Did FIFA intentionally derail England’s 2018 World Cup bid?

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Is this just a case of sour grapes? Or something much more damning?

I’m undecided, but the evidence is staking up against FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the governing bodies other executives.

On Wednesday the British Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, made claims the Blatter intentionally helped sway voters against England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid by reminding FIFA executives about the British media claiming corruption and bribery was rife in FIFA, just moments before the final votes were cast.

And, you guessed it, England got nowhere near winning the bid for World Cup 2018 despite being one of the clear favorites. Robertson explains what happened.

There was a slightly unsatisfactory chapter. I’ve been told by a number of people in the room that Sepp Blatter, straight before the vote, stood up and reminded the delegates what the British press had done to them in the period running up to the vote.

Robertson believed that directly had a huge impact on voters, who had previously promised the Prime Minister or Prince William their vote, and then didn’t deliver.

“That must have influenced the way some of those delegates who promised to give us their vote then didn’t,” Robertson said. “Those things make me feel very uneasy as a Sports Minister about the whole process.”

(MORE: Mounting pressure vs. 2022 Qatar World Cup, as England heads nations asking for switch)

The entire bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was condemned by Robertson.

“It was a strange and obscure bidding process; had it all been made clear I suspect we might not have bid,” Robertson said.”I didn’t agree with the way the competition was run but there was a competition: Qatar won it, and congratulations to them.”

But Robertson wasn’t finished there, as he believed many called Qatar’s bid into doubt right from the beginning.

“The interesting thing is that there was nobody there during that bidding process who really thought that staging that World Cup in the summer was a sensible option, so to me it was always obvious it was going to be moved to the winter.”

(MORE: Qatar hits back “It’s the right place to host 2022 World Cup”)

Yes, most English soccer fans are still bitter about not winning the right to host the 2018 World Cup. After not having a World Cup hosted in England since 1966 — in that time Mexico and Germany have both hosted the World Cup twice — the home of soccer has been neglected by the powers that be. But that’s not important.

What is, is the fact that Blatter would stand up and give a speech, just prior to voting, slamming the British media and obviously trying to sway the FIFA delegates voting.

And it worked, as England’s bid failed despite gaining wide-spread praise from almost every level.

It does make you wonder exactly what has, and is, going on at FIFA…

Group C wide open as Denmark, Australia settle for draw

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Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.

France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.

The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.

Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.

Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.

Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.

A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.

The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.

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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.

Video: VAR awards Australia penalty, before Jedinak converts

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The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.

Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.

After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.

Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.

Video: Eriksen volley has Denmark ahead inside 10 minutes

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Denmark is well on its way to another three points on Thursday, and this time it’s Christian Eriksen who has finally broken through at the World Cup.

 MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Eriksen put the Danes in front in the seventh minute after a tremendous volley that gave Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan no chance at keeping it out.

After a sloppy turnover in their own half, Australia could only watch as the ball fell to Nicolai Jørgensen, who cleverly back-heeled to Eriksen at the top of the box.

The Danes pulled off a 1-0 victory in their first Group C match against Peru, while Australia fell 2-1 to France.

Croatia coach says “we have nothing to lose” against Argentina

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Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic chose his words wisely when discussing their final Group D opponent, Argentina, but his side won’t be backing down when they take on Lionel Messi and Co.

[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran equalizer called off by replay ]

With three points already in the bag for the European nation, Croatia currently sits atop their group, however, Dalic recognizes the task that lies in front of him and his team on Thursday.

“I didn’t say that Argentina was the easiest opponent,” Dalic said. “I said that this was the easiest game for us. We have nothing to lose. We are playing against one of the best.”

Croatia does have the benefit of having won its first match in group play, which has given the side a decided enthusiasm heading into the meeting.

For Ivan Rakitic — who plays at Barcelona with Messi — he believes there isn’t much he or anyone on his team can say or do to further prepare themselves for the Albiceleste.

“What can I tell them that they don’t know?” Rakitic said. “The world knows. Messi is one of the best players in the world. He will have his moments, clearly. It is up to us to stop him, to play the right way against him, and to enjoy the match and play our best.

“It’s a beautiful thing to play against one of the best teams in the world. We are especially motivated.”

In four all-time meetings, Argentina leads 2-1-1 against Croatia, including a 1-0 victory during the 1998 World Cup in France.

The two teams last met in 2014 following Argentina’s World Cup final defeat to Germany, with Messi and Co. earning a 2-1 victory over Croatia.