Welcome back, World Cup, we’ve missed you

The great thing about the fuss over Qatar 2022 is that it’s allowed us all to forget that the next World Cup’s going to be in Russia. Uh-oh, right?

But we can’t ignore this sad fact any more, since qualifying for the tournament has begun, a mere 39 months ahead of the big kick-off and a lengthy eight months since Germany lifted the trophy.

And there were fireworks as it all got underway in Asia with a shock win for Bhutan – ranked 209th, meaning last, in FIFA’s always reasonable ratings system – away to Sri Lanka, courtesy of Tshering Dorji’s 84th-minute winner.

Meanwhile, East Timor opened up a can of whoop-ass on Mongolia, running out 4-1 winners at the Dili Municipal Stadium, while Cambodia surged past Macau, 3-0, in Phnom Penh.

The biggest loss of the day, though, came in Zurich, when FIFA expelled Zimbabwe from the tournament because the country’s federation persistently failed to pay a debt to its former coach, the Brazilian José Claudinei Georgini.

He coached the nation in 2008 and Zimbabwe still hasn’t paid up. The federation, ZIFA, is reportedly so short of cash that earlier this month it auctioned off items including an artificial turf field, a tractor, furniture and fire extinguishers in order to settle a debt due to a former communications manager.

The Herald reported, “The turf was sold for US $115,000 while the tractor fetched US $9,100. The furniture and equipment, which included four double beds, 23 single beds, 76 chairs, 18 tables, one Defy refrigerator, four fans and 10 fire extinguishers, raked in, in excess of US $2,200.”

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