Jerome Valcke, Luis Fernandes, Arthur Virgilio Neto

Detailing FIFA’s ‘friendly reminder’ trip to check in on Brazil’s World Cup preparations

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This week FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and his team are putting certain cities in Brazil under scrutiny to see their progress.

Needless to say, some of faring better than others.

Here is a quick recap of what Valcke has been up to and which host cities he is visiting, ahead of his trip to Florianopolis to attend a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup team and the local World Cup organizing committee.

With stadium construction behind schedule, the death of construction workers, ongoing unrest against the Brazilian government and several disputes between public and private groups causing FIFA plenty of headaches before the event this summer, Valcke and his staff will be extremely busy.

Some pivotal inspections and meetings lie ahead this week ahead of the 2014 World Cup kicking off in June.

Here’s what he’s been up to….

  • On Sunday Valcke visited the Northern Brazilian city of Recife, where the USA will play Germany, and criticized the host cities decision to cancel the Fan Fest. That means that fans not attending the game will no longer have the chance to watch the match on large screens for free. “Not having a Fan Fest is a mistake, to make it very clear,” Valcke said.
  • Then Valcke went to Manaus, the city deep in the Amazon rainforest that will indeed have a Fan Fest as over 35,000 fans are expected to gather to watch the games, including the USA’s match vs. Portugal. The Secretary General seemed to be impressed with what he saw, as the stadium is 97 percent complete and after some issues along the way, Valcke is loving Manaus. “Today I can say that the project is one of the nicest, it is a fantastic project.”
  • Valcke visited the nations capital Brasilia on Monday for meetings, where he stated he expects a “quiet World Cup” despite all of the recent political protests in Brazil which came to the fore during last summer’s Confederations Cup.
  •  A potential flash then awaits in Porto Alegre on Tuesday, as local officials are fighting over who will pay the $13 million needed to build temporary facilities required by FIFA outside the Beira-Rio stadium. If the host club Internacional don’t pay the fee, or the local city, then games at the venue may have to be moved
  • Then late on Tuesday will come the news everyone has been waiting for, as Valcke will decide whether Curitiba is too far behind to be a host city. The Southern city is the biggest concern cropping up, as huge delays with stadium construction may see the city taken off the list of 12 host venues. With Valcke already stating that they would run with 11 venues, and spread the games scheduled for Arena da Baixada elsewhere, Tuesday is crucial for Curitiba.

We will have more news on Tuesday as and when Valcke makes a decision on Curitba. So log back onto PST for your latest editions of “Where’s Valcke?” in the next few days…

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).