FIFA

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - OCTOBER 14: FIFA President Gianni Infantino poses for a photo after part II of the FIFA Council Meeting 2016 at the FIFA headquarters on October 14, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
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Report: FIFA president backs 48-team World Cup, 16 groups of three teams

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Gianni Infantino wants to freshen things up a bit.

The new president of FIFA has been steadfast in his desire to increase the number of teams participating at a World Cup to 48.

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After all it was a huge part of his presidential mandate which got plenty of the smaller nations of the soccer world on board to vote for him, and reports from AFP are now circulating that Infantino and key figured at FIFA have indeed backed a 48-team World Cup from 2026 onwards.

Members of the FIFA Council had previously received outlines of four proposed formats, including staying with a 32-team World Cup, but it is believed Infantino wants a 48-team World Cup and the decision could be made next month at a FIFA Council meeting.

It is also being widely reported that Infantino wants to try something new and have 16 groups with three teams in each. It is also believed the top two teams would go through from each group to a Round of 32 knockout stage and then to a Round of 16 and so on.

On the face of it, that doesn’t seem too bad an idea.

It would certainly eliminate some of the boring third group games we have endured at most World Cups recently as the two teams going through to the last 16 are usually sewn up by that point and the two other teams are left around with another game to play. However, it will be intriguing to see how the game schedule is set up in the three team group scenario.

The cynical folks out there suggest that Infantino is merely trying to ramp up more revenue from increasing the number of teams from 32 to 48 but when you look at it, the number of games would actually stay the same if there were 16 groups with three teams in each.

Think about it: more upset stories, more first-time qualifiers and more riding on each of the two group games for each team before heading straight to the knockout rounds.

Brazil anti-trust body says bids rigged for 2014 World Cup

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil’s anti-trust body says several construction companies rigged bids for 2014 World Cup stadiums, driving up costs by overcharging for the work.

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Five stadium projects were mentioned in the report by the anti-trust body CADE. They included Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana Stadium, where Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup final.

CADE says three other stadiums used in the World Cup also could have been tainted by corruption.

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CADE says it obtained the bid-rigging information in a leniency agreement with construction company Andrade Gutierrez.

Reports have been widespread about corruption linked to World Cup stadiums, and construction projects tied to this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Blatter loses appeal against six-year ban

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JULY 20: Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws cash at FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
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Sepp Blatter should get the message this time.

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It was announced on Monday that the former president of FIFA from 1998 until 2015 has lost his appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over a six-year ban from all soccer related activity.

After being found guilty of making an illegal payment of $1.65 million to the former head of UEFA, and close friend, Michel Platini, in 2011, the Swiss official has already had his initial eight-year ban reduced to six and Platini had his eight-year ban reduced to four years.

However, Blatter has reached the end game and at the age of 80, it is unlikely he will ever hold any position in world soccer ever again.

Plus, Blatter has the small matter of still being investigated by the Swiss authorities who are looking into FIFA’s records, and the FBI continues to arrest and charge officials within world soccer’s governing body due to allegations of widespread corruption over the past two decades.

Things could get much worse than a six-year ban for Blatter.

In a statement released by CAS, they revealed why Blatter’s appealed had been turned down:

“The appeal of Joseph S. Blatter has been dismissed. As a consequence, the decision rendered by the FIFA Appeal Committee (FIFA AC) on 16 February 2016 remains in force and Mr Blatter remains banned from taking part in any football-related activity at national and international level for six years as from 8 October 2015 and must pay a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs.

“By approving a payment of £1.3m to Mr Platini in 2011 for the balance of work carried out under the alleged oral agreement, Mr Blatter breached the FIFA Code of Ethics since the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis.

“The Panel further found that Mr Blatter unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA Executive Committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gift.”

Griezmann joins Ronaldo, Messi for FIFA’s Best player award

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 05:  Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid controls the ball during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad de Futbol and Atletico de Madrid at Anoeta stadium on November 5, 2016 in San Sebastian, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a new name on FIFA’s shortlist for player of the year.

French scorer Antoine Griezmann is next to presumed winner Cristiano Ronaldo and everpresent superstar Lionel Messi on the roll of “Best” finalists.

Ronaldo’s EURO and Champions League titles should be enough to push him past Messi for the honor, but Griezmann was a runner-up in both competitions with France and Atletico Madrid.

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On the women’s side, USWNT attacker Carli Lloyd makes the cut along with Brazil’s Marta and Germany’s Melanie Behringer.

Premier League champion Claudio Ranieri is in the final three for best men’s coach, joining Portugal’s Fernando Santos and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane.

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Shortlist for FIFPro World 11 team for 2016: Vardy joins Messi, Ronaldo

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Swansea City at The King Power Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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There are plenty of familiar names on the 55-man shortlist to be in the FIFPro World 11 team of 2016… and then there’s Jamie Vardy.

After his fairytale season for Leicester City in the Premier League in 2015-16, Vardy, 29, has been included in FIFPro’s nomination for the first time in his career, with the votes being cast by “more than 25,000 professional footballers from over 75 different countries” according to FIFA as each player selects a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, obviously, are both on the shortlist and both superstars have been selected in the team in each of the last nine years.

There are 15 Premier League stars named in total, with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Claudio Bravo and David Silva included, plus Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez also getting the nod. Manchester United’s trio of David De Gea, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic make the cut, as do Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and David Luiz.

Making up the PL contingent is West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, while Barcelona led the way with 12 players selected and reigning European champs Real Madrid have 10 players.

Vardy is the only Englishman to make the list, with Wayne Rooney missing out for the first time in the 12-year history of the award.

Below is the full list of the 55 candidates, with the winners to be announced on Jan. 9, 2017 in Zurich at FIFA’s The Best Football Awards.


Goalkeepers (5): Claudio Bravo (Chile/FC Barcelona/Manchester City), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus), David de Gea (Spain/Manchester United), Keylor Navas (Costa Rica/Real Madrid) and Manuel Neuer (Germany/FC Bayern Munich).

Defenders (20): David Alaba (Austria/FC Bayern Munich), Jordi Alba (Spain/FC Barcelona), Serge Aurier (Côte d’Ivoire/Paris Saint-Germain), Héctor Bellerìn (Spain/Arsenal), Jérôme Boateng (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Leonardo Bonucci (Italy/Juventus), Daniel Carvajal (Spain/Real Madrid), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy/Juventus), Dani Alves (Brazil/FC Barcelona/Juventus), David Luiz (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain/Chelsea), Diego Godín (Uruguay/Atlético Madrid), Mats Hummels (Germany/Borussia Dortmund/FC Bayern Munich), Philipp Lahm (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Brazil/Real Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Pepe (Portugal/Real Madrid), Gerard Piqué (Spain/FC Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain) and Raphaël Varane (France/Real Madrid).

Midfielders (15): Xabi Alonso (Spain/FC Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Spain/FC Barcelona), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Belgium/Chelsea), Andrés Iniesta (Spain/FC Barcelona), N’Golo Kanté (France/Leicester City/Chelsea) Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid), Luka Modrić (Croatia/Real Madrid), Mesut Özil (Germany/Arsenal), Dimitri Payet (France/West Ham United), Paul Pogba (France/Juventus/Manchester United), Ivan Rakitić (Croatia/FC Barcelona), David Silva (Spain/Manchester City), Marco Verratti (Italy/Paris Saint-Germain) and Arturo Vidal (Chile/FC Bayern Munich).

Strikers (15): Sergio Agüero (Argentina/Manchester City), Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Paulo Dybala (Argentina/Juventus), Antoine Griezmann (France/Atlético Madrid), Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina/Napoli/Juventus), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United), Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Thomas Müller (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona), Alexis Sánchez (Chile/Arsenal), Luis Suárez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona) and Jamie Vardy (England/Leicester City).