The Latest: FIFA “rebukes” Maradona criticism of referee
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest at the World Cup (all times local):
FIFA says it “strongly rebukes” comments made by its ambassador Diego Maradona criticizing American referee Mark Geiger’s handling of England’s win against Colombia in the World Cup round of 16 on Tuesday.
It’s the third controversy involving the Argentina great at the World Cup, which he has mostly attended as a VIP guest of FIFA.
FIFA responded to Maradona telling Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur the outcome of the game was a “monumental theft.”
Maradona had been photographed before the game wearing a yellow Colombia jersey. England advanced to the quarterfinals in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in Moscow.
FIFA says Maradona’s “insinuations” were “entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.”
“FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game,” the world soccer body says in a statement.
Maradona previously apologized for making an offensive gesture toward South Korean fans, and was filmed aggressively raising his middle fingers after Argentina scored a late winning goal against Nigeria.
Brazil midfielder Paulinho has practiced separately from the group but is expected to be available for Friday’s quarterfinal against Belgium.
The federation said Wednesday Paulinho needed an extra recovery day following Brazil’s round-of-16 win over Mexico on Monday.
All other players participated in the training session in Sochi, including Marcelo, who didn’t play against Mexico because of a back spasm. Filipe Luis substituted Marcelo in the team’s 2-0 win.
Defensive midfielder Casemiro is suspended and is expected to be replaced by Fernandinho.
Attacking midfielder Willian praised Belgium players for their talent and experience and said it will “another tough opponent for us.”
The World Cup winner who first took home FIFA’s top individual award says Neymar must help Brazil lift the World Cup next week if he wants to be called the world’s best player.
German great Lothar Matthaeus said Wednesday that Neymar could stand to cut down on his theatrics, too. Some opposing coaches and fans have called out Neymar for writhing and rolling around after minor fouls. Cleaning that up could help win over voters when voting for the FIFA player of the year award begins later this month, Matthaeus said.
Fellow Brazilian Ronaldo, a three-time winner of the award, dismissed those complaints and said Neymar could win the award even coming off a club season that was curtailed by injury.
Ronaldo and Matthaeus spoke at a briefing about the individual accolade that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won five times each in the past decade.
Kyle Edmund is facing some unexpected conflict as he prepares for his second-round match at Wimbledon. And it’s got everything to do with the World Cup.
Edmund is English. His coach, Fredrik Rosengren, is Swedish. Guess which two nations play each other in the World Cup quarterfinals in Russia on Saturday?
On Wednesday, a day after England and Sweden set up their match with victories, the 21st-seeded Edmund posted a photo to his Twitter account showing him and Rosengren at practice — posing in a fighting position and each wearing his nation’s soccer jersey .
“When your coach is a Swede and you tell him it’s coming home. let’s go England!” Edmund posted, referring to the slogan his country’s fans have been using to suggest their team will win the World Cup.
If he beats Bradley Klahn of the U.S. on Thursday, Edmund will be hoping his third-round match Saturday is scheduled at a time that doesn’t conflict with a certain soccer match.
Real Madrid is back in the thick of intrigue at the World Cup even with Spain having been eliminated.
The Champions League title holder issued a statement Wednesday rejecting reports that it has reached an agreement to sign France forward Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain. This comes two days after Madrid dismissed a report that it had offered to buy Neymar from PSG for a world-record transfer of 310 million euros ($360 million).
Madrid made waves at the start of the tournament when it hired Spain coach Julen Lopetegui to take over after the World Cup. Spain’s federation summarily fired Lopetegui days before Spain’s first match, saying the coach and club hadn’t given it proper notice.
A Moscow court has fined a British fan for vandalizing a statue of a revered Russian soccer player outside a World Cup stadium.
The Tushinsky District Court handed a 3,000-ruble ($47) fine Wednesday to 20-year-old Rufus Hall for inscribing the statue of former Spartak Moscow player Fyodor Cherenkov with the word “England.” Hall was detained by police just before England defeated Colombia on Tuesday.
The vandalism prompted an outpouring of criticism of English fans on Russian social networks, with users calling them poor guests. Hall apologized in a video posted online by Sport24.ru.
Cherenkov is not well known outside Russia but remains a hero to Spartak fans after winning three Soviet titles and one Russian title with the club. Thousands of fans attended his funeral in 2014.
Russian police have briefly detained several activists protesting political repressions outside a World Cup arena.
Police moved quickly to round up four teenagers outside the stadium where Sweden knocked out Switzerland on Tuesday. The four were released a few hours later.
Lika Petrovskaya, a 16-year-old who wore a bloodied white dress at the protest, said their goal was “to attract attention to the political repressions,” including the imprisonment of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Another five activists were also detained Tuesday while they were distributing leaflets calling for Sentsov’s release.
Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years for conspiracy to commit terror acts. He denied the charges and has been on a hunger strike since mid-May.
After impressing at the World Cup, Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson has been sold by Danish team FC Randers to Azerbaijan champion Qarabag.
Iceland exited the tournament at the group stage but Randers’ sporting director Soeren Pedersen says the performance of the 34-year Icelander “hasn’t gone unnoticed.” Halldorsson’s tournament was highlighted by saving a penalty kick from Lionel Messi in a 1-1 draw with Argentina.
Pedersen said Wednesday that the club got “a concrete bid from Qarabag, which we have accepted.” Details of the deal were not released.
Halldorsson, who played 69 games for the team, said “it is time for me to try something else and embark on a new adventure.”