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FIFA President Infantino Concerned Over Delayed World Cup qualifiers; Zinedine Zidane Praises 'Spectacular' Bale Impact and More (Football Round-Up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): FIFA boss Gianni Infantino concerned about delays to FIFA World Cup qualifiers | Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane praises 'spectacular' Bale after forward confirms loan deal with Tottenham Hotspur | Neville hoping to lead Britain at rescheduled Tokyo Olympics | Rodriguez, Calvert-Lewin shine as Everton batter 10-man West Brom | Manchester City have peaked under Pep Guardiola & won’t improve: Dietmar Hamann
FIFA World Cup qualifiers new dates

The Asian FIFA World Cup qualifiers have been postponed to next year while the CONCACAF tournament, scheduled to take place this month, has been postponed to March.

Continuous postponement of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers because of the pandemic has turned out to be a real problem and has provoked FIFA president Gianni Infantino into considering shortening the format.

The Asian qualifiers have been postponed to next year, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced last month. In addition, the CONCACAF tournament, scheduled to take place this month, has now been postponed to March.

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"I am concerned and it's obviously a real problem, especially if the pandemic doesn't stop or let up, or we don't start playing in a normal way," Infantino told reporters at the FIFA Congress. "We are in the hands of the health authorities."

Infantino said FIFA had tried to fit in the international matches in January 2022 and was going to find more space to fit more matches. This will likely hamper plans of many European clubs who will be forced to release their players.

An alternative approach is that three matches could be played instead of two in an international window. A third, is to have the qualifiers at a neutral venue.

‘Spectacular’ Bale Impact

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he did not say anything to Gareth Bale before the forward signed on a loan deal with Tottenham Hotspur but says harboured no personal grudge against the Welshman.

“I did not speak to him,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of Real’s first game in La Liga away to Real Sociedad on Sunday, where they will begin their title defence.

Ziadane spoke highly of the man he effectively locked out of the first team since taking over in bis second stint at Madrid. “But I know what he has done for this club. He always proved his quality and what he has achieved with the club cannot be argued with.”

While Bale played a crucial role in Real winning the 2016 Champions League in Zidane’s first season, he was not seen as integral to the team for the next season — one he missed large chunks of due to injuries. Bale never managed to build trust to be a first-choice player Zidane, despite scoring twice in the 2018 final against Liverpool — the first of which is among the greatest goals in a major final ever.

Last summer's transfer window was also rife with news that Zidane had asked Bale to move on and Welshman not doing so because of a refusal to back down on his wage demands — in addition to no club willing to match Real’s transfer fee. Zidane, however, disagreed with this view that he forced Bale out.

Neville’s Olympic Dream

England Women’s head coach Phil Neville hopes to lead the British team at the Tokyo Olympics next year and wants the Football Association (FA) to take a decision on handing him the command of the team.

Neville, who guided England to the Women’s World Cup semi-finals last year, will see his contract run out in July 2021. Current Netherlands Women’s manager Sarina Wiegman will take over from September next year.

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Neville, 43, was supposed to take charge of the British squad at the Olympics before the GAmes were postponed to 2021, but no announcement has been made to clarify if he will be in charge next year — a month after Neville’s contract runs out.

“The Olympics is still a massive ambition of mine,” Neville said. “The FA know that and they have been brilliant in their communication with me in terms of the time frames of when they’re going to make the decision.

“Whether you’re England manager or a manager from one of the four nations, that’s going to be one of the toughest things to do, pick 18 players. It’s one that I was excited to do and it’s obviously a clean slate. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do it.”

“I think (the decision) will be made pretty quickly. I think everybody is on the same page. The players will want to know which manager they will want to impress for their Olympic selection.”

Everton, Leeds and Arsenal Win

Everton battered 10-man West Bromwich Albion 5-2 at Goodison Park on Saturday with James Rodriguez scoring his first Premier League goal and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring a hat-trick. 

In a frenetic, high energy game, Leeds played out another seven goal thriller to follow up from their opening day cracker, eventually ending up one goal to the good to beat Fulham. A Helder Costa brace came either side of Mateusz Klich and Patrick Bamford goals. Fulham played well in fits and bursts but Aleksander Mitrovic’s heroics weren’t enough to prevent a second successive defeat.

Arsenal, hosting West Ham at the Emirates Stadium, eked out a narrow win in a performance that was more average than expected from them. Alexander Lacazette’s opener — set up by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — was cancelled out right at the edge of halftime by Michail Antonio. Despite West Ham looking far more dangerous in the second half and repeatedly catching Arsenal out on counters, Eddie Nketiah sealed the points for the Gunners in the 85th minute. 

Manchester United, in a massively underwhelming display went down 3-1 to Crystal Palace, who have now won their first two games of the season for the first time in 70 odd years.

‘Man City Won’t Improve’

Former Liverpool player, Dietmar Hamann said Manchester City have peaked under Pep Guardiola’s stewardship and will not improve under him further. Hamann made his remarks while saying  that Liverpool are still considered to be favourites for the Premier League title. 

“I can’t see past Liverpool for the title,” Hamann told TalkSport. “Even though it was different after the restart, they were still 18 points ahead of City at the end of the season.” 

“The thing with Guardiola is he stays at clubs usually for no more than three years,” he said. “I remember in Munich the players said after three years they were exhausted because he demands so much from them.”

“I think a Guardiola team peaks after two or three years, maximum. He’s been at City for four years now, so I can’t see them improving this year as much as they have in the last few years,” he added. “So I don’t think they should be a match for Liverpool, nor should they be anywhere near the top in the Champions League.”

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