Let the building commence

With the 2013 Confederations Cup just eight months away, FIFA have confirmed that Brazil will be ready to host the tournament – the traditional curtain raiser to the following year’s World Cup.

Despite construction delays and fears over unfinished infrastructure, FIFA says the 2014 World Cup hosts will be able to stage the Confederations Cup with six venues as originally planned.

The north eastern cities of Salvador and Recife will host matches along with Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Salvador and Fortaleza.

Both Recife and Salvador had until this month to convince FIFA that their stadiums would be ready in time for next year’s competition.

This is how the stadium is supposed to look when it’s finished.

And this is how it looks now.

Best of luck with that Brazil!

Qatar looks for quick decision

The head of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee says FIFA must decide in the next two years if they want to move the 2022 tournament to winter.

UEFA president Michel Platini has said he would prefer moving the World Cup to winter because of the extreme heat in Qatar during the summer.

“Our bid was always based on a summer World Cup and we are proceeding with planning for a summer World Cup in 2022,” Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the International Sports Event Management Conference “However, I know there are prominent members of the football community who have raised preferences for the winter, so whatever FIFA and the world football community comes up with, we’re happy to accommodate.”

Part of the bid to host the finals was the promise of cooling technology in stadia, which Al Thawadi said they would continue to develop no matter when the tournament is staged. A tacit admission that they are no closer to developing such technology than they were when the idea was first mooted.

“We’ll have to look at it, probably by 2013, 2014, mainly because of the international schedule,” he said.

“Nothing is impossible. We could come to it in, say, 2017. But probably 2013 or 2014 would be the most realistic deadline for it because international sporting calendars are quite a complex issue so [a decision] makes sense by then.”

No one saw that coming

It’s not unreasonable to state that Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Barcelona on Wednesday night was their best result in Europe since they won the European Cup in 1967.

Such was the magnitude of their performance against a side regarded by some as the greatness team of all time. That claim to greatness does look in some jeopardy at the moment, not least because defending remains part of the game.

Certainly for Celtic boss Neil Lennon, who has struggled for years to establish his credibility as a coach, the result marked a career highlight, both as a player and as a manager.

“This is up there with anything I have done in my life,” he said. “As a player I won things, had a special 10 years under Martin O’Neill [at Leicester and Celtic] and played in some great teams, beating Manchester United and getting to the last 16 of the Champions League. As a manager, I don’t know if I will top this; I hope I do, because I am still young and am still learning. But this is up there with anything I have achieved, not just in my football career but in my life.

“This was one of the greatest nights in the club’s recent history. It was very poignant, firstly to be playing Barcelona at this point but also to beat them given the way our squad had been decimated.

It was all too much for singer Rod Stewart, who was seen sobbing at the end of the game - presumably tears of joy, although there is a possibility that he may just have just been shown his latest tax bill.

Mutual love-in

Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell has praised Barcelona for the way in which they played and more significantly, the way in which they handled defeat.

Barcelona skipper Xavi hailed the atmosphere at Celtic Park  - ”It’s a marvel, an example,” he told reporters – while the Spanish club used their official Twitter account to pay their respects to the Scottish champions.

“Congratulations to @celticfc for well-earned victory a day after their 125-year anniversary. #FCBLive.”

Touched by that expression of magnanimity, Lawwell began to gush.

“It is extremely important that we mention our opponents and our guests last night, FC Barcelona. The sign of true class is not how you win, but how you lose and last night they demonstrated that perfectly.

“Throughout their visit to Glasgow and indeed across both Champions League matches they have demonstrated courtesy, co-operation, professionalism and sportsmanship of the highest order

“Over a number of years, we are delighted that FC Barcelona have become our true friends and we are very grateful that the directors and players of Barca have been part of our 125th anniversary celebrations.

“It was very poignant that two football clubs with such a similar ethos came together to mark these events and it is something which will live long in the memory.

“Barca have created one of the greatest football teams of all time and last night it was a privilege to see the best players in the world at Celtic Park-  they have given so much to football and deserve huge praise for all they have done.

“We were delighted once again to welcome Barca to Glasgow and, of course, we wish the club and its supporters well for the future.”

Pep talk

The agent of former Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola insists his client is open to offers to return to management for the start of next season.

Guardiola, or the Grim Reaper as he’s known to a coterie of insecure football managers, over whom the former Barcelona manager’s shadow looms larger by the day.

The Spaniard’s representative Jose Maria Orobitg singled out Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City as possible destinations.

“Anything is possible if it is from next season”, Orobitg told Tutto Mercato, amid speculation linking Guardiola with Milan.

”I talk quite often with Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani and he is always very nice.

”Our relationship is good, so who knows what will happen in the future.”

Orobitg left the door open for more teams that just Milan to make a pitch to Guardiola though.

“I do not exclude anything.

“When I say that everything is possible, then I’m also thinking about Manchester City, Chelsea and other big clubs.”

Meanwhile,

Manuel Estiarte has refused to comment on whether he met with Milan representatives earlier this week to discuss the future of Pep Guardiola.

You’d think a simple denial would suffice, but apparently not.

“Did I speak with Milan about Guardiola? It’s not up to me to answer that question…” the 51-year-old said at the World Business Forum.

Goal of the day

A stunning long range free-kick from Sao Paolo’s Rafael Toloi against Universidad de Chile.

Quote of the day

 ”[Robin] van Persie, Higuain, [Luis] Suarez and Dzeko? They are great names, but it is almost a utopian way to think. I don’t speak only for Juventus, but for all the Italian teams. We are in a time of great decline, so I think it’s really difficult to imagine that a team may invest more than 30 million euros for a player of this quality.”

Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta delivers a reality check to fans of Italian football.

Players to save the day

We hear a lot about footballers taking their vast wealth for granted and not fulfilling their obligations as part of the wider football community, so it is refreshing to learn of a group of former Real Oviedo players clubbing together to help the save financially stricken club.

Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Michu are all former Oviedo graduates, and the trio have bought shares in the side as they hope to save it from going out of business.

The Spanish club, currently in fifth position in the third division of Spanish football, is where Mata, Michu and Cazorla all began their careers, and Michu in particular spent a great deal of time there before making the move to Celta B in his senior career.

“Myself, Mata and Cazorla have all bought shares, but it would be wrong of me to say how much. We just wanted to try and help save the club we all played for,” Michu confirmed.

“The economy in Spain is very bad and the club needs around €2m to survive. A lot of people have bought shares and hopefully it will be enough by the closing date of November 17.

“It’s my local club, a club I love, so I hope it will be enough.”

Car trouble

Where do high profile international footballers go when they retire? To Spain on a bender by the sound of it.

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack has been banned from driving for 18 months and fined 6,750 euros after he was caught speeding at 211 kilometres per hour on a Spanish highway in October.

The 36-year-old, who announced his retirement a couple of weeks before the incident, was driving his Audi Q7 at almost twice the legal limit of 120 kms per hour, according to the ruling by a court in Caceres.

Image of the day

The statistical story of Celtic’s victory over Barcelona.

Incidentally, Celtic’s possession percentage is the lowest ever recorded for a side winning a game in the Champions League.

 

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