While Iran are well-placed to qualify for next year's World Cup finals, their neighbours and former wartime enemies, Iraq, will be sitting at home watching the tournament on television.
In July, after a defeat to Kazakhstan cost Iraq any chance of a ticket to France, disturbing rumours trickled out of the troubled country that Uday Hussein, Saddam's feared eldest son and the head of the Iraqi football federation, had ordered some extreme punishment for the the national team. It was alleged that the players had been beaten and tortured.
Now, months later, an investigation by Fifa, world football's governing body, has failed to uncover any evidence to substantiate reports of mistreatment.
A two-man Fifa investigation team spent two days in Iraq. They talked to members of the Iraqi football federation, the coach and 12 players, who were examined for any physical traces of mistreatment. "Fifa now considers this matter as closed," a statement from the governing body's headquarters said.
Iraq had dismissed the charges as "fabricated stories aiming at harming the reputation of the President's son." Uday was seriously injured earlier this year in an assassination attempt.
John Toshack, the former manager of Wales who is now the coach of the Istanbul club, Besiktas, has made a bad error: he has upset the Turkish military establishment.
The row happened last month when the Besiktas striker Oktay Derelioglu, who has been a prolific scorer in the Champions' League this season, was injured during army training while doing his military service. "The like of this has not been seen anywhere in the world before," Toshack raged. "Even the communist regimes of 30 years ago looked after their sportsmen better."
His outburst provoked a stern reaction from the military. The chiefs of general staff contacted the club's board of directors, telling it to warn Toshack and if necessary sever his ties with the club.
Besiktas felt it necessary to apologise profusely. A club statement read: "The board of directors and the technical committee and all our sportsmen apologise for the misunderstanding and extend our thanks to the Turkish armed forces for all the support they have given us to date."
On Tuesday Wales make the long journey to Brasilia for a prestigious friendly against the world champions. It will be the first time the two countries have met since 1991, when a goal by Dean Saunders gave the Welshmen a surprise 1-0 win over Brazil in Cardiff.
One player who will not be facing Bobby Gould's men is the combative striker Edmundo. The scorer of 24 goals in 20 games for Vasco da Gama in the Brazilian championship this year, he was sent off last week when he elbowed the River Plate goalkeeper, German Burgos. It was his sixth red card of the year, and it prompted Brazil's coach, Mario Zagallo, to change his mind about recalling him.
After Edmundo's departure, Vasco da Gama's South American Super Cup tie against River Plate was eventually abandoned amid chaos after Vasco had another player sent off and assorted objects were hurled at a linesman, who was carried off injured.
Last week's reports of the imminent demise of Vancouver 86ers have proved to be excessively pessimistic. The financially stricken A-League have been rescued by an injection of funds from David Braley, the owner of BC Lions American football team. Carl Valentine, the former Oldham and West Bromwich winger, will continue as coach, and the club are negotiating to buy the rights to use the name Vancouver Whitecaps.Reuse content