Usain Bolt, Diego Maradona, Jose Mourinho star in Hublot's 'Match of Friendship' as part of World Cup promotion

Maradona, Mourinho, and Bolt were the star attractions at the exhibition.

Famed Swiss luxury watch maker Hublot brought together its brand ambassadors for a special football match on Wednesday as part of its role as an official sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and footballing legend Diego Maradona led two teams on the sidelines of Baselworld 2018, the renowned watch and jewelry exhibition, in a specially-built indoor football arena that played host to some of football’s star names.

Tino Asprilla, Roberto Carlos, Hernan Crespo, Marco Materazzi, David Trezeguet, Marcel Desailly, Robbie Keane, and Patrick Kluivert were among the big names taking part in the match, along with FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and sprinting superstar Usain Bolt.

The match also featured the official watch for the World Cup, the Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, worn on Wednesday by famous ex-referee Nicola Rizolli.

This year’s World Cup kicks off on June 14, with hosts Russia playing the first match of the tournament against Saudi Arabia.

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Germany's Manuel Neuer in race to be fit for World Cup 2018

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The clock is ticking down for Manuel Neuer to return from a fractured foot, but the Germany camp is hopeful he will be ready for their World Cup defence.

Germany host Spain on Friday in Duesseldorf and Brazil in Berlin next Tuesday in high-profile friendlies, but will again be without their captain and goalkeeper.

In the 31-year-old’s absence, Barcelona‘s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno will be vying for Germany’s number one shirt.

Neuer has not played since fracturing his foot last September – the second time he suffered the same injury in 2017.

His club Bayern Munich have not set a date for his return, but the countdown is on before Germany announce their World Cup squad on May 15.

“There is no pressure from our side, it’s a decision for him and the doctors,” said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff on Wednesday.

“Of course, we hope he will be 100 percent ready and fit by the time we nominate (the World Cup squad).”

Neuer has not played for Germany since October 2016, and the defending world champions are desperate for him to be ready for their opening World Cup match against Mexico in Moscow on June 17.

Neuer was voted the world’s best goalkeeper for four years running up until 2016.

Manuel Neuer 2

His six-month absence and lack of match practice is a cause for worry in football-mad Germany.

Thomas Mueller understands the concern but is backing his Germany and Bayern team-mate to get fit.

“I see ‘Manu’ a bit more than most and he always give the impression that everything is okay,” said Mueller.

“I am not privy to what the medical situation is, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest things aren’t going to plan.

“He’ll take the necessary time, and from what I know of ‘Manu’, you can never write him off.

“The discussion as to whether Neuer will be fit for the World Cup is understandable, but I think he’ll manage it.”

The Spain and Brazil games are Germany’s final friendlies before the World Cup squad is picked, but warm-up matches are planned against Austria and Saudi Arabia on June 2 and 8 respectively.

Four years ago, a shoulder injury also hampered Neuer’s preparation before the last World Cup.

But Bierhoff admits the long absence this time around is new territory for Neuer.

“I don’t see it as a problem, the work-load on his foot will be gradually built up,” said Bierhoff.

“What is different from 2014, of course, is a lack of match practice.

“But I still think that during intense training sessions, a world-class goalkeeper comes relatively quickly back into his rhythm.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Sweden considering diplomatic snub of 2018 World Cup

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Many countries are considering not sending officials to Russia.

The diplomatic snub of Russia’s World Cup gathered steam Tuesday as four countries said they were either not sending officials in support of Britain’s partial boycott or considering the move.

London last week said British ministers and royals would not attend the showpiece in protest over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.

The Skripals survived the nerve agent attack but remain in critical condition.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government had found that Russia was “culpable” of the attack – a charge Moscow angrily denies.

England is still expected to send its team and none of the 31 nations that qualified alongside the host have said they would not do so.

But Polish President Andrzej Duda’s office said he will be skipping the tournament’s opening ceremony on June 14 in Moscow.

“Yesterday, the president made the decision not to participate as a representative of Poland at the World Cup in Russia,” presidential chief of staff Krzysztof Szczerski told RMF FM radio.

Less than 100 days remain to the global event.

Less than 100 days remain to the global event.

Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV said the foreign ministry was consulting with its “allies” about a joint diplomatic boycott.

RUV said this possibly referred to Sweden and Denmark because they too are playing in Russia.

“The Icelandic government has not made any decisions on possible measures in the wake of the attack but will continue to elaborate and consult with its closest neighbours and allies,” the foreign ministry said in a separate statement.

Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Per Enerud told AFP on Monday “this is one of many ideas we are looking at”.

The Danish foreign ministry also told AFP that the punitive step was under discussion but that no final decision had been reached.

Skripal’s poisoning with a secret Soviet nerve agent designed specifically for assassinations has sparked an increasingly hostile war of words between Moscow and London.

The United States joined Germany and France in voicing support for Britain’s position and blaming Russia for the attack.

The Time of London reported on March 10 that UK officials were talking to the US and European allies about a co-ordinated retaliation that could involve a World Cup boycott.

Dignitaries usually attend the opening ceremony and sometimes their country’s big matches.

Russian officials reacted to reports of more nations possibly joining Britain with a mixture of anger and sarcasm.

“You can only feel sorry for Iceland’s officials – they would have loved to root for their team,” parliament’s sports committee chief Mikhail Degtyarev said.

“It is sad to see Iceland become the fodder of an information and political war against Russia.”

Russia’s World Cup organising committee chief Alexei Sorokin had earlier said the British no-show would have “no impact on the quality of the tournament”.

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