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FIFA’s Confederations Cup has uncertain future after Russia

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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.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.