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FIFA aims to avoid errors with video review, not perfection

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Not perfect, but good enough to avoid game-changing referee mistakes at the World Cup.

Football’s governing body set out its aims for an experimental video review system ahead of live trials at the Confederations Cup starting on Saturday.

“To eliminate a clear scandal in football, the mistake that after many years you still remember,” FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca said Thursday of technology designed to help referees avoid and correct errors within seconds.

FIFA wants video review approved next year before the World Cup to help decide key incidents: goals scored, penalty awards, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, video-assisted decisions this month at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea and international friendly matches have been widely debated.

“I think the quality of the decisions are very high, never perfect,” FIFA technical director Marco van Basten said at a briefing in the St. Petersburg stadium that will host the Confederations Cup’s opening game and final.

FIFA will also use the eight-nation World Cup rehearsal tournament to stress themes it wants to be more widely accepted in one year’s time, including more actual playing time.

Referees must add more stoppage time for excessive goal celebrations and time-wasting by goalkeepers, because “the audience wants to see action,” Van Basten said.

Video review, however, is likely to define refereeing success at a World Cup that kicks off just 18 months after the 2016 Club World Cup was the first FIFA tournament to have live trials.

At the Under-20 World Cup, one decision causing confusion after advice from referee assistants watching replays was a red card for an Italy defender in a quarterfinals win over Zambia.

The referee awarded a penalty for an apparent foul by the goalkeeper, then was told to award a free kick and send off the defender for a challenge seconds earlier. Replays provoked doubt if the Zambia forward was fouled at all.

“We still have to improve of course,” said Busacca. “We are not afraid. We don’t have many hours to instruct but the top referees are really learning very fast.”

The nine referees on FIFA duty in Russia includes Damir Skomina, the Slovenian who handled the Champions League final, and Mark Geiger of the United States, who worked at the 2014 World Cup. FIFA appointed 25 refereeing teams to the last World Cup.

A lesson from South Korea – where 12 decisions were made on review in a 52-game tournament – is the need for faster judgments.

“In some situations we are taking too long, we know,” acknowledged Busacca, who has previously set a target of six seconds.

Busacca said FIFA also wants video review to be “an incredible tool of prevention” and singled out a red card at the Under-20 World Cup for an Argentina forward for striking an opponent with an elbow.

“Be careful, a camera is following you,” Busacca said FIFA is telling players in Russia. “We are talking with teams -don’t do it.”

Teams have also been warned that FIFA wants referees to be strict with players crowding around them to influence decision, and goalkeepers who hold the ball for more than six seconds.

“We have asked referees to remind goalkeepers that this rule still exists,” said Van Basten, who showed footage of Italy’s goalkeeper taking 21 seconds to release the ball against Zambia.

Van Basten said he believes “no one will complain” when referees add on longer periods of stoppage time, especially in the second half.

While FIFA has learned from other sports which adopted video review much earlier, it is not ready to follow the NFL or rugby in having referees announce their decisions or be wired for sound to broadcast how they reach a decision.

“We don’t have to explain immediately why we make a decision,” Van Basten said. “It is important to show it on the screens and let the people know what is the reason. That is enough.”

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.