Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Quiz answers

Here they are, the answers to my (at least partly) World Cup-themed quiz. Congratulations once again to Samuel (@ecanalla), the only person to get them all right.

1. Turkey. In order, those were the last six winners of World Cup third-place games.
2. They were the top teams in the FIFA ranking not to qualify for the World Cup.
3. He scored a record five goals in a game as Russia beat Cameroon 6-1. Salenko promptly got signed by Valencia and then managed just seven goals all season in La Liga.
4. Bhutan and Montserrat were the two lowest-ranked international sides, playing the "other final" on the day of the World Cup final.
5. It was the first ever World Cup qualifying win for the Central African Republic, 34 years after they first entered the competition.
6. They've all been banned for failing drug tests.
7. Birmingham, Rotterdam and Turin are all cities with Champions League or European Cup-winning clubs.
8. The Intertoto Cup.
9. Scotland.
10. The FA Cup final.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Legal trouble at the Russian Football Union

The Europa League may be the Champions League's poor relation, but in Russia it can provoke some surprisingly strong emotions. Over the last month, the Russian Football Union (let's call it the FA for short) has fought tooth and nail to stop Russian Cup winners FC Rostov taking up their place in the Europa League. Why? No one seems to know.

It started on May 8, when Rostov beat FC Krasnodar on penalties to win the cup, their first ever major trophy, and to book a first European appearance since 2000. Three weeks later, a committee at the FA's House of Football HQ took that place away, claiming Rostov had breached financial fair play (FFP) rules over some long-ago-resolved unpaid wages and gave a Europa League place to Spartak Moscow. Rostov, understandly aggrieved, took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and won yesterday. They'll be in the Europa League next season; Spartak won't.

Since the FA doesn't seem to want to explain Rostov's exclusion and the court's full reasoning isn't out yet, here are a few unanswered questions:

- Why is the Russian FA trying to enforce European FFP rules on its own? Why not just let UEFA handle it?

- Why don't the FA's supposed experts understand how FFP works? It's designed to stop clubs making massive losses in pursuit of success, and the FA's scant justification doesn't explain why Rostov would fit the bill.

- The FA has had deep financial problems for years, so why (according to Rostov vice-president Alexander Shikunov) did it hire a team of "the best lawyers in Europe" to fight this case?

- Was any of the decision-making influenced by FA executive committee member Sergei Galitsky, who owns FC Krasnodar, a club that would have skipped Europa League qualifying rounds if Rostov were excluded? Was there pressure from Spartak, Russia's most-supported club and one of its richest?

At first glance, this is small beer. Only the Europa League, and all that. But it's a prime example of the sort of bureaucratic vendettas that ruin Russian football. Whether it's a pointless legal feud, financial problems or slap-on-the-wrist sanctions for clubs whose fans stage a riot, the House of Football is a pretty dysfunctional place.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Quiz time

Here's a quick pre-World Cup quiz on obscure football knowledge. Answers to the email address at the bottom and I'll announce the winner at the start of the World Cup.

Starting with five World Cup-related questions:
1. Italy, Sweden, Croatia, ..., Germany, Germany. Fill in the gap in the sequence.
2. Ukraine in 2014, Croatia in 2010, Nigeria in 2006. What dubious honour have these teams all earned in the run-up to a World Cup?
3. Oleg Salenko set a spectacular record while playing for Russia against Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup. What was it? (Incidentally, he never played international football again).
4. What was special about Bhutan’s 4-0 win over Montserrat on June 30, 2002?
5. And why was the Wild Beasts’ victory over the Zebras in a 2012 World Cup qualifier remarkable?

And now for five non-World Cup related questions:
6. What links Abel Xavier, Stan Lazaridis and Oleksandr Rybka?
7. Birmingham, Rotterdam and Turin share this honour, but Berlin, Paris and Rome don’t. What is it?
8. Which European club football competition was established in 1961 and abolished in 2008?
9. If you were watching the Honest Men play the Red Lichties last season, what country were you in?
10. The Oval, Old Trafford and Bolton’s Burnden Park have all hosted which prestigious match?
Answers by email to j.p.m.ellingworth AT gmail DOT com