Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images

Reports: 48-team 2022 World Cup decision in June

3 Comments

If FIFA can find appropriate countries to help Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, we may very well have a 48-team tournament.

The 2022 edition has been under the microscope about as long as Qatar has held the rights to host it, with workers’ rights and slave labor joining a suspicious bidding process which ultimately helped usher former FIFA czar Sepp Blatter out of his seat of power.

[ MORE: Analyzing the UCL draw ]

Ten venues across five countries have been mentioned as possible co-hosts, with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait in the running to host select World Cup matches.

FIFA conditionally approved the expansion of the tournament on Friday, pending a “joint feasibility study” conducted by Qatar and FIFA.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino infamously quipped that sharing the tournament could bring a measure of peace to the Middle East.

A 24-team 2021 Club World Cup was also approved, as the threat of big European teams boycotting the summer edition looms over Infantino’s plan to expand FIFA’s marquee club tournament.

FIFA council to assess 2022 World Cup expansion study next week

AP Photo/Michael Probst
Leave a comment

An agenda for FIFA’s ruling council says plans to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams will be assessed at next week’s meeting.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said fast-tracking the increase which was due to start at the 2026 tournament, would require using additional countries beyond Qatar.

[ MORE: Yedlin wants Rafa stay ]

Qatar’s infrastructure is already stretched for the Middle East’s first World Cup, currently scheduled for 32 teams playing 64 games in 28 days.

To fit in 16 additional games, FIFA is looking at using Kuwait and Oman, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

FIFA council members are yet to be provided with the feasibility study on World Cup expansion that will be discussed on March 15 in Miami.

The council will also discuss Infantino’s desire to expand the Club World Cup and launch a Global Nations League, plans that have stalled amid European opposition.

Asian Cup wrap: Japan survives, Qatar wins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In Asian Cup action earlier today, Group F got its group stage play under way, as one of the favorites was forced to hold on at the end.

Japan took on Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi, and it was quite the wire-to-wire scare for one of the stronger teams in the field. Turkmenistan went in front on the game’s opening goal just before the half-hour mark as Arslanmurat Amanov unleashed a beautiful strike from outside the box.

It was Turkmenistan’s lead into halftime, but it wouldn’t last long out of the break as Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako first brought Japan level in the 56th minute with a great move in the box before a tap-in four minutes later put them 2-1 in front. 20-year-old Ritsu Doan picked up the eventual winner, scoring in the 71st minute on a big deflection to put Japan up 3-1.

That would prove vital, as Turkmenistan halved the deficit through a penalty converted by 34-year-old Ahmet Atayev with just 11 minutes remaining, and while they fought for an equalizer, Japan held them off through the final whistle.

The three points would bring Japan level with Uzbekistan atop Group F, with Uzbekistan winning 2-1 over Oman on goals from Ahmedov Ofil and Eldor Shomurodov, with the latter’s winner coming in the 85th minute on a close-range effort inside the near-post that Oman goalkeeper Faiz Al-Rushaidi will want to have back.

Finally, Qatar put itself in a good early position with a 2-0 win over Lebanon on second-half goals from Bassam Hisham and Moez Ali. Hisham’s 65th minute strike came on a well-struck free-kick from just outside the top of the box, while Ali added on in the 79th minute with an open-net tap-in after pouncing on a save forced by Abdelaziz Hatim.

WATCH: This Asian Champions League goal was struck really, really well

Leave a comment

The 2015 AFC Cup is bearing fruit of the wonder highlight variety.

The equivalent of the Europa League, the first day of group play Tuesday saw Al Nahda (Oman) beat Al-Wahda (Syria) via a very strong goal from Salim Al-Shamsi.

[ WATCH: Bayer bests Atleti with powerful shot ]

The midfielder takes a hard, low pass, takes a quick dribble and lashes a left-footed shot that pings off the inside of the net and rockets around the back.

It’s visually appealing. Let the video testify:

2015 Asian Cup preview: Japan shooting for fourth title in five tournaments

Leave a comment

The 2015 Asian Cup, the 16th edition of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) quadrennial international tournament, kicks off in Australia this Friday, January 9. Winners of this month’s Asian Cup will represent the AFC at the 2017 Confederations Cup, the tune-up tournament a year ahead of the 2018 World Cup, in Russia.

Japan, the most prolific winners of the Asian Cup (four times, all within the last six tournaments), are once again favorites to be crowned champions. Other past Asian Cup winners include South Korea (twice), Isreal, Iran (three times), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia (three times) and Iraq.

The final will be played on Saturday, January 31 at 3:30 am ET.

Asian soccer is unquestionably on the rise, just as it is here in the United States, so this year’s tournament is as good of a time as any to take the plunge and begin really familiarizing yourself with players who have long since been playing for a number of Europe’s biggest clubs.

HOST CITIES, VENUES, SCHEDULE

Stadium Australia — Sydney — 84,000 capacity
Hunter Stadium — Newcastle — 33,000 capacity
Suncorp Stadium — Brisbane — 52,500 capacity
GIO Canberra Stadium — Canberra — 25,000 capacity
AAMI Park — Melbourne — 30,000 capacity

Full schedule of group stage fixtures

GROUP A

source: Getty ImagesAustralia
Players to watch: F – Tim Cahill (right), New York Red Bulls; M – Mile Jedinak, Crystal Palace; M – Mark Bresciano, Al-Gharafa
Prediction: Group A runners-up after losing South Korea, and defeating Oman and Kuwait. Decent upside to reach the semis as hosts.

 

Oman
Players to watch: GK – Ali Al-Habsi, Wigan Athletic; F – Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, Fanja; F – Amad Al-Hosni, Saham
Prediction: Third place, Group A. They’ll not be blown out in any of their group games and they’re get their day in the sun in the group stage finale against Kuwait.

 

source: Getty ImagesSouth Korea
Coach: Uli Stielike
Players to watch: M – Son Heung-min (left), Bayer Leverkusen; M – Ki Sung-yueng, Sunderland; M – Lee Chung-yong, Botlon Wanderers
Prediction: Group A winners after defeating Australia and Oman, and drawing Kuwait. Likely semifinalists with a date against a weak Group B’s runner-up in the quarters.

 

Kuwait
Players to watch: F – Bader Al-Mutawa, Qadsia; D – Musaed Neda, Al-Oruba; GK – Nawaf Al Khaldi, Qadsia
Prediction: Fourth place, Group A. A fairly young Kuwaiti team struggles this time around, but gains valuable experience in the process.


GROUP B

source: APUzbekistan
Players to watch: M – Server Djeparov (right), Seongnam; D- Vitaliy Denisov, Lokomotiv Moscow; M – Timur Kapadze, Lokomotiv Tashkent
Prediction: Group B winners. Not the toughest group in the world, and finishing top means avoiding South Korea in the quarterfinals. That should be all the motivation the Uzbeks need.

 

Saudi Arabia
Players to watch: F – Nasser Al-Shamrani, Al-Hilal; D – Osama Hawsawi, Al-Ahli; M – Saud Kariri, Al-Hilali
Prediction: Third place, Group B. A relatively inexperienced Saudi squad, compared to triumphant years gone by. Their opener vs. China could decide all.

 

source: Getty ImagesChina
Players to watch: M – Zheng Zhi (right, at front), Guangzhou Evergrande; D- Zhang Linpeng, Guangzhou Evergrande; F – Yang Xu, Changchun Yatai
Prediction: Group B runners-up. Three points in the opener vs. Saudi Arabia goes a long way to easing Chinese worries. A loss and they’re in trouble.

 

North Korea
Players to watch: F – Pak Kwang-ryong, Vaduz; M – Jong Il-gwan, Rimyongsu; D- Cha Jong-hyok, Wil 1900
Prediction: Fourth place, Group B.


GROUP C

source: Getty ImagesIran
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Players to watch: M – Javad Nekounam (right), Osasuna; M – Ashkan Dejagah, Al-Arabi; F – Sardar Azmoun, Rubin Kazan
Prediction: Winners, Group C. Less than a semifinals appearance and they’ll be disappointed, and rightly so.

 

Qatar
Players to watch:
 M – Khalfan Ibrahim, Al Sadd; D – Bilal Mohammed, Al-Gharafa; M – Magid Mohamed, El Jaish
Prediction: Fourth place, Group C.

 

source: Getty ImagesUnited Arab Emirates
Players to watch: F – Ali Mabkhout, Al-Jazira; M – Omar Abdulrahman, Al-Ain; F – Ahmed Khalil, Al-Ahli
Prediction: Runners-up, Group C. UAE could handle their business and be through after games one and two before they have to bother with Iran. Then top spot in the group is on the line to see who avoids Japan.

 

Bahrain
Players to watch: M – Mohamed Salmeen, Al-Muharraq; M – Faouzi Aaish, Al-Sailiya; F – Ismail Abdul-Latif, Al-Muharraq
Prediction: Third place, Group C. The first two games present extremely tough challenges, but a winnable game in third place offers a chance to leave Australia with a good taste in their mouth.


GROUP D

source: Getty ImagesJapan
Coach: Javier Aguirre
Players to watch: M – Shinji Kagawa (right), Borussia Dortmund; F – Keisuke Honda, AC Milan; F – Shinji Okazaki, Mainz
Prediction: Group D winners. Anything other than a finals appearance will be deemed a disappointment, if not being crowned champions once again. The attacking talent is there for a another trophy, but as we saw at the World Cup last summer, the defense is more than a bit shaky.

 

Jordan
Coach: Ray Wilkins
Players to watch: F – Abdallah Deeb, Al-Riffa; GK – Amer Shafi, Al-Wehdat; M – Saeed Murjan, Al-Ramtha
Prediction: Third place, Group D.

 

source: Getty ImagesIraq
Players to watch: F – Younis Mahmoud, unattached; D – Ali Adnan, Rizespor; Humam Tariq (left), Al Dahfra; F – Justin Meram, Columbus Crew
Prediction: Group D runners-up. The Iraqis have moved on from the golden group that won the 2007 tournament and replaced big names with rising youngsters sprinkled throughout Europe. Tariq, 18, is a future star.

 

Palestine
Players to watch: F – Ashraf Nu’man, Al-Faisaly; M – Khader Yousef, Taraji Wadi Al-Nes; Hussam Abu Saleh, Hilal Al-Quds
Prediction: Fourth place, Group D.