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14.06.2018

What if there were a World Cup for press freedom?

With Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup, journalists at the Manchester Evening News were inspired to work out what would happen if, instead of competing at football, the countries were judged on their record of defending press freedom and freedom of speech.

World Cup MEN The World Cup of Freedom of Speech (graphic: Manchester Evening News)

By Alice Cachia and David Dubas-Fisher. This article first appeared in the Manchester Evening News and is reproduced with kind permission of the MEN

Now more than ever, football needs a free press. Investigative journalists have uncovered many examples of match-fixing and other corrupt practices – for example through the Football Leaks whistleblowing platform.

And with Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup, journalists at the Manchester Evening News in North West England were inspired to work out what would happen if, instead of competing at football, the countries were judged on their record of defending press freedom and freedom of expression.

So, here’s who would win the tournament from the 32 qualifying countries based on their freedom of speech ranking. 

Uruguay would win Group A and play Group B’s runner up – Spain – in the round of 16. Portugal would win Group B and would play against Group A’s runner-up, the World Cup host, Russia.

While Russia has the fourth worst freedom of speech ranking of all qualifying teams, they would still manage to knock Saudi Arabia and Egypt out of Group A.

Denmark’s attitude to freedom of speech would see them top Group C and they would play against Group D’s runner-up Argentina in the round of 16.

Group D would be won by Iceland. They would play the runners - up of Group C - Australia.

Switzerland would top Group E, playing the runner-up of Group F, the 2014 World Cup winner Germany.

Group F’s winner Sweden would play against Group E’s runner-up Costa Rica.

Belgium would top Group G – and would compete against Group H’s runner-up Poland. And finally Senegal would win Group H – and would play against Group G’s runner-up England in the last eight matches of the group of 16.

Through to the quarter finals would be Uruguay against Denmark, Switzerland against Belgium, Portugal against Iceland and Sweden against England.

At this point England would be knocked out of the tournament.

Through to the semi finals would be Denmark – who would play against Switzerland – and Iceland, playing against Sweden. After both Denmark and Iceland are defeated in their freedom of speech World Cup, Switzerland would take on Sweden in the final and Sweden would go home the champions.

In fact according to the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, only Norway has a higher ranking for freedom of speech. But in football, they fail to qualify for the tournament.





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