No pay, less power: Bahraini sheikh’s FIFA presidency pitch

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MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) A Bahraini sheikh is going for simplicity and fan-appeal with headline pledges to transform a discredited FIFA: Relinquish much of the power Sepp Blatter built up over 17 years at FIFA and take no salary.

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa was a late, seemingly reluctant candidate to lead FIFA’s recovery from a corruption crisis that is likely to see fresh revelations of wrongdoing emerging long after election day in February.

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“I don’t want too much power with the president – the power has to be shared,” Sheikh Salman said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I believe in doing things in a different way, not being centralized where the president has to do every detail in running the business.”

That means taking no money for being the face of FIFA.

“I don’t want to be an executive president,” the sheikh said. “And if I’m not an executive president I don’t see how I do deserve to be paid.”

Rather than a bitter election fight until Feb. 26, the sheikh hopes there is a smooth succession, with the five candidates currently vying to run football whittled down before election day.

“I’d like to see most of the continents agreeing on a single candidate but we have to work for this in the next few weeks,” the sheikh said during an hour-long interview in the Bahraini capital Manama.

[ MORE: Blatter in hospital after “small breakdown” ]

Had it not been for Michel Platini injudiciously claiming 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) from FIFA four years ago, this Manchester United-supporting member of Bahrain’s royal family would not now be a front-runner to become the first Arab leader of FIFA.

Having been among Platini’s early campaign champions, Sheikh Salman entered the race once it became clear the UEFA president’s suspension over that 2011 payment made the election outcome far more uncertain. The Asian Football Confederation president would not have wanted Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan to have a clear path to the presidency.

The decision to stand was effectively a toss-up between Sheikh Salman and fellow FIFA executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who built his powerbase through the Olympic movement.

“We felt after Michel’s ban we felt one of us has to go,” Sheikh Salman said. “And I think that he looks at it as (a job for) the president of a confederation … it wasn’t a difficult choice between us.”

Platini is out of contention while awaiting the full verdict from FIFA’s ethics judge which could result in a long ban for the former France captain.

“I think damage has been done,” Sheikh Salman said. “But he has the right as well to defend himself. We cannot judge.”

The sheikh has already faced the judgment of many. With little name recognition profile among football fans outside the Asian region he has led for barely two years, his international spotlight usually comes when challenged on human rights abuse allegations he denounced as lies.

[ MORE: Platini: “I am the most able to run world football” ]

Despite complaints against his candidacy from rights groups, the sheikh was last week approved as a candidate by FIFA’s election watchdog alongside four other men: Prince Ali, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and apartheid-era former Robben Island prisoner Tokyo Sexwale.

How many names are on the ballot paper in Zurich in February could depend on whether Platini defies expectations and is cleared before election day.

“If he comes back and he still wants to run, I think we would have to sit together … and assess the situation,” Sheikh Salman said. “I am sure there will be an agreement. At the end of the day we all need to support each other … (and) come with a compromise to hopefully have a good solution for everybody.”

Whether that agreement could include the 49-year-old sheikh quitting the campaign is unclear.

“Anything is a possibility if it’s for the good of the cause,” he said. “But I didn’t go in and commit myself to give a full presumption I might withdraw. I’m in to go for the election.”

The sheikh had expected to gain Europe’s support until UEFA surprisingly endorsed Infantino on candidate deadline-day last month. Infantino, who will stand aside for Platini if his boss his cleared before election day, has been touted for a potential role running the FIFA administration under a Sheikh Salman presidency.

“I’d like to feel like we are working together, not against each other – working for one cause to make that change,” the sheikh said. “We have to sit and talk and come to a solution of what’s best.”

A Salman presidency would look very different from Blatter’s reign, potentially blander in terms of public statements. Expect fewer rash pronouncements on changes to the game and awkward asides in speeches.

[ MORE: Blatter: “I hope to be back as FIFA president” ]

The sheikh is yet to produce his manifesto, but said he would consult the confederations before emulating Infantino and pledging to expand the World Cup by eight teams to 40. Discussing whether the use of technology should be expanded beyond ruling on disputed goals, the sheikh said: “The simple it is the better it is.”

If elected until 2019, the sheikh would have to grapple with the impact of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup. Beyond ongoing geo-political concerns, Moscow has faced renewed accusations about the probity of its bid since Blatter suggested there was a backroom deal to award the showpiece to Russia for the first time.

“With any vote regarding a World Cup probably the ExCo will talk to say `Yes – how do you feel this and that?”‘ said the sheikh, who was not on the executive committee at the time of the 2010 vote. “Definitely it’s not rigged. You share your views … that doesn’t mean you already made an agreement.”

The agreements that will be a priority for the next FIFA president are with sponsors. Only seven of 14 available positions in FIFA’s top two commercial categories have been filled, with Dubai-based airline Emirates and Sony among those sponsors yet to be replaced.

“Once people see there is stability and there is a will to do things in the right way I think they will come back,” the sheik said.

“There is no place for, you know, hiding issues away from the public or away from our members.”

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

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Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola