SWC rocked by ticket scandal
Estadio Maracana (AFP)
Rio de Janeiro - An illegal ticketing scandal rocked the World Cup on Thursday as Germany and France geared up for a titanic quarter-final showdown.
Police probing an international scalping syndicate said thousands of illegally sold tickets worth millions of dollars were believed to have originated from a FIFA individual.
The unnamed foreign national was staying at the luxury Copacabana Palace hotel, one of the top Rio hotels being used by the FIFA hierarchy, police commissioner Fabio Barucke said.
The individual is thought to have funnelled tickets to the black market with an intermediary in Match Hospitality, the official World Cup ticket agency, Barucke said. Match Hospitality also organises ticketing for other major sporting events.
Police made 11 arrests Tuesday of people accused of selling tickets that may have been obtained through a contact at world football's governing body.
Barucke explained the police investigation, dubbed "Operation Jules Rimet" after the former French FIFA president, had been undertaken in secret without contacting FIFA.
However, following the arrests "we are now calling for FIFA's assistance to help us identify this FIFA person, a foreigner staying in the Copacabana Palace hotel," Barucke said.
A French-Algerian, identified as Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, had been arrested and was initially thought to be responsible for the scam, Barucke said.
"But after his arrest we realized there was someone above him from FIFA with an intermediary at Match Hospitality," the police official said.
"We want to identify the last link in the chain, from the ticket touts at the stadiums, right through to those who are above Lamine Fofona and who passed the tickets on to him."
As many as 1,000 tickets for each of the World Cup's 64 matches may be involved in the scam, which is believe to have encompassed three previous editions dating back to the 2002 finals.
The touting gang could have pocketed up to $95 million per tournament, according to Brazil's O Dia daily.
The developments in the scandal broke as France and Germany preparing to resume their fierce rivalry in Friday's quarter-finals.
Germany's preparations suffered a scare on Thursday after it emerged seven players had been affected by illness.
"Seven players have somehow got light flu-like symptoms," Loew told German radio ARD with the majority of those affected suffering from "sore throats".
"I hope they will all be okay."
Friday's match gives France the chance to avenge semi-final defeats to Germany in the 1986 and 1982 World Cups.
The victor will face either hosts Brazil or Colombia, who clash in Friday's second quarter-final in Fortaleza.
The last eight drama continues Saturday with Argentina facing Belgium and the Netherlands up against minnows Costa Rica.
In Friday's other quarter-final, talismanic striker Neymar and company will have 200 million Brazilian hearts fluttering again as they embark on the latest step of a journey they pray will lead to a sixth world title.
Neymar shrugged off criticism at the way Luiz Felipe Scolari's side had eschewed their famed 'jogo bonito' (beautiful game) for a more prosaic style.
"You can't always enjoy yourself and win 4-0 or 5-0.
"Football nowadays is so difficult, so even, that the team who is the most committed on the pitch ends up winning," said the Barcelona star.
"I don't want a show. That's the last thing we are trying to do. We are not necessarily here to produce a spectacle. We are here to run to the end, until we are tired, and come out as winners," the scorer of four of Brazil's goals added.
In their first ever World Cup quarter-final, Colombia have only beaten Brazil twice in 26 meetings.