Club v country row brewing ahead of World Cup draw
Friday 29 July 2011
England's low-key delegation for the 2014 World Cup draw were due to arrive in Rio today amid a growing club-versus-country row that FIFA president Sepp Blatter could do without on the eve of one of his organisation's most important occasions.
Although he will not be in charge by the time England begin their qualifiers in September, manager Fabio Capello has nevertheless made the trip ahead of Saturday's star-studded 100-minute draw which will go a long way to determining which 31 teams join hosts Brazil in the finals.
England, like everyone else in the top pot, will be anxious to avoid France as they await their fate at Rio de Janeiro's swish Marina da Gloria, close to the world-famous Copacabana beach.
Capello is not due to make any public statements until immediately after the draw, when almost as much attention will focus on his likely successor as the England's opponents.
Europe is the last continent to be drawn out of the hat, with nine groups of six countries vying for a berth in the first World Cup finals to be hosted by the five-time champions since 1950.
Which players Capello's successor will be able to call on could depend largely on how quickly the latest club versus country row gathers pace.
According to reports circulating over the past 48 hours, clubs may consider refusing to release players if their concerns over too much power being yielded by FIFA and UEFA are ignored.
The European Club Association are particular unhappy with the number of dates for international friendlies, especially the first one of the season in early August. European clubs supplied three quarters of the players at last year's World Cup in South Africa.
UEFA's decision to centralise its television and marketing contracts for all World Cup and European qualification games is also causing grave concern.
Saturday's draw takes place against an undercurrent of safety concerns given Rio's notorious crime rate.
However, communications chief for the local organising committee Roberto Constante defended his country's record.
Constante said: "Like all large events there are positive and negative points.
"Regarding the issue of urban violence, we have taken great strides in reducing crime. The progress that's been made is remarkable.
"Remember what was said about South Africa, how there were cases of rape and violence. I was there twice with Brazil, for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, and there were no records of rape and robbery.
"For a long time, statistics for Brazilian tourism have dropped but with the World Cup we hope people will want to return and see Brazil as they used to.
"We want to bring the new Brazil to the world. This is the greatest legacy we could give."
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