from the switch, with their game against Portugal being pushed back three hours, to 6 p.m. local time. So, too, is the match between Cameroon in Croatia, both scheduled to take place in the Amazonian city of Manaus. Considering the heat likely to be experienced in Manaus, such a change can only help the performances, and the health, of these sides. Additionally, South Korea vs. Algeria, to be played in Porto Alegre, is now set for 4 p.m. local time rather than 1 p.m.

Two other matches have also been moved forward: Spain vs. Chile will take place at 4 p.m., and Belgium vs. Russia is now set for 1 p.m. Both were previously scheduled for 7 p.m. in Rio de Janeiro.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.