World Cup stadium completion in the lap of the gods

The stadium that will host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup will not be ready until April 14 or 15, less than two months before the tournament kicks off, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has confirmed

The Itaquera Arena in Sao Paulo was originally supposed to be ready this month but an accident last week in which two workers were killed, has set the deadline for completion back.

Blatter, sounding less than confident that the stadium would be ready, acknowledged that best hopes now rest on a wing and a prayer.

“We believe it is a question of trust and that it will be done,” he told reporters.

“For the time being there is no Plan B and what FIFA can do now is ask God, Allah, whoever, that no more accidents shall arise in connection with the World Cup. That is all we can do and we hope the reconstruction can start as soon as possible.”

Host nation Brazil will kick off the tournament at the stadium on June 12.

The setback is the latest in a string of delays involving stadiums and infrastructure.

Only two of six stadiums built for June’s Confederations Cup were delivered on time.

The other six for the World Cup were scheduled to be handed over this month but at least half will be late.

Arenas in Cuiaba and Curitiba will be delivered by mid-February, officials said earlier this week, while playing down the delays.

“At every single wedding I’ve been to, the bride was always late,” said Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo. “The wedding always went ahead despite this. It is possible that one or two are delayed, but the most important thing is that they’ll all be delivered.”

It’s good to see he’s taking things seriously. At times like this, you can see why FIFA general secretary, Jerome Valcke, frustrated by the seemingly endless delays, felt compelled to tell the world that Brazil needed a “kick up the backside”.

Sevilla president sentenced to 7 years in jail

A Spanish court has sentenced the president of Sevilla to seven years in prison for embezzlement and corruption.

Madrid’s Supreme Court upheld most of a 2011 ruling by a lesser court that found Jose Maria del Nido and former mayor of Marbella, Julian Munoz, guilty of devising a scheme to divert money from the Marbella’s public accounts.

The Supreme Court reduced the original sentence of 7 1/2 years by six months. It could have been a lot worse for del Nido - prosecutors had been demanding a 30-year prison term!

Del Nido cannot appeal the sentence, but he can ask for a government pardon.

The corruption ring revolved around former mayor Julian Munoz, who in 2011 was also sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.

After previously refusing to resign, Del Nido is to now stand down as Sevilla president after 11 largely successful years in charge, during which time the club won a UEFA Cup, a Europa League and a UEFA Super Cup.

Michel Platini calls for sin-bins

UEFA president Michel Platini has called for yellow cards to be replaced by a sin-bin.

“I would make it like rugby, punishing the offender with 10 or 15 minutes out of the game,” he said in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS.

“It is an idea. Now it needs to mature and see if it really is good for the game. It is a proposal to be explored.”

Under the existing disciplinary system a player will be suspended for future games if he picks up a certain number of yellow cards spread over several matches, and it is this aspect that most concerns Platini.

Platini believes a sin-bin would be a fairer punishment because “that way, the benefit goes to the team he is playing against, in the same match, instead of a sanction by cards which is carried out against a third team, the next on the calendar”.

It would mean, of course, that when Marouane Fellaini played, Manchester United would play periods of every match with only ten men. The other problem would occur when several players from one side are booked within a short space of time. A match featuring 11 vs 8 would be farcical and would be a disproportionate advantage for the team with a full complement of players.

Platini also addressed the issue of goalkeepers who are punished twice by conceding a penalty and getting sent off.

“It seems excessive,” he said. “The penalty is itself already is punishment enough.

“I think it’s something that everyone in FIFA and UEFA agree, but one or two of the countries that make up the International Board are unwilling to change.”

The UEFA chief also backed the idea of allowing national cup champions to take part in the Champions League – an idea unlikely to gain much traction with the European leagues.

“I agree with this proposal, which we have debated many times,” he said. “But when it comes time to vote, countries that don’t want to cede a place for the cup champion are in the majority.”

Goal of the Day

Luis Suarez scored one of the best hat-tricks you are ever likely to see in Liverpool’s 5-1 win over Norwich on Wednesday. This was his third (of four), although his first or fourth would have been worthy winners. The element of genius came with the momentary delay before he unleashed his shot.

Quote of the Day

“I think that for someone like (Adriano) Galliani there should be more respect. I can’t really see women in football, I don’t like to say it but that’s how it is.”

Former Milan and Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was commenting on the recent turmoil at Milan, where Adriano Galliani has agreed to share his chief executive role with Barbara Berlusconi, the daughter of club president Silvio Berlusconi.