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Germany overtakes USWNT for top spot in FIFA rankings

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The U.S. women have been displaced from their #1 world ranking by a team they beat less than a month ago.

Despite the USWNT 1-0 win over Germany to start the SheBelieves Cup, the subsequent pair of losses hurt them as Germany leap-frogged the United States into the top spot.

The U.S. lost to England and France, marking its first losing streak in three years and the first time in 17 years that it lost two in a row at home. Jill Ellis used the tournament as an attempt to experiment with different player combinations as she looks to navigate the transition between some aging well-known players and a new injection of youth.

France, who won the event, is ranked third, while England jumped Canada for fourth. The Canadians dropped to fifth, Sweden and Japan tied for sixth, and Australia, Brazil, and North Korea round out the top 10.

The last time the United States was not the #1 team in the world was March of 2015, on the heels of a 1-1-2 December and a loss to France in late February.

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Swiss authorities say prosecutors have questioned Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer in their ongoing World Cup fraud case.

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Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

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The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern, adding that “Beckenbauer was cooperative.”

Beckenbauer’s home in Austria was raided last year for evidence on behalf of Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption linked to FIFA.

Ref banned for life after awarding PK in World Cup qualifier (video)

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A brutal penalty call has cost a referee his job, and status in football, for life.

Joseph Odartei Lamptey called a handball against Senegal in a World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Those things happen.

The problem? It wasn’t a handball, and it wasn’t even close. A diving header flew into Kalidou Koulibaly’s leg, and not a single player on either side expected a penalty.

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One was given, and South Africa went on to win the qualifier 2-1. Both sides are a point behind Burkina Faso in Group D.

From FIFA.com:

The official was found guilty of breaching art. 69 par. 1 (unlawfully influencing match results) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal on 12 November 2016.

On the other hand, all charges against the Ghanaian match official David Lionheart Nii Lartey Laryea, whose behaviour had also been the subject of investigations, were dismissed by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

Here’s the offense in question:

Blatter “reckless” to pay Platini $2M, new court ruling says

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Sepp Blatter was “reckless” when he paid $2 million to Michel Platini in a transaction that led both to be banned from world soccer, according to a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling.

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The former FIFA president also bypassed the body’s executive committee to extend Platini’s pension plan by four years – unlawfully adding more than $1 million to the former UEFA president’s retirement fund.

Details of the hearing in August were revealed in a newly published 68-page verdict written by CAS judges to explain why they dismissed Blatter’s appeal to overturn a six-year ban in December.

As an executive committee member since 2002, Platini was due a pension of 3 percent of his final FIFA stipend – $300,000 in 2015 when he was first banned – for each year of service. It would be paid annually for an equal number of years. By unilaterally supporting Platini’s request to start the plan in 1998, Blatter unlawfully created a pension fund for his former protege of $2.6 million in 2015 instead of $1.52 million, the judges noted.

“The credit awarded to Mr. Platini therefore certainly amounted to a gift as he was not entitled to such credit,” the three judges said, concluding that a six-year ban for the now 81-year-old Blatter is “not disproportionate and, indeed, reasonable and fair.”

“The standard of ethical conduct required under the (FIFA code of ethics) should be and should be seen to be applied to the FIFA President as rigorously as if not more rigorously than that applied to anyone else,” the CAS panel wrote.

The full judgment confirms details never published by the FIFA ethics and appeals committees which previously judged Blatter, the long-time president, and Platini, his expected successor.

Three separate judging panels agreed there was no verbal agreement or valid contract for Platini to receive backdated salary in 2011 for working as Blatter’s presidential adviser from 1998-2002. The soccer officials said they agreed Platini should get 1 million Swiss francs annually, but later signed a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs to ensure he did not earn more than FIFA’s then secretary general.

Platini asked for 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) – not the 2.8 million Swiss francs he was allegedly owed, the court noted – in 2010 “upon learning of `golden parachutes’ received by (former senior FIFA officials) Mr. Urs Linsi and Mr. Jerome Champagne,” the CAS ruling said.

“(Platini) went to see either the Secretary General or Finance Director of FIFA to say `you know FIFA owes me money,”‘ the ruling said.

By helping force Champagne out of FIFA as Blatter’s trusted international relations director, Platini indirectly earned the French former diplomat a seven-figure severance for his January 2010 exit.

The ruling stated that Blatter testified to recalling his verbal deal with Platini, but had “forgotten that they had a written contract (in 1999).”

“The Panel considers Mr. Blatter’s conduct in the matter as FIFA President reckless, or at least profoundly careless, as he approved the payment without checking the written contract, without asking his employees for the written contract to be checked or doing any verification whatsoever,” the judges said.

Platini, who attended the hearing as a witness, also seemed not to check his contract before requesting money that was paid in 2011, when Blatter was campaigning to win re-election.

“Mr. Platini said that he had not realized he had made a mistake about how much money was owed to him until the Swiss prosecutor showed him a copy of the August 1999 contract in September 2015,” the court said.

Swiss federal police questioned Blatter and Platini at FIFA, one day after opening proceedings against the FIFA president for suspected criminal mismanagement. Platini was described then as “between a witness and an accused person.”

Blatter has not been formally charged by Switzerland’s attorney general. He is also a stated target of an American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA officials.

Platini is serving a four-year ban after winning a two-year cut in his sanction from a separate CAS panel. The ban removed the former France national team captain from the UEFA presidency and the February 2016 election race to succeed Blatter.

In the ruling, CAS also noted the “habitual” bonus culture of FIFA at the time of the World Cup hosting votes in December 2010, when Russia was awarded the 2018 tournament and Qatar was given the 2022 edition.

Two days before the vote in Zurich, the FIFA finance committee approved a $200,000 annual bonus for each executive committee member to supplement then-stipends of $100,000, according to CAS.

Brazil to play Germany next year for 1st time since 7-1 loss

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Germany and Brazil will meet next year on the soccer field for the first time since the 7-1 rout in the World Cup semifinals.

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The game, announced by the Brazilian soccer confederation on Friday, is scheduled for the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on March 27, 2018, only a few months before the next World Cup in Russia.

Brazil coach Tite has said he wants his team to play some of the tournament favorites. He also mentioned wanting to play at Italy and at Spain.

Since losing to Germany in 2014, Brazil has rebuilt its national team under the new coach and could become the first team to qualify for the World Cup in the next few weeks.