World Cup 2018

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FIFA awaits new evidence next week on Russian doping cases

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FIFA is expecting to receive new evidence next week from a Moscow laboratory database about doping cases in Russian soccer.

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Players from Russia’s squad at the 2014 World Cup are among 34 potential soccer cases arising from an investigation by Richard McLaren, who detailed a doping conspiracy across Russian sports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has called a meeting for Thursday “to inform several international federations about the new intelligence,” FIFA said Friday in a statement.

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WADA announced last month it had the Moscow database which, FIFA said, includes “all testing data between January 2012 and August 2015.”

That could reveal details from thousands of samples destroyed at the lab in December 2014, after the scale of Russian doping was reported in a German TV documentary.

In a sworn statement to an International Olympic Committee investigation, former Moscow and Sochi Olympic lab director Grigory Rodchenkov said he oversaw the destruction of about 8,000 doping controls on Dec. 13-14 “that were dirty samples in order to evade WADA.”

However, the anti-doping watchdog did retrieve about 3,000 samples from Moscow, and 154 were from soccer players, FIFA said Friday.

Re-testing of those samples for banned substances in the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, revealed no positive tests.

“However, investigations remain open as new evidence could still emerge,” FIFA said.

Based on forensic evidence, including scratch marks which could prove that sample bottles were forced open and steroid-tainted urine swapped out, the IOC has so far disqualified 25 Russian athletes from the 2014 Sochi Games. They were also banned from the Olympics for life.

FIFA said a mid-January start date has been set by WADA to begin forensic analysis in Lausanne of Russian samples from other sports.

FIFA also detailed Friday how it hopes to contact Rodchenkov via a WADA-appointed lawyer to gather more evidence for its own investigations. The scientist is a protected witness in the United States after fleeing Russia in 2015.

“FIFA will continue to work in close collaboration with WADA and explore every possible avenue,” soccer’s governing body said. “Should there be enough evidence to demonstrate an anti-doping rule violation by any athlete, FIFA will impose the appropriate sanction.”

Though not an athlete, the chairman of Russia’s World Cup organizing committee, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, is deeply implicated in the Sochi doping conspiracy and cover-up.

The IOC banned Mukto from the Olympics for life on Tuesday, though FIFA said this would have no impact on the 2018 World Cup plans.

It is unclear if Mutko is still under investigation by the FIFA ethics committee using McLaren’s evidence – a specific request of WADA when the Sochi doping program was detailed in July 2016.

FIFA suspends Peru star Guerrero for one year

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Peru was given a major blow ahead of next year’s World Cup.

FIFA announced Friday that forward Paolo Guerrero has ben handed a one-year ban after testing positive for cocaine, a prohibited substance, meaning Peru will be without it’s all-time leading goalscorer and captain for the World Cup.

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Guerrero took a random drug test on October 5 in Buenos Aires after a World Cup qualifying match at Argentina. He was initially suspended for the last two World Cup qualifying matches, which saw Peru overcome New Zealand to qualify for Russia 2018. With his suspension, Guerrero will be unable to play in games, official or friendly, for 365 days from November 3, 2017.

Guerrero can still appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In the moments since the decision was announced, fans have been making their feelings known on social media.

France to face USMNT in World Cup warmup

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The U.S. Men’s National Team will be active next summer, but only in friendly matches.

The French Football Federation announced that Les Blues will play a series of friendly matches in the run up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the final warm-up match against the USMNT in Lyon on June 9.

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France will also play friendlies against Colombia and Russia before confirming its 23-man World Cup roster, followed by a friendly against Italy and then the match against the U.S. Les Blues has Peru, Australia and Denmark in it’s group, so it’s unclear why exactly they’ve scheduled the USMNT as a final tune-up, but it should be a great test for what will likely be a young U.S. side against a World Cup squad.

With the CONCACAF Nations League coming, this may be one of the few chances for the U.S. to test itself against a European power, so hopefully the USMNT players will be able to learn more about themselves and see the level they need to reach in this friendly, before beginning their summer vacations or heading back to their Major League Soccer clubs.

Russia FA chief Mutko expected to carry out World Cup role, despite IOC ban

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Major news transpired on Tuesday as Russia was barred from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which are set to be held in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Russia — which will play host to next summer’s World Cup — was determined to have direct ties to “state-sponsored doping,” according to a decision by the International Olympic Committee.

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At the center of the controversy is Vitaly Mutko, who currently serves as Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, as well as his role as the head of the Russian Football Federation and leader in Russia’s World Cup hosting committee.

In the IOC’s decision, Mutko has been banned for life from all Olympics activity, however, he is expected to continue his role with his native country as Russia prepares to play host to the World Cup in 2018.

On Friday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke about about allegations against the Russians over the country’s ties to doping, but didn’t seem too concerned about the issue.

“As far as I’m concerned and as far as Fifa is concerned, the answer is simple: (the IOC decision) will have no impact,” Infantino said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to address the sanctions from the IOC on Wednesday at the All-Russian Forum of Volunteers.

It is uncertain whether FIFA will intervene in the situation following the IOC’s decision.

Russia was drawn in Group A for the World Cup during last week’s festivities, and will be paired with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay during the group stage.

Photos: Are these the kits England will wear at the World Cup?

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The Three Lions found out this week that they will be paired with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G for next summer’s World Cup, and we may now know the country’s kits for the tournament.

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FootyHeadlines revealed leaked versions of the home and away kits for the 2018 World Cup on Friday, as England prepares for their trip to Russia in six months’ time.

England’s traditional white home jersey appears to be similar to it’s past kit designs, while the shorts are navy blue with red numbers.

Meanwhile, the red kit features a subtle Saint George’s cross donned across the front of the jersey, while the white shorts also have red numbers.

Gareth Southgate‘s side will begin play on June 18, 2018 when they take on African side Tunisia, before facing Panama on June 24 and Belgium to close out group play on June 28.