TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

UEFA are right – biennial World Cup is a terrible idea

We’re wary of taking sides in the FIFA-UEFA power struggle but the former have left us with little choice on this occasion. A World Cup every two years? Nope.
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Of course, these plans are nothing new. Arsene Wenger, now with some fancy new job title at FIFA, first mooted in May that he dreamed of every summer being an international football bonanza. But now UEFA have waded into the row, with president Aleksander Ceferin saying it would “dilute” the tournament. And he’s not wrong.
The beauty of a World Cup – why it matters more than even your nan – is because it can ruin four years of your life. Then the next one comes around, optimism penetrates your cynical shell, Harry Kane has the chance to square it to Raheem Sterling in the semi-final and… back on the cycle you go.
We’re not here to take a pop at Mr Wenger, especially since he obliged us with a thoroughly-non-professional selfie in airport security. His reasoning is not terrible, particularly his point that “the football public no longer wants the qualifiers to last a year and a half”.

Arsene Wenger in Zürich

Image credit: Getty Images

But just because we don’t want to watch England 4-0 Andorra every week, doesn’t mean we automatically want World Cup fever every two years. Want fewer matches? Just host a pre-qualifying tournament for nations who sit back whether the score is 1-0 or 10-0. Or cut matches from the domestic calendar, which continues to bulge unnecessarily.
In the average lifetime, you can expect to see 20 World Cups – around 16 of which you are not too young or old to remember. That’s it. Most people will never see their nation win a World Cup, most professional footballers will never play in one. Nations must tinker to get it right in a four-year cycle, players aiming to peak at the right time in a World Cup year, in the knowledge that one mistake can bring the hope parade crashing down.
Just look at the Champions League to see a tournament that is struggling from repetitiveness. UEFA's fix is to concoct a nonsense 36-team group stage that will see the big teams play each other in more matches that matter even less. Why risk sending the World Cup down a similar path towards apathy when – except from the selection of host nations – it's worked great for so many years.
In fact, if Wenger really wants to stamp his mark on the World Cup, why not hold it every eight years? Or ban players from appearing in more than one event. No? Want to keep things as they are? Good.

Tottenham fume at South American trio

It's hard to not have some sympathy for Tottenham, who are somehow facing a mutiny despite sitting at the top of the Premier League table.
Spurs are reportedly seething that Argentina duo Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, plus Colombia's Davinson Sanchez, ignored a Premier League directive to not go on international duty to red list countries.
Romero and Lo Celso were both on the pitch during their match with Brazil when health officials tried to deport them during the game. Which is a sentence we never thought we would have to write.
Tottenham will be without the trio for at least this weekend's game against Crystal Palace, with a spree of heavy fines expected to be dished out for the naughty trio.

Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur

Image credit: Getty Images

Get well soon, Pele

Hopefully nothing too serious, but Brazil legend Pele is in hospital after having a tumour removed from his colon. Here he is on Instagram:
Fortunately, I'm used to celebrating great victories alongside you. I will face this match with a smile on my face, a lot of optimism and joy for living surrounded by the love of my family and friends.
We know you're a huge fan of the Warm-Up, Mr Pele, and we wish you all the best.

IN THE CHANNELS

Maradoga.

HAT-TIP

That does not necessarily make Alexander-Arnold the answer. Yes, he has a wicked right foot, brilliant technique and superb passing ability. Yes, Germany’s Philipp Lahm and Joshua Kimmich excelled after moving from full-back to midfield but the skills that mark out Alexander-Arnold as a special talent are ones he has honed as a right-back. Without training and experience, his raw qualities will not give him an understanding of the subtleties of playing in midfield.
Jacob Steinberg looks at how Trent Alexander-Arnold fared in an unfamiliar midfield role in the Guardian. And his scorecards weren't particularly flattering, even against Andorra.

COMING UP

Actual football! Thirteen matches from UEFA World Cup qualifying, including Azerbaijan v Portugal (17:00) and France v Finland (19:45) which you can follow along with Eurosport. And there's also the resumption of one of football’s biggest rivalries: Luxembourg v Qatar in a friendly that will be anything but.
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