World Cup Group D Preview

Every World Cup draw produces a so called group of death and the 2018 finals has been no different. The term group of death does not mean people are going to die but what it does mean in footballing terms is that losing games in this group will cause major qualification problems, as there is no wiggle room if you want to get to the next phase. Group D consists of Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, now that is some line up, four quality teams. The group is wide open in my opinion and not even group favourites Argentina are guaranteed a safe passage through to the next phase. The group is made even more intriguing with the fact that Croatia and Iceland were in the same qualifying group to get to these finals, so the match between them will be tight. No matter what the outcome of this group will be, I am sure these group of matches could possibly produce some of the best football in the early stages of this tournament.

Argentina are without a doubt one of the big power houses of World football, they have won the World Cup twice and have finished runners-up on three separate occasions. Over the years they have produced some magnificent players and I am not just talking about Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, their production line of talent goes much further than those two special players. Qualifying for this tournament was not plain sailing for the Argentinians and they had to win their last match of the qualifying campaign against Ecuador to book their ticket for the big show. In that game it was a Lionel Messi hat trick that got the job done and now that they have got to Russia anything is possible. Going into the finals, manager Jorge Sampaoli knows he can not solely rely on Lionel Messi to get him out of trouble in every game and he needs the other players around the maestro to shine. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are Angel Di Maria of PSG and Juventus striker Paulo Dybala. Di Maria is around a long time and he is a solid player for both club and country, always prepared to put in a good shift when on the field. Dybala in my opinion is a little gem and if he gets good service during the tournament he could be a contender for the leading goal scorer. I have seen him play a lot this season in Italy and he is the type of player who will steal a goal out of nowhere for you. If you are to believe the seeding process for the games, Argentina will qualify as group winners but I am not so sure, especially looking back at their qualifying campaign.

Iceland are appearing at the World Cup Finals for the very first time and after their heroics in the 2016 European Championships nobody will underestimate them. They will also bring with them the " Viking Chant " which they did with their fans at the end of each game in 2016. It was something new to see and it showed to the outside world how much the fans meant to them. They have qualified for the finals by topping their qualification group which included Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo. It was a tremendous feat to win that group as only a few years ago the men from Iceland would have been the team in that group were everyone would have expected to pick up all six points from both of the games they would have had to play against the men from Reykjavik. A lot of credit has got to go down to former manager Lars Lagerbeck from Sweden, who installed a new belief in the Icelandic team. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are Everton,s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff City. Sigurdsson is a smashing creative midfielder and his opponents need to be warned, if you give this fella a chance he will punish you. Gunnarsson is the captain of the squad and takes no prisoners, he can play right back or is just as comfortable in central midfield. One thing to keep an eye out for at the end of every game will be the chant, which will be led by their captain and who knows, they could be ready to ruffle a few more teams feathers in Russia.

Croatia only became a nation in its own right in 1990 with the break up of Yugoslavia after a horrible war, one that we should never forget though. They have already appeared in four World Cup Finals and that is understandable with the amount of talent they have produced over the years. They qualified for Russia through the play offs by thrashing Greece four one on aggregate. They were in a group which included Iceland and that rivalry will be renewed in Russia. They travel to Russia with possibly one of the best talented squads to ever board a plane from their home soil, it will all depend like everything does in football if the eleven players on the field can gel. Two players to look out for going into the tournament are captain Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic both players have had a very successful season with their clubs Real Madrid and Juventus. Modric is key to everything that happens to Croatia going forward and if he is not stopped he can cause all sorts of problems to the opposition. Mandzukic is a good old style centre forward and if Modric the magician, can make chances for him he will take them. The game of the group in my opinion will be Croatia v Argentina and this will be a match not to be missed.

The fourth member of this group are Nigeria who are known around the world as the Super Eagles. This will be the sixth time that they have qualified for the finals and they could be a dangerous side if allowed to play. They qualified through to Russia by winning a group that also included Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria. They topped the group although a three nil defeat was awarded against them when they fielded a suspended player in the away game against Algeria. Two players to look out for when the competition kicks off are Ahmed Musa of Leicester City and Chelsea,s Victor Moses. Musa made history at the 2014 World Cup Finals when he became the first Nigerian to score more than one goal in the finals. Moses played for England at youth level but switched back to Nigeria in 2012. As a player he reminds me of the old style wing back who raids down the right hand side whenever he gets the chance  but is not afraid to do his share of the defending either, it is always a great attribute to a player when he can work in both halves defending and attacking. Nigeria will be a joy to watch in the finals and look out for their physical presence as they do like to get stuck in. May the other three teams be warned.

Matches

Argentina  v  Iceland   16/6/2018

Croatia       v  Nigeria   16/6/2018

Argentina  v  Croatia    21/6/2018

Nigeria       v  Iceland    22/6/2018

Iceland       v  Croatia    26/6/2018

Nigeria       v  Argentina  26/6/2018

 

World Cup Group C Preview

Group C throws up a very interesting prospect indeed as France, Denmark, Peru and Australia are set to battle it out for the two qualifying spots. It will be one of the toughest groups to call and could possibly produce the overall winners in a French team that look extremely exciting to watch. It is a group that has a great mix of styles and talent, involving four nations that were born for football, when this group is over I have no doubt we will have seen some thrilling games and excellent play from the four teams involved.

France qualified for the finals from a very tough group which included The Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus. On the road to Russia they only lost one game which was away against Sweden. The French won the group by four points and with the strength and quality of the other teams involved that has to go down as a good campaign. Their star men going into the tournament will be Grizeman and Pogba, two players with bundles of talent in their armoury. Pogba has not set the world alight this season with his performances for Manchester United but that seems to be down to,as widely reported a rift between himself and his club manager Jose Mourinho. It will be very interesting see how different he performs under French manager Didier Deschamps. The French have left out a few big stars from their squad including Martial, Lacazette and Benezma and if you can afford to leave a trio with such talent at home the rest of the squad must be talented indeed. The French will do well this summer and if they can produce a team spirit and unity that the 1998 squad showed they might just do it again. The only problem I see ahead for Deschamps men is the national history and the expectancy, let us not forget they lost the 2016 European Championship on home turf and that was down to outside pressure more than bad play.

Australia have qualified for their fifth finals and this will be their fourth in a row, this is an amazing statistic considering the Football Federation of Australia was only formed in 1963, nowadays it is called the Australian Football Federation. It has taken the men from down under 22 games to qualify for the finals because in that part of the world the qualifying is so complicated. They have had to go through two qualifying groups and only finished third in their second round of group games, a group which included Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand. Finishing third in the Asia group meant they had to play Syria in a play off which they won three two on aggregate over two legs. Their qualifying was not over yet and you would have to believe that the Australians have travelled the most miles to get to their final goal of reaching Russia. They had to face Honduras over two legs in the Concacaf / Asia play off and they came through that tie, three one overall. All the goals came in the second leg and it was Aston Villa,s Jedinak who was the hero with a hat trick. The Australian squad is spread across the world including countries such as England, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and The Netherlands, which in turn gives them a wide experience of styles and cultures. Their game against Denmark will give us some sort of idea of what they are made of and if they have the quality to get out of this group.

Peru have not qualified for the World Cup Finals since 1982 and that famous shirt with the red stripe has really been missed. When they qualified for Russia the government announced a national day off for celebration, that is what it meant to this proud nation. They came through the intercontinental play off by beating New Zealand two nil, with goals from Farfan and Ramos in the second leg. Coach Ricardo Gareca has been a huge success since arriving in 2015 and he has instilled an inner belief in the players to go out onto the pitch and do well. It is his first international job after club involvement in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. Two players to look out for during the tournament are Jefferson Farfan from Lokomotiv Moscow and Edison Flores who plays with Danish side Aaborg. It is very hard to make a case for Peru to do anything in these finals but for them just to be taking part after such a long absence will be success in their minds.

The fourth team in the group are delightful wonderful Denmark, a side who got through to Russia via the play offs by thrashing the Republic of Ireland five one in the second leg in Dublin. It was a night when star player Christian Erikksen showed how good he is on the international stage by scoring a hat trick. To get to the play offs the Danes had to negotiate a group that consisted of Poland, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. They finished five points behind group winners Poland and as I mentioned earlier they were amazing in that second leg in Dublin. Manager Hareide has built his side around Erikksen and if the player can shine the Danes could be in for some summer in Russia. It is a very risky policy putting so much faith in one player but it does also show how much faith the manager has in the player. Two other players to keep an eye out for going into the tournament are goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and the often ridiculed Nicklas Bendtner a player who always seems to self promote his class but in fairness nearly always falls short. The second spot in this group is up for grabs and the game that could decide if Denmark progress to the knockout stage is the one against Australia, a winner takes all game you might say.

Matches

France v Australia    16/6/2018

Peru     v Denmark    16/6/2018

Denmark v Australia 21/6/2018

France  v Peru             21/6/2018

Australia v Peru          26/6/2018

Denmark v France      26/6/2018

By David Meier

World Cup Group A Preview

The World Cup kicks off on the 14th of June and it begins at 4pm UK time with Russia v Saudi Arabia. Group A is made up of Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudia Arabia and it could be a group that throws up a suprise or two. Out of the four nations involved only Uruguay have shown any real form lately and going into this tournament I fancy them to top the group. The second qualification position is wide open and do not rule out a suprise. The host nation are without doubt favourites to progress through to the second phase but do not be suprised if Egypt claim that spot.

As host of the tournament a lot will be expected of Russia but I am not sure they will be a team to be feared. As hosts they have not played many competitive games since been knocked out of the 2016 European Championships at the group stage. In that tournament they only managed to gain a point by drawing with England. The 2107 Confederations Cup was a disaster for them and they only managed to beat New Zealand by two goals to nil. It will take a massive improvement in their form and a few lucky breaks for them to be successful during the summer and like in all tournaments it is always good for the host nation to do well. Two players who a lot will be expected of are striker Alaexandr Kokorin who plays for Zenith Saint Petersburg and his fellow team mate Yuri Zhirkov, who in my opinion is a cracking player. Time will tell if they can get the results to have a good tournament but they will need to win their opening game to get some momentum going and then maybe they can progress.

Uruguay qualified from the South American group that was topped by Brazil and they are an excellent side with plenty of stars in the squad. I would place them as favourites to top this group and with the likes of Suarez and Cavani upfront I may not be to far off the mark. Uruguay have a good record in the World Cup and they are one of only eight teams who have actually won the World Cup, having lifted the trophy in 1930 and 1950. There is no reason to believe that they can not go very far in the tournament. Last year I was lucky enough to see them play in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland and although they lost it was a great chance to see them pass and move the ball around as only South Americans can do. It would be a big shock to me if they do not get out of this group and when they do anything is possible.

Egypt are a bit of an unknown entity to most people but if they can produce players like Mo Salah what other little nuggets have they got hidden away. They got to Russia out of a complicated qualification campaign and they topped a group which consisted of Uganda, Ghana and Congo. They will go into the tournament as huge underdogs but I really fancy them to cause a huge shock and possibly get that second qualification spot. A lot will depend on them not getting stage fright and to have the belief they can go forward. Their game against Russia will be pivotal to their success and if they can beat the host nation on home soil it will be a huge victory for them and the Confederation from which they are part of.

The fourth team in this group will hope they are not in Russia just to make up the numbers. This is the fifth time they have qualified for the finals and you have to take your hat off to a squad of players who a lot of people would be pushed to name any of the starting eleven. They came through a qualification group that also had Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand fighting for just two places, in the end a second place was good enough for them to book their tickets for Russia. During the campaign Nawaf Al Abed scored five goals and this was pivotal to there success. The twenty eight year old is currently playing for Al Hilal and if he has a good campaign he could get himself to a top European side, but only time will tell on that subject. The man in charge of the squad is manager Juan Antonio Pizzi an Argentinian who has played four international games for Spain. They will be a very focussed nation whilst involved in the tournament and we certainly won't hear of any disruption in their camp, but they will be going home after the group stage in my opinion.

Matches

14th June  Russia v Saudia Arabia

15th June  Egypt v Uruguay

19th June  Russia v Egypt

20th June  Uruguay v Saudia Arabia

25th June  Uruguay v Russia

25th June  Saudia Arabia v Egypt

By David Meier

 

The Greatest Show On Earth

This June the big show arrives in Russia in the shape of the 2018 World Cup Finals. It is a time for all the football fans to sit back and enjoy the numerous amount of the games that are on view. A lot of people including myself will book holidays to coincide with the tournament so nothing can get in the way of our enjoyment, it will be the equivalent of having a month of Christmas days running one after the other. There is no doubt we will see new players emerge and it is a great opportunity to see teams that you would not normally sit down and watch. As we count down to the kick off I am licking my lips at the prospect of seeing how the tournament will pan out. Unfortunately for all the fans in both the North and South of Ireland our teams will not be there, that will not make it any less interesting for all the fans who live on this little island. The English supporters will follow their side with great pride and we can only hope that we do not see any crowd trouble. It has been widely reported over the past few months that Russian hooligans have planned a big welcome for the supporters following Gareth Southgate,s side, so let us all hope that story is all nonsense and the tournament is a complete success on and off the park.

When the tournament kicks off on the 14th of June we will have thirty two teams involved. When it comes down to the winning of the cup, you probably only have a pot of eight teams that can actually win the tournament, unless we get a really really big suprise. The sides who realistically have a chance of winning overall are Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina, Spain, England, Belgium and host nation Russia, who I only include because they are the host nation. The one team who always go a long way in these tournaments are World Champions Germany, no matter what happens they are always there or there abouts. It amazes me how they do it tournament after tournament, they always seem to get the timing of their form so right. Throughout all the World Cup Finals I have seen them appear in over the years, I have only seen them struggle once and that was in Argentina in 1978. They always come well prepared and totally focussed on the job ahead and you never hear their players claim they are tired at the end of a long season, I do not even think it is in their vocabulary to utter those words. So I am going for the Germans to retain their title. It will be some achievement if they manage to pull it off but they certainly will be worth having a bet on if you fancy a flutter. At the moment the bookmakers have them as favourites and they very rarely slip up.

Although I have placed Belgium in the pot as possible winners, they would be the outsider of that group to go to Russia and win it in my opinion. They have one of the most talented squads in the tournament and if they are to fulfill their potential this is tournament they must do it in. Any side who have players like Courtois, Hazard, Lukaku, Kompany, Benteke and De Bruyne have to be contenders. This squad of players in my opinion are as good as the Holland side that travelled to Germany in 1974 and went all the way to the Final, only to be be beaten by the hosts two one. This is Belgium,s third major tournament in a row and the time is now right for them to create history if they can produce the goods on the pitch as a team and not eleven individuals. The management team of Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry will keep the squad well grounded and try and produce a good feeling around the camp. Having Henry in the camp is a huge plus to all involved because his experience of winning the World Cup in 1998 with France will be invaluable. They are in a group which includes England and the fact that the play the three lions in their last group match will be a bonus, as they could have already qualified for the next stage before a ball is even kicked in that game.

Over the past few weeks we have seen quite a few friendly international matches and there have been some strange results. The results have have not changed my opinion on who are going to do well in this years finals and as I mentioned earlier those games were only friendlies. So let everybody who loves the beautiful game enjoy the tournament and have a great summer, let the games begin.

FIFA Announce New World Cup Format Which Could See Incredible 'Group of Death' at Russia 2018

With international football returning to our screens during the long summer months in 2018, FIFA have decided to change the system they use to determine what countries are drawn up against each other in the group stages of the World Cup, according to the ​Sun.

Previously, the host nation would be joined by the highest ranking teams in pot 1. The remaining pots would then be decided based on geographical location, however, FIFA have decided that they will now use the rankings to determine which teams belong in which pot.

This change in system means the possibility of a 'group of death', a phrase we often hear in the Champions League, is very real. As things stand, reigning champions Germany will be placed in pot one along with a host of other nations, including Brazil and Argentina.

Winners of the World Cup in 2010, thanks to a late Andrés Iniesta strike that saw off the Netherlands, Spain are likely to be placed in pot number two. Hot favourites to win Euro 2016 last summer, France, join Spain in pot two and the mouthwatering prospect of exciting group stage matches at the 2018 World Cup is looking like a reality.

In pot three, with the the possibility of facing Spain and Germany in the group stages, sits the winners of the World Cup in 2006 - the Azzurri.

When Marco Materazzi conceded an early penalty in Berlin, Zinedine Zidane stepped up for France and Italy went 1-0 behind. Just 12 minutes later, the former Inter Milan defender levelled the score and the World Cup final was set to be decided on penalties.

French striker David Trezeguet was the only man not able to convert his spot kick, allowing Fabio Grosso, the man who's goal book Italy's place in the Wolrd Cup final, to claim victory at the Olympiastadion.

As things stand, we could potentially be in for a number of heavyweight clashes in the group stages of the competition next summer, with the draw for the competition going ahead on December 1.

Source: 90min.com

Ireland Down But Not Quite Out

This past week has seen the Republic of Ireland play two pivotal games in World Cup Qualifying Group D for Russia 2018. Going into the away game against Georgia and the massive home tie against fellow group leaders Serbia, manager Martin O' Neill knew that four points were a must to give Ireland complete control of the group.

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Going into the Georgia game I was always of the opinion that a point would be a super result in Tbilisi. Although Ireland got the point, it was the matter of how they played that was a real worry. Ireland took the lead after only four minutes when Shane Duffy headed home his first international goal for his country but that is we're the good news ended. Instead of pushing on and getting a second goal to see off the Georgians, the Irish were totally outplayed by the home side. Time and time again they conceded ground by giving away silly passes and I wondered sometimes did our lads know we were playing in green. After taking that early lead on the night, the way the Irish played it was only a matter of time before the home team scored and that they did in the 34th minute when Kazaishvilli found the net. It was a well deserved equalising goal by the home side as going behind in the fourth minute could have destroyed better teams. Overall it was a disappointing night for the Irish as they never really showed up as a team. The result brought all sorts of criticism from the media and the general consensus of opinion was that this performance had been Ireland,s worst in many a long day.

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The Serbia game did not need to be hyped up by manager O' Neill as Ireland knew this would be a game not to lose against a tricky and talented Serbian side. The Irish went into the game still reeling from the fall out from the Georgian game after all the media criticism thrown at them. The atmosphere inside the Aviva stadium was electric as the fans felt this could be another one of those special Irish nights in Dublin. Martin O' Neill made two changes in his side from the Georgian game, bringing in fans favourite Wes Hoolahan and David Meyler to replace Glenn Whelan and Harry Arter, it seem to do the trick early on as Ireland played with a much better high tempo sort of game. Early on, Shane Duffy thought he had grabbed his second Irish goal in as many games when he headed home after only ten minutes, but his joy was short lived when the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. This seemed to ignite the crowd and the Irish pushed on to try and grab that all important lead goal but it just would not come. Time and time again Ireland waisted chances with awful crossing into the penalty area, it was either a case of hitting it to long or not getting past the first defender. In the second half it was much of the same and I just could not understand why O' Neill did not tell the players at half time to get the ball to the goal line and pull it back, as I felt this was the way to break down a pretty resolute Serbian defence. Although the Irish were playing so much better than in the game against Georgia they also knew that the Serbians could cause problems, which they duly did in the 55th minute of the game when a Kolorov thunderbolt gave them a one nil lead. It was a shot that not many goalkeepers in the world could have saved and it was clinical on the part of the Serbians. It gave Ireland a huge mountain to climb and they really never got half way up as the away side dug in to hold onto their golden goal. In the 68th minute of the game Maksimovic was sent off for a foul on Daryl Murphy who would have been clear in on goal had it not been for the challenge. The ten men dug in and held on for the win although Ireland did really put it up to them, the home side even had a big call for a penalty late on when Murphy was bundled off the ball, but the Turkish referee waved play on and with that decision saw Ireland,s chance disappear.

Ireland now move on to play Moldova at home and Wales away and they know if they can win both games they could still make it onto the plane for Russia next year. The Irish teams destination has basically come down to two cup finals and both games take on a huge importance now, not only for qualification but for the future of Ireland manager Martin O' Neill. On paper Moldova in Dublin should be three points for the boys in green, but the Welsh game will be a huge occasion for both countries and with the Welsh on a great run now it might be the winner takes all for the second spot in the group that will see either side make the play offs.

Keeping The Dream Alive for Ireland

It would have taken a genius to forecast the outcome of Group D in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup Finals to be held in Russia. Wales, Serbia, Georgia, Austria, Moldova and the Republic of Ireland have been battling it out for the one spot that would put them on the plane for the finals. It has been a topsy turvy few months of results and now the pattern is becoming a little clearer. Wales, Serbia and Austria would have expected to battle it out with Martin O' Neill's Irish side, and it is the Irish who have been setting the group on fire.

So as they went into the latest round of matches, Ireland knew if they could get any sort of result in Vienna they would finish off a great international year. Austria are a side that the Irish have not beaten in over fifty years and if they wanted to keep their World Cup challenge on track, they needed a positive result from the fixture. The build up to the game had seen Martin O'Neill and Everton manager Ronald Koeman have a very public spat in the media over an injury to Irish midfielder James McCarthy, with both sides blaming each other. That all had to be put aside as Ireland went into action in the Ernst Happel Stadium last Saturday fortnight.

Going into the game, Martin knew he would be without Long and McCarthy who are regular members of the team. When the team was announced, O'Neill had finally decided to give Wes Hoolohan a run out in a very important away game, it was something the manager had not done before, he was also able to give Harry Arter his first competitive start and with Glen Whelan all set to sit in front of the back four, the game plan was set. The opening minutes of the game must have given O' Neill a lot to worry about as the home side passed the Irish off the park, at times the Irish lads were chasing shadows. It was a night when Ireland had to dig in and put in a good shift and all eleven did. Upfront, Austria put everything through Janko and Irish defender Shane Duffy did a brilliant job to keep his opponent in check. The Irish took a while to get going in the game and it was a shot from James McClean that seemed to turn the tide in the favour of the Irish. The Austrians went to ground on every challenge and referee Sergei Karasev was giving them every free kick that was going. It was ironic so then that in the 48th minute of the game when Wimmer went to ground after a David Meyler challenge the referee waved play on and it led to the Irish winning goal. After Meyler won the ball it was swiftly moved forward to Hoolahan who found McClean who buried the ball under keeper Ozcan's legs. It truly was a magnificent move and McClean finished superbly. When the ball hit the back of the net the travelling Irish fans went delirious. Having taken the lead Martin O' Neill's men kept everything tight and last ditch tackles and flying headers were the order of the day. It was a job well done when the referee blew the final  whistle and the Irish team were out on their feet with exhaustion.

The victory for the Irish was their best away result since beating Scotland in Hampden Park in 1987. The whole night had gone so well for the Irish and the World Cup qualification dream is still alive. The other results around the group went in favour for the Irish as well. Wales could only manage a draw at home to Serbia and that was a massive boost for the Irish. Up next week for Ireland is a home game against Wales and if they can beat Chris Coleman,s men they would almost certainly put the Welsh out.

It has been a brilliant year for Ireland at International level and as the year closes they are top of the group. There is a long way to go in qualification but the way the Irish are performing you would not bet against them getting out of this group, but for now we can only enjoy the Austrian result and look forward to the next game when it comes along in March. This win can only do one thing to this bunch of Irish players and that is to give them self belief that they can go all the way to Russia and that is something I would not have said when the draw was made.

Sepp Blatter resigns from FIFA - statement

I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the 40 years in which my life has been inextricably bound to Fifa and the great sport of football. I cherish Fifa more than anything and I want to do only what is best for Fifa and for football.

I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation. That election is over but Fifa’s challenges are not. Fifa needs a profound overhaul.

While I have a mandate from the membership of Fifa, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at Fifa.

Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as Fifa President until that election.

What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.

The next ordinary Fifa Congress will take place on 13 May 2016 in Mexico City. This would create unnecessary delay and I will urge the Executive Committee to organise an Extraordinary Congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity. This will need to be done in line with Fifa’s statutes and we must allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.

Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.

For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough. The Executive Committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions Fifa is held responsible. We need deep-rooted structural change.

The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the Fifa Congress. The integrity checks for all Executive Committee members must be organised centrally through Fifa and not through the confederations. We need term limits not only for the president but for all members of the Executive Committee. I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked.

We need deep-rooted structural change.

This time, I will succeed. I cannot do this alone. I have asked Domenico Scala to oversee the introduction and implementation of these and other measures. Mr Scala is the Independent Chairman of our Audit and Compliance Committee elected by the Fifa Congress. He is also the Chairman of the ad hoc Electoral Committee and, as such, he will oversee the election of my successor. Mr Scala enjoys the confidence of a wide range of constituents within and outside of Fifa and has all the knowledge and experience necessary to help tackle these major reforms.

It is my deep care for Fifa and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision. I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as President of Fifa and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.

 

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