Football: World Cup coming home...to Brazil

Libero Ian Ridley on football
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The Independent Online
It Made sense on the surface; the day of an important England international when some of the game's bigwigs were in London. But for exactly that reason, the FA's bid for the 2006 World Cup, officially launched with a Downing Street reception, was off to a muted start.

Wembley did its best. The programme for the Italy game was full of the FA's case and a huge logo was placed in full pre-match view of the television cameras. But how much coverage in the media could be expected the following day when another English footballing matter would clearly dominate?

Uefa's response two days later from their Swiss sanctuary was to clarify that their support remained for Germany's proposed bid, first announced more than two years ago, though they would also assess England's in Geneva on 17 April. They confirmed the impression of a week ago that the purpose of their visit was to douse domestic indignation, offer a sop, then back Germany anyway.

That may not deter the FA, who say they are determined that their bid is considered by Fifa when it comes to making the decision in June 2000. In reality, without the backing of the European governing body and the voting power of their members, success is unlikely. It could well be pounds 10m down the drain. It could also mean that Uefa do not look kindly on English football with other decisions were the FA to dilute their own attempt to secure a World Cup for Europe. England will no doubt point out that they stepped aside to allow France a clear run at 1998, for which they were granted Euro 96 in return but several years is a long time in football politics.

There is no doubt after Euro 96 that England does have the capacity and capability to stage a World Cup, though it will not have gone down well with the powers-that-be that jeering of the opposition's national anthem returned to Wembley on Wednesday night. Those who whistle ought to have realised how it motivates the opposition?

All nationalism apart, surely the nation with the best case to host the tournament is Brazil. The four-times winners last hosted it in 1950, 16 years before England, and last week declared their interest. It would have to be jointly with Argentina, such are their economic problems. Fifa, having got into such a mess with Japan and South Korea for 2002, may wish to lock that stable door but an exception should be made for Brazil, whose domestic game is in severe need ofrefurbishment. Rather than football coming home, the World Cup should be.

Sometimes one is forced to accept the need for sponsorship but all we need to know about commercialism and priorities was to be seen in England's new shirts. The kit-maker's name was above the three lions emblem, higher than the word "England", and in type twice as large.

AN investigation is apparently under way at the FA into how the England team was leaked to newspapers on the eve of the Italy match. It may come as a shock to them, but where there is secrecy, there is journalism.

We can reveal exactly how teams are leaked. A "friend" phones a player at the team hotel, to be told delightedly (something which Glenn Hoddle will no doubt henceforth insist is stopped) that the player is in the team and, by the way, this is who else is in. In return for a favour or even, would you believe, money, the "friend" - also known as "a contact" in the trade - then passes it on to a newspaper.

IF the mountain will not come to Muhammad ... Terry Venables is planning a training camp for his Europe-based Australian players in this country in a few weeks. He could not book Bisham Abbey as the England rugby squad are there that week but he has found a hotel for his new charges. It is the Royal Garden in Kensington. Yes that one, about 200 yards from Scribes West.

1st fan: What would you do if you won the lottery then?

2nd fan: I'd buy Millwall.

1st fan: You are joking?

2nd fan: No, they've got some good young players, they can still make the play-offs and they've still got some assets left.

1st fan: So what would you do if you got four numbers up?

As a rule: Case for a time-check

Word from the Uefa referees' course in Cyprus last week that the International Board comprising representatives of Fifa and the four home associations - so Britain, as originator of the game, still has some influence - are likely to introduce a rule that precludes goalkeepers handling throw-ins back to them.

More power to the IB. They are also considering other measures to cut down on the amount of "dead" time in a match, wishing to see the ball in play for 70 minutes at least. For England v Italy it was 55. Balls may be stationed around the touchlines so that the game does not have to await the return of the one that goes out of play.

It is also being mooted that goalkeepers who hold on to the ball for too long - a time limit has yet to be set - will be penalised. What about stopping goalkeepers dribbling the ball out of their penalty area and humping it upfield as 20 outfield players huddle together?

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