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Report: England to play 3-man backline at World Cup

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England National Team fans better get used to seeing their team use a three-man backline because it’s here to stay.

That’s according to a report from the Telegraph, which states that Southgate will use a three-man defense as part of his preferred formation for November’s friendly matches against Brazil and Germany as a way to build the team’s identity ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

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“We have to focus on a system and really try to hone it, work on it, improve it, that might mean we might have to leave some good players out. But we have to start to make those decisions over the next couple of camps,” Southgate said after England’s 1-0 win over Lithuania.

In the past, England has been criticized for not having an identity, for playing a bland style of soccer with the hopes of individual moments of brilliance taking them forward. While some may criticize the use of a three-man backline, it does allow England to release wingbacks Danny Rose and Kyle Walker farther up the field, as well as give John Stones more cover at centerback.

“For me, in terms of the way we’d want to play from the back, I think it (a three-man defense) is a better option,” Southgate said. “At the moment we turn the ball over too much and when we do we split into two centre-backs wide open, we are still open (against Lithuania) with three. So we will benefit if we don’t keep turning the ball over.”

The decision is a change, or evolution, from the 4-2-3-1 formation used by Southgate through most of the qualifying campaign, but with a changed formation, it could lead to some attackers not getting a chance to start, whether it’s Marcus Rashford or Jamie Vardy.

According to the report, Southgate’s preferred attackers behind Harry Kane include Dele Alli and when fit, Adam Lallana, to play in a similar way to Tottenham, with Lallana playing in Christian Eriksen‘s role.

Cleveland, New Orleans, Pittsburgh cut from World Cup bid

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland, New Orleans and Pittsburgh have been dropped as potential host cities for the 2026 World Cup.

The North American bid committee said Wednesday it also cut Indianapolis and San Antonio, along with Birmingham, Alabama; and Jacksonville, Florida. The Canadian cities of Ottawa and Regina, Saskatchawan, also were eliminated.

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Thirty-two areas remain in contention, including 25 from the United States, four from Canada and three from Mexico.

The bid committee said it expects its proposal, which will be sent to FIFA in March, to include up to 25 cities. At least 12 cities would ultimately be selected if the FIFA Congress picks the joint bid when it votes in June 2018.

The 2026 World Cup will be the first with a 48-nation field. Morocco said it also intends to bid.

The 32 remaining areas under consideration are:

UNITED STATES

Atlanta; Baltimore; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Chicago; Dallas and Arlington, Texas; Denver; Detroit; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Glendale, Arizona; Houston; Kansas City, Missouri; Landover, Maryland; Las Vegas; Los Angeles and Inglewood and Pasadena, California; Miami; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia; Salt Lake City; Santa Clara, California; Seattle; Tampa, Florida

CANADA

Edmonton, Alberta; Montreal; Toronto; Vancouver, British Columbia

MEXICO

Guadalajara; Mexico City; Monterrey

Chile says it will consider joint bid for 2026 World Cup

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KAZAN, Russia (AP) Chile says it will consider bidding to host the 2026 World Cup with some of its South American neighbors.

Speaking in Russia ahead of Chile’s Confederations Cup game against Germany on Thursday, the president of the Chilean football federation said that he wants to begin discussions to analyze the possibility of making the bid.

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“We will consider the possibility of doing it together with other countries, it can be with two countries or three countries,” federation president Arturo Salah said Tuesday in Moscow. “We’ll have to see. The bidding period is open. We have to see if there is any possibility of partnering with some of our neighbors and see if we can make a bid.”

Salah did not elaborate on his plans or if he had already contacted any other country in South America about the subject.

The announcement came as a surprise as North America is widely expected to be awarded the 2026 event with a joint bid by Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The 2018 tournament is being staged in Russia, and Qatar will host it in 2022.

The president of the South American football confederation, Alejandro Dominguez, has said that the continent wants to host the 2030 World Cup, which will mark the tournament’s centennial celebrations.

Uruguay hosted the first edition of the World Cup in 1930.

The deadline for countries to show their intention to bid for the 2026 tournament is Aug. 11.

Chile was the World Cup host in 1962.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets FIFA’s Gianni Infantino

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BEIJING (AP) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday amid speculation that China could be planning to bid for a future World Cup.

Xi thanked Infantino for his support for the sports’ development in China during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s legislature in the heart of Beijing.

“We are aware of the fact that FIFA is paying more attention to the development of football in China these days, and I do believe China-FIFA cooperation has a good future. Thank you,” Xi said.

Infantino told Xi, an avowed soccer fan, that FIFA aimed to help fire up a “new era of football, not only in China, President Xi, but in the whole world because we are really passionate about football.”

The meeting comes as indications are growing that China could bid to host the World Cup either in 2030 or 2034 under a plan launched by Xi’s administration to obtain international soccer success.

Along with a massive expansion in the numbers of academies, fields and coaches, Xi’s drive aims to turn China’s perpetually underperforming team into a World Cup winner by 2050.

China has appeared in one World Cup, in 2002, and drew 2-2 with Syria on Tuesday in a qualifying match, leaving it last in its group.

Report: Workers on World Cup construction sites face abuse

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MOSCOW (AP) Workers building stadiums for next year’s World Cup in Russia have faced repeated abuses and routinely gone unpaid for several months, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday.

At a stadium in Yekaterinburg, some workers were required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius (minus-13 Fahrenheit) “without sufficient breaks for them to warm themselves,” the report states.

“FIFA is essentially expecting us to take their word for it that their work has improved workers’ lives,” Jane Buchanan, the report’s author, told The Associated Press. “This is supposed to be the reformed FIFA, moving away from secrecy and a lot of deals behind closed doors.”

At least 17 workers have died on World Cup construction sites, according to Building and Wood Workers’ International, a trade union.

Known deaths include workers killed in falls and the case of a worker from North Korea who died of a reported heart attack at the stadium in St. Petersburg, which will host the final of the Confederations Cup on July 2, as well as World Cup matches in 2018.

The Confederations Cup is an eight-team event that begins on June 17 and is seen as a key test of Russia’s readiness for the World Cup.

In a letter to four Scandinavian soccer associations last month, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the governing body had “strong evidence” of North Koreans working at the St. Petersburg site.

“FIFA is aware of and firmly condemns the often appalling labor conditions under which North Korean workers are employed in various countries around the world,” Infantino said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The Human Rights Watch report, based on interviews with 42 workers at six sites, says Russian authorities are not doing enough to crack down on employers who cheat workers out of wages, including many migrants with little legal protection.

“They pay whenever they want, however they want,” one worker from Kyrgyzstan, identified only as Alibek, said in the report.

When workers demand full payment, they can be punished or kicked off the job by employers, the report says.

Similar complaints of wage theft were made by workers at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the venue for the 2018 World Cup final, in interviews last year with the AP. Allegations of worker abuses were also common leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“The lessons of Sochi haven’t been learned,” Buchanan said. “A lot of the same abuses persist.”

Human Rights Watch called on the Russian government to enact tougher and more frequent investigations of suspect employers and bring prosecutions against violators. The group also accuses FIFA of not doing enough to speak out on workers’ issues and of operating a flawed inspection program of its own, with only partial results made public.

FIFA defended its inspection program, saying it had seen a sharp fall in “the number of issues” at Russian construction sites, but didn’t specify a timeframe or the total number of incidents.

“FIFA is going beyond what any sports federation has done to date to identify and address issues related to human and labor rights,” the global soccer body said in a statement. “While incompliances with relevant labor standards continue to be found – something to be expected in a project of this scale – the overall message of exploitation on the construction sites portrayed by HRW does not correspond with FIFA’s assessment.”

Separately, FIFA is also under pressure to safeguard workers’ rights in the 2022 World Cup host nation of Qatar, where construction work is largely carried out by migrant workers who often have few legal rights.

“It does not bode well for Qatar,” Buchanan said. “Now’s the time for FIFA to pull this all together – it’s not too late for Russia and they’re certainly well in advance of the games in Qatar – to make really clear that their expectations are non-negotiable.”

Associated Press writers Levi Bridges and Jan Olsen also contributed to this report.