x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

World Cup diary: North Korea's players just left off teamsheet

Fifa said the four North Korean players reported by the media as "missing" from the team's match against Brazil were simply left off the submitted squad list due to a technical mix-up.

Fifa said the four North Korean players reported by the media as "missing" from the team's match against Brazil were simply left off the submitted squad list due to a technical mix-up. Gordon Watson, the Fifa official, said North Korea submitted 19 names for Tuesday's game, leaving off players who were not expected to compete.News reports said An Chol-hyok, the forward; Kim Myong-won, the goalkeeper; and Kim Kyong-il and Pak Sung-hyok, midfielders, were listed as absent for the 2-1 defeat to Brazil. Video shot by a television news crew on Thursday night showed three of four players sitting on the team bus. North Korea's next match is against Portugal on Monday in Cape Town.

Brazil are temporarily changing their practice venue because of the field conditions at their training camp in Johannesburg. Brazil had to find a different location for yesterday's practice after a 50-minute training game the day before deteriorated the field at Randburg High School, where the team have been practising. Large patches of grass came out when Brazil's reserves faced a local Under-19 squad on the field, normally used for rugby. Brazil will train at another school but plan to return to the original facility when the field conditions improve.

Italy's forwards are struggling so much they can barely find the goal in training. During one drill after another at the Azzurri's training ground this week, the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale have been unable to find the target - with no defenders in the way.

Fifa are preparing to monitor the most vulnerable matches for match-fixing threats. Marco Villiger, Fifa's legal director, said the final group-stage games are at the highest risk of being targeted by match-fixers, especially those that involve teams which have already qualified for the second round or have been knocked out. He says the World Cup has been "clean and clear" so far, with no suspicious betting identified. No player, referee or team official has yet called a special hotline to report approaches by fixers. Fifa regard match-fixing by illegal betting syndicates as the biggest threat to football's integrity. They monitor global betting patterns and are building a network of informers.

Police have boosted their presence at Peter Mokaba Stadium amid concerns that stadium security guards might join colleagues at other venues who went on strike this week following payment rows with their contractors. Col Motlafela Mojapelo, a Limpopo police spokesman, said: "We definitely have a Plan B at hand if there would be a strike." He added police were prepared to take control of security if needed for the tournament's last two matches at the stadium next week. Police have taken responsibility for stadium security at venues in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth since stewards began protests on Sunday night.

A South African justice official said the special courts for the World Cup are operating efficiently. Tlali Tlali, the Justice Department spokesman, said 40 cases have been brought to the courts in the past three weeks. Tlali said there have been 16 theft cases. Other offences dealt with by the courts include drug possession, fraud and driving under the influence of drugs. All 56 courts will continue until July 25, two weeks after the World Cup ends. The courts have allowed for swift resolution of cases in a country that is known for high crime rates.

The agency having exclusive ticketing rights for the tournament said their results in South Africa cannot be faulted, despite empty seats and empty suites in stadiums. Jaime Byrom, the director of Match, said it is "no secret" his company will lose money on their corporate hospitality business. But he says the company should be judged on delivering ticket revenue to South Africa's local organising committee that "generously surpassed" expectations, and their service to Fifa's commercial partners. Byrom blames the global financial crisis for poor sales of hospitality packages in South Africa. He believes the economy will recover before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, and Match will profit there.

* Agencies