Poland's forward Robert Lewandowski  (2n

As it happened, Euro 2012: Russia stay top, Czech Republic vaults second

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Euro 2012’s second round of group games kicks off today and will waste no time pushing on team face-to-face with elimination. Coming off their 4-1 loss Friday to Russia, the Czech Republic can book their return flight to Prague if they lose today’s first match to Greece.

That game kicks off at noon Eastern in Warsaw, with what’s likely to be Group A’s most entertaining game following at 2:45 p.m. Then, Russia will be in Warsaw to face co-hosts Poland, match that may or may not be embroiled in security concerns. Staging issues aside, Russia can clinch a quarterfinal spot with a win. If Greece and the Czech Republic draw, Russia can clinch first place.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Monday’s action:



(All times Eastern)

1637 – Poland 1-1 Russia, Final – A spectacular second half goal brings Poland back, earning the co-hosts a point. They’re on two points. Russia stays top of the group with four.

1632 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Into stoppage time, and Arashvin is gassed. He barely wants the ball anymore, and Russia doesn’t seem to know what to do in their attacking phase when Arshavin doesn’t want the ball.

1616 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Interesting, agressive substitution from Poland. Adrian Mierzejewski is on. Dudka is off. Mierzejewski will play on the right. Obraniak will play behind Lewandowski. Kuba’s on the left. Polanski and Murkawski are the midfield.

1613 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Vyacheslav Malafeev’s called into action again as Poland works through the right channel before cutting back for Polanski, who thumps a sharp angle shot on goal.

Both sides might have a goal in them. The game’s reasonably open.

Roman Pavlyuchenko’s come on for Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

1600 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Poland on a counter gets Ludomir Obraniak on the same side as Jacob Blaszczykowski. It’s too much for Yuri Zkirkov to handle, as he loses Kuba on a run cutting toward the box. Obraniak with a perfect ball allows Blasczzykowski to touch the ball back toward the middle as Sergei Ignashevich passes by. Ten yards later, Kuba let go of a shot into the left of net, evening the game at one.

1552 – Poland 0-1 Russia – Russia’s got to get better on set pieces or else John Heitenga will get on the scoresheet in the quarterfinal. Three time this half, Poland players have had relatively uncontested headers.

1548 – Poland 0-1 Russia – We are back. Doesn’t look like there were any changes. We’ll see when and if Poland turns it on.

1534 – Poland 0-1 Russia, Halftime – And that’s halftime, and what a half by the Russians. Poland came out and looked the better side, but Russia waited them out and found the opener. Along the way, they’ve started neutralizing Robert Lewandowski, making it near-impossible for Poland to get out of their own half.

After the tournament moved on from its opening day, I started thinking Russia’s Friday performance was a bit aberrational. Against an opponent that’s performing much better than the Czech Republic did last week, Russia’s reaffirming they’re the real deal.

1524 – Poland 0-1 Russia – After 30 strong minutes from Poland, Russia has not only withstood the assault, they find themselves in the lead.

Andrei Arshavin, restarting from the right, 23 yards out, whips in an unbelievable ball that finds Alan Dzagoev, who is up to three goals in the tournament. Quick notes on the goal: Yuri Zhirkov’s effort to keep the ball in attack drew the foul on Marcin Wasilewski as the Russia left back bolted forward; Poland looked to be zonal marking and saw one channel flooded (and Arshavin found the channel that it looked like Lukasz Pisczcek was guarding); very impressive for the Russians to hold out, take control, and score. Poland were so strong at the opening whistle.

1519 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland’s defensive shape is 4-1-4-1 with forward Robert Lewandowski coming very deep to help congest the midfield. The room we saw Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov have against the Czech Republic just isn’t there. When they can get the ball to Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin, there is a little room to create without the second holding midfielder. But Poland seems to have made a good call by getting a second central midfielder to the level where Shirokov and Zyryanov should be getting the ball.

Russia is dominating possession right now, but there’s doing nothing with it. After 5-6 touches they usually play an over-weighted through ball (Poland’s line forcing it to be hit hard) or put a cross out.

1506 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Russia has held much of the possession over the last 10 minutes, but some nice coordination from Poland’s defense has allowed a number of Russia’ through balls to roll on to Przemyslaw Tytón. Russia has been able to get into attack down their right, when Alan Dzagoev is dragging Boesnich in, providing room for Aleksandr Anyukov.

Going the other way, Poland had a beautiful, five-pass movement that led to a corner kick and also showed Russia another way they are going to be dangerous.

1454 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland with the first good chances of the match. Ludomir Obraniak’s restart from the right flank is perfect, dropping it right outside the six yard box, where Sebastian Boesnich nails a header down toward the goal line. A great save my Vyacheslav Malafeev keeps the game scoreless. Second later, a Poland corner finds Boesnich again, his latest try forcing a leaping grab.

Russia was poor in the air versus the Czech Republic, but Michal Bilek wouldn’t bring on anybody to take advantage of it. Here, Poland’s showing they can, and with the advantages they have down their right, this could be match-deciding edge.

Poland has started very strong.

1446 – Poland 0-0 Russia – And we are off.

1435 – Here are the lineups:

Russia: Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak.

It’s an unchanged team from Russia.

Poland: Tytoń, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Dudka, Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski SUBS: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kamiński, Wawrzyniak, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Sobiech, Brożek.

One change for Poland. Darius Dudka is coming in for Maciej Rybus. It looks like that will move Rafal Murawski up a level, push Ludomir Obraniak left, with Dudka playing beside Eugen Polanski deep in midfield.

1433 – Satiated? Good. Here’s our Offshore drilling.

1351 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic, Final – Two goals in the first six minutes decided the came, with the Czechs now in position to advance with a win over Poland on Saturday. Greece got a gift goal and plenty of time to find an equalizer, but with a match with Russia to close their Group A schedule, Greece is barely in this tournament.

Match report in about 30. Go get a bite to eat, will ya?

1347 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Neither sides creating chances but the Czech Republic holding enough of the ball to kill time, Michal Pilek makes his final chance. Daniel Kolar, who came on at halftime for Tomas Rosicky, comes off. Frantisek Rajtoral is brought on to reinforce the defense.

1336 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Santos’s last set of changes has moved Samaras farther left and farther back, and he’s been able to provide another route into attack, carrying the ball along the left side. You could see the passing for Giorgios Karagounis and long balls for Kostas Katsouranis eventually providing Greece and equalizer, but right now they’re not generating many chances.

1327 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Greece is preparing to make their final substitution, and it will be an attacking one. Kostas Mitroglou will come on. Young Kostas Fortounis will come off. Between Mitroglou, Fanis Gekas, Samaras and Salpingidis, this is about as attacking as Greece can be.

1322 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Czechs had made another change. Milan Baros is off. Tomas Pakhart is on. Baros was pretty useless.

1310 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Petr Cech and Tomas Sivok combine to gift Greece a goal, giving them hope. A passionless ball from Giorgios Samaras on the right bounces toward the spot. Cech’s coming for what looks like an each grab, but he and Sivok collide. The ball rolls to Theofanis Gekas who has an easy finish into an open net.

Looking at the replay, Cech had lost control of the ball before he an Sivok (not Kadlec) collided. He just got kind of spooked by the defender and lost control of the situation.

1302 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – We’re back. Second half has started. Each team makes one halftime chance. Tomas Rosicky is off for the Czechs with Viktoria Plzen’s Daniel Kolar on. That’s either an injury or preservation. For Greece, Theofanis Gekas on for the relatively anonymous Giorgos Fotakis.

1301 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – Some numbers … Possession: Czech Republic 51-49; Shots: Czech Republic 6-2; Shots on target: Czech Republic 3-2.

1247 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – That’s halftime, and as you can tell by the (in)frequency of updates, thinks slowed down dramatically after the opening fireworks. The Czech Republic still looked the better them but only tested Sifakis once. At the other end, Greece never worried Petr Cech. Their best rout into attack has been Katsouranis playing long balls out of the back, but Samaras has not been able to win enough of them.

Who needs coffee?

1221 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias plays a ball out an raises his hand to the bench. He needs to come off. Michalis Sifakis comes in, the second match in a row Greece has been forced into a first half substitution.

1219 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece has come into the match, evening things from the Czechs’ rousing opening. Neither team’s creating any decent chances. Greece looks a little more sure of themselves at the back, though they seem to have few options in attack when they try to get forward.

1206 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – This has been a horror tournament for Jose Holebas. Right back Theodor Gebre Selassie beats Holebas to the line, cuts it into the six where Vaclav Pilar wins a battle with Katsouranis, scoring his second goal of the tournament.

1205 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Pre-match we speculated Giannis Maniatis would drop back and play central defense. It’s actually Kostas Katsouranis.

1203 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Petr Jiracek has put the Czech up within three minutes. Tomas Hubschman finds Petr Jiracek cutting across Jose Holebas from the right. He’s in on got and finishes into the right netting. It’s 1-0.

1200 – Greece 0-0 Czech Republic – We’re off, with Greece moving from left to right.

1155 – Teams are on the field and listen to/singing their anthems. Kick off is minutes away.

1117 – We’re still a long way from the top of the hour kickoff, but here are your lineups and my obligatory picks:

Czech Republic: Čech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Sivok, Limberský, Rosický, Plašil, Pilař, Hübschman, Jiráček, Baroš SUBS: Laštuvka, Drobný, Suchý, Hubník, Rajtoral, Rezek, Petržela, Kolář, Darida, Necid.

Two changes for the Czechs. Viktoria Plzen’s David Limbersky comes in at the back for Roman Hubnik while defensive midfielder Tomas Hubschman gets the start, pushing Jan Rezek to the bench. That likely moves Jaroslav Plasil higher in the formation (into the attacking line of the Czech Republic’s 4-2-3-1). Huschman’s set to start next to Petr Jiracek in front of the defense.

Greece: Chalkias, Maniatis, Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Holebas, Karagounis, Fotakis, Katsouranis, Fortounis, Samaras, Salpingidis SUBS: Tzorvas, Sifakis, Tzavellas, Malezas, Makos, Ninis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Gekas, Pekhart, Lafata.

As we speculated in the preview, Fernando Santos seems to have dropped midfielder Giannis Maniatis into defense, with both Greece’s starting center halves out for this one. Nineteen-year-old Kostas Fourtounis will take his place in midfield. There are two other changes. Sotiris Ninis and Theofanis Gekas go to the bench.  Giorgos Fotakis and first match hero Dimitris Salpingidis are in the XI.

Picks for today? I have Greece 2-1 and Poland to upset Russia by the same score.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.

Men In Blazers podcast: Irvine Welsh Pod Special

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog talks with “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh about his new novel “A Decent Ride,” unconventional career arc, and love for West Ham United/Hibernian.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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LA Galaxy newcomer Ashley Cole takes responsibility for previous MLS quote

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Ashley Cole #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy speaks after he was introduced during a news conference at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Wireimage)
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During Ashley Cole‘s introductory press conference today, where the former Chelsea legend was officially unveiled by the LA Galaxy to the media alongside Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, a predictable question came his way.

Cole was asked about comments he made a year and a half ago when he joined AS Roma, where he said he turned down offers from Major League Soccer because he didn’t want to go “relax on the beach.”

The 35-year-old took responsibility for the quote, saying, “Of course, I hold my hands up, it was said.” However, he defended himself saying he was baited into the comments by the Italian reporter.

“I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said. “It was said, but it was for sure taken out of content. I was talking to the reporter, and he kind of said it to me, ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma. We didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you would go and relax on the beach.'”

“Of course you have to understand, I was at a new team, I have to tell the fans at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to win things and play in the Champions League.”

Cole said he spoke to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Robbie Keane about the league before deciding to join Major League Soccer. “I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure, but I’m happy to be here, I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views on me being here, and we’ll see. I’m a winner, I always want to win, I didn’t come here to sit on the beach – to rest – I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not this egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone.”

3 key battles for USMNT against Canada

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 31:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States chases down a pass against Iceland during the first half at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Canada in the second of two matches throughout January camp to test those brought in and see who stands out.

They took out Iceland in the first match, and now the Canadians stand in the way at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA at 10:30 on Friday night.

[ PREVIEW: Get the full look at US vs Canada ]

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann no doubt has already run through is list of positives and negatives in the win over Iceland. While the win is nice, the overriding purpose here is to both evaluate certain players and determine the best formula for success moving forward into World Cup qualifying, the Copa America, and the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the USMNT players battle both Canada and each other for spots on the roster in future meaningful games.

1) United States attack vs Canada’s organization

The US was solid in possession against Iceland, but it came against an opponent that showed a more attacking intent and also appeared to have limited motivation. Canada would not be what you call a “defensive” team, but they are very organized under Benito Floro, and it shows. They’ve conceded 1 or 0 goals in each of their last 13 matches, losing just once across that time. Their goalscoring numbers have suffered, but it’s translated into marginal success.

To hold the ball against Iceland, the US used a slow build-up process beginning with Jermaine Jones (who stayed surprisingly composed and centralized during his time on the field) who fed Michael Bradley and Lee Nguyen further up the pitch. That tactic may not be as effective against a less erratic opponent, but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann decides to break down the Canadian defensive unit. The wide areas may be vital.

The 0-0 scoreline has been a fixture in this matchup, finishing goalless the last two times and in four of the last eight, so the US will no doubt be looking to break that deadlock early lest they get frustrated as time progresses.

2) USMNT full-backs vs wide play

Michael Orozco and Brad Evans were sent back to their clubs, leaving the United States incredibly thin at a position the nation has already been weak at for years. Jurgen Klinsmann has been searching far and wide for an answer to this question, and with young Kellyn Acosta slightly out of his depth or potentially star-struck in his debut against Iceland, there are a few other question marks.

The options are limited. Acosta could get another shot if Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, or he could move to the likes of Brandon Vincent or Matt Polster. The latter logged 30 matches for Chicago last year as a rookie, while Vincent was just drafted by FC Dallas and has yet to even make a professional appearance. Either way, it’s likely Canada targets the wide areas as a point of weakness for the US, so whoever plays will be in the spotlight.

[ VIDEO: Bobby Wood scores skillful goal for club ]

3) Central defenders vs Akindele and Larin

Whether Floro decides to play Larin centrally by himself, or partner him with Akindele, the striker(s) will be the main target for Canada’s attack. Larin and Akindele both have not seen the scoresheet since a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying last June, so they will be itching to get back on board. Should one be deployed centrally, look for the lone wolf to split the central defenders and receive service from wide areas where Canada may exploit the aforementioned weaknesses along the outside of the US back line.

How do you see the US matching up against Canada, and visa-versa?