Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fifa World Rankings November 2014

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for November 2014 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

2014 world cup champions Germany remain at the top of the Fifa rankings followed by Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, France, Spain and Uruguay.

England are in 13th place, up seven positions, due to good form in Euro 2016 qualifying, and a 3-1 win in Scotland in a friendly.

Algeria are the top African team in 18th place.

Japan Asian Cup holders are in 53rd spot. South Korea are in 69th place while Australia languish in 102th spot.

The USA are in 28th place, down five from last month. Scotland are in 36th position with Wales still in 34th. The Republic of Ireland are in 61st place unchanged, Northern Ireland are in 47th position after winning their first three games in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Ranking Team
1 Germany
2 Argentina
3 Colombia
4 Belgium
5 The Netherlands
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
7 France
9 Spain
10 Uruguay
11 Italy
12 Switzerland
13 England
14 Chile
15 Romania
16 Costa Rica
17 Czech Republic
18 Algeria
19 Croatia
20 Mexico

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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Friday, November 21, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions November 22 2014

bet365
The big game this weekend is at the Emirates where Arsenal host an injury-ravaged Manchester United, who lost utility man Daley Blind to a knee ligament injury during the international break.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Chelsea 2 v West Brom 1
Everton 2 v West Ham 1
Leicester 0 v Sunderland 1
Man City 3 v Swansea 1
Newcastle 2 v QPR 0
Stoke 1 v Burnley 0
Arsenal 2 v Man Utd 2

Sunday 23 November 2014

Hull 1 v Tottenham 2
Crystal Palace 1 v Liverpool 1

Monday 24 November 2014

Aston Villa 0 v Southampton 1

Latics 2/1 To Finish Above Cardiff As Malky Joins Wigan

Malky Mackay is the new manager of Wigan Athletic with the Latics priced at 25/1 for promotion with bet365, 2/1 for a top half finish, 8/1 to be relegated and 2/1 to finish above his old club Cardiff.

2014/15 Championship - Wigan Athletic

Where Will Wigan Finish?

Top Half 2/1 Bottom Half 4/11
Promoted 25/1 Top 6 9/1 Relegated 8/1

Championship Match Bet - Who Finishes Higher

Wigan 2/1 Cardiff 4/11

Top North West Club

Blackburn 1/3 Wigan 4/1
Bolton 11/2 Blackpool 200/1

Soccer - Pellegrini keeping calm

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is refusing to panic over the race for the Premier League title, despite being eight points behind front runners Chelsea. The Citizens, who are 11/2 with bet365 to win the Premier League title, have been struggling to keep up with the high-flying Chelsea in the campaign so far but, with plenty of the season to go, Pellegrini won't panic. He told Sky Sports News: "Now is not the moment to analyse what has happened in the season. There are a lot of games to play in the Premier League and Champions League. "We have 27 more games to play and there are a lot of points (to be contested), so we will see at the end who will be the best team this year."

Last time's predictions

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friendly fire

Friendly fire.
Tue 18th Nov 2014

World Champions Germany slid and slipped in a Vigo monsoon to a 1-0 win over Spain. Both teams struggled with the incessant downpour but forged several goalscoring opportunities.Vicente del Bosque made six substitutions, Jogi Low three. Toni Kroos scored a minute from time with a skidding shot whose bounce fooled subsitute goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Argentina lost 1-0 in Manchester to Portugal, for whom Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were back on familiar turf at Old Trafford. Lionel Messi played the first half, Carlos Tevez replaced Gonzalo Higuain and Erik Lamela Angel di Maria in the second, but Man City stars Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta remained on the bench. Portugal's winner came in injury time from Raphael Guerreiro.

Cristiano Ronaldo.
Colombia maintained their rich vein of form with a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Ljubljana. Borussia Dortmund's Adrian Ramos scored the only goal in the 43rd minute for the Cafeteros.

Brazil won their sixth straight game under coach Dunga since their fateful World Cup, defeating Austria 2-1 in Vienna thanks to goals from David Luiz and Roberto Firmino.

France, also unbeaten since the World Cup, beat Sweden 1-0 in Marseille thanks to a goal by Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.

The Republic of Ireland thumped the USA 4-1 in Dublin. Hull's Robbie Brady netted a brace and there were additional strikes from James McClean and Anthony Pilkington.

Belarus and Mexico also shared five goals in Borisov, the East Europeans winning 3-2.

England beat Scotland 3-1 in Glasgow. A Wayne Rooney brace took him to third in the list of all-time England goalscorers, while Scotland lost their first in five. The world's oldest football international dates back to 1870.

Fabio Capello, unpaid for five months, got some relief as Russia enjoyed a first win in four, 2-1 against Hungary in Budapest.

Greece followed up their embarrassing defeat to the Faroes by losing 2-0 at home to Serbia, their fourth reverse in five.

Japan won their AFC derby against Australia 2-1 in Osaka. Yasuyuki Konno and Shinji Okazaki were on the mark for the Samurai Blue, while Tim Cahill netted a consolation for the Socceroos. In Teheran, Iran beat South Korea 1-0.

Poland drew 2-2 with Switzerland in Wroclaw, Italy beat Albania 1-0 in Genoa and fast-improving Romania beat Denmark 2-0 in Bucharest.

Late kick-offs:

Bolivia v Venezuela, Chile v Uruguay, Peru v Paraguay, Panama v Canada, Nicaragua v El Salvador

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Colombian gold melts the solid States

Colombian gold melts the solid States.
International Friendly, London
USA 1:2 COLOMBIA

'Meaningless' friendlies are supposed to be on borrowed time. The national associations are getting fed up of endless spats with big clubs who don't want their precious stars coming back injured from international duty.

But any skeptics of these games' value should have been at Craven Cottage tonight where Colombia and the USA went at it all guns blazing.

The sell-out crowd who turned up on the back of both nations' impressive World Cup showings got their value for money after a fiery friendly by the Thames.

Both teams picked up where their World Cups in Brazil had ended - the USA still stout, well-marshalled and trying to win via counter-attacks and set pieces against superior opponents, and Colombia fearlessly positive with an attacking and energetic game-plan.

The crowd made the occasion memorable. Despite US Soccer hosting a 'home' game, London's oft-forgotten Colombian community had turned out en masse: Cumbia drums, straw hats and flags aplenty, children decked out in national colours and plenty of beautiful women. This was a national carnival run riot.

When Colombia pulled back Jozy Altidore's early penalty for the US with strikes from Carlos Bacca and Teofilo Gutierrez, their fans celebrated as wildly as anything Fulham had seen before. And whenever James Rodriguez, skippering the side, merely touched the ball, the decibel level shot up.

2-1 to Colombia was a fair result given their dominance of the 90 minutes, but once again Jurgen Klinsmann showed his US eleven are no pushovers and can startle the great, in this case the team who are third in the FIFA World Rankings.

The Americans kept their shape and solidity and in Brazil 2014 stars Kyle Beckerman, John Brooks and Jermaine Jones, have a new spine to build around.

The US also had attacking elements which could trouble Colombia, albeit in isolation. And they certainly had their chances.

Altidore, still forgotten about by Sunderland, maintained his double life as a first-choice international striker, worrying Colombia's modest centre-back pairing of Pedro Franco and Jeison Murillo with his prize-fighter's physique.

On the right flank, DeAndre Yedlin's fast feet reminded Tottenham fans what they can look forward to when he makes the move from Seattle in 2015.

A quicksilver dash by Yedlin late in the game almost yielded a goal but Pablo Armero's last gasp lunge saved the day.

Debutant US striker Rubio Rubin, all of 18 years old, was a revelation, slotting effortlessly into the starting lineup and providing Altidore with a talented foil in attack. On his knees in prayer before the kick-off, the Utrecht forward might have had divine assistance.

But the magic deserted him just after half time when he guided a header from Alejandro Bedoya's delightful cross achingly just wide of the Colombian net.

The Hawaiian Bobby Wood, old by Rubin's standards at 22, was another useful young marksman who equally spurned a chance, toe-poking a shot at Colombian goalie Camilo Vargas at the end of a lovely move forged by US substitutes DaMarcus Beasley and Lee Nguyen.

Rodriguez had it tough, surrounded by American jerseys every time he loitered in his favourite spot, in the centre, twenty yards from the opposition goal. His goalscoring threat remained limited to set pieces until on the hour mark he was instrumental in Colombia's equaliser.

Combining with Bacca on the edge of the box, the Real Madrid man slotted his return pass expertly between US defenders for the Sevilla striker to bypass Brad Guzan and fire home from an acute angle.

Bacca found himself sidelined in Brazil but started tonight ahead of Jackson Martinez and Adrian Ramos, and made a virtuoso audition for being Colombia's main striker in the absence of Falcao, who was watching from the stands, wrapped up warm and nursing a calf injury.

He almost found the target in the first half, swerving a shot inches wide of the post after twenty minutes and finding the woodwork on the half hour mark.

Colombia's winner came three minutes from time when Gutierrez met a cross from substitute Edwin Cardona and flicked his header past the diving Guzan. It was as much as they deserved.

Juan Cuadrado, once again, was their real ace in the pack. The Fiorentina winger was the most lively of Jose Pekerman's soldiers from the start, beat players with effortless abandon and almost scored himself late on when he forced Guzan into a diving stop.

Colombia have quickly come from nowhere, no World Cup qualification since 1998 to be precise, to being one of the most feared teams in the world.

Their insistence on playing on the front foot, often involving five men streaking upfield in attack, has rightly made them popular in world football, as have their joyful dancing celebrations, which they performed en cue in London this evening.

Being ranked just behind World Cup finalists Germany and Argentina is some reward for Brazil kicking them out at the quarter-final stage in the summer, with unpunished rotation fouling on James.

Maintaining that momentum into the 2016 Copa America and the 2018 World Cup with elevated expectations is now the challenge for their gentlemanly coach Jose Pekerman. On tonight's evidence, their World Cup fever is still high.

The US, ranked 23rd by comparison, can console themselves with another steady performance with more promising youngsters making the step up to the national team. Klinsmann, who is also the technical director of US Soccer, is witnessing his masterplan of uniting the myriad branches of the American game beginning to bear fruit.

On Tuesday he takes his side to Dublin for a friendly with Eire, while Colombia visit the beautiful city of Ljubljana to take on Slovenia.

Unlike European teams who qualify for the European Championships, teams in North and South America qualify automatically for their regional tournaments, which makes games like tonight's so vital for gaining experience.

Colombia and the United States at least, kept the friendly fires burning.

GOALS: Altidore (USA) 1:0 10', Bacca (COL) 1:1 60', Gutierrez (COL) 1:2 87'

USA: Guzan, Johnson, Garza (Beasley 70'), Brooks, Yedlin (Green 86'), Jones, Beckerman, Diskerud (Nguyen 78'), Bedoya (Morales 67'), Altidore, Rubin (Wood 67')
COL: Vargas, Armero, Franco, Arias, Murillo, Aguilar (Cardona 74'), Sanchez, Cuadrado (Quintero 88'), Rodriguez, Gutierrez (Martinez 89'), Bacca (Ramos 79')

Attendance: 24,235

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When the ball was over the Wall

Europe has been commemorating 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell.

East German football associationThat momentous event also marked the end of the German Democratic Republic's national team, who had competed in FIFA & UEFA competitions, qualifying only once for a major tournament, the 1974 World Cup, where they memorably beat hosts West Germany in the group stage.

The former country has been on people's minds across Europe this week with a lot of 'Ostalgie' in the air.

Thoughts have also turned to the extinct football nation, a key component of the country's famously intensive sports culture.

The national programme connected schools with centres of excellence, yielded dozens of Olympic medals and saw the communist country outperform its western brother time after time, although this was due in part to the widespread doping of their athletes.

East Germany finished top of the medals table at the 1984 Winter Olympics and at the summer games came in second three times, an extraordinary achievement for a nation of 16 million people.

Its footballers won gold in men's football at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, beating Poland 2:0 in the final. Four years later they won silver, losing 1:0 to Czechoslovakia.

In 1964 and 1972 they won bronze, defeating hosts West Germany 3:2 along the way in front of 80,000 in Munich, presaging an even greater scalp of their other half at the World Cup two years later.

Unlike their Olympic team, which did not fully separate from the West until the late 1960s, East Germany fielded a separate national side from 1952 but never quite matched the same heights.

East German national teamJurgen Sparwasser's winning goal against West Germany in Hamburg in 1974 is remembered as their finest hour and they left their only finals appearance with credit, having also beaten Australia 2:0 and drawn 1:1 with Chile, topping Group A above their embarrassed hosts.

In the second round their luck run out however and they were eliminated, losing 1:0 to Brazil, 2:0 to the Netherlands and drawing 1:1 with Argentina.

Sparwasser's lone goal at the finals needless to say turned him into a national hero, but he later defected to the West, a year before the Berlin Wall came down.

The aptly named Joachim Streich netted twice at the finals, and he went on to become his country's all-time scorer and most capped player, with an impressive 55 goals in 102 games.

Streich was equally prolific at club level, bagging 229 goals in 378 outings for Hansa Rostock and Magdeburg between 1969 and 1985.

At club level, Stasi favourite Dynamo Berlin (now Berliner FC Dynamo) won the most domestic titles (10) but never got further than the last eight of the UEFA Champions Cup, losing to Nottingham Forest in 1980 and Roma in 1984.

Wismut Karl Marx Stadt (now Erzebirge Aue) reached the same stage in 1959, losing to Young Boys of Berne, while Carl Zeiss Jena and Lokomotive Leipzig went one further in the Cup Winners Cup, both reaching, but losing the final.

Jena dumped Roma, Valencia, Newport and Benfica out in the 1981 European Cup Winners Cup, before losing the final 2:1 to Dinamo Tblisi.

Leipzig, whom Tottenham had beaten in the 1974 semi-final, lost 1:0 in 1987's final to an Ajax side featuring Arnold Muhren, Frank Rijkaard and a young Dennis Bergkamp. Marco Van Basten scored the winner.

FC Magdeburg remain the only East German club to win a trophy in Europe, having beaten Milan 2:0 in the 1974 Cup Winners Cup final.

When the wall finally fell in 1989, the German Olympic programme saw an immediate boost in its performances. Franz Beckenbauer said that with the addition of East Germany, the Mannschaft, already world champions, would then be on top for years to come.

The German national team, united for the first time at Euro '92, added three East German internationals, Thomas Doll, Matthias Sammer and Andreas Thom, to their squad.

Doll was a tricky left-winger who went on to play for Lazio and Sammer became one of the game's greatest sweepers, winning a host of prizes including the Bundesliga as a player and later as a coach, the Champions League, European Championship and the European Footballer of the Year Award in 1996.

Germany lost the Euro '92 final to Denmark, but went one stage further than their semi-final exit at Euro '88. West Germany had won the World Cup in 1990, but the united Germany exited in the quarter-finals at USA '94. Two years later they won Euro '96 with one player from the former East, Sammer.

Others who swapped their blue shirts for white ones were Ulf Kirsten, Olaf Marschall, Heiko Scholz, Dirk Schuster and Dariusz Wosz. Uwe Rösler, who became a cult hero at Manchester City, played five times for East Germany.

Michael Ballack is the most notable of later German internationals who grew up in the communist East but there was also Robert Huth, Carsten Jancker, Jens Jeremies, Bernd Schneider and poor Robert Enke.

Toni KroosSeven of Germany's 2002 squad were 'Ossi' in origin, but that number trickled down to one in 2014 - Toni Kroos, who was less than a year old when the wall came down.

While it is still possible for a player born behind the Iron Curtain to play for Germany, the prospects for further East German-born players making it to the Mannschaft look slim and Kroos could well be the last.

East German clubs and their youth systems have less funding than their western counterparts and none of the current 18 teams in the Bundesliga hail from the former DDR Oberliga first division.

Union Berlin, RB Leipzig and Erzgebirge Aue are the best-placed Eastern German clubs today, yet all ply their trade in the German second flight.

Below them in the third tier (Bundesliga 3), we find former DDR clubs Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, Energie Cottbus, Chemnitzer and Hallescher while Magdeburg, the only East German club to win a European trophy, are down in the fourth tier, the Regionalliga Nordost.



(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Morocco out of Africa, no Barça for Pep & Blatter's loose tongue

NO MOROCCO AT CAN 2015

Morocco's national team has been banned from January's 2015 African Nations Cup after their confederation withdrew last month from hosting the tournament in the light of the Ebola epidemic.
African Cup of Nations trophy
The African Confederation have punished one of the continent's top sides for pulling out at such a late date, leaving the cup in chaos.

With only two months to go before the scheduled kick-off, CAF are urgently seeking a new host from the list of initial bidders Botswana, Cameroon, Congo DR, Guinea, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Egypt, Ghana and South Africa had said they are not interested in stepping in, which leaves slim pickings in terms of infrastructure. The new host was due to be announced at the finals draw, scheduled for the 26th of November, but Al-Jazeera TV has reported it will be revealed on Wednesday.

Only Algeria and Cape Verde have secured their qualification, with the remaining 14 teams decided on the 15th and 19th of this month.

Holders Nigeria are currently third in Group A, with their clash in Congo on the 15th key to making it through. Ivory Coast and six-times winner Egypt also sit third in their groups with only the first two guaranteed qualification.

MLS DOWN TO LAST FOUR

Major League Soccer has reached its semifinal stage with the Eastern Conference two-legged playoff to be contested by the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls. The Western Conference will be between LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, with the grand final in either city, since those sides won more points in the regular season than both Eastern teams.

New York City FC and Orlando City - the new MLS teamsSeattle continue to boast the best attendances, with 38,912 watching their second-leg against Dallas on Monday night.

Chivas USA has now been disbanded and next season the league welcomes New York City FC and Orlando City SC, making 20 clubs.


PEP WON'T COACH BARCA AGAIN

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola jetted back to Barcelona to vote in the unofficial Catalan independence vote on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola is proud to be CatalanPresumably the Barça icon, who turned out seven times for the Catalonia national team, was one of the 80% who voted yes, although the Spanish government have refused to recognise the vote.

Guardiola has spoken of his Catalan pride on many occasions. "Catalonia is my country," he said earlier this year, "but it was an honour to play for Spain,"  referring to his 47 caps for La Roja.

Guardiola told reporters he might come back to live in the Catalan capital in the future because his wife works there, but it will not be as Barcelona boss.

"In life there are cycles," he said, "and my cycle at Barça is over."

BLATTER SLIP OVER QATAR?

Der Spiegel reported that FIFA President Sepp Blatter told a meeting of Norwegian football officials in Oslo that Qatar will not host the 2022 World Cup.

The respected German magazine also claimed Blatter called the Qatari rulers "arrogant" and criticised their state's alleged funding of the Islamic State uprising.

Needless to say FIFA have rubbished the report but could their patience with the 2022 mess finally have run out? The imminent Ethics Committee report into the voting should tell us who is telling the truth.

MOYES SIGNS FOR SOCIEDAD

After some last-minute speculation that Pepe Mel would get the job, David Moyes has signed a year and a half deal to manage Real Sociedad, his first job since his stressful 11-month reign at Manchester United.

The Basque side are 15th in La Liga but have just recorded a shock 2-1 win over champions Atletico Madrid. Colchonero coach Diego Simeone has apparently called time on hopes of back-to-back titles, claiming his side's rivals this season are Valencia and Sevilla, despite his team sitting four points off leaders Real Madrid.

INTERNATIONAL DATES

International football returns this weekend. The most eye-catching UEFA Euro 2016 tie on Friday sees little Gibraltar, who have shipped seventeen goals and scored none in their first three qualifiers, visiting world champions Germany in Nuremberg. Jogi Low's Mannschaft are under pressure however after a poor start to their campaign.

At home, Germany have edged Scotland 2-1 drawn 1-1 to Eire and lost 2-0 away to Poland.

On the same night, unlikely Group F leaders Northern Ireland visit second-place Romania in Bucharest, while there is an interesting friendly at Craven Cottage in London between Colombia and the United States.

World Cup semi-finalists the Netherlands have been the most startling so far despite having Guus Hiddink at the helm. Oranje sit six points behind the Czech Republic and Iceland in Group A but can get their cause back on track at home to Latvia on Sunday in Amsterdam, while the two group leaders lock horns in Pilzen.

On Saturday, Group G leaders Austria tackle second-place Russia in Vienna, while England can extend their leadership of Group E by beating second-place Slovenia in London.

The following day Italy and Croatia contest Group H bragging rights in Milan.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, November 7, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions November 8 2014

bet365George is back this weekend after the guest appearance of Snoopie Myddleton.

The big game is at Anfield where Liverpool take on Chelsea for the first time since Steven Gerrard's slip cost Liverpool the title last season. George is going for another Chelsea win plus wins for the two Manchester clubs, Hull and Southampton.

Saturday, 7 November 2014

Liverpool 0 v Chelsea 2
Burnley 1 v Hull 2
Man Utd 2 v Crystal Palace 0
Southampton 2 v Leicester 0
West Ham 1 v Aston Villa 0
QPR 1 v Man City 2

Sunday 8 November 2014

Sunderland 2 v Everton 1
Tottenham 2 v Stoke 1
West Brom 0 v Newcastle 2
Swansea 1 v Arsenal 1

Soccer - Berahino in line for England debut

West Brom striker Saido Berahino has been handed his first senior England call-up for the international games with Slovenia, who are 10/1 with bet365 to beat England, and Scotland. The 21-year-old has fired in eight goals in 13 appearances for Albion this season and has now been rewarded with a spot in Roy Hodgson's latest squad. Hodgson has also included Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick in his Three Lions side, despite leaving him out of the World Cup, while Arsenal's Theo Walcott also returns to international football following an injury. West Ham winger Stewart Downing gets his first call-up since May 2012 after an excellent start to the season with the Hammers.

Soccer – Pellegrini worried by City crisis

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini admits his players are suffering from a crisis of confidence after losing at home to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. The Premier League champions are now 4/1 with bet365 to qualify for the last-16 of the competition after Seydou Doumbia’s brace secured the Russians the win at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. City, who also had Yaya Toure and Fernandinho sent off, are now bottom of the group with two games left to play, and Pellegrini says he can’t understand why they are struggling in the Champions League. "It's very difficult to understand why we played so badly," Pellegrini told Sky Sports. "I don't think it's just this competition. I think in the last two weeks we are not playing bad, but we are not playing the way we normally do. "It is a crisis of confidence and we must find out why by talking to the players every day."

Last time's predictions

Emirates fly from FIFA, FBI key to Blazer betrayal

Emirates Airlines has withdrawn from sponsoring the World Cup.

The Dubai-based company was one of FIFA's six 'Tier One' major World Cup sponsors along with Coca-Cola, Visa, Hyundai/Kia, Sony and Adidas.

Their press release gave little away: "This decision was made," it explained, "following an evaluation of FIFA's contract proposal which did not meet Emirates' expectations."

However, it would be a surprise if the volte-face was not down to the continuingly negative news surrounding FIFA's notorious double World Cup vote in 2010.

Emirates not only had the 2022 tournament on their doorstep in Qatar but are already heavily involved in football, sponsoring many tournaments and high-profile teams including Real Madrid, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, whose stadium is named after the airline.

None of the six big sponsors look good in the light of relentless corruption stories, but only Sony has so far hinted at following Emirates' lead. Second-tier sponsors BP and Budweiser have expressed worries about FIFA's soiled reputation.

Hitting football's governing body where it hurts, in the pocket, is perhaps the only hope of washing away the den of thieves who have run football for too long.

Visa, Sony and Adidas, whose relationship with FIFA is apparently umbilical since the founder's son Horst Dassler befriended FIFA boss Joao Havelange, expressed concern at the corruption allegations back in the summer.

Yet Qatar Airways and Samsung are rumoured to be willing to step in to form part of the magic circle of six if anyone else pulls out.

Emirates have gone from the top table, but with the World Cup still the planet's biggest draw, it is hard to see how the biggest global companies will refuse to claim their places at the feast.


***

Only this weekend, the New York Daily News ran a story revealing that former Executive Committee stalwart Chuck Blazer was used by the FBI to spy on his colleagues until they hung him out to dry in 2013, when FIFA suspended him from all football-related activities.

Blazer's champagne lifestyle and embezzlement of football funds had already been well documented, featuring Caribbean properties, a pad in Trump Tower and a $6 million flat for his cats, but the FBI link finally explains his shopping of his CONCACAF boss Jack Warner & FIFA Presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam in 2011.

The pair had tried to bribe the Caribbean Football Union with bags of cash to vote for Bin Hamman.

The super-sized American's huge girth and even larger self-aggrandizement, as evinced by his pompous blog, could not have made his malfeasance more obvious.

The New Yorker cruised around the Big Apple's top restaurants in a motor scooter while his vintage Mercedes was parked in Zurich for FIFA business. He pocketed more than $15 million in FIFA kickbacks yet ran up a $29 million credit card bill, all the while evading tax, the Achilles Heel which did for Al Capone.

Blazer is being treated for colon cancer, but the disease of corruption still infects FIFA too much for comfort. Meanwhile Michael Garcia's report for the tautologically-named FIFA Ethics Committee remains locked away in Switzerland.

The world's press pack are now well aware of FIFA's light fingers, and any false step in future will be pounced upon in the same way the Sunday Times' unleashed a tsunami of allegations of bribery surrounding the 2022 World Cup vote.

Thankfully the USA is now represented in the Ex.Co. by the far cleaner Sunil Gulati, a businessman who instead of wallowing in Jack Warner's racket, has made a career building Major League Soccer into a credible league amid the well-established American domestic sports market.

-Sean O'Conor