WITH the novel coronavirus pandemic jeopardising the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying for teams in the CONCACAF region, FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani noted their already revised format will change to align with the compressed calendar, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Montagliani acknowledged the complexity of relaunching competition as domestic leagues; national teams and overlapping international tournaments compete for space in a compressed timeline.The CONCACAF president did, however, warned that it is still way too early to make any assumptions about when competition can restart, though the next FIFA window is in early September.The regional qualifying phase, known as the hexagonal, is scheduled to start in September. But in the wake of international windows in March and June cancelled and uncertainty about the resumption of sports in general, qualifiers in September and beyond might not occur as scheduled.The likelihood of international matches of any kind in September is “not very high,” said Montagliani.FIFA, football’s global governing body, recently formed a working group to look into changing the international windows for World Cup qualifiers and other competitions.Montagliani told reporters during a conference call that CONCACAF is looking into “the possibilities and probabilities. If this calendar is going to change, how is it going to change and how will that affect the format of the World Cup qualifying, which in likelihood will happen.”Under current guidelines, the six regional teams ranked highest by FIFA are scheduled to play one another home and away for a total of 10 matches apiece between this September and June 2021.Three would earn automatic berths to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and a fourth would enter a playoff against the winner of a second-tier regional competition in fall 2021. That survivor would advance to an international playoff in spring 2022.The World Cup will not take place until November and December 2022 because of oppressive heat in Qatar in the summer, yet Montagliani said, calendar issues are “piling up at our doorstep. We may have to look at reformatting how this looks. Whether it’s a hexagonal or some other shape that is part of a kid’s block set, I don’t know.“We just don’t know what this thing is going to look like until we know what the (FIFA) calendar is going to look like and how this calendar fits into our entire ecosystem.”Although World Cup qualifying is the most visible competition, the CONCACAF president said the idea is to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance at qualifying for the world’s most-view single sporting event.CONCACAF also must reschedule qualifiers for the 2021 Gold Cup and the last phase of the inaugural Nations League, whose semifinals; third-place game and final were scheduled June 4-7 at three Texas venues and serve as the last tune-ups before World Cup qualifying.Also, Montagliani said the vote to choose the 2023 Women’s World Cup location, initially scheduled for June, might take place in September. The candidates are a joint-bid of Australia and New Zealand; Japan; Brazil; and Colombia.
View Gallery (2 Photos)Every week, Herald Sports will look back at the last week of the No. 15 Wisconsin men’s basketball team and offer an assessment for the Badgers’ latest exploits.This past week, the Badgers topped Indiana at home 69-60 before thumping Northwestern 78-46 for their first conference road win of the year.Wisconsin improved to 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten and are in the middle of a six-day rest before traveling to Happy Valley for a meeting with upstart Penn State.Offense – 5 out of 5In head coach Bo Ryan’s swing offense, not much more could have been expected for the Badgers. In the last two games, the Badgers shot 55.4 and 49.0 from the field, good for 52.3 overall. From the arc, Wisconsin was a little soft against Indiana (31.3) but money against Northwestern (46.3).When it came to free throw shooting, Wisconsin remained as rigid as ever, converting on 90.9 percent of the charity tosses offered. Hitting 16 of 17 free throws in the second half against red-hot Indiana proved to be critical in the eventual win as well.Furthermore, Wisconsin showed tremendous scoring distribution against Northwestern, as five players managed double-digit efforts, including freshman Josh Gasser, who became the first player in Badger history to achieve a triple-double, contributing 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.Gasser also became the first freshman to officially record the feat in Big Ten history. Magic Johnson, with Michigan State in 1977, also accomplished a triple-double, but assists were not an official statistic at that time.Meanwhile, the UW offense again refused to cough off up the ball, committing just eight turnovers during the two games.Defense – 4 out of 5Against a Northwestern team that is one of only four to average at least 70 points per game against Big Ten opponents this year, the Wisconsin defense made quite a statement, holding them to just 46.Not that the Wildcats just had a poor day shooting. On the year, the Wildcats have maintained a 43.6 field goal percentage and shot 41.5 against the Badgers.But Northwestern struggled to find open looks and never had much of a second-chance to score, since Wisconsin’s defense allowed just three offensive boards for the Wildcats in the game. UW finished with a 32-18 victory in the rebounding game.For the year, Wisconsin’s opponents have achieved just a 39.9 field goal percentage. Despite that, Indiana came into the Kohl Center and nearly upended Wisconsin at home by shooting a ruthless 51 percent, including 60.9 in the first half.Of course, it’s hard for any defense to stop an opponent when it’s just shooting well, but the Badgers were lucky they weren’t flinching that night on the offensive end.Bench – 3 out of 5Once again, the Wisconsin bench didn’t contribute much to the scoreboard against Indiana, leaving the bulk to senior forward Jon Leuer and junior point guard Jordan Taylor, who combined for 48 of the team’s 69 points.The bench itself managed just seven points, but the lack contribution extended far beyond that. The substitutes managed just one rebound and two assists collectively. Against the Hoosiers, the Badger bench hardly made a peep, although senior guard Wquinton Smith did handle the ball with guile and great decision making.With more garbage time to go around against Northwestern, the bench made some more noise, however. Sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz scored 10 points, and senior guard Brett Valentyn knocked down a three-pointer late in the game to give Gasser his triple-double.Player of the week – Jordan TaylorIt used to be a surprise whenever someone referred to Taylor as the Big Ten’s best guard, but after his performance against Indiana, he had Tom Crean calling him “one of the premier guards in the country.”Taylor continued his rise to national recognition after scoring 28 points against the Hoosiers, a career high, while also contributing eight rebounds and four assists.He followed up that performance with a 14-point effort against Northwestern in his 26th consecutive game in which he produced a double-digit effort.Taylor’s mature leadership of the offense, along with his deft passing and cool shooting has kept the Badger offense running smoothly.