x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

World Cup diary: Government ban could also result in Fifa ban

Fifa is studying a report before possibly taking action against Nigeria for government interference after the team's group stage exit at the World Cup.

Fifa is studying a report before possibly taking action against Nigeria for government interference after the team's group stage exit at the World Cup. Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigeria president, has ordered the team to sit out international competition for two years as punishment for their poor showing. Nicolas Maingot, a Fifa spokesman, said yesterday that the governing body is looking at the case but is not yet ready to act. Fifa rules demand that national federations manage their affairs independently, or face suspension from world football. Nigeria are next scheduled to play in September, against Madagascar in a qualifier for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Japan's football team returned home to an enthusiastic reception yesterday after having exceeded expectations at the World Cup. Thousands of fans waved flags that read "Thank You" when greeting the squad at Kansai International Airport. Japan caused a surprise by defeating Cameroon and Denmark in group matches before being defeated in a penalty shoot-out by Paraguay in the last 16 on Tuesday. "We returned a little earlier than we wanted," said coach Takeshi Okada. "We wanted to play one more game, but this was a great team."

Shunsuke Nakamura, arguably one of Japan's best players of the last decade, has quit international football two caps short of making 100 appearances after the Blue Samurai were knocked out of the World Cup. "My next Japan game? There won't be one," Nakamura, 32, told Nikkan Sports yesterday. "I wanted to leave some mark on this World Cup. It's weird. It's as if the football gods are testing me." Nakamura was controversially left out of Japan's squad when the country co-hosted the World Cup in 2002. He played at the 2006 finals when the Japanese exited in the group stage and was on the pitch for just 26 minutes in South Africa. "Tolerating [not playing] has been really hard," said Nakamura. "Me and the World Cup obviously don't go well together."

The overall attendance at the World Cup could be the highest since the tournament was held in the United States 16 years ago, organisers said yesterday. With eight of the 64 matches left to play, Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the local organising committee, said that more than 2.69 million fans had attended matches in South Africa. The World Cup in the US attracted a record high of 3.59 million, followed by Germany in 2006 with 3.36 million. "We expect to go beyond three million fans in the stadiums," Jordaan said.

Fifa has appointed Ravshan Irmatov to referee the Argentina-Germany quarter-final. The match in Cape Town tomorrow will be the 32-year-old Uzbek's fourth match at the tournament, including the opening game between South Africa and Mexico plus Argentina's 2-0 group stage win over Greece. Yuichi Nishimura of Japan will take charge of the Holland-Brazil quarter-final in Port Elizabeth today, also his fourth match. Guatemala's Carlos Batres has been appointed to his third match, when Spain and Paraguay meet tomorrow at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, and Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal will officiate the Uruguay-Ghana quarter-final today at Johannesburg's Soccer City, his third game.

Pitso Mosimane will be offered the post of South Africa coach although the country's Football Association (SAFA) has yet to enter into negotiations with him. The long-term assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira, the Brazilian coach whose spell in charge ended when they were eliminated at the group stage, will be invited to discussions in the coming weeks, SAFA said yesterday. Mosimane, 45, is the only candidate for the role as the World Cup hosts look ahead to the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

Spain's No 1 fan, "Manolo el del bombo", has had to return home after falling ill with flu and will miss the European champions' quarter-final against Paraguay tomorrow. Dressed in the red and yellow of Spain and wearing his huge black beret, the 61-year-old Manolo (real name, Manuel Caceres) cheers the team and fans by beating out an incessant rhythm on his "bombo" (drum) and is a veteran of eight World Cups. He has had to fly home, with his drum, for treatment but is determined to return should Spain reach the final on July 11. "I'll definitely be back, even if it costs me my life," Manolo was quoted as saying in Spain's El Mundo daily.