Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Morocco out of Africa, no Barça for Pep & Blatter's loose tongue

NO MOROCCO AT CAN 2015

Morocco's national team has been banned from January's 2015 African Nations Cup after their confederation withdrew last month from hosting the tournament in the light of the Ebola epidemic.
African Cup of Nations trophy
The African Confederation have punished one of the continent's top sides for pulling out at such a late date, leaving the cup in chaos.

With only two months to go before the scheduled kick-off, CAF are urgently seeking a new host from the list of initial bidders Botswana, Cameroon, Congo DR, Guinea, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Egypt, Ghana and South Africa had said they are not interested in stepping in, which leaves slim pickings in terms of infrastructure. The new host was due to be announced at the finals draw, scheduled for the 26th of November, but Al-Jazeera TV has reported it will be revealed on Wednesday.

Only Algeria and Cape Verde have secured their qualification, with the remaining 14 teams decided on the 15th and 19th of this month.

Holders Nigeria are currently third in Group A, with their clash in Congo on the 15th key to making it through. Ivory Coast and six-times winner Egypt also sit third in their groups with only the first two guaranteed qualification.

MLS DOWN TO LAST FOUR

Major League Soccer has reached its semifinal stage with the Eastern Conference two-legged playoff to be contested by the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls. The Western Conference will be between LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, with the grand final in either city, since those sides won more points in the regular season than both Eastern teams.

New York City FC and Orlando City - the new MLS teamsSeattle continue to boast the best attendances, with 38,912 watching their second-leg against Dallas on Monday night.

Chivas USA has now been disbanded and next season the league welcomes New York City FC and Orlando City SC, making 20 clubs.


PEP WON'T COACH BARCA AGAIN

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola jetted back to Barcelona to vote in the unofficial Catalan independence vote on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola is proud to be CatalanPresumably the Barça icon, who turned out seven times for the Catalonia national team, was one of the 80% who voted yes, although the Spanish government have refused to recognise the vote.

Guardiola has spoken of his Catalan pride on many occasions. "Catalonia is my country," he said earlier this year, "but it was an honour to play for Spain,"  referring to his 47 caps for La Roja.

Guardiola told reporters he might come back to live in the Catalan capital in the future because his wife works there, but it will not be as Barcelona boss.

"In life there are cycles," he said, "and my cycle at Barça is over."

BLATTER SLIP OVER QATAR?

Der Spiegel reported that FIFA President Sepp Blatter told a meeting of Norwegian football officials in Oslo that Qatar will not host the 2022 World Cup.

The respected German magazine also claimed Blatter called the Qatari rulers "arrogant" and criticised their state's alleged funding of the Islamic State uprising.

Needless to say FIFA have rubbished the report but could their patience with the 2022 mess finally have run out? The imminent Ethics Committee report into the voting should tell us who is telling the truth.

MOYES SIGNS FOR SOCIEDAD

After some last-minute speculation that Pepe Mel would get the job, David Moyes has signed a year and a half deal to manage Real Sociedad, his first job since his stressful 11-month reign at Manchester United.

The Basque side are 15th in La Liga but have just recorded a shock 2-1 win over champions Atletico Madrid. Colchonero coach Diego Simeone has apparently called time on hopes of back-to-back titles, claiming his side's rivals this season are Valencia and Sevilla, despite his team sitting four points off leaders Real Madrid.

INTERNATIONAL DATES

International football returns this weekend. The most eye-catching UEFA Euro 2016 tie on Friday sees little Gibraltar, who have shipped seventeen goals and scored none in their first three qualifiers, visiting world champions Germany in Nuremberg. Jogi Low's Mannschaft are under pressure however after a poor start to their campaign.

At home, Germany have edged Scotland 2-1 drawn 1-1 to Eire and lost 2-0 away to Poland.

On the same night, unlikely Group F leaders Northern Ireland visit second-place Romania in Bucharest, while there is an interesting friendly at Craven Cottage in London between Colombia and the United States.

World Cup semi-finalists the Netherlands have been the most startling so far despite having Guus Hiddink at the helm. Oranje sit six points behind the Czech Republic and Iceland in Group A but can get their cause back on track at home to Latvia on Sunday in Amsterdam, while the two group leaders lock horns in Pilzen.

On Saturday, Group G leaders Austria tackle second-place Russia in Vienna, while England can extend their leadership of Group E by beating second-place Slovenia in London.

The following day Italy and Croatia contest Group H bragging rights in Milan.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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