Even while they prepare to be the world’s center of attention with the 2014 World Cup, FIFA are busy trying to polish up their reputation. It’s been tarnished recently, with more and more allegations uncovered about the underhanded ways in which Qatar went about securing votes for the 2022 World Cup.
Then, of course, there’s Brazil. The country spent an estimated $11.5 billion to ready themselves for the World Cup, yet many of the planned infrastructure projects were never even begun. Stadiums are still not complete, planned railway upgrades have yet to be finished, and six in ten believe hosting the tournament will be bad for Brazil.
Protests that began last summer are expected to continue through the World Cup, with citizens making their opinions heard on education, healthcare and public transportation (or lack thereof).
Brazil president Dilma Rousseff appealed to the people of Brazil on Tuesday, asking them to come together and support the tournament. But Sepp Blatter has a different idea in mind. Speaking to the FIFA Congress on Wednesday, Blatter said:
FIFA is shaping society. My vision for FIFA in this changing world is that we must become one of today’s pioneers of hope. Football is about freedom, equality and respect. People have the right to want a better world for their children to grow up in. Football should be a force for positive change in the world and not an obstructor to it. And so should FIFA.
One wonders just how much the FIFA president believes his own words. The organization awarded the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, neither of which promote freedom in regards to sexuality. Despite increasingly public demonstrations of racism, FIFA has yet to crack down – although Blatter insists it will happen. Last year, a female executive resigned from FIFA’s governance committee, accusing the organization of blatant sexism.
Blatter may talk a good talk. But most soccer fans are skeptical of his ability to walk that walk. In fact, they’re more likely to believe they’ll see soccer played on another planet first – as Blatter so intriguingly mused about in the same speech.
The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.
Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.
[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]
Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.
“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”
Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.
“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”
Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.
The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.
No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.
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The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.
Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)
The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).
Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).
World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.
Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.
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The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.
The BBC added this tidbit:
Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.
Get well soon, Lauren.
Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.
The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.
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Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.