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Euro 2020 Roundup: France thrashes Moldova, Portugal fails to score

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France showed on Friday that it hasn’t lost its mojo, as it tore apart Moldova on the road, 4-1, in its Euro 2020 qualifying opener.

Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe all scored in the win for France, which jumps well ahead in the Group H standings. For Giroud, it tied him for third in all-time scoring for Les Bleus.

Elsewhere, Portugal suffered a surprising result in a scoreless draw with Ukraine. The defending European champions failed to score, despite starting Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo up top. It’s the third straight time that Portugal has started off a qualification campaign without a win.

Here’s a look at the other scores around Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday:

Bulgaria 1-1 Montenegro

Albania 0-2 Turkey

Andorra 0-2 Iceland

Luxembourg 2-1 Lithuania

Ronaldo learns fine for mocking Simeone with groin grab

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Diego Simeone was fined around $23,000 for his groin-centered celebrations when Atletico Madrid beat Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie, and now Cristiano Ronaldo has been nipped the same fee for the same gesture.

Ronaldo’s came on the field following his hat trick, as Juve stormed back to thump Simeone’s Atleti and march on to the UCL quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Hazard, Real, and the back-up plan ]

Charged by UEFA earlier this week, Ronaldo has now learned his punishment. It’s almost $1000 more.

How will he afford it?!!?!?! He reportedly makes just under $700,000 per week.

To be fair, it couldn’t be exactly the same price, given the sentiment behind such a fine is that it’s mean to rile up a crowd. Ronaldo’s move would’ve been viewed as a slight at Simeone and hence just a bit more of an antagonistic one.

Barcelona against haste of bigger Club World Cup

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MIAMI (AP) The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding Friday whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament.

European clubs have publicly resisted FIFA’s bid to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played annually in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July.

[ MORE: Analyzing the draw ]

Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu backs a revamp of the competition, just not until the entire calendar for club and national team matches is reconfigured for 2024 and beyond to cope.

“We have to take care of the footballers,” Bartomeu said in an interview with The Associated Press in Miami, where the FIFA Council is meeting. “We have to take care about the way of training and the vacation they need to recover every season that they do. If the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree.”

In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches – which is likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers – running May 31-June 8. The Club World Cup would be held June 17-July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played July 5-July 31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.

FIFA believes the proposed 24-team Club World Cup would “promote and grow football for the benefit of all confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs and fans,” according to a task force report on new FIFA competitions seen by the AP.

In the first edition, South America would have six slots – one based on previous performances. Three each would go to teams from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America. Oceania would get one representative. The confederations would decide their own qualification process, whereas now each continental champion qualifies for the Club World Cup along with the host country.

“We know the current form doesn’t work,” FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani told the AP. “The top clubs in the world have fans all over the world. So, I think it’s a natural progression of that competition.”

The expanded tournament would start with eight groups of three, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Teams would play two to five matches over a maximum of 18 days.

According to a FIFA document seen by the AP, the governing body’s council will be asked on Friday to approve a trial 24-team Club World Cup running from June 17-July 4, 2021. That is the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which serves as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.

“An opportunity to keep growing the competition will always be accepted from our league and our clubs,” Enrique Bonilla, the president of the Mexican league, told the AP. “It helps to give exposure and it helps to make clubs from other parts of the world to be more competitive, and to grow, and to learn from those great players that are now playing in Europe.”

Also Friday, the FIFA Council will be asked to approve the recommendations of a feasibility study into adding another 16 teams for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The council will be asked to allow FIFA and Qatar to jointly submit a proposal on using “one or more additional co-host countries” in the Persian Gulf before a final decision in June on enlarging the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

A document sent to the FIFA Council says its members will be asked if they agree with the report’s conclusion that World Cup expansion is “feasible provided that neighboring countries host some matches.”

The FIFA study seen by the AP says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022 but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.

Venues in at least one more country would be required to cope with the additional 16 teams and 16 games under the expansion proposal.

“As long as it’s well studied and well thought out, I think CONCACAF would have no issues supporting that,” said Montagliani, who leads the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: FIFA pushing for 24-team Club World Cup in 2021

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FIFA will try to push through a 24-team “test” Club World Cup at a meeting on Friday.

The AP’s Rob Harris reports that Gianni Infantino is about the stress the FIFA calendar by plugging a 2021 Club World Cup into the space reserved for the recently-canceled Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Pep loving “bold” Man City ]

It would also present a sublime opportunity for the clubs of Major League Soccer, who’ve been serially foiled by Liga MX in the CONCACAF Champions League.

That means a June/July Club World Cup which would feature as many as eight European teams, six South American teams, three each from CONCACAF, Africa, and Asia, and one from Oceania.

It would run from June 17-July 4, 2021.

The tournament usually occurs with eight teams, one from each of seven confederations and an additional from a host. Recently, that’s been a Middle Eastern team.

The 2018 CWC included Real Madrid, Kashima Antlers, River Plate, Esperance de Tunis, Chivas Guadalajara, Team Wellington and Al-Ain.

So how could a 24-team look, based on how the Champions League-style competitions have played out recently? Consider what could’ve been the 2018 tourney:

Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester City
Manchester United
Juventus
Ajax
Porto
Barcelona
Bayern Munich
Palmeiras
Gremio
River Plate
Cruzeiro
Corinthians
Libertad
Kashima Antlers
Suwon Samsung Blues
Persepolis
Toronto FC
Chivas Guadalajara
Club America
Al-Ahly
Esperance de Tunis
1de Agosto
Team Wellington

Premier League investigating UEFA’s FFP allegations against Man City

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The Premier League have confirmed they are now investigating Manchester City for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, revealed on Thursday that they have opened a “formal investigation” into Man City for “potential breaches of FFP regulations.”

In a statement the Premier League said it is focusing on financial matters and the recruitment of academy players at Man City.

“The Premier League has previously contacted Manchester City to request information regarding recent allegations and is in ongoing dialogue with the club. The league has detailed financial regulations and strong rules in the areas of Academy player recruitment and third-party ownership. We are currently investigating these matters and will allow Manchester City every opportunity to explain the context and detail surrounding them.”

Football Leaks have recently published several details, via German publication Der Spiegel, stating that Man City have breached FFP rules in several ways, including alleged third-party ownership and a fee paid to the agent of then 14-year-old Jadon Sancho.

UEFA issued the following statement on Thursday:

“The Investigatory Chamber of the independent UEFA Club Financial Control Body has today opened a formal investigation into Manchester City FC for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. The investigation will focus on several alleged violations of FFP that were recently made public in various media outlets. UEFA will make no further comments on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.”

Man City were defiant in their response to UEFA’s statement and said they would welcome an investigation into what they call “illegal hacking and publication of City emails.”

“Manchester City welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false. The Club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”

City were sanctioned by UEFA in 2014, along with PSG, for breaching FFP rules.

But these new details which have emerged could lead to Pep Guardiola‘s men being banned from competing in the UEFA Champions League, and further sanctions including fines and limited squad numbers for European competitions.