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Take a look at FIFA’s ridiculously good 2015 World Cup poster

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Based on the initial reaction to today’s newly-unveiled 2015 FIFA World Cup poster, you’d think all was forgiven between the public and soccer’s world governing body. Or, at least, you’d think women’s soccer become a thing in some minds for the first time ever. While that’s certainly not the case, for a brief moment in Rio de Janeiro, FIFA seemed like an organization capable of some legitimate joy and hope, if not outright respect for the women’s game.

Such is the power of well-executed art, and with the unveiling of the poster for next year’s women’s finals in Canada, FIFA’s has executed its vision well. They’re also created some early buzz for an event that’s now 11 months away. Attempting to capture Canadian multiculturalism while alluding to the nation’s vast, diverse geography, the tournament’s organizing committee has delivered an inspirational portrait of strength, pride, and beauty:

 

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From today’s unveiling, at the Maracana in Rio:

“We couldn’t be happier with the official poster,” said [National Organising Committee Chairman Victor] Montagliani. “It’s such a dynamic piece of art that truly captures the spirit and beauty of the women’s game and Canada’s cultural mosaic. We can’t wait to bring it home to Canada and share it with all Canadians.”

FIFA Marketing Director Thierry Weil said: “The poster forms a key part of the visual identity of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 and perfectly captures the extraordinary diversity of the host nation. I’m sure this will help to generate even more excitement as we move towards the tournament.”

If there’s one issue the immediately comes to mind, it’s quantity, not quality. For Brazil 2014, each host city eventually had its own poster. For Canada 2015, there’s still time.

At 24 teams for the first time in tournament history, the 2015 World Cup promises to be the biggest women’s event in FIFA history. Come the quarterfinals, it could also prove the most competitive. Though the United States and Germany will again be favored come June 6, 2015, Japan will be the reigning world champions, while a series of emerging (or, in some cases, resurgent) challengers should make the top of next year’s tournament the most competitive in World Cup history.

Somehow, all of that is captured in this poster; then again, any superlative we want to bestow on the event would fit with such a strong, positive image. For casual fans of the women’s game, it’s reason to start the countdown. And for devotees, it’s reason to think FIFA may be looking at the opportunity through a new, inspired lens.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.