All that now remains is wheat. And a bit of chaff

Here come Peru! Photograph: Daniel Apuy/Getty Images

NEXT STOP: RUSSIA

Finally, it is over. After the months of speculation, tension and nerves, there is no more uncertainty. We know who is competing, who will have a golden chance at glory and associated marketing riches and who will be left, disappointed, at home. Now the experts can get on with analysing the contestants, and reveal who they believe to be the favourites. The Fiver’s money is on Georgia Toffolo. But enough of I’m a Celebrity …

On the afternoon of 12 March 2015, at 3.30pm GMT, a 41-year-old man from Jordan called Mohammad Abu Loum blew a whistle. About 300 people watched him do it. In so doing he set in motion not just a football game between a pair of ultimately hopeless Asian nations but a process that will not end until another, similarly-attired man blows another similar whistle in about 241 days’ time. In all, the process of determining the finest national side on the planet will have taken a couple of hours more than 1,222 days. It’s a lot of time and no mistake. There was the period when they sorted the chaff from the even worse chaff, the bit when the remaining amount of chaff was sifted to leave just the least bad chaff, and the bit when the wheat was introduced and everything remaining was further sifted so that all that now remains is wheat. And a bit of chaff.

The draw will take place at the Kremlin on 1 December, whereupon the real excitement – or at least, the final stage of speculative pre-excitement – can commence. And apparently the draw will be hosted by none other than England’s own Gary Lineker, who could use the platform to repeat his previous references to Fifa as “nauseating”, “ludicrous”, “disgraceful”, “clowns”, whose “corruption” “makes me feel sick”. In 2014 Lineker said “the only way it might change” would be if those with a more functional moral compass “stand up for what is right” and “say: ‘You know what, we are not taking part.’” Lineker ruefully concluded that “I can’t see it happening” and, somehow, neither do we.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Last year was useful for me: to think, to change things, to say to myself: ‘Alberto, what can you do better?’ And the first thing was: defend. I’m a defender. And I’ve changed that. I’m more focused; I think you can see that – and thankfully I haven’t made any mistakes. Maybe in my first few years at Liverpool, I was always thinking: ‘Attack, attack, attack.’ Confidence is vital for a footballer but I’m [also] more settled, more focused: now I’m like: ‘First, let’s defend, keep a clean sheet and, then, let’s go forward’” – Alberto Moreno tells Sid Lowe all about Liverpool, ice cream and how he has changed, but fails to explain why Spain are still using leftover balls knocking around from Euro 2016 in training.

Photograph: Pablo Garcia

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