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“Purist” Blatter rips idea of VAR at World Cup

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I’m still not entirely comfortable with VAR at the World Cup, but Sepp Blatter’s opposition to it sure is curing what ails me.

Calling himself a “purist” — Lots of purists are cool with bribes, Joe — Blatter rebelled against the institution of Video Assistant Referee for the 2018 World Cup.

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The FIFA Ethics Committee truther claims that referee unfamiliarity and fan discomfort are big issues. That makes some sense, but we can’t help but consider the source. From the BBC:

“For a purist in football, as I am, I think it is an innovation which is going too fast,” said the 82-year-old. “Most of the referees have never worked this system. To go to the World Cup and introduce this system in the World Cup, I think it is not very clever. I don’t feel comfortable, definitely not, and spectators don’t feel comfortable.”

There’s another point to be made that some of the World Cup’s most memorable moments at here and abroad would’ve been undone by VAR: Diego Maradona’s Hand of God, Frank Lampard versus Germany in 2010, and Torsten Frings’ handball against the USMNT in 2002.

Is the game better off without the controversy caused by such moments, or did they serve to add to its mystique?

There are interesting discussions to be had here. I don’t know about you but Blatter ruins many of my considerations. No more microphones, Sepp. You’re done.

That said, let’s talk about replay.

Cavani goal leads Uruguay past Wales in China Cup Final

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Uruguay continued its warm-up for this summer’s World Cup with a 1-0 win over Wales in the China Cup Final on Monday.

[ MORE: USMNT-Paraguay preview ]

Edinson Cavani was the goal scorer, following up his audacious semifinal overhead goal. It was the striker’s 100th cap and 42nd goal, with four coming in his last five appearances for La Celeste.

Uruguay is a sneaky side to watch in Russia, with Cavani joining Luis Suarez to form a very potent strike force.

The South American side was eliminated by CONMEBOL mates Colombia in the Round of 16 at the last World Cup, and lost 3-2 to Netherlands in the 2010 semifinal en route to another 3-2 loss to Germany in the third place match.

Led by coach Oscar Tabarez since 2006, Uruguay has a winnable World Cup Group A with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Group A’s winner and runner-up will be drawn against the opposite from Group B, likely Portugal and Spain.

UK coroner blames Qatar World Cup site conditions for death

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LONDON (AP) A British coroner has blamed dangerous working practices for the death of a worker on a 2022 World Cup stadium building site in Qatar.

An inquest heard that Zachary Cox fell nearly 40 meters in January 2017 when a faulty hoist he was using to put a suspended walkway in place broke at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

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The 40-year-old Cox’s safety harness snapped under the weight. He fell head first, sustaining brain injuries and a broken neck. Cox was born in South Africa but later lived in England.

Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley told Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court that site managers “knew or should have known that they were effectively requiring a group of their workers to rely on potentially lethal equipment.”

Hamilton-Deeley described a new system of hoists introduced to speed up construction as “downright dangerous.”

The stadium contractor is Midmac-Six Construct, a venture between Belgian and Qatari firms.

World Cup organizers in Doha say four people employed on the project were removed from their jobs and banned from future tournament work.

Who has the best chance to win the World Cup?

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With the World Cup draw complete, national teams and fans can start to figure out what their teams’ paths are to the World Cup title.

Luckily for us, Opta has done the hard work crunching numbers and has some interesting results for us.

Opta’s World Cup predictor gives Brazil with the highest chance of raising the Jules Rimet trophy at 14.2 percent, followed by defending World Cup champion Germany at 11.4 percent. Argentina (10.9 percent), France (10.5 percent) and Spain (9.3 percent) round out the top five. Morocco, at 0.5 percent, has the smallest chance of world glory.

[READ: Southgate: Always “big pressure” on England]

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Southgate: Always “big pressure” on England

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While every team at the World Cup finals deserves to be there, England surely came away one of the happier nations on Friday after the 2018 World Cup draw.

England were placed in Group G alongside Belgium, Panama and Tunisia, the latter two nations that England – at least on paper – will be expected to beat.

[MORE: World Cup field set: Here are your groups]

Speaking after the draw, Gareth Southgate told reporters in Moscow that although the core of the current England squad are young, there is always “big pressure” put on the Three Lions by England fans.

“I think with England there is always big pressure, like all of the big football countries,” Southgate said. “Our supporters have high expectations. With this team it’s a little bit different, we’re quite a young team, (we) don’t have huge experience with tournament football, but it’s a team with a lot of potential and a team that we think will improve in the next few years.”

If fit, England could have one of the younger average ages across the squad, with 20-year-old Marcus Rashford, 21-year-old Dele Alli, 22-year-old Raheem Sterling, 23-year-old Eric Dier, 23-year-old John Stones, 23-year-old Jordan Pickford and 24-year-old Harry Kane all likely to play a major role next June/July.

Hear what Southgate had to say after the draw.