Brazil 2014 ticket requests top 4.5 million

With a week to go before the end of the first phase of ticket sales for the 2014 World Cup, over 4.5 million tickets have been requested for the 64 matches.

Brazilians made 77 per cent of the requests, for about 3.4 million tickets. Argentines applied for 223,686 tickets and America was the country with the 3rd highest number of applications with 175,122. FIFA says people from more than 200 countries have sought tickets.

Thierry Weil, FIFA Marketing Director, said: “This impressive total so far underlines the extraordinary level of interest in this 20th FIFA World Cup being played next year in the country of the five-time world champions.

“However, football fans who apply by next Thursday have as good a chance of obtaining tickets as those who have already applied, as all applications made from the beginning to the end of the sales window are collected together and drawn on a lottery basis when the number of requests exceeds the tickets available.”

Although demand has been strong for team specific tickets, the strength of interest in venue specific tickets is very good news for organisers, who will be confident that most matches will be played in front of full houses.

This is in marked contrast to South Africa where local audiences took little interest in matches not involving the hosts. Brazil received more requests for tickets in the first 24 hours of the registration process, than South Africa did in the whole of the first round of ticket sales. In fairness to South Africa, the cost of buying World Cup tickets was simply beyond the reach of the vast majority of the country’s population.

About 1 million tickets will be distributed at the end of this first round, with a second round starting after the qualifying teams are drawn into groups in December.

So far so good. All that’s lacking now is the stadiums in which these ticket holders can sit. If Brazil can sort those out, we could be in for one hell of a World Cup next year.

Russia bars FIFA investigator

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was asked earlier today about the organisation’s ethics investigator/prosecutor, Michael Garcia, and replied that he had no idea where Garcia was, what he was up to or where he might be planning to go.

Well, one thing we know for sure, Garcia will not be in Russia, not now, or any time soon.

Russia has said it will not allow Garcia to enter the country because he is on the “Guantanamo List” issued in a human rights dispute between Russia and the US.

FIFA has appointed former United States attorney Garcia to investigate “any violations of the ethics code” in the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

France Football reported earlier this week that Garcia, a former district prosecutor in New York, was to begin a worldwide tour of all the countries involved in the bidding process.

However, he is on Russia’s list of those barred from the country for his part in prosecuting Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the US after being convicted of conspiracy to kill American citizens and officials by smuggling arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Russia claims Garcia made prejudicial statements to the media regarding his case and his name was included on the “Guantanamo List”,comprising officials banned from entering the country.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday: “Let there be no doubt: We intend to react firmly to unfriendly attacks and unceremonious infringements on the rights of Russian citizens. Anyone who is involved in such things should think hard.

“Questions arising in connection with visa blacklists should be addressed to the initiators and executors of the extraterritorial and discriminatory Magnitsky Act, which contradicts norms of international law.”

Leaving aside the irony of Russia lecturing anyone over human rights, their decision to ban Garcia does rather undermine his investigation into the World Cup bidding process.

Jack Wilshere caught smoking behind the bike sheds

Arsenal manager has spoken out against Jack Wilshere after the England midfielder was photographed smoking outside a nightclub.

Asked about the photo, the Arsenal boss said: “Well, I disagree completely with that behaviour… The fact that you can damage your health at home, nobody sees it, you as well damage your reputation as an example.”

To be fair to Wilshere, I don’t think anyone, least of all himself, regards him as a role model.

“I travelled on coaches to away games in France where you couldn’t see each other! But times have changed… and I must say as well English society is very sensitive to smoking, much more than other countries.”

Asked whether he would discipline his player for doing something which, although frowned upon, remains perfectly legal, Wenger replied: “I will leave that between him and me.”

In other words, no.

A spokesman for Wilshere however, is quoted in the Sun claiming the incident was a prank.

“Jack was with team-mates and friends,” he said. “One dared Jack, who does not smoke, to momentarily hold the cigarette as part of a prank.”

Did he also ask him to momentarily put it in his mouth and inhale?

As lame excuses go, that one is right up there with the dog ate my homework.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic investigated over gun gesture

Paris Saint Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being investigated by a French league disciplinary commission after he made a gun gesture with his hand and pointed toward the Toulouse bench during their encounter last weekend.

The 32-year-old made the gesture whilst being substituted in the second half of the 2-0 victory after a row with Toulouse defender Abel Aguilar.

However, there have been claims that the gesture was aimed at defender Jonathan Zebina instead. The defender and Ibrahimovic were teammates together at Juventus, although they never got on.

On Thursday, Toulouse manager Alain Casanova said: “They’re not gestures that I like or appreciate on a football pitch.

“Afterwards, it’s difficult to explain to children that you shouldn’t do these kind of things. I’m convinced that, seeing these images again, even he must regret this gesture.”

The French football authorities will also gather evidence about the incident from the Toulouse side, the assistant referee and the fourth official to compile their case.

In his new book, Ibrahimovic wrote that he had hit Zebina after being fouled by the former French international.

But the French defender told RMC: “Maybe he needed publicity for his book. He sold lots of them, and that’s good for him.

“It’s better to say ‘I caught him with a good right and he fell to the ground’ than ‘my fingernail brushed his eye’.”

At this rate there will be plenty of new material for Ibrahimovic’s next memoir.

Goal of the Day

The splendidly named Memphis Depay scores a screamer for PSV Eindhoven against Chornomorets.

Quote of the Day

“No. It is one thing to play for Everton and another to play for Chelsea.”

Asked whether he has any regrets about loaning out in-form striker Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho manages to belittle both his player and his current club Everton.

Lionel Messi’s house looks like a football

Lionel Messi is looking for a new property in Spain and he has enlisted Spanish architect Luis de Garrido to build the property from scratch.

Apparently, he wants to build something that reflects the 26-year-old’s “personality.”

The house itself would resemble a football from above, and the grounds are landscaped so that it looks like a pitch.

Messi’s jersey number, 10, is also scrawled into the middle of the ball on the plans. According to Olé, the three-story house will be built somewhere in Barcelona, and the blueprints have already been drawn up.

Joel Campbell reprimanded for outrageous dive

FIFA has reprimanded Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell for diving in a World Cup qualifier against the United States.

Campbell, currently on loan at Greek side Olympiakos, dropped the ground and rolled around the floor during the September 6 match in San Jose after Matt Besler accidentally stepped on his foot.

Besler was shown a yellow card by the referee, which meant he was suspended for the following World Cup qualifier against Mexico.

Now FIFA has issued a reprimand saying Campbell breached article 57 of its disciplinary code which calls for sanctions by a player “who violates the principles of fair play or whose behaviour is otherwise unsporting”.

A FIFA spokesman said: “We can confirm that the FIFA disciplinary committee has sanctioned the player Joel Campbell of Costa Rica with a reprimand for breaching art. 57 of the FIFA disciplinary code.”