Platini casts shadow over FIFA meeting

: FIFA President Gianni Infantino
Updated 10 May 2016

Platini casts shadow over FIFA meeting

MEXICO CITY: FIFA President Gianni Infantino opened a meeting of the football body’s new council in Mexico on Monday, as UEFA chief Michel Platini’s resignation following a sport ban cast a shadow over the event.
Infantino, who was Platini’s number two at the European football organization before taking over FIFA in February, lamented his former mentor’s downfall.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) maintained Platini’s ban, though it reduced it from six to four years, saying the penalty initially imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee was “too severe.”
But the court said it was “not convinced” that the $2 million payment Platini received from FIFA in 2011 was legitimate.
The payment was ordered by world football’s disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter, who was also brought down over the infamous transaction.
Infantino, speaking to reporters after the FIFA Council met in Mexico City, said that, as chief of football’s governing body, he must “respect the decision” by the CAS.
“On a personal level, of course I’m very sad about this decision. I’ve worked with Michel for the last nine years,” Infantino said.
“We did some great things in UEFA together and I really want to keep these positive memories.”
Platini, once the frontrunner to succeed Blatter as the most powerful man in the sport, said after the ruling he had no choice but to resign and would keep fighting in Swiss courts to prove his “probity.”
Asked whether FIFA would seek to recoup the $2 million, Infantino said: “Decisions have been taken today, it’s not the question.”
Wolfgang Niersbach, the former head of the German football federation and a member of UEFA’s executive committee, said the court’s decision was “very grave” for “my friend Michel.”
“Michel did exceptional work at UEFA. The end is sad. His decision to resign, I think, is the right one,” he said.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a FIFA Council member who lost to Infantino in the contest to run the global organization, said the court’s ruling must be respected.
“Michel has the right to fight for his name and we have to respect the decision,” he said.
FIFA’s disgraced executive committee was renamed the FIFA Council during a special congress in February that passed reforms and elected Infantino as president.
The reforms came into force on April 27, 60 days after the vote, but Infantino must now now make sure the regional confederations and national associations at the heart of the corruption take note.
The Council will meet for a second day on Tuesday to discuss the measures ahead of FIFA’s Congress in the Mexican capital on Thursday and Friday.
With tougher membership rules in force, the FIFA Council was discussing proposals on who sits on the body’s governance council and the ethics commission currently led by Domenico Scala.
The congress also faces prickly votes over the admission of Gibraltar and Kosovo that will take the world body to 211 members.
“It’s my first congress as president, the first congress of a new era in FIFA, focused on football development. It was a big part of the discussions today, how we could invest in football development,” Infantino said.


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.