FIFA fines Croatia for anti-Serbia chants by fans

Updated 30 May 2013
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FIFA fines Croatia for anti-Serbia chants by fans

ZURICH: The Croatian Football Association was fined 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,500) Wednesday for offensive chants by fans at a World Cup qualifying match against Serbia in March.
Although FIFA imposed the fine, Croatia avoided a stadium closure, which football’s governing body has ordered for World Cup qualifiers in other discrimination cases this season.
The latest case involving Croatia fans follows criticism from UEFA President Michel Platini last June after a series of incidents at the European Championship, including racial abuse targeted at Italy forward Mario Balotelli.
FIFA acted on eyewitness reports from discrimination monitor Fare at the March 22 match in Zagreb between two former Yugoslavia republics which fought a war in the 1990s.
Fare identified “at least seven different nationalist songs seen in the context of the Balkans as likely to cause hatred and lead to discriminatory acts.”
“Croatian supporters in different ends of the stadium repeated in turns the sentence ‘In fight for homeland!’” reported Fare, a European network of fan groups.
Visiting fans were barred for security reasons from the match, which Croatia won 2-0.
The Croatian FA can appeal the sanction, which was applied this month as FIFA and UEFA prepare to introduce tougher sanctions for racism and discrimination.
On Friday in Mauritius, FIFA’s 209 member countries will consider approving formal measures at their annual meeting.
Croatia, which hosts Scotland at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb next week, avoided a closed-door order which FIFA imposed on Bulgaria and Hungary at matches in March following racist abuse incidents.
Tense relations between Croatia and Serbia meant it was previously decided that to tickets will be sold to away fans for the countries’ return match in Belgrade on Sept. 6.
Croatia leads a six-team qualifying group along with Belgium, nine points clear of third-place Serbia.


Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

Updated 36 min 12 sec ago
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Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

  • Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
  • Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.

If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.

KEY CLASH

MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO

The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.