Luton Town earn promotion
Former English League Cup winners Luton Town will return to the Football League after a five-year hiatus next season after they were assured promotion from the fifth-tier Conference Premier on Tuesday. Luton, who beat Arsenal to win the League Cup in 1988 and spent 10 years in the top tier of English soccer from 1982 to 1992, had their promotion confirmed as second-placed Cambridge United were beaten 2-0 by Kidderminster. Luton lead fellow former league club Cambridge by 10 points with just three matches to go. Luton’s average attendance of 7,266 this season is higher than that of all but two sides in League Two and would rank them 10th in League One. Luton’s fall from grace was dramatic, comprising three straight relegations that have seen them languish in non-league soccer since the 2009-2010 season.
Veterans out of Italy squad
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli on Tuesday ruled veterans AS Roma captain Francesco Totti, Hellas Verona’s Luca Toni and Antonio di Natale of Udinese out of his FIFA World Cup squad as he backed Giuseppe Rossi and a clutch of emerging younger players. Toni’s dream of traveling to Brazil was boosted by his 17-goal tally in Serie A this season, but he was still left out of the group of 42 from which Prandelli will select his 23-man squad. Rossi, who led the league scoring charts before suffering a knee injury in January, has always had the backing of the 56-year-old Prandelli, who appeared to leave the door open to the Fiorentina striker. However, the coach said Rossi’s World Cup future may hinge on fitness tests. Rossi is expected to make the trip to Brazil alongside No. 1 forward pick Mario Balotelli of AC Milan, but younger talents like Mattia Destro of Roma and Torino’s Ciro Immobile, who tops Serie A scoring on 19 goals, are also in the reckoning
Opener venue still not done
Construction firm Odebrecht on Tuesday handed the new FIFA 2014 World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo over to owners Corinthians, although work still needs to be done ahead of a handover to FIFA set for May 20. In a symbolic handover to the first-division outfit, Odebrecht’s Antonio Gavioli handed a commemorative plaque to club chairman Mario Gobbi and former chairman Andres Sanchez. The Corinthians Arena, which will host Brazil’s curtain-raiser against Croatia on June 12, has been beset by delays, following two fatal accidents which killed three workers. Gobbi conceded that “a few weeks work” are still required to finalize the venue, with temporary stands still to be finished off. FIFA had originally demanded that all 12 World Cup venues be ready by Dec. 31 last year, but worker fatalities brought construction to a temporary standstill pending tightened worker security. In total, seven stadium workers have been killed during Brazil’s Cup preparations — the three in Sao Paulo, three at Manaus and one in Brasilia.
Final tickets for Rio on sale
World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, on Tuesday opened the final phase of World Cup tickets sales and reported that 126,837 of the 199,519 available for 54 of the tournament’s 64 matches were snapped up in four hours. Brazilians bagged two-thirds of the latest sales, FIFA said, accounting for 80,496 tickets, with 46,341 tickets going to fans outside the host nation on a first come, first serve basis via the body’s Web site. Prior to Tuesday, FIFA said that 2,577,662 tickets had already been allocated.