Friday Kickoff: 2018, 2022 World Cup decision to come in Spring; Maradona discusses drug regrets; and more

Friday Kickoff: 2018, 2022 World Cup decision to come in Spring; Maradona discusses drug regrets; and more

European Soccer

Friday Kickoff: 2018, 2022 World Cup decision to come in Spring; Maradona discusses drug regrets; and more

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Blatter Qatar World Cup 2022 (photo by FIFA)

By RYAN TOLMICH

With the 2014 World Cup in the rearview mirror, FIFA will now begin assessing the controversy that surrounds the tournament’s next two incarnations.

FIFA ethics chief Hans-Joachim Eckert says a decision regarding potential bidding corruption of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is unlikely to come until next spring as the organization will start reviewing the process in the near future.

“We will have some final reports and then there will be decisions, but this takes time,” Eckert said. “I am now doing a statement on the report and then (American lawyer Michael Garcia) will be working further.”

“There will be some decisions, maybe in spring, and then we will go on.”

Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Friday morning:

MARADONA REGRETS DRUG USE

Diego Maradona is widely regarded as one of the best to ever play the game. However, many, including the man himself, have spent years wondering what might have been.

The Argentine discussed his past drug use in a recent interview while wondering aloud how good he might have been if not for his habits.

“I gave my opponents the upper hand because of my illness,” Maradona admitted. “Do you know how good I would have been if I’d never taken drugs? I’d have been the dog’s bollocks.

“European players were tough, but I knew with my technical ability I would skin them,” the Argentine continued. “I kept telling myself that there is only one ball and they weren’t going to be able to stop me. And every time I got it, I would cause havoc. And I’ll keep believing I can do that until my last breath.”

As for his current health, Maradona insists he can still “go for 90 minutes.” However, the 53-year-old also admits that he’s starting to age.

“I’m 53 going on 78,” Maradona said.… “The truth is that I haven’t led a normal life. People say, ‘Wow, Diego is 53,’ but with everything I’ve been through, I feel more like I’ve been around for 80 years!”

BRANDAO GIVEN SIX-MONTH BAN FOR HEADBUTT

With his now-famous headbutt of Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Motta in August, many knew that Bastia’s Brandao was set to face discipline for his actions. Discipline is exactly what the striker got, and it was stern.

Brandao has been suspended six months by the Ligue 1 disciplinary committee, which originally gave the Bastia striker a provisional four-week ban. The Brazilian will be unable to return no sooner than Feb. 22.

The incident with Motta represented Brandao’s second offense during his time in France, as the 34-year-old earned a three-game suspension for elbowing Yohan Cabaye just last season.

WENGER DEFENDS OZIL AFTER RECENT BACKLASH

When Mesut Ozil became Arsenal’s record signing with last summer’s transfer, the German international had to be aware that he would be subject to a certain amount of pressure and expectations. However, Arsene Wenger insists that those expectations have surged too high.

The Arsenal manager defended his midfielder from criticism unleashed following the Premier League side’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Borussia Dortmund, insisting that the German will win over doubters as the season progresses.

“Why should Ozil be a scapegoat? We’ve lost one game since April 1,” Wenger said. “We have come out of a very difficult preparation period with decisive games. We had very difficult games against Besiktas [ in a Champions League playoff match]. I don’t know — a scapegoat for what?

“Fans need to be patient. You want your best players in every game but you have to be united and go through hard periods. The criticism is unfair because it’s post-World Cup. It takes a few months for them to get back to their best.”

Wenger also discussed the difficulties of the social media age, as now anyone with an internet outlet can offer comments and criticisms on every decision.

“What is difficult to manage today is that everybody knows absolutely everything and everybody judges people definitely on one game,” Wenger said. “You have to accept that football is played by human beings who have ups and downs like you have in your life. You have plenty of tacticians in the world who have managed zero games. You have to accept their opinion — they might be right, they might be wrong as well.They have to accept that.

“We live in a world where everybody has an opinion and we have to live with that. At the end of the day, somebody always has to make a decision and that’s the guy who is responsible.”

QUICK KICKS

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was angered by the “unacceptable” anti-Semitic banner brandished by Partizan Belgrade supporters in their Europa League opener. (REPORT)

Argentina manager Gerardo Martino insists that forward Carlos Tevez is still eligible for a national team return despite not appearing for his national side since 2011. (REPORT)

Liverpool are confident that striker Daniel Sturridge will be fit for next weekend’s clash with rivals Everton. (REPORT)

What do you think FIFA will decide after their review? How much better could Maradona have been? Where does Wembley Stadium rank among the world’s best? Do you think Brandao’s punishment is fair? How do you see Ozil performing throughout the season?

Share your thoughts below.

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