Egypt goalkeeper el-Shennawy out of WCup with knee injury

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CAIRO (AP) Egypt goalkeeper Ahmed el-Shennawy has been ruled out of the World Cup with a serious left knee injury.

El-Shennawy was expected to be a backup for 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary, who will be the oldest player in World Cup history.

The 26-year-old el-Shennawy was injured while playing for Zamalek against Ittihad on Thursday. Zamalek lost 2-1.

Last year, el-Shennawy was injured in Egypt’s first game in the African Cup of Nations against Mali, allowing el-Hadary to return to the starting lineup for the remainder of the tournament. A seven-time African champion, Egypt was beaten by Cameroon in the final.

Egypt qualified for this year’s World Cup for the first time in 28 years.

What would expanded World Cup format look like in 2018?

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An expanded World Cup field appears to be on track for 2026, but with the news breaking on Thursday regarding a decision to fast-track the expansion we could see it happen sooner rather than later.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup to 48 teams originally looked in line to debut in 2026 (either in North America or Morocco), however, CONMEBOL appears eager to enhance the tournament’s field four years prior in Qatar.

[ MORE: FIFA visits Atlanta as part of 2026 World Cup evaluation ]

The addition of 16 teams would certainly benefit smaller countries across the globe, particularly within the ranks of CONCACAF, AFC and CAF, where as many as four nations would be able to join the World Cup from their respective confederation.

Here at Pro Soccer Talk, we decided to take a look at how the 2018 World Cup would select its 48-team field.

AFC (expanded from four or five to eight teams)

Two existing groups would select top four nations from each group

Iran, South Korea, Syria, Uzbekistan, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, United Arab Emirates

CAF (previously five, up to nine teams)

Five existing group winners advance, as well as four leading second-place nations

Tunisia, DR Congo, Nigeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast (Zambia left out because Ivory Coast has superior goal difference), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Uganda

CONCACAF (six countries qualify; previously was three or four)

Six final nations (Hexagonal) reach the World Cup

Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, United States, Trinidad & Tobago

CONMEBOL (six nations; previously four or five)

Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile

OFC (one nation automatically qualifies)

New Zealand

UEFA (previously 13 nations, now 16)

Nine group winners automatically qualify, while seven best second-place finishers advance

France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Northern Ireland, Greece

At this point, 46 teams have been selected for the tournament. That leaves two remaining spots available, which would be determined by a playoff involving five of the six confederations.

The proposed playoff would include representatives from AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and OFC, withholding an entry from UEFA unless a European nation is hosting the World Cup — as is the case in 2018 with Russia.

In this instance, we’d take China (AFC), Zambia (CAF), Paraguay (CONMEBOL), Guatemala (CONCACAF) and the Solomon Islands (OFC), while the UEFA team would be the Republic of Ireland.

Based on the latest FIFA rankings, the Republic of Ireland and Paraguay would be the top-seeded teams and have a bye until the semifinal round. That leaves China, Zambia, Guatemala and the Solomon Islands to face one another.

Argentina-Iceland sold out before WCup ticket sales restart


ZURICH (AP) FIFA says two of the 64 World Cup games will be off limits Tuesday when hundreds of thousands of tickets go on open sale.

They are the final on July 15 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and the June 16 opener for Argentina and Iceland at the 43,000-capacity Spartak Stadium, also in Moscow.

[ MORE: Five Premier Leaguers called by Brazil ahead of March friendlies ]

Some tickets might still be held by the Argentina and Iceland soccer federations, and corporate hospitality agencies could have seats.

FIFA says it has allocated 1,303,616 tickets since September. The 33,048 tickets sold to Colombia residents are the most outside Russia.

AP World Cup coverage:

Video assistant doctors for World Cup to assess concussion

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) World Cup teams have been told video replays will be extended to their doctors to assist the diagnosis of concussions.

[ MORE: Ranking the contenders to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal ]

FIFA’s top medical official told The Associated Press that a second team doctor will be allowed access to match footage to evaluate injuries in real time to supplement any on-field diagnosis.

It is the latest sign of FIFA embracing technology, with video assistant replays set to make their World Cup debut at the June 15-July 14 tournament in Russia.

FIFA is strengthening procedures to treat head injuries following cases at the 2014 World Cup where players tried to stay on the field after a concussion.

Doctors from the 32 finalists in Russia were briefed on the changes at meetings in the Black Sea resort of Sochi by FIFA medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe

“To help the doctor we have now introduced a system whereby an assistant of the doctor or a second doctor will sit in front of a television screen and can help the doctor in taking his decision,” D’Hooghe told the AP, “because he can review very clearly, very concretely what happened on the field, what the doctor sitting on the bench perhaps could not see.

“This is a supplementary help for the doctor to make his diagnosis and to say if (the player) can go on. This is the first time that we will try it. I am confident that it will certainly be a help for the medical care of our players.”

This will be the first World Cup where games can be stopped for three minutes to fully assess head injuries.

“In Brazil we had problems in cases of concussion where at a certain moment the doctor asks for the replacement of a player and on the contrary the player reacts and says, `No I want to go on,”‘ D’Hooghe said. “So that was a little bit of a chaotic situation. Now we have a new rule, the three-minute rule.”

That gives more authority to the doctor.

“After these three minutes the referee only look at the doctor, he doesn’t look at the player who could have been unconscious,” D’Hooghe said. “In the case of a serious health problem it’s logical the doctor decides.”

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.