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FIFA won’t be bound by politics over sharing Qatar World Cup

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Political tensions won’t prevent FIFA from deciding whether to place some World Cup games outside Qatar, the head of world soccer’s governing body said Thursday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino used a summit of soccer nations in Qatar to gather support for his mission to add 16 teams to the 2022 tournament – a move that would require the tiny, energy-rich nation sharing games in the region.

[ MORE: Gerrard proud of Rangers in exit ]

That would be complicated by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cutting ties with Qatar in 2017 in an ongoing political dispute that prevents flights between Doha and the boycotting countries.

Qatar won a vote in 2010 to host the World Cup with 32 teams and is only building eight stadiums. A 48-team tournament is already planned for 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but Infantino wants to fast-track that expansion and add 16 more games for the first World Cup in the Middle East.

“Is it feasible to do it only in Qatar? Difficult probably,” Infantino said. “Is it feasible to have a few games being played in neighboring countries? Well, maybe this is an option, of course.

“I’m not that naive not to know not to read the news and not to know what is going on. But now we are in football, we are not in politics, and in football, sometimes the dreams come true.”

Given 32 teams compete for the World Cup and there are 211 nations in FIFA, adding more slots in 2022 is likely to be embraced by the members given they have already approved expansion of the event beginning in 2026.

Infantino used a trip to Doha in October to ask the emir of Qatar if he would consider allowing matches to be shared with nations that are part of an economic and travel boycott against his country.

“If there is something that I could do which is good for football worldwide, then we should look at it,” Infantino said at a news conference in Doha before heading to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup. “I have the chance and I’m lucky enough to be able to look into that without having to be bound by any political considerations, but looking at it from a purely sporting perspective.”

Infantino did use a speech to politicians at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina last month to discuss using the World Cup in 2022 to bring countries together by spreading games beyond Qatar.

The 2022 tournament is already being cramped into a 28-day window to minimize the disruption to top European leagues because it was moved from June and July to November and December due to the extreme heat.

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Miranda’s stoppage time header enough for Brazil vs. Argentina

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Even in a friendly staged nowhere near South America, the Brazil and Argentina rivalry still provided a bit of drama.

Inter Milan’s Joao Miranda headed a stoppage time Neymar corner kick home as Brazil squeezed a 1-0 win out of King Abdulla Sports City in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Wijnaldum breaks ankles ]

Brazil’s only loss of 2018 remains its World Cup quarterfinal ouster at the hands of Belgium, while Argentina is 5W-2D-4L this year. The wins have come against Guatemala, Iraq, Italy, and Haiti.

There were just six shots on target in the match, four for Brazil, and a whopping 36 fouls.

Out in the group stage, but up in transfer stock

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Hyeon-woo Jo had an exceptional World Cup.

His South Korean national team did not.

But that will not stop potential suitors from seeking the 26-year-old goalkeeper who was named Man of the Match against Germany.

[ MORE: Knockout round schedule, bracket ]

And there will be many more. The 2014 World Cup saw names like DeAndre Yedlin (USMNT), James Rodriguez (Colombia), and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) gain plenty of renown.

Here’s a list of names who’ve left the World Cup in the group stage but will certainly have their proverbial tires kicked.

Hyeon-woo Jo, South Korea (Daegu FC)

And he’s humble, to boot. From FIFA.com:

“I’ve never had a perfect game like this before, in my entire career, but I wasn’t saving all the shots by myself today – I thought the other goalkeepers [Kim] Seunggyu and [Kim] Jinhyeon were also giving me a hand.”

Salem Al-Dawsari, Saudi Arabia (Al-Hilal)

Didn’t see much time on loan at Villarreal this season, but clearly is a player not constrained to playing in his home country. The 26-year-old winger scored, averaged key passes per game, and threw in 2.3 interceptions per contest for good measure.

Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria (Kasimpasa)

The center back registered an assist and played an all-around game for Nigeria. At 24, he should have plenty of suitors.

Lee Jae-sung, South Korea (Jeonbuk Hyundai)

If the 25-year-old midfielder’s status as the 2017 K-League Most Valuable Player hadn’t already raised some eyebrows, his job patrolling the center of the park certainly did the trick.

Ramin Rezaeian, Iran (Oostende)

The 28-year-old right-sided man can play right back or more advanced. He’s a bit longer-in-the-tooth in terms of prospect, but a club could do worse in adding depth.

Moussa Wagué, Senegal (Eupen)

A 19-year-old right back whose name was already popping up in the rumor mill, he’s going to be carrying even more interest after scoring against Japan.

Video: Salah lob has Egypt off and running in first half

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Egypt’s run at the World Cup didn’t go according to plan, but the Pharaohs are looking in control on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Mohamed Salah‘s second goal of the tournament has given the Egyptians a 1-0 lead over Saudi Arabia in their Group A finale.

After a Saudi giveaway in the attacking half of the field, Salah latched onto a beautiful long ball from Abdallah Said, before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE