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Lionel Messi v Neymar in keepy-uppy showdown

Close control contest between two of Barcelona's superstars.

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Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Neymar went head-to-head in a keepy-uppy showdown to see who could perform the most touches within a certain timeframe.

Set up by Barcelona sponsor Audi to determine which of the two could touch the ball the most number of times in 60 seconds, and in doing so, generate the most energy.

It was a close-run contest with Messi emerging victorious, but only just.

Gervinho jinks his way through Colombian defence

Ivory Coast striker Gervinho scores a great individual goal against Colombia when he cuts in from the touchline and jinks his way past several challenges before shooting into the corner. [embedded content]

Brazil 2014 in numbers and deeds

FIFA has produced an amazing array of statistics to tell the complete story of the 2014 World cup.

Brazil 2014 World Cup logo

FIFA has produced an in-depth document listing a cornucopia of facts and figures from this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

To get a full statistical breakdown of the tournament you would be advised to download the document, but here are one or two of the highlights.

53,382 was the average attendance of each match in Brazil;. That’s the second highest average on record, behind only USA at which an average 68, 991watched each game.

5,154,386 attended FIFA Fan Fests in Brazil during the World Cup, with Rio de Janeiro’s spectacular Copacabana site attracting 937,330 – the highest number in any individual city.

171 goals, an average of 2.67 per game, made Brazil 2014 the joint-highest-scoring World Cup of all time, level with France 1998. although on average there were more goals at USA 94 and the total was a long way short of the all-time highest average high which was 5.38 at Switzerland in 1958.

7.2 billion USD in tax revenue shall be received by Brazil in tax revenue as a result of investments in the 2014 World Cup.

18 most goals were scored by Germany – fittingly, as they won the tournament.

3,429,873 was the total attendance for the 64 matches, the highest recorded at any World Cup since USA 1994. The average crowd of 53,592 was also the highest in two decades.

3,240 adidas balls, including both training and match balls, were used during the tournament.

3 goal-line incidents were resolved using GLT in this, the first World Cup in which this innovation has been utilised.

280,000 kilometres were flown by the teams during the tournament – the equivalent of seven laps around the world.

16,746 printed media accreditations were produced during this World Cup.

3,127,674 food and beverage transactions took place at the stadiums over the course of the competition.

420 tonnes of recyclable waste was collected from the stadiums and additional World Cup-related facilities.

11 tonnes of winter seeds for the pitch maintenance.

90 countries were visited during the 267-day FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola, with 45 heads of state and 33 previous World Cup winners among those to get their hands on the Trophy.

Improve or you’re dropped, Hamburg warned by main sponsor

Hamburg, who narrowly avoided relegation from the Bundesliga last season, risk losing their sponsorship with Emirates if their form does not improve.

Hamburg head coach Mirko Slomka

Hamburg head coach Mirko Slomka celebrates after winning the relegation play-offs against Greuther Fuerth

Hamburg could find themselves looking for a new shirt sponsor soon as current supporter Emirates does not want to be associated with a second rate product.

The club escaped relegation last season after winning a relegation playoff against Greuther Furth on away goals.

Their form has not improved this season, with one draw and one defeat against the two newly-promoted sides – Cologne and Paderborn – and questions raised over the future of coach Mirko Slomka.

In an interview with Handelsblatt, Emirates executive vice-president Thierry Antinori has warned that the airline may sever ties with Hamburg unless form improves.

“The performance on the pitch has to be right. The second league [2. Bundesliga] is not for us because as an airline we fly in the first league,” Antinori said, rather cheesily.

He also said that Hamburg stood for “tradition, Kevin Keegan, Franz Beckenbauer, Manfred Kaltz and Horst Hrubesch,” but right now it stands for failure.

Antinori said that Emirates, which has been associated with Hamburg since 2006, is also considering sponsoring another top-flight club, adding that it “doesn’t sponsor two clubs in the Bundesliga at the same time.”

Meanwhile, Bert van Marwijk has called his short stint at Hamburg last season “a mistake.”

Van Marwijk, one of four coaches last term, was only in charge of the  club for 145 days.

“Looking back, I have to say that it was mistake to take the HSV offer,” Van Marwijk told Bild. “It was all haywire. I’ve never experienced anything like that. It was nearly not possible to focus on football. But it happened, and I treat it as an experience.”

Spain’s La Liga sets sights on eclipsing Premier League

Spanish league makes bold pledge to capture all the leading talent in world football.

The president of Spain’s top flight has set the ambitious target of attracting all the best players in the world to the country and rival the commercial power of the English Premier League.

La Liga boss Javier Tebas said wants “the best 500 players” in global football in the league.

Luis Suarez (£75m) this summer and Gareth Bale (£85.3m) in 2013, were the two most recent big names to leave England for Spain.

“We are not going to stop. We want the best 500 players,” said Tebas.

The Premier League’s last domestic TV deal alone earned it £3.018bn.

“We want to make sure we have the biggest clubs and also the best players from the whole world in our league,” said Tebas.

Two of the biggest stars from the 2014 World Cup, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, have joined Real Madrid this summer.

Rodriguez, Kroos and Barcelona’s new signing, Suarez will feature in the ‘El Clasico’ meetings between Real Madrid and Barcelona next season alongside the likes of Bale, and the two players widely regarded as the best in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Further incomings include Mario Mandzukic, who has joined champions Atletico Madrid in a deal worth £22million, while the Champions League runners-up have also splashed out £24m for Real Sociedad’s French forward Antoine Griezmann.

Tebas is trying to bridge the financial gap by raising the profile of La Liga by targeting new markets, including the United States and Asia.

“It is impossible to compare us with the Premier League from a commercial perspective,” said Tebas. “What we are trying to do is get closer to them.

“We have been in Asia but right now our aim is to bring more teams from La Liga to this part of the world. We are working on this, it’s a long-term project and is why we are here in the United States.

“There is a lot of support out here for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Our goal is to bring more teams here from La Liga so the football supporters in the United States can get used to them as well.”

It may prove a tough sell. If the commercial success of the Premier League relative to its European competitors tells us anything, it is that most of the new markets are less concerned with the quality of the players and more taken with the thrills, spills and overall unpredictability provided by England’s top division.

Real Madrid and Barcelona could continue to cream off the world’s top talent, but while the league remains ostensibly a duopoly (let’s assume for now that Atletico’s remarkable success was an outlier) the overall appeal of Spanish football, will remain limited. The only way that problem can be addressed would be if both leading clubs were prepared to forego some of the competitive advantages they currently enjoy.

Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

Switzerland come from behind to secure all three points against Ecuador.

Admir Mehmedi celebrates after heading Switzerland level.

Date: June 15, 2014

Result: Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

Scorers:

Switzerland:

  • Admir Mehmedi 48
  • Haris Seferovic 93

Ecuador:

  • Enner Valencia 22

Venue: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia,

Attendance: 68,351

Match overview: This is the first time Switzerland and Ecuador have met each other in an international match, competitive or otherwise.

Key moment: Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld introduced Admir Mehmedi immediately after the break and within three minutes he had headed his team level. A word of praise too for the referee,  Ravshan Irmatov, who could have blown for a free-kick in the build up to the winning goal, but allowed play to continue.

Man of the match: Ricardo Rodriguez. Provided the crosses for both Switzerland goals – the first in particular was a pass of pinpoint accuracy.

Matter of fact: Valencia’s header from a Walter Ayovi free-kick was his fifth goal in successive games for his country. It was all to no avail, though, as Switzerland recorded their first ever win at the World Cup against South American opposition.

Talking point: Switzerland look set fair after this win. Logically, the winner of this match should accompany France into the knockout stages.

Stats:

Goal attempts

  • Switzerland 18
  • Ecuador 10

On target

  • Switzerland 12
  • Ecuador 6

Corners

  • Switzerland 8
  • Ecuador 5

Line-ups:

Switzerland:

  • 01 Benaglio
  • 02 Lichtsteiner
  • 13 Rodriguez
  • 08 Inler
  • 20 Djourou
  • 05 Von Bergen
  • 23 Shaqiri
  • 11 Behrami
  • 19 Drmic (Seferovic – 75′ )
  • 10 Xhaka
  • 14 Stocker (Mehmedi – 45′ )

Ecuador:

  • 22 Domínguez
  • 04 Paredes
  • 10 Ayoví
  • 23 Gruezo
  • 02 Guagua
  • 03 Erazo
  • 16 A Valencia
  • 06 Noboa
  • 13 E Valencia
  • 11 Caicedo (Arroyo – 70′ )
  • 07 Montero (Rojas – 77′ )

Scorers:

Switzerland:

  • Admir Mehmedi 48
  • Haris Seferovic 93

Ecuador:

  • Enner Valencia 22

Yellow cards:

Switzerland:

  • Djourou 84

Ecuador:

  • Paredes 53

Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)

Images of the World Cup – Day 29

Some of the best pictures as Holland and Argentina met in last night's semi-final in Sao Paulo.

England’s shooting practice

England sharpened their shooting boots at the training ground on Tuesday as preparations for the next World Cup match with Uruguay heat up. The Three Lions squad trained behind closed doors...

Lionel Messi to be prosecuted for tax evasion

Lionel Messi will have to answer charges of tax evasion.

A Spanish court has ignored a prosecutor’s request to drop charges of tax fraud against Lionel Messi and ordered the investigation into three cases of suspected unpaid taxes to proceed.

The prosecutor argued in June that Messi’s father Jorge and not the four-times World Player of the Year, was responsible for the family’s finances

However, the court in Barcelona has decided that the Argentina player “could have known and consented” to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income made from his image rights.

Argentina’s Messi and his father were accused last year of defrauding the Spanish state of more than €4m (£3.1m) by filing false returns for the years 2006 to 2009. They have denied wrongdoing.

Messi’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, is under investigation for an alleged €4 million in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.

Messi earns just over $40m (£23.5m) a season in salary and bonuses, according to Forbes magazine, as well as about $23m from sponsors.

Premier League approves use of vanishing spray

Successful World Cup experiment persuades Premier League to follow suit.

The Premier League will follow the World Cup’s example this season by introducing the much-lauded vanishing spray for the 2014-15 season.

Chief executive Richard Scudamore, said: “At the Premier League we are open to developments that enhance the competition and it was clear from watching the World Cup in Brazil that vanishing spray benefitted referees, players, and all of those who watched the matches.

“Having witnessed that, and following consultation with our clubs and the PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited], we have decided to introduce it in the Premier League and look forward to having it in place for the 2014-15 season.”

PGMOL General Manager, Mike Riley, said: “As an assessor at the World Cup I saw first-hand the benefits of vanishing spray for referees, and for the game as a whole. The Select Group referees are looking forward to using it during Premier League matches next season.”

A statement on the Premier League website also confirmed: “The Premier League will use vanishing spray produced by 915 Fair Play Limit, which is the same supplier that worked with FIFA for the World Cup in Brazil.”

The spray, which has been in use in South American for a number of years, will also be used in this season’s Champions League.