Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 14th 2013 Contents A57
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Two of world football s biggest
names will meet tomorrow in the
playoffs to determine Europe s final
four World Cup qualifiers.
Ever since last month s draw pitted
Portugal against Sweden, the
matchup has been billed as a head-
to-head between Cristiano Ronaldo
and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It will take something special to
budge them from the spotlight, but
Iceland is attempting to do just that.
A Nordic nation better known for
fishing and freezing temperatures
than football, Iceland would become
the least populous nation to play at
a World Cup if it can get past Croa-
"This is the most important game
in the history of the Icelandic men s
team," Iceland midfielder Olafur Ingi
In the other two-leg matches, it s
Ukraine against France and Greece
vs Romania. The second legs take
place on Tuesday, when the 13 qual-
ifiers from Europe will be finalised.
Owning two of the biggest egos
in football, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic
have dominated the build-up to the
most anticipated of the four play-
Both players are in supreme form,
with Ronaldo having scored 16 goals
in 13 league games for Real Madrid
this season and Ibrahimovic netting
a string of brilliant goals for Paris
Saint-Germain in the French league
and Champions League.
They both belong on world foot-
ball s biggest stage, but one will not
be making the trip to Brazil.
"With the squad and the individ-
uals they have, Portugal is naturally
the favorite," Ibrahimovic said in an
interview with Italian newspaper
Gazzetta dello Sport. "But we fin-
ished second in a group with Ger-
many, which I consider the strongest
squad in Europe, while they finished
second in a group they should have
"So I think we deserve to go to
Brazil more than they do."
In Sweden, local media have
republished the famous picture of
Ronaldo crying after Portugal s loss
to Greece in the 2004 European
Championship final, suggesting he
might shed more tears next week.
"Let s hope he looks like that after
November 19," said Sweden defender
Mikael Lustig, who will be tasked
with marking a forward he describes
as the "best football player in the
world right now."
Portugal is at home for the first
leg.In Iceland, excitement is rising.
Other sports organisations have
changed their schedules to avoid
clashing with one of biggest occa-
sions in the history of Icelandic sport.
It has been a logistical slog to get
the field prepared at the Lau-
gardalsvollur national stadium, which
has never hosted a match so late in
the year, because of Iceland s unique
Preparations started last week to
get the field as game-ready as pos-
sible, with a special fabric placed
over the grass with hot air blowing
under the cloth. The forecast for Fri-
day is 0 degrees C (32 degrees F)
with sleet and snow, and referee
Alberto Unidiano Mallenco will arrive
a day earlier than planned to deter-
mine whether the field is playable
due to the weather.
Win or lose on Friday, Icelanders
"I cannot say that we have been
successful yet, but we ve done pretty
well, and it is great to go into two
playoff games and have a chance to
get to Brazil," said Iceland coach Lars
Lagerback, who led Sweden and
Nigeria at previous World Cups.
Trinidad and Tobago, with about
1.2 million inhabitants, is currently
the least populous nation to qualify
for the World Cup, in 2006. Iceland
has about 320,000.
The Iceland match will mark the
coaching debut of Croatia s 42-year-
old Niko Kovac, who stepped up
from the under-21 team after Igor
Stimac was following the national
team s failure to qualify directly for
the World Cup.
France, which has reached two of
the last four World Cup finals, has
the highest profile of the eight coun-
tries remaining but must qualify from
the playoffs for the second straight
Four years ago, the French got past
Ireland because of an infamous hand-
ball by Thierry Henry in extra time,
earning the striker and his team the
ire of world football. They will be
hoping for a more straightforward
passage to the final tournament this
time around, against a team it has
never lost to in seven meetings.
For Franck Ribery, a contender for
this year s world player of the year
award and in the form of his life for
Bayern Munich and France, missing
the World Cup doesn t bare thinking
"You don t ask yourself that ques-
tion. I don t want to think about it,"
Ribery said. "I want us to win and
to qualify. After all, it s Brazil. It s the
land of a football." AP
GENEVA---With momentum building
toward a November kickoff for the 2022
World Cup, Fifa secretary general Jerome
Valcke says April-May is too hot to play the
tournament in Qatar.
"Let s not lose time on this. April-May is
not an option because of the temperature,"
Valcke said yesterday in a statement.
Valcke is leading Fifa s consultation to sug-
gest which months to play after president
Sepp Blatter rejected the traditional June-July
World Cup period because of Qatar s searing
Blatter has suggested a November start,
though spring is supported by Karl-Heinz
Rummenigge, chairman of the influential
European Club Association.
Qatar hosted the Under-20 World Cup for
Fifa in April 1995, and its 2022 organising
committee insists it can still fulfill a promise
to host in midsummer in air-conditioned sta-
diums, training camps and public areas.
However, Fifa s own research into expected
temperatures in Qatar seems set to rule out
a World Cup in May, which would cause less
disruption to the European season than stop-
ping for most of November and December.
"The climate studies for April and May are
quite similar" to June and July, Valcke said.
"The best option is between mid-November
This year, temperatures recorded in Doha
reached 41 degrees (105.8F) on May 11, while
April daytime peaks ranged from 26 to 38
degrees (79 to 100F).
Though Qatar staged the 2011 Asian Cup
from January 7-29, Blatter has removed the
January 2022 option as "totally disrespectful
to the Olympic family" ahead of the Winter
Olympics scheduled that February. AP
JOHANNESBURG--- It is
"difficult" for IOC President
Thomas Bach to accept that a
gold medal won by Jesse
Owens at the 1936 Berlin
Olympics will go on auction and
possibly be bought by a private
The medal, one of four golds
that Owens won at the Berlin
Games in front of Adolf Hitler,
is "a part of world heritage,"
Bach said yesterday.
"(It has) an importance far
beyond the sporting
achievements of Jesse Owens,
which is part of world history,"
the IOC president said. "To put
this up for an auction is for me
a very difficult decision (to
The International Olympic
Committee will not intervene in
the sale. SCP Auctions says the
medal could go for more than
$1 million when the auction
opens later this month.
According to the auction
house, Owens gave the medal
to his friend, movie star Bill
"Bojangles" Robinson, to thank
him for helping the athlete find
work in the entertainment
industry after he returned from
Germany. It is being sold by the
estate of Robinson's late
in Euro play-offs
Valcke: April-May too hot for Qatar 2022 World Cup
Sweden's forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of Paris SG, left, kicks the ball during
a training session at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday. The
Swedish football team will face Portugal tomorrow in a qualifying play-off
match for the 2014 World Cup. AP PHOTOS
'Difficult' for IOC to accept Owens medal auction
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