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PHOTOS: France’s World Cup winners get glitzy rings

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The 2018 World Cup winners have a very special ring to commemorate their achievement.

Paul Pogba is the man they have to thank, as he paid for them.

France’s World Cup heroes have already received the customary winners medal after winning it all in Russia last summer, but now in true U.S. sports fashion they have been handed diamond-encrusted, customized rings to remember their success with Pogba and Antoine Griezmann designing the rings and Pogba then bought them for this teammates.

“It’s a small gesture after winning a World Cup with great players,” Pogba said. “I consider them my family. It’s a small gift from me.”

Take a look at the photos and video below to see the incredible rings.

Chile joins South American bid for 2030 World Cup

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Chile has joined a coalition of South American countries planning to bid for the 2030 World Cup.

The head of South American soccer body CONMEBOL announced the decision Wednesday after meeting in Buenos Aires with presidents of the four nations, which also includes Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said on Twitter: “We confirm the agreement between the four countries to keep working on the strategy for FIFA to award us joint organization of the 2030 World Cup.”

Argentina and Uruguay, the country that hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930, initially planned to bid for the 2030 tournament together before Paraguay was added later.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said in February his country would join the group.

FIFA will only allow natural grass fields at 2023 Women’s WC

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FIFA will only allow natural grass fields at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The stipulation is contained in requirements sent to bidding nations and follows controversy over the use of artificial turf at the 2015 tournament in Canada.

Some players launched a gender discrimination case -which was later withdrawn – over FIFA’s use of turf four years ago because men’s World Cup games have always been on grass. They claimed the artificial surface is less forgiving than grass and impacts the game because of concerns over injury. They also claimed balls travel and bounce differently on artificial turf. FIFA said it wanted the same surface in every stadium.

This year’s 24-team tournament in France will be played on grass in nine venues. FIFA has made it clear artificial surfaces won’t be acceptable in 2023, either. What is permitted is the hybrid system used at many leading stadiums where millions of synthetic grass fibers are woven in between and beneath the natural grass.

“The pitch shall feature a natural grass playing surface,” FIFA’s bidding requirements state. “Hybrid-grass systems are considered natural grass according to FIFA’s requirements and hybrid reinforcement should be considered for stadium pitches.”

FIFA also is asking bidders to ensure that each training ground has at least one grass field.

There is record interest in hosting the 2023 tournament, with nine countries having expressed their intent to bid.

The most intriguing bid is by South Korea, which wants to combine with North Korea. But FIFA now includes an evaluation on human rights and worker conditions when assessing Women’s World Cup bidders, just like the new requirements for prospective hosts of the men’s tournament. That could prove problematic for North Korea, which would also have to provide visas in a “non-discriminatory manner” while currently being one of the most closed countries in the world.

From Asia, there also is interest in hosting from Australia and Japan. There are three potential bidders from South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia. New Zealand and South Africa are also pursuing becoming candidates ahead of the April 16 deadline to register a bid. FIFA set an Oct. 4 deadline to submit bid books.

The 37-member FIFA Council will pick the host in March next year after inspectors produce bid evaluation reports.

The bidding document also states that the opening game and final must be played in venues with at least 55,000 seats. For other games up to the quarterfinals, 20,000 seats are required. The semifinals must be played in 35,000-capacity venues.

In the technical evaluation, five aspects of infrastructure will be given grades between zero and five: stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, the international broadcast center site and other competition-related sites. There’s also a score on commercial matters, including revenue and costs projections.

“The scores received may have a bearing on whether or not the bid is eligible for consideration by, or presentation to, the FIFA Council,” the bidding documents state. “FIFA reserves the right to deem the bid ineligible on the basis that a bid does not achieve the minimum scores” of 2.0 for the overall mark, or stadiums, accommodation and facilities for teams and referees.

Korean plan among nine possible bids for 2023 Women’s World Cup

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says nine soccer federations are interested in hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup including South Korea, which could jointly bid with North Korea.

Brazil and South Africa are in the contest, suggesting underused stadiums built to host the 2014 and 2010 World Cups could be picked.

Other contenders are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan and New Zealand.

South Korean officials said this month that FIFA approached them to explore a joint bid with North Korea.

Potential candidates have until April 16 to register to bid, then until Oct. 4 to submit bid books.

FIFA now includes a human rights evaluation when assessing World Cup bidders.

The 37-member FIFA Council will pick the host in March next year.

The next Women’s World Cup is played June 7-July 7 in France.

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Battle lines drawn between top clubs, FIFA over new Club World Cup

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There’s a new conflict between FIFA and Europe’s top clubs, represented by the European Club Association.

Despite warnings from the ECA and a stated refusal to take part in a new-look FIFA Club World Cup that would take place in the summer, the FIFA Council overwhelmingly approved a proposal to revamp the Club World Cup anyway.

Under the new format, the next club World Cup will take place in June/July 2021, with 24 teams taking part. The new tournament would take the place of the FIFA Confederations Cup, and will take place during the FIFA international window. It’s unclear where the club World Cup will take place, though it’s likely it won’t be in Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup in the winter due to extreme heat in the summer.

So, why did FIFA, and president Gianni Infantino, push for and then approve this plan in the face of European clubs? For money, of course.

FIFA sees all the money that UEFA makes during the UEFA Champions League, and the same to an extent from CONMEBOL for the Copa Libertadores, and FIFA says to itself, “we want some of that revenue.”

That, along with some internal politics to please constituents outside of Europe means we’ve ended up with a much bigger club World Cup.

FIFA has decided that its worth the gamble of potentially playing a made-for-tv tournament without the best teams in the world, or they think that they can incentivize the ECA to play by the time the tournament would take place.

One of the big questions that has to be asked is whether there are any winners here. For the players, it’s even more games on top of an already incredibly busy club season, not to mention those who play international matches as well. Will players be so burnt out that they miss extensive time during the club season, when the clubs need them most? And could it jeopardize their health ahead of FIFA’s real showcase, the men’s World Cup?

For the fans, who are conditioned to watching National Team games in the summer, will it be overload to see more club soccer and more overmatched games in a tournament? And, will fans even tune in if the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Juventus decline to participate?

These are all questions FIFA executives need to ask themselves, as they try to figure out how to make wine from water, and turn a great idea on paper into reality, with buy-in from all stakeholders.