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The draw for the qualifying rounds of the 2018 soccer World Cup produced some interesting matchups. Italy, the winner in 2006, was placed in the same European group as Spain, the 2010 winner. Another group contains France and Netherlands, the losers in those two finals. Yet the contest that was a constant theme in the build-up to the draw, which took place in St. Petersburg on Saturday, is one that will not be settled on the soccer field. It is Russia versus most of the rest of the world.
The scandal at FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has again raised doubts about the hosting of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. This is despite a distinct lack of concrete evidence of wrongdoing — thanks to the Russians themselves. The Russian World Cup-bid team, it seems, rented the computers it used. It doesn’t know what’s become of them, so it was unable to provide a FIFA inquiry with any emails or documents. In its report last year, the inquiry called the Russians “highly uncooperative,” but cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, who had for “personal reasons” failed to turn up as promised at the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver in early July, found his passport again in time for the World Cup draw in Russia. It is probably purely coincidental that, as the U.S. Justice Department targets other senior FIFA officials, Blatter chose to visit a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S...................
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