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…
LONDON (AP) Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri criticized his players for lacking “desire and heart” in a 1-0 loss at third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, the latest setback for the stuttering English champion.
[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]
Leicester, which is one point above the relegation zone in a woeful defense of its Premier League title, is without a victory in its last eight matches.
Millwall played most of the second half with 10 men and won thanks to a 90th-minute goal.
“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” an animated Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.
[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]
“It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.”
Leicester’s next match is against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-rounders served up the biggest Cupset of them all — fifth-division side Lincoln City knocking off Burnley of the Premier League — as well as two moderately shocking results — Leicester City losing to 10-man Millwall (League One) and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Huddersfield Town (Championship).
[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sunday’s FA Cup 5th-rounders ]
On Sunday, two more of the PL’s big boys hope to avoid upsets and reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 tournament. First up, Tottenham Hotspur visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage in a renewed London derby, followed by Manchester United’s trip to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park. For live scores and updates, hit the above link, or click right here.
Saturday’s FA Cup results
Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea
Sunday’s FA Cup schedule
Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET
Monday’s FA Cup schedule
Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET
Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.
[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]
And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.
[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]
According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.
However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.
Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.
Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.
AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.
[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]
Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.
The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”
Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”
Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.
The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.
Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.
He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.