FRENCH star Antoine Griezmann found himself caught in the crossfire during a press conference ahead of Les Bleus World Cup opener with Australia - with speculation around his playing future at the heart of things.

Media were given strict intructions at Griezmann’s press conference that he would only be addressing questions in French - in an attempt to quell the number of probes into his playing future from the Spanish press.

But any attempts to steer the conversation towards France’s preparations for the Socceroos were thrown by a cheeky reporter who devised an ingenius tactic to circumvent the press officer’s plan.

The journalist asked his question - in Spanish - into Google translate on his phone before holding it up to the microphone - which sent the robotic translation over the PA system.

Griezman burst out laughing, but the French press team didn’t see the funny side and immediately shut down the exchange.

As for his future, the Atletico Madrid attacking weapon - who is firmly in the sights of Spanish heavyweights Barcelona - insists he’s made a decision on where he wants to play next year but declined to clarify where that will be.

“I apologise -- I am really very sorry. I know that many of you were waiting for (a decision), but I will not be revealing it today. I have made my choice,” Griezmann said.

“However, today is not the time, nor the place, to say what it is.”

France play Australia on Saturday at 8pm AEST.


MOHAMED Salah, a star attraction ahead of football’s 2018 World Cup in Russia, has made headlines for a smiling photo with Ramzan Kadyrov, strongman of Chechnya where his Egypt team have set up camp.

“Mo Salah was woken from his sleep so a man accused of ‘torture and extrajudicial killings’ could have a photo with him during training” in Grozny, capital of the Russian republic, British tabloid The Sun opined.

Kadyrov, supported by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, rules Chechnya with an iron fist, drawing constant condemnation from human rights groups.

According to press reports, he himself went to the Egyptian team hotel to pick up Salah and deliver him for training at the football stadium before 8,000 cheering fans.

Officially, The Pharaohs chose Grozny as Egypt’s camp although it is not hosting any matches in the tournament to keep a low profile, away from the media, as they prepare to make their World Cup finals return after an absence of 28 long years.

Sporting a turquoise-and-white tracksuit, gushed about Salah, saying the Egypt and Liverpool goal machine was “the best footballer in the world, and an overall perfect person”.

Chechnya’s president himself is an avid fan of the no-holds-barred sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Under his rule of Muslim-dominated Chechnya, mosques have sprouted up everywhere from the ruins of towns and villages destroyed in two wars against the central government in Moscow.

Tajeddine Soultane, manager of the team’s spanking new hotel, The Local, said they opted for Chechnya “because this is a conservative country... where you don’t find discotheques” and the food is halal in keeping with Muslim religious laws.

For the team itself, the Salah-Kadyrov handshake was far less important than whether their star will recover from a shoulder injury to feature in Egypt’s opening match against Uruguay on Friday in Ekaterinburg


LIONEL MESSI has been making hair stand on end for years.

But now his own face is making appearances in the barnet of a fan, who had a portrait of the Barcelona genius shaved into the back of his head.

The barber, Mario Hvala, is famed for his salon in Novi Sad, Serbia, where he shaves all manner of shapes and faces into customers’ hair.

Hvala’s creativity began 18 years ago when he sculpted a tarantula into the hair of a man who said to him “let’s do something different.”

For the World Cup Hvala has broadened his range of styles on offer, which now includes portraits of Cristiano Ronaldo.

With footballers usually the ones making headlines for their hairstyles, it makes a change to see one immortalised in this way.


Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford will have an injury assessed on Wednesday, said England manager Gareth Southgate as his side touched down in Russia for the World Cup on Tuesday.

Rashford shone with a stunning opening goal in England’s final warm-up friendly against Costa Rica last week, but England are hopeful he will be fit for their tournament opener against Tunisia on Monday with Southgate describing the injury as a “slight knock”.

“Marcus took a slight knock, but nothing too serious, so we will have a look at that ahead of tomorrow’s session which is open for everybody to see,” Southgate told the BBC upon England’s arrival in St Petersburg.

“But other than that, everybody came through fine. Across three weeks, we have been really pleased to get the 23 we picked through all of the sessions.” After flying into Saint Petersburg, England headed to their base camp in the seaside town of Repino, 45 kilometres northwest of the city, where preparations will start for the Three Lions’ opening game against Tunisia on Monday.

England will also face World Cup debutants Panama and highly fancied Belgium in Group G.

“We are obviously excited to be here now. We just wanted to get over here and settled to start to prepare for the games ahead,” said England captain Harry Kane.

“It is a World Cup - there is always going to be pressure, nerves and excitement.

“For us it is about working hard and training hard until the game, then going out there and having some fun.” England’s arrival at their hotel was met with a strong security and media presence.


Football Federation Australia will today vote for the World Cup to return to North America.

FFA chair Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop are in Moscow for the FIFA Congress, where the major item on the agenda is awarding hosting rights for the 2026 tournament.

There are two contenders; Morocco and the ‘United’ bid of Mexico, Canada and the United States of America.

The voting rules has changed from the corruption-stained process that awarded hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 events.

Back in 2010, when Australia hoped to be awarded rights to the 2022 tournament, individual members of FIFA’s Executive Committee voted which nation would host the biggest prize in world sport.

The 2018 tournament, which begins on Thursday night (Friday AEST), was awarded to Russia.

Qatar won the rights to the 2022 event, amid allegations of vote-buying and subsequent investigations into several members of the now-disgraced committee. For Wednesday’s vote, each member federation will cast a ballot. Given FFA’s closeness with its American counterpart, Australia has never seriously entertained voting for the African nation.


World Cup referees must ensure all the time used for video review is played at the end of each half - even if a stoppage takes 10 minutes. FIFA’s instructions to more than 100 match officials in Russia were outlined Tuesday, two days ahead of the often-contentious technology making its World Cup debut.

“All the minutes, all the seconds, lost by VAR (video assistant referees) will be added at the end,” Massimo Busacca, FIFA head of refereeing, said at a news conference. “We don’t want to lose any seconds lost by any interruption.” The process for reviewing one of the most complex incidents that can be reviewed - a running confrontation involving all players - will take as long as needed. “We will take all the possible time to see if there is a clear red card,” said Busacca, who was a 2010 World Cup referee. “When it is related to match confrontation and not respecting the image (of football), we can even stay 10 minutes at the video to see exactly what happened.” The first referee in the spotlight is Nestor Pitana of Argentina, who handles the Russia-Saudi Arabia match in Moscow on Thursday.

FIFA picked Pitana for duty, with Massimiliano Irrati of Italy leading a four- man video review team. They will work at a FIFA control center in the Moscow suburbs, several miles from the Luzhniki Stadium.

Referees can call for reviews of possible clear errors and serious incidents missed in game-changing situations: goals scored, red cards, and penalty awards, plus mistaken identity.

FIFA’s advice could lead to more decisions reviewed - and potentially overturned - having asked officials to let play flow and keep the option of a later review. “He is respecting the instructions that were given him on purpose by keeping the flag down,” said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA’s referees committee. “If he puts a flag up, everything is finished.” Video review still has doubters after a first full season in top leagues such as Germany’s Bundesliga which opted to use the technology.

Teams and fans have been angered by some slow and confusing decision-making process, repeating problems seen in Russia at FIFA’s Confederations Cup warmup tournament last year.

“It is ready for the World Cup but don’t think it will be perfect,” said Busacca of a system that has been tested since 2016 and formally approved only in March. Collina stressed that the outcome of decisions “is what really counts at the end of the day.” And the 2002 World Cup final referee has opted for experience to set the tone in the first of 64 games.

Pitana refereed four games at the 2014 World Cup, and Irrati is from Collina’s native Italy which also used video review in Serie A.

In a 90-minute news conference, Collina opened by making reference to corruption allegations against two match officials FIFA selected for World Cup duty but had to drop in recent weeks.

The cases of Saudi Arabian referee Fahad Al Mirdasi and Kenyan assistant Aden Range Marwa “surprised us a lot,” he said. “We will continue to be clear and strict when something similar will occur.”