FIFA hands Switzerland one of seven World Cup seeds – Is it deserved?

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When it comes to the FIFA world rankings procedure, ANYTHING is possible.

Like, for example, Switzerland being one of the European teams handed a seed in the World Cup.

Yep, that happened.

Not the Netherlands. Not Italy. Not England.

Switzerland. As in fondue, big mountains and absurdly nice people.

La Nati was handed the seed after finishing 7th in the recent FIFA rankings, released earlier today. The other six nations being put in the top pot of seeds are Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay.

Uruguay’s place in the top pot is subject to their winning the intercontinental playoff against Jordan. In the event they fail to do so, the Netherlands will move into the top pot.

Only the top pot is seeded for the World Cup draw in Bahia on December 6th, with the remaining pools based on geography to ensure a spread of nations in each group. Each group can only have one team from each confederation, with the exception of Europe which will have two nations in four or five groups.

Assuming Uruguay qualify, the geographical draw pots are fairly easy to forecast. One pot may contain eight European countries, another would have the four Asian countries and four from CONCACAF (or New Zealand, depending on the result of their playoff with Mexico), and a final pot of Chile, Ecuador and the five African qualifiers. A separate pot would then contain the lowest-ranked UEFA side, who would be drawn against a non-European team from the seeded pot – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia or possibly Uruguay.

Switzerland grabbed the seed by defeating Albania away 2-1 on October 11th and Slovenia at home 1-0 four days later. Those results saw Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side shoot up seven spots to 7th in the FIFA rankings, taking full advantage of Italy’s costly draw with Armenia.

Although Switzerland’s seeding will come as a surprise to many, they are unbeaten in their last 14 matches, including a 1-0 victory over Brazil. That form is thanks to a group of seasoned veterans Stephan Lichsteiner (Juventus), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Tranqillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen) gelling well with a pool of strong young talent in Fabian Schar (Basel), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg).

The FIFA rankings will always provide controversial results. But perhaps this time around they have exposed a nation that deserves the footballing world’s adulation for their consistency and compelling upward swing.

Hazard, Lukaku help Belgium to rout

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Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard each scored a pair of goals and Michy Batshuayi also scored as Belgium clobbered Tunisia 5-2 in Moscow on Saturday.

Dylan Bronn and Wahbi Khazri scored for Tunisia.

Belgium leads the group ahead of England’s Sunday match against Panama.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Romelu Lukaku led an early break that led to a Thomas Meunier shot collected by Tunisian keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Eden Hazard won a penalty in the fifth minute, just inside the 18. He converted the chance low and to the right of Ben Mustapha.

Ben Mustapha was fortunate when Hazard’s 12th minute shot of a terrific Lukaku pass was substandard.

Lukaku then scored a beauty in the 16th minute, sent into the 18 by Dries Mertens, when he clinically slid a shot inside the far post.

Tunisia got a surprise answer a minute later, with three goals gracing the games first 18 minutes. Bronn turned a free kick past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

https://twitter.com/TelemundoSports/status/1010498221116801024

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Belgium was knocking on the door for most of the half, and a wobbly Kevin De Bruyne missed Lukaku with a stoppage time cross which should’ve led to a third.

Lukaku got his third courtesy of Meunier a moment later.

Hazard scored his second after the break, and Youri Tielemans assisted Batshuayi’s marker to round out the scoring for Belgium. Ex-Sunderland man Khazri scored late for Tunisia.

VIDEO: Wild first half in Moscow sees Lukaku, Hazard on board

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Romelu Lukaku (2) and Eden Hazard scored for Belgium before Dylan Bronn answered for Tunisia, as dominant Belgium holds a 3-1 lead with three goals gracing the games first 18 minutes on Saturday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Lukaku led an early break that led to a Thomas Meunier shot collected by Tunisian keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Hazard won a penalty in the fifth minute, just inside the 18. He converted the chance low and to the right of Ben Mustapha.

Ben Mustapha was fortunate when Hazard’s 12th minute shot of a terrific Lukaku pass was substandard.

Lukaku then scored a beauty in the 16th minute, sent into the 18 by Dries Mertens, when he clinically slid a shot inside the far post.

Tunisia got a surprise answer a minute later when Bronn turned a free kick past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Lukaku would chip the keeper after Meunier played his perfect run to feet.

https://twitter.com/TelemundoSports/status/1010498221116801024

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

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Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE