Getty Images

FIFA’s Confederations Cup has uncertain future after Russia

Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) The Confederations Cup soccer tournament might have some fans around the world. If so, they should enjoy this one in Russia while they can.

FIFA’s eight-nation World Cup rehearsal for the host country, World Cup title-holder and six continental champions is not sure to survive for another edition.

“If there was no Confed Cup in 2021, I wouldn’t be unhappy,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said last month when he announced a squad for the June 17-July 2 tournament in Russia with only three of his 2014 World Cup winners. “I don’t think those involved would be unhappy either.”

The Confederations Cup has struggled to spark attention outside the competing countries since FIFA took over organizing it for the 1997 edition, which tournament founder Saudi Arabia hosted.

Now that some teams seem to care little – and sluggish ticket sales to Germany fans have lagged behind Chile’s – the tournament has a problem in an increasingly crowded calendar.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino put the Confederations Cup on notice as part of a leadership review.

“We are putting everything on the table,” Infantino said of the Confederations Cup’s future at the group-stage draw in Kazan last November. “Shall we play it in June? Shall we play it in November? Shall we think about the format?”

Momentum for change was created by moving the 2022 World Cup dates in Qatar to start in November instead of June to avoid the searing heat.

A traditional Confederations Cup as rehearsal exactly one year ahead in peak time for European leagues is not acceptable. FIFA suggested in 2015 that Qatar could stage a Club World Cup in late-2021 as an “operational test event.”

Then under Sepp Blatter’s leadership, FIFA also said a Confederations Cup in June 2021 could still be held “in another (Asian Football Confederation) country.”

China would be an obvious potential host for a four-venue event if FIFA agrees. Australia, Japan and South Korea would also be options.

FIFA already has other test event plans for the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026. A new six-team, four-game playoff round in November 2025 will be played in the host countries.

Infantino has also speculated about expanding the Club World Cup, which could be a candidate for the June 2025 slot.

It is unclear that the Confederations Cup earns its share of revenue.

The 2013 edition in Brazil cost FIFA $70 million in expenses, according to that year’s accounts. Yet broadcasting and sponsorship rights are bundled into World Cup deals that are the real attraction.

If FIFA does seek change in 2021, it still has contracts to provide a Confederations Cup to commercial partners whose deals run through at least the 2022 World Cup.

What about the actual football, aside from business and politics? Could it save the tournament by appealing more broadly beyond the countries taking part?

The 2013 edition was mostly a success on the field, even as tear gas wafted across nearby stadiums from a wave of street protests against unpopular tiers of Brazilian government.

Neymar’s stunning goal in the third minute of the opening game against Japan set the tone for an intriguing tournament. Italy beat Japan 4-3, Brazil beat Italy 4-2, and overmatched Tahiti lost 10-0 to Spain and 8-0 against Uruguay.

Crowd sizes averaging around 50,000 far outstripped previous editions, and 73,000 people were at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro to see Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in an incident-packed final.

In Russia, there will Cristiano Ronaldo to compensate for no Neymar – even if European champion Portugal has been less entertaining than Brazil – but the injury-hit home team lacks stars and Germany is sending a team of reserves.

Loew has some injured regulars though prefers to use the summer between a European Championship and World Cup to rest others who are also Champions League regulars.

History suggests Loew is wise. No Confederations Cup winner has ever gone on to win the next World Cup.

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

Photo by James Chance/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.