Getty Images

FIFA may expand 2022 World Cup in Qatar

4 Comments

There is still a very real possibility that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see 48 teams take part for the first time in history.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]  

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Friday ahead of the 2018 World Cup final, FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed that the World Cup could be expanded and talks are planned.

The tournament was scheduled to only have 32 teams with the field to be expanded to 48 teams for the first time for the 2026 World Cup joint-hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada. But talks around adding an extra 16 teams continue, even though Qatar wants it to remain at 32 teams as they’ve only built eight host stadiums so far.

“In the coming months, we will meet with them and adopt a decision. For the moment, it will be played with 32 teams and the distribution of spots will remain as they are,” Infantino said. “First we will discuss with the Qataris and then with the FIFA Council and stakeholders and decide calmly what the decision is. For the moment, we have a World Cup with 32 teams.”

[ MORE: Key battles in 2018 WC final ]

Infantino also confirmed that the tournament, which will be played in the Middle East for the first time, will kick off on Nov. 21 and end on Dec. 18. The official dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were reiterated by Infantino after initially being released three years ago.

“The dates for the World Cup are set. It will played in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022,” Infantino said. “The leagues are all aware and they will have to adapt their calendars as a consequence. In the end it is the right decision. It cannot be played in June and July and in November and December the players are very well prepared because it is almost the beginning of the season.”

These dates had been previously stated as it was agreed that the World Cup would be moved from June/July to November/December to coincide with the extreme weather conditions in Qatar in the summer months.

With the domestic seasons in Europe set to adapt their schedule for the tournament, there is also the small matter of Major League Soccer having to squeeze in its own playoff games into a much smaller window for the 2022 season.

On top of that, in the U.S. sporting sphere it will be a busy, crowded place in November/December as the World Cup games will compete with college football, the NFL, NHL and NBA for air-time.

FIFA invites rescued Thai boys to London awards event

AP
1 Comment

MOSCOW (AP) The boys soccer team in Thailand rescued from a flooded cave this week has been invited to FIFA’s annual awards event.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino says they will be invited to come to London, where the world’s best player prize will be presented on Sept. 24.

The 12 boys and their coach were asked to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday. They were unable to accept for medical reasons, after being rescued between Sunday and Tuesday to end a two-week ordeal.

Infantino says FIFA will look at involving the team in another soccer event, possibly in Thailand.

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

The Latest: Official fined, banned; Player only gets warning

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A day after a player was let off with a warning, a Croatia official has been fined 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,150) for making a pro-Ukraine video that soon appeared on social media after the team’s World Cup quarterfinal win over Russia.

FIFA says Ognjen Vukojevic was also warned for “unsporting behavior.” The incident also involved Croatia defender Domagoj Vida, who received an official warning but no match sanction from soccer’s international governing body.

Vukojevic, who played for Dynamo Kiev with Vida, stated “This is a victory for Dynamo and for Ukraine!”

Earlier Monday, the Croatia soccer federation said Vukojevic had been sent home from the World Cup.

FIFA says he published the video, which appeared on social media about an hour after Croatia’s quarterfinal victory in a penalty shootout.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel noted that Vukojevic and the Croatian federation soon apologized.

Vida is expected to start for Croatia against England in the semifinals on Wednesday.

8:40 p.m.

Cuneyt Cakir has been selected to referee the semifinal between Croatia and England, making it successive World Cups the Turkish official has handled a game in the semis.

Cakir will be working his third game in Russia on Wednesday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

He handled Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria and Iran’s 1-0 win over Morocco in the group stage.

Uruguayan Andres Cunha was appointed to referee Tuesday’s semifinal between France and Belgium in St. Petersburg.

Cakir was referee in the World Cup semifinals at Brazil four years ago when Argentina edged Netherlands on penalties.

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

FIFA to review fair-play tiebreaker, but unlikely to change

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
2 Comments

MOSCOW (AP) — FIFA plans to review a rule that resulted in Senegal being eliminated from the World Cup because it had more yellow cards than Japan, but is unlikely to remove the measure.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Best XI (so far) ]

“We will review after this World Cup, we will see what the feedback and the situation is,” FIFA’s competition director Colin Smith said Friday, “but as it currently stands we don’t see any need to change.”

The rule, in use for the first time at the World Cup, caused a stir when the last games in Group H were being played simultaneously and it became obvious it would be needed as a tiebreaker between two teams finishing equal in every other way.

Japan barely attacked in the end of its 1-0 loss to Poland — preferring instead to take a safety first approach against a team that was already out of contention — because it was due to qualify on its disciplinary record ahead of Senegal. At the time, Senegal was losing 1-0 to Colombia, which jumped from third spot to top of the group.

Previously the situation would have been resolved with the drawing of lots, which would have meant that during the game, no team would have been assured of going through in the same circumstances.

[ MORE: Predicting the round of 16 ]

“What we want to avoid is the drawing of lots. We believe that teams should go forward on their performance and what happens on the pitch, not in a draw bowl,” Smith said. “The preference is that slots and teams advancing is on the basis of goals and results and there’s clear winners.” He said the ‘fair play’ rule was clear to all teams.

Smith added that FIFA had no complaint about England’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Thursday, which was widely likened to a friendly game because of the combined 17 changes to the starting lineups and perceived lack of attacking intent. Both teams had already qualified for the knockout stages, and the losing team could face lower-ranked opponents in subsequent rounds.

“Fans who have paid money” deserve to see competitive games, Smith said, but he added that he Adnan Januzaj’s curling shot for Belgium’s goal showed the game was indeed competitive.

“If Belgium didn’t want to win, they obviously forgot to tell the goalscorer,” Smith said, “Because it was a cracker.”

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP
3 Comments

FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.