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FIFA subjects 2026 Morocco World Cup bid to fresh scrutiny

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Morocco’s World Cup bid is facing fresh scrutiny this week with the arrival of another delegation from FIFA after an initial task force found deficiencies in the proposals for the 2026 tournament.

In a downbeat conclusion to the visit by the FIFA inspectors last week, Morocco’s bid leader acknowledged it had to improve the quality of the submission made to FIFA in March because inadequacies were identified by football’s governing body.

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The previously unplanned second inspection of Morocco is an indication of the more rigorous process introduced by FIFA following criticism in 2010 that World Cups were awarded to the riskiest nations in 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar).

There will also be closer scrutiny of human rights of the bidders before the vote on June 13 when Morocco is currently due to be taking on a joint challenge from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Associated Press revealed last week Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to FIFA in the human rights risk assessment included in the bid book. The documents – along with the North American submission – will now be scrutinized for any gaps by human rights experts.

“That process involves an expert third-party assessment of the robustness of the human rights content of both bids that will directly inform the administration’s own evaluation,” Rachel Davis, who sits on FIFA’s human rights advisory board, told the AP.

“We are confident that the process will result in a fair assessment of the human rights situation in all four countries involved in the bids, and a roadmap for how to deal with any deficiencies that FIFA will then require the successful bidder to commit to.”

Davis, who is managing director of the Shift human rights organization, said an evaluation of the human rights in the bidding nations will be included in a report to the FIFA Council, which will also assess the verdict of the evaluation task force. A bid with low scores can be blocked by the council from advancing to a vote of up to 207 football nations at the FIFA Congress on June 13.

While Morocco has said it needs to spend almost $16 billion on infrastructure for the 48-team World Cup, including building or renovating all 14 stadiums, North American does not require any tournament-specific building work. Morocco bid president Moulay Hafid Elalamy said at the end of the FIFA inspection that officials “made some remarks on the conditions of some of the stadiums.”

The new batch of technical staff being deployed from FIFA HQ to Morocco did not make a similar follow-up visit to North America after the task force inspected the rival bid’s facilities this month.

“Following the visit of the 2026 bid evaluation task force to Morocco last week, it was decided to have an additional working visit this week to complement the initial analysis of the task force and clarify some aspects of the bid,” FIFA told the AP.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall (video)

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Thirty-plus yards is a tricky distance for defending a free kick.

How many guys do you put in the wall in case the shooter has the audacity to shoot?

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

It didn’t matter all that much during Wednesday’s match between DC United and Toronto FC. The shooter was Wayne Rooney, and he curled a fireball around the wall and inside the near post.

The amount of spin on the ball is out-of-this-world, as Rooney and DC aim to gain a four-point advantage over seventh place Montreal with two matches to play.

It’s Rooney’s 10th MLS goal in 18 games. He’s also posted six assists in leading United up the table.

Jamaica edges Panama, earns first Women’s World Cup berth (video)

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Jamaica is joining the United States and Canada as CONCACAF representatives in this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France after a thrilling 2-2 draw gave way to penalty kicks in Wednesday’s third place match at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

It’s a first World Cup for the Reggae Girlz, who won 4-2 in kicks.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

Jamaica held a pair of leads but allowed equalizers in regulation and extra time to push the match into kicks.

That’s when Jamaica coach Merron Gordon rolled the dice, subbing out goalkeeper Sydney Schneider in favor of Nicole McClure.

The backup saved two of four Panama attempts, and Sheyla Diaz buried her attempt to clinch a spot in France.

Panama can still qualify via a two-legged playoff with CONMEBOL’s Argentina, so there’s still hope for one of the great stories in women’s soccer (headlined by 17-year-old goalkeeper Yenith Bailey).

Olympiakos’ Fortounis gets ban for obscene celebration

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Olympiakos midfielder Kostas Fortounis has been handed a one-match ban in the Greek league as punishment for an obscene goal celebration during a game this month.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

Fortounis will miss this weekend’s match against OFI on the island of Crete after the penalty was announced Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Greece international mouthed obscenities toward opposing fans after scoring against AEK Athens on Oct. 7 during a 1-1 draw. He later apologized for the incident.

PAOK currently leads the Greek league standings with 16 points from six matches, level with Atromitos. AEK and Olympiakos follow with 13 points.

Ramos posts video to refute ‘stamp’ on Sterling

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Let’s start here: Sergio Ramos is a darn good center back and a filthy player. Both of those things are true.

And opponents are always going to try to use the latter to deprive a match of the former.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

But the Real Madrid center back is having the last laugh regarding the latest furor over one of his tackles.

It all started when a Twitter user spied what he believed to be a Ramos stamp on Raheem Sterling in Spain’s 3-2 loss to England in the UEFA Nations League (although the still frame of the video shows you where this is going).

Perhaps knowing that Ramos would come near, it turns out Sterling is playacting or having an extremely delayed response to another tackle.

Check the other angle.

Sure he probably stamped on someone else during the match, especially after being trucked by Eric Dier, but this is pretty funny from the Real Madrid antagonist.