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Hierro reappointed at RFEF

Spain
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FIFA could ban Spain from the 2018 World Cup - Angel Maria Villar

Sid Lowe explains why Spain are content with drawing Portugal in Group B and evaluates their chances of winning the World Cup.

Angel Maria Villar, the suspended president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has warned that government interference in Spanish football could cost the national team their spot in next year's World Cup.

FIFA confirmed to Spanish news agency EFE that it recently sent a letter to the RFEF raising concerns regarding the state of the country's federation and reminding its member of its duty to "manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties" as stated in article 14 and 19 of these statutes.

Failure to do so could result in the RFEF being suspended and the national team banned, opening the door for another country to take its place, as article seven of FIFA's regulations state.

Villar -- who was suspended from his duties by Spain's top sports authority, Consejo Superio de Deportes (CSD), in July and is currently on bail awaiting trial on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents -- said at a news conference on Monday: "The only ones responsible for the possibility that the national team could miss out on the World Cup is the current government.

"No one wants this, least of all me, but there are other national teams like Italy that missed out on the World Cup that will jump at the chance to take a World Cup spot [should Spain be banned]."

Angel Maria Villar said he feared FIFA could prevent Spain playing at the 2018 World Cup.

Villar referred to the situation of Spanish football as "very grave" and said the move by the CSD to suspend him was "arbitrary" and an "injustice" without giving him the "possibility of presumption of innocence."

The 67-year-old, who also resigned as vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA in the summer, said there have been cases in the past where federation presidents have not been suspended by the CSD despite facing charges.

The CSD, led by its president Jose Ramon Lete, requested in May that Villar's re-election be annulled and, if not, for Villar to face a vote of no confidence from the RFEF.

Villar said the CSD's pressure on the RFEF to elect his successor is something that goes against the federation's regulations.

"The only thing FIFA is doing is making sure one of its members complies with the statutes and its regulations," he said. "FIFA is only following rules. The Spanish Sports Council (CSD) is making the RFEF non-compliant with those FIFA rules and regulations."

Acting RFEF president Juan Luis Larrea confirmed on Friday that talks will be held between the federation and FIFA after Christmas.

"The meeting will be informative and, in no case, punitive," Larrea told AS. "No one is going to take Spain out of the World Cup. It's impossible and never been talked about. It's the final straw when people say things like that. It won't happen.

"What do these people want: that Spain are withdrawn from the tournament so Italy can get in? The federation is functioning normally, the national team earned their place on the pitch, and FIFA agree with us on that."

Villar, however, said he disagrees.

He gave the example of Peru, who reached their first World Cup in 36 years by beating New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate in a playoff last month but were reportedly in danger of having their place taken away.

Peru congresswoman Paloma Noceda recently presented a bill in the country that she later withdrew that would have seen the Peru Football Federation (FPF) lose its autonomy, with the country's Institute of Sport controlling the federation. 

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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