FIFA corruption report shows no sign of seeing the light of day.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, former Emir of Qatar, holds the World Cup aloft.
The monumental arrogance, the perverse secrecy, with which the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert announced that the Michael Garcia report on World Cup corruption over the 2018 and 2022 competitions would be kept under wraps, quite takes the breath away.
There were fears, it is true, that Garcia’s £6 million, 350 page report, backed by 200,000 pages of evidence, might not be released; but Garcia himself is properly incensed by the grotesque decision.
Eckert insists that not even Blatter, who might have known perfectly well that such secrecy would be imposed when FIFA commissioned the report, will be allowed to see it. Which seems not only perverse but quite daft, though in the circumstances, Blatter may not be too displeased.
That Garcia apparently believes that as there was so much dirty work at the crossroads, to put it bluntly, on the part of bidding countries as to obviate the need to punish Russia and or Qatar makes similarly little sense. As if a murder suspect could not be condemned because other murders had been committed in and around his own atrocity.
Are there faint shafts of light? Perhaps. A Swiss parliamentarian Roland Buchel has suggested that FIFA could lose its tax advantage in Switzerland if it does not reform declaring, “They have been talking now for three years about transparency, and they are simply not doing it. They talk about ethics but don’t take any action.”
There is even talk of the Serious Fraud Office in Britain becoming involved and presumably demanding access to the report.
A report which it has to be said as one has said before cannot itself be remotely comprehensive in that as we know Blatter and company had insisted– for no obvious reasons, given the time scale – that it be completed before the 2014 World Cup began.
Meaning that the massive Sunday Times investigation which blew the case wide open, involving literally millions of e-mails came too late to be included, arguably invalidating the Garcia probe, irrespective of what it dug up.
Meanwhile, don’t wait for any kind of lead from the inept Michel Platini who should be going in with all guns blazing on behalf of UEFA for which alas he is the President. A fat lot of good that has done so far.
He had made a dog’s dinner of two competitions, first the so-called Europa Cup, and now the European Championship which has not only been grotesquely enlarged, Blatter and Havelange style, but has now had to be spread around Europe because Platini was too slow and indecisive to give the finals to Turkey.
We already know what an idiot he has made of himself by threatening under some obscure FIFA ruling which obliged players picked by their country to play whether they want to or not. Tell that to Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Not to mention the affair of the watch, the £16,400 watch given by the makers Parmigiani to every member of the FIFA executive committee in Brazil though FIFA rules explicitly state that members of that body can accept only gifts of negligible value.
Several wise and honest members of the group instantly set about giving their watches back, but Platini and FA Chairman Greg Dyke brought theirs home with them. Not realising, Dyke insisted that such a watch was in his unpacked gift bag. He has duly returned it but Platini, who’s presumably paid the French import tax on it, has kept his and given the relevant amount to charity.
That excellent investigator David Walsh, my colleague on the Sunday Times, has called for Dyke to resign. Certainly if he did he would be no great loss, concocting as he does committees with vague and unconvincing missions to regenerate English football. Besides failing in his official function to attend two England games at Wembley. Plus crudely and crassly, however prophetically, drawing his finger across his throat at the World Cup draw in Brazil when the group draw for England was made.
Dyke, ex top man at the BBC, has a multiplicity of imposing appointments, so you wonder why he bothered to take the FA Chairmanship at all. Not that there is anybody else really in sight. Perhaps we should remember the lines of Hillaire Belloc:
Always keep a hold of nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
It’s always fascinating to see a previously obscure player suddenly confound the odds by suddenly belatedly and dramatically breaking through at a relatively advanced age.
Now, at 27, Jamie Vardy has routed Manchester United. So much for having to start with a big club at 10 or 12 years old.
England Women's captain Steph Houghton took to Twitter to answer some of your questions ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on Thursday.
That win leaves Houghton & Co. needing a maximum of four points from their remaining three qualifiers to make it to Canada 2015.
Ukraine v England
FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
Group 6 qualifier
4pm BST, Thursday 19 June 2014
Arena Lviv, Ukraine
But Houghton took some time out from the Ukraine preparations to take a number of questions on several different topics, both on football and personally related, at the team hotel in Minsk and you can see the highlights of the Q&A in the video player above.
The 25-year-old received questions from, among others, Sampson and two England team-mates, Eniola Aluko and Ellen White.
Houghton also spoke about the captaincy, having inherited the armband from team-mate Casey Stoney in April.
She said: “I’ve only had it for three games but I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. It’s a new role and I’m still learning.
“I’m still quite young and I’m still learning [from] Casey [Stoney] in terms of how she says things and how she approaches the team and she still [has] a massive role [to play] in this squad.”
Here is the full transcript of the @FA Twitter questions and answers:
are u enjoying the World Cup and how do u think you will do against Ukraine #AskSteph
Really enjoying watching the World Cup, preparing for a tough game v Ukraine hoping well get 3 points
#AskSteph where was your favourite place that you've had the opportunity to play football? Ps good luck thurs :)
Favourite stadium I have played in would have to @wembleystadium and favourite place would be Chile in the U20 World Cup
do you have any pre match rituals?
Rituals - left boot on before right, always listen to "turn it up" by Ciara ft. Usher and always try to eat the same pre-match
out of the current England team who has the best banter and who chooses the music before a match? #AskSteph
Would have to say @liannesanderson and @JillScott12 @jillscofor the best banter ... just! Team Dj is @alexscott2
You've been compared to Jozy Altidore in the past but which male player would you compare yourself too?! #AskSteph
I score more goals than Jozy Altidore haha but would love to emulate Gerrard & Kompany in terms of leadership + being professional
are the red ctr360 boots comfortable? #AskSteph
Yeah the @nikeuk CTRS are really comfy now trying out the new Magistas which I love! #askSteph
#AskSteph would you ever sky dive and which person/people from the England squad would you take #AskSteph :) x
Yeah I would skydive with someone in the squad. Probably would have to be @klbardsley she’s crazy #AskSteph
dearest @stephhoughton2 if you could give 1 piece of advice to a player with a long term injury what would it be? #missyou
Miss you too roomie. Would say stay positive, work hard, listen to advice from the physio and don’t rush!
Hi Skip. Is it true your ambition outside of football is to make an appearance in @mtvgeordieshore #AskSteph
Hi Gaffa. Aren’t you on the valleys next week? Guest appearance coming soon #WHYAYEMAN
All competing nations along with FIFA exco members were given a free watch at the World Cup valued at £16,000.
England, one of the most vocal critics of FIFA corruption in recent years, was among the countries to have received a watch worth more than £16,000 at the Brazil World Cup.
A Parmigiani watch was also distributed in a gift bag from the Brazilian federation (CBF) in June to the 28 FIFA executive committee members. It is unknown what happened to the gift bag for the English FA.
FIFA’s ethics committee has issued a statement informing all recipients they must return the watch or face disciplinary proceedings.
A statement from the ethics committee said: “The CBF should not have offered the watches, and those who received gift bags should have promptly checked whether the items inside were appropriate and, upon discovering the watch, either returned it or… reported the matter to the investigatory chamber.
“The FIFA code of ethics plainly prohibits such gifts. Football officials may not offer or accept gifts that have more than ’symbolic or trivial value’.
“If in doubt, gifts shall not be offered or accepted. Football officials are expected to be aware of the importance of their duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities.
“In an effort to resolve this matter expeditiously, the investigatory chamber will not pursue further formal ethics proceedings in this matter against officials who submit the Parmigiani watch they received from CBF to the secretariat of the investigatory chamber by no later than October 24, 2014.”
The watches will then be donated to an independent non-profit organisation “committed to corporate social responsibility projects in Brazil”, said the statement.
Several officials did report the watches to the ethics committee and the Brazilian federation confirmed it had distributed 65 gift bags, each containing a Parmigiani watch.
The recipients comprised “the 28 officials on the Fifa executive committee, a representative from each of the 32 member associations competing in the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil, and a representative from each of the 10 member associations in Conmebol (the South American confederation)”, said the statement.
The CBF said they had paid 8,750 US dollars (£5343) for each watch but that the ethics committee had obtained an independent valuation of 25,000 Swiss francs (£16,400).
Barcelona lose appeal against transfer ban, though summer signings remain unaffected by ruling.
FIFA have rejected Barcelona’s appeal against a transfer ban, meaning the Spanish club will be unable to sign players until January 2016.
The Catalan outfit have confirmed they will appeal against the decision and will take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
It was suspended as they appealed, allowing them to sign several players this summer. Concerned that the stable door was about to be bolted, they managed to sign Luis Suarez from Liverpool for £65m, Claudio Bravo from Sociedad for £9.5m, Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla for an undisclosed fee, Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia for £15.8m, Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal for £15m, Marc-Andre ter Stegen from Borussia Mönchengladbach for £10m and Alen Halilovic from Dinamo Zagreb.
If the ban was intended to limit their transfer activity, Barcelona took full advantage of its suspension to nullify the potential damage.
The upheld ban will start in the next transfer window, early next year
It means their summer acquisitions will be unaffected and somewhat perversely, the club could, if they wanted, sign more players before the current transfer window ends on 31 August.
The Spaniards have also been ordered to pay a fine of 450,000 Swiss Francs (£305,000) and been told by FIFA “to regularise” the situation of all minor players concerned.
“FC Barcelona is to serve a transfer ban which will see the club prevented from registering any players at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods,” read a FIFA statement.
“As such, Barcelona are to serve a transfer ban which will see the club prevented from registering any players at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, starting with the next registration period (January 2015) given that the appeal of the club had been granted suspensive effect by the chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee.
Barcelona, however, have not taking the ban lying down, and said they will continue to appeal the ban by referring the case to CAS.
“Following the resolution announced today by the FIFA Appeals Committee on violations of regulations regarding the transfer and registration of children aged under 18 years, FC Barcelona announces that it shall continue defending its interests before the highest sporting authority, in this case the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS),” a statement reads.
“FC Barcelona may not in any way share a resolution that is an affront to the spirit of our Masia, a world renowned example of academic, human and sporting education.”
Meanwhile, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has been told to pay a fine of 500,000 Swiss Francs (£340,000) and told to “regularise its regulatory framework and existing system concerning the international transfer of minors in football” within a year.
Steph Houghton says taking on Sweden will act as the perfect preparation for England Women's World Cup qualifier against Wales later this month.
The Lionesses are training at St. George’s Park in preparation for Sunday’s fixture against the side who sit fifth in the FIFA rankings, and speaking after the first training session, captain Houghton said a game against such high calibre opposition is just what they need.
"It’s probably a perfect test for us ahead of the Wales qualifier," she said.
England v Sweden
A Women's International
2pm, Sunday 3 August 2014
Victoria Park, Hartlepool United FC
Call 01429 272 584 for tickets
"We’ve got a team full of world class individuals and as a team we want to be playing against those types of players.
"It’s about a winning mentality. The games we go into we want to win and we want to win well and we want to perform, it’s all about playing for your places still."
Although a friendly by name, Houghton also emphasised that the players are approaching the game with the utmost professionalism – and admitted they face a challenge if they are to keep their good form going.
"It’s important that when we’re in training it’s really competitive and we take that into the game, especially on Sunday," added Houghton.
"They’ve got players that can win football matches. Obviously Lotta Schelin plays up front for them and she’s been a massive name in women’s football for a good few years.
"They’re direct, they’re quick, skilful – a mixture really – and I think it’s about how we cope with that both tactically and technically. It’s also about how we move the ball and defend as a unit."
Houghton, who left Arsenal to join newly formed Manchester City in January 2014, hails from Durham, just 18 miles north-west of Hartlepool’s Victoria Park where the fixture will be played.
And although admitting that leading her country out in front of a local crowd will be an honour, Houghton and her fellow four north-easterners in the squad will quickly put it out of their minds when the game gets underway.
"All the north-east girls have been pushing for a fixture up north for a long time and it obviously makes it a lot easier when your friends and family can come and watch you play," she admitted.
"But the most important part of it is the actual game. We’re playing Sweden and it’s going to be a good test for us and hopefully we’ll have a big crowd coming to support us."
Tickets for the match are on sale now priced £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. A family ticket (two adults and two children) is available at £10 and group booking discounts apply.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 01429 272 584 (option 2), via TheFA.com's ticketing page or at the Hartlepool United ticket office.
Squad in full
Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), Carly Telford* (Notts County).
Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Lucy Bronze (Liverpool), Alex Greenwood (Everton), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (University of South Florida).
Laura Bassett (Chelsea), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Liverpool), Jo Potter** (Birmingham City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal).
Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Eniola Aluko (Chelsea), Jess Clarke (Notts County), Natasha Dowie (Liverpool), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Reading), Lianne Sanderson (Boston Breakers), Jodie Taylor (Washington Spirit).
* replaced Rachel Brown-Finnis
** replaced Dunia Susi
Messi seals opening victory for Argentina over Bosnia-Herzegovina
Benzema brace makes it 3-0 to France
Goalline technology awards France a second goal
France lead 1-0 at half-time against ten-men Honduras
Haris Seferovic scores last gasp winner for Swiss
Admir Mehmedi equalises for Switzerland after the break
Enner Valencia puts Ecuador ahead against Switzerland
Switzerland-Ecuador, France-Honduras, Argentina Bosnia-Herzegovinia are in action today
Honduras' goalkeeper Noel Valladares bundles a shot from France's Karim Benzema over the line.
Lionel Messi accepts a lay-off from substitute Gonzalo Higuain, runs along the edge of the areas and curls a shot that beats Begovic and goes in off a post.
We’re back underway at Maracana and Argentina have made two change, replacing Maxi Rodriguez with Fernando Gago in a bid to bring more structure to the midfield, and bringing in Gonzalo Higuain for Hugo Campagnaro as they revert to a more familiar 4-3-3.
Half-time: Argentina 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0
An intriguing first half, played out in an electric atmosphere at Maracana, where Argentina fans have taken over and are making a lot of noise. Argentina took an early lead and briefly threatened to overrun Bosnia, but the Bosnians held their own and threatened themselves through Dzeko and Lulic.
Argentina have struggled to get the best from the five-man defensive system, a formation rarely used in qualifying but supposedly preferred by Messi. Argentina’s number 10 was forced deeper and deeper to get the ball and has rarely been at his most threatening.
Argentina 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0
- Kolasinac 2 og
Rojo fails to connect cleanly with Messi’s free-kick from the left. The ball deflects in off the unfortunate Kolasinac
Argentina-Bosnia: team news
The teamsheets are out and, as expected, Argentina are going with a back five, a 5-3-2, with Lionel Messi up front with Sergio Aguero. Bosnia will play their usual shape, 4-2-3-1, with Edin Dzeko as the lone striker.
Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Garay, Campagnaro, Fernandez, Rojo; Mascherano, Maxi Roadriguez, Di Maria; Messi, Aguero
Bosnia: Begovic; Mujdza, Bicakcic, Spahic, Kolasinac; Besic, Hajrovic; Pjanic, Misimovic, Lulic; Dzeko
Full time: France 3-0 Honduras
- Benzema pen. 45
- Valladares og. 48
- Benzema 73
France 3-0 Honduras
- Benzema 73
From a France corner the ball is laid back to Debushy who lashes in a shot from 30 yards. His effort smacks into a Honduras defender and falls at the feet of Benzema, who hammers the loose ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Honduras coach Luis Suarez is visibly angry with the decision to award the goal. However, the second replay clearly showed that the ball came off the back of Valladares and crossed the line. The confusion arose due to the stadium screen showing Benzema’s initial effort which had not crossed the line.
France 2-0 Honduras
- Valladares 48 og
Karim Benzema smacks a volley against the far post, it comes back and hits goalkeeper Valladares on the back, before he scrambles the ball off the line.
There’s an appeal and after consulting the new goalline technology, it’s a goal.
There’s confusion though as the initial replay shows that the ball does not cross the line, but a second replay confirms it is in fact a goal.
That’s a little piece of World Cup history made right there.
Half-time – France 1-0 Honduras
France 1-0 up against ten men and it is hard to see any way back for Honduras now.
France 1-0 Honduras
- Karim Benzema 45
Karim Benzema makes no mistake from the penalty sport, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Penalty and red card!
Wilson Palacios barges over Paul Pogba in the penalty area. The referee points to the penalty spot and shows Palacios a second yellow card.
France midfielder Paul Pogba is lucky to be still on the pitch after he reacts to being trodden on by kicking out at Wilson Palacios. After a lengthy delay, the referee Sandro Ricci shows both players a yellow card.
France hit the woodwork again, this time Parice Evra crosses from the left and Antoine Griezmann climbs highest but his header rebounds off the bar.
Honduras hanging on here.
Fantastic piece of athleticism from Honduras goalkeeper, Noel Valladares, to tip the ball on to the bar to deny Blaise Matuidi.
Stat of the day
France v Honduras: team news
The teams are in and France have made two changes from the side which thrashed Jamaica 8-0 in their last warm-up game.
France: Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Varane, Sakho, Cabaye, Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann, Matuidi, Pogba
Honduras: Valladares, Figueroa, Bernardez, Izaguirre, Palacios, Bengtson, Costly, Espinoza, Najar, Garrido, Beckeles
Full time: Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador
- Admir Mehmedi 48
- Haris Seferovic 93
- Enner Valencia 22
Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador
- Haris Seferovic 93
Amazing climax in Brasilia with Switzerland snatching a last minute winner. Behrami does brilliantly to make a last ditch tackle in his own penalty area before launching a counter-attack which reaches substitute Haris Seferovic, who sweeps the ball into the roof of the net.
Switzerland think they have scored when Ricardo Rodriguez scuffs a shot past Alexander Dominguez, but the striker is standing in an offside position.
Heads you win…
Switzerland 1-1 Ecuador
- Admir Mehmedi 48
Switzerland are level within three minutes of the restart. A corner is swung over from the left and substitute, Admir Mehmedi, who’s only been on the pitch two minutes, rises highest at the near post to head home.
Switzerland 0-1 Ecuador
- Enner Valencia 22
Free-kick near the corner flag is swung in by Walter Ayovi and it’s a teasing cross that Switzerland are unable to deal with, allowing the unmarked Enner Valencia to head in from close range.
We’re underway in Brasilia and one can only assume that there are a lot of neutrals in the ground, because the first Mexican Wave has started making its way around the stadium.
Switzerland-Ecuador team news
Switzerland starting XI: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Rodriguez, Von Bergen, Djourou, Inler, Behrami, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Stocker, Drmic.
Ecuador starting XI: Dominguez, Paredes, Ayovi, Guagua, Erazo, A. Valencia, Noboa, Gruezo, Montero, Caicedo, E. Valencia.
Images of the day
Some more great photos coming out of Brazil. Including this one of some Colombian fans enjoying their team’s win over Greece.
First up today is Switzerland-Ecuador in Brasilia.
The Swiss, coached by wily old Ottmar Hitzfeld will stick with a 4-2-3-1 system that brought qualification.
For Ecuador, the tragic death of Christian Benitez last year was a huge loss on a number of levels. See how they intend to cope without such a versatile performer.
You can read our tactical guide to today’s game by clicking here.
Argentina fans, one of whom is wearing a Lione Messi mask, look forward to their opening World Cup match against Bosnia-Herzegovinia.
Another fine Messi
Lionel Messi makes his Brazil 2014 bow tonight when Argentina face Bosnia-Herzegovinia in the Maracana.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella discusses his role in bringing out the best in the player generally regarded as the world’s finest.
Quote of the day
“It’s truly absurd we cannot consider a timeout. Luckily the referee intervened every now and again, but it’s absurd. If we want entertainment, we need to enable the players to give great performances.”
While the England-Italy game began at a high tempo, both sides appeared to struggle physically towards the end, with several England players cramping up. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes the players should have been timeouts to ensure they could perform optimally.
Goal of the day
We’re picking a Goal of the Day throughout the tournament and so far, with 28 goals spread across 8 matches, we’ve been spoiled for choice.
Today’s pick is Joel Campbell’s effort from Costa Rica’s stunning 3-1 victory over Uruguay. It was a great finish by Campbell but it was the work of Cristian Gamboa and his refusal to give up a lost cause that made the goal possible.
World Cup Day 4
Lima defender Walter Ibanez came up with a novel way of dealing with the racist abuse his team-mates were receiving.
Peruvian football’s top flight match between Cienciano and Alianza Lima on Wednesday was marred by some unpleasant racist chants.
During the match Cienciano’s fans could be heard racially abusing the Alianza Lima players by making monkey noises whenever they touched the ball.
However, when Lima defender Walter Ibanez lashed home a penalty, he celebrated by mimicking a monkey.
It was not the most mature of goal celebrations, nor the most elegant, but it was one of the most understandable.
Unfortunately, considering the behaviour of their fans, Cienciano eventually won the match 2-1.
Sherry McCue can’t wait to fulfil a “dream come true” when England get their FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup campaign under way in Canada next week.
The Aston Villa midfielder has travelled to Toronto with the rest of Mo Marley’s 21-strong squad for a seven-day training camp ahead of their Group C opener against South Korea on Wednesday 6 August.
And after captaining her country at last year’s U19 Euros, McCue is now relishing taking on the world’s best.
World Cup schedule
v South Korea, Wednesday 6 August
v Mexico, Saturday 9 August
v Nigeria, Wednesday 13 August
She said: “I can't wait to start playing. I am sure the experience will be unbelievable.
“I get excited even if it's just a friendly game so this will be like a dream come true for me.
“I think every footballer dreams of playing in a World Cup. But to compete is a different story.
“I think our main aim is to put up a fight no matter who we play and what challenges we face.
“If we do that, results will take care of themselves. We will then be in control of our own destiny in terms of how far we can go. Team spirit is great and we are all confident.”
The Young Lions qualified for the World Cup by finishing runners-up to France at the European Championship last summer.
They are now preparing for three group matches against South Korea, Mexico (Saturday 9 August) and Nigeria (Wednesday 13 August) – and McCue is delighted with the progress her side has made, especially considering they lost their opening Euro qualifier to Serbia in April last year.
She added: “It was a real honour to captain the U19s last year in the European Championship final.
“I was so proud of the team in terms of the achievement of reaching that stage of the competition.
“I think the squad has come a long way. We all knew we were the underdogs in the Euros but that made us work even harder to get where we wanted to be.
“Mexico, Nigeria and South Korea will all bring different challenges. We expect them all to be of good standard - or they wouldn't be there.
“But if we work hard and put into practice what the coaches tell us, I am sure we can pull results out of the bag.”
England's U20 World Cup squad in full
Lizzie Durack (Everton), Caitlin Leach (Aston Villa), Megan Walsh (Everton)
Gabrielle George (Everton), Martha Harris (Liverpool), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham City), Meaghan Sargeant (Birmingham City), Ellie Stewart (Liverpool), Paige Williams (Everton)
Jade Bailey (Arsenal), Sherry McCue (Aston Villa), Jess Sigsworth (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Abbeyleigh Stringer (Birmingham City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Katie Zelem (Liverpool)
Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Natasha Flint (Manchester City), Mel Lawley (Birmingham City), Beth Mead (Sunderland), Nikita Parris (Everton).