Friday, June 22, 2018
Sports

FIFA warns Nigeria after soccer leader arrested

Lionel Messi has faced Thibaut Courtois plenty of times in club competitions, and the Belgium goalkeeper has a habit of getting the better of the four-time world player of the year.

Courtois has kept Messi scoreless the past seven times his Atletico Madrid team faced Barcelona. If he can do it again today in a World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina, starting at noon in Brasilia, Belgium will have every chance of reaching the semifinals for the first time since 1986 — when it was eliminated by Argentina.

Messi has scored four of Argentina's seven goals in the tournament and set up two, including Angel di Maria's extra-time winner against Switzerland in the second round.

Belgium hopes a collective effort will be able to outshine one outstanding individual. "I don't want to depend on a single player. I want to depend on many," coach Marc Wilmots said. "That is one of our strengths."

In the last quarterfinal, at 4 today in Salvador, few outsiders give Costa Rica much of a chance of knocking off free-scoring Netherlands and extending its best run in the event. Then again, few people gave it much of a chance of getting out of the group stage.

Costa Rica has been the little team that could, beating Uruguay and Italy to advance from tough Group D and then ousting Greece in a penalty shootout.

The Dutch have a tournament-leading 12 goals. Costa Rica has allowed only two en route to its first quarterfinal, despite facing three former world champions in the group stage. Can Costa Rica pull off yet another upset?

"We want to keep writing history," midfielder Johnny Acosta said. "In 90 or 120 minutes, we will see which is the better team."

Nigeria warned: Nigeria could be suspended by the sport's governing body, FIFA, after the country's soccer federation leaders were removed from office and its president was arrested on returning from the World Cup. FIFA warned Nigeria's government Friday it must reinstate the federation's executive committee by Tuesday or risk a ban. "FIFA has also taken note of the detention of NFF President Aminu Maigari carried out by representatives of the Department of the State Security Service," it said in a statement. The turmoil follows Nigeria's 2-0 loss against France in the second round Monday. Nigeria's government also reacted aggressively after the Super Eagles' 2010 World Cup exit. Then, state President Goodluck Jonathan threatened to shut down the national team for two years before FIFA intervened. FIFA rules protect its 209 member federations from government interference, and a suspension bars teams and officials from taking part in international matches and meetings.

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