Rio de Janeiro mayor says, “We made a mistake”

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Eduardo Paes, mayor of World Cup host city Rio de Janeiro, believes Brazil made a poor choice in structuring the tournament’s games. Although host countries are required to provide eight match venues, in 2014, there will be twelve cities involved.

That choice has led to massive spending, as the country renovates or rebuilds the stadiums hosting the World Cup matches. There have been multiple delays, including reports that the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo, where the first match will be played, will not be ready on time. Concerns remain over the lack of promised improvements to Brazil’s transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps Brazil has stretched itself too thin?

“We are a continental country, we are very big,” Paes said on Thursday. “We made a mistake. We should have fewer cities hosting the World Cup than we have.”

It doesn’t help that at least four of those stadiums are likely to go unused after the close of the tournament, having been built in areas home to teams in the lower divisions of Brazilian football. Such waste only further infuriates much of the population, who have been protesting government spending on the tournament.

Paes believes these protests, which have been occurring for nearly two years now, are likely to continue during the tournament itself. “I don’t think people are protesting against the World Cup,” he said. “People are asking for better services. They are asking for better politics. They are asking for more transparency.”

He is also worried about the potential damage playing host will have on his country’s reputation, saying the delays have already hurt Brazil’s image. However, all hope is not lost: “I don’t think we blew it. Let’s wait until next week. We’re going to have a great World Cup.”

Let’s all cross our fingers.

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.