Offshore Drilling, Europe: at Russia 1, Portugal 0

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Man of the Match: With an early goal allowing Russia to play a very controlled match, the hosts were a series of above average if unspectacular performances. Still, there was one performance that should be particularly heartening to Russia supporters. Although Sergei Ignashevich may only have been slightly better than his teammates, the veteran defender showed a glimpse of a second life under Fabio Capello.

Ignashevich has always been a quality player, but under previous regimes he was often left exposed, the 33-year-old often found lacking after having his speed tested. Today, Russia’s organization left the veteran CSKA defender with clean up duty, his clearances (often aerial) helping to preserve the host’s control of the day.

Is it too simplistic to draw a line between Ignashevich and John Terry? They both veteran defenders who serve as cornerstones for teams Capello’s inherited, and in each case, their only flaw was deteriorating foot speed. Terry proved effective for England. Can Ignashevich be a similar, prolonged linchpin with Russia?

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was a big win for Russia, if not necessarily an upset. Beating Portugal at home would have been expected when the draw came out, but for a team under a new regime, the result was a proof of concept.
  • That concept: A less free-wheeling Russia. Capello played a 4-2-3-1 (versus Portugal’s typical 4-3-3) that, consistent with the coach’s philosophies, was more opportunistic than persuasive.
  • Under Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, Russia had been a team that often controlled the ball (consistent with those coaches’ philosophies), but in their first big game under Fabio Capello, the Russians proved capable of playing with out it.
  • That’s bigger news than it sounds. Before Capello, you’d expect Russia to eventually break down when they weren’t controlling the game. Even when they dominated the ball, there where still mistake prone (as evidenced in Euro 2012 and their playoff against Slovenia in 2010 World Cup qualifying). Early on, Capello’s solved that problem.
  • Of course, the early goal helped. A great, swift movement in the sixth minute saw play move from Viktor Fayzulin to Roman Shirokov, the Zenit midfielder hitting Aleksandr Kerzakhov with a through ball that put his club teammate on goal. Rui Patricio made an early dive right, leaving his net open for the match’s only goal.
  • Perhaps predictably (given 84 minutes to chase an equalizer), Portugal went on to dominate possession. With Russia’s defense preventing the Seleccao from establishing any fluidity, Portugal was only able to get five shots on Igor Akinfeev despite holding 66 percent of the Opta possession.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s mood was the barometer. When his team is executing, he’s quieted by his determined. When his side becomes disjointed and can’t connect, that determination creates a mask of confusion, anger and betrayal, a look that was plastered on Ronaldo’s face at the Luzhniki.
  • Ronaldo’s standout moment came with the ball 40 yards away. On the left wing, he tried to make a far post run but took only a step before colliding with Russia right back Aleksandr Anyukov. Despite being three inches taller and (likely) 15-20 pounds heavier, Ronaldo went down in pain, rolling around as if his nose had been broken. You can imagine Anyukov’s confusion.
  • Once his simulation was done, Ronaldo looked up at the referee, flashed a forehead full of black rubber pellets, and implicitly asked why his lovely performance couldn’t draw a whistle, let alone a card.
  • The win keeps Russia perfect at the top of Group F: 3-0-0. They’ve yet to allow a goal, and with few challenges among the packet’s four other teams, Russia should maintain control of the group through their June trip to Lisbon.
  • For Portugal, the pressure is on not to drop points . If they do, Fabio Capello’s squad can almost guarantee a trip to Brazil with a draw at the Estadio da Luz, with Portugal again left to navigate the playoff round.

Goal-machine Jermain Defoe signs for Bournemouth

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Jermain Defoe is back where it all began.

[ MORE: Sanchez to Man City? ]

Bournemouth announced the 34-year-old striker has signed for them on a three-year contract after a release clause in his Sunderland deal was triggered, meaning he could leave for free following the Black Cats’ relegation from the Premier League last season.

Defoe spent a season on loan at Bournemouth as a teenager back in 2000-01 when he was coming through the ranks at West Ham and during his first season as a pro he played with current Cherries manager Eddie Howe, scoring 19 goals in 31 appearances (including a run of 12 goals in 10-straight games) for the then third-tier club.

The England international, who scored 15 times for Sunderland last season, returns with both himself and Bournemouth in a very different situation.

“It’s great to be back and I’m really looking forward to this challenge.” Defoe said. “When the opportunity came about to return to AFC Bournemouth I just knew it was the right one. It was an easy decision, joining a top team with a top manager. It’s a great place to be. The Bournemouth fans know that every time I pull the shirt on I will give 100 per cent, and the one thing I can guarantee is goals.”

Howe added that he was “delighted” that Defoe has returned and said it was a “huge moment” for the club as they continue their progression following a ninth-place finish in the PL last season.

During his distinguished career Defoe has scored goals by the bucket-load wherever he has played. He has 269 goals in 649 total career appearances and he has proven that he still has plenty left in the tank.

Playing for West Ham, Portsmouth, Tottenham, Toronto FC and Sunderland, he is a predator in the box and has kept himself in fine fettle over the years with a vegan diet just one of the ways he has elongated his career. Defoe’s form for Sunderland over the past two-and-a-half seasons has seen him recalled to the English national team in his mid-30s after scoring 37 goals in 93 goals.

He will not only add goals but will also help the development of young strikers Josh King, Benik Afobe and Lys Mousset at the Vitality Stadium.

This move was a no-brainer for both Bournemouth and Defoe as the Cherries continue to strengthen and add PL experience. Asmir Begovic has already arrived as their new starting goalkeeper and Chelsea’s promising defender Nathan Ake, who spent time on loan at Bournemouth last season, is expected to arrive later this week.

Heading into their third season as a PL club, Howe is addressing his needs early and impressively.

Alexis Sanchez to Man City reports gathering steam

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Alexis Sanchez’s future has still not been sorted out but Manchester City are increasingly optimistic he will be playing for them next season.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s twin sons born

Sanchez, 28, is still on international duty with Chile who have reached the 2017 Confederations Cup final and his Arsenal future is no closer to being sorted with just one year remaining on his current contract with the Gunners.

The Guardian reports that Man City are expecting to seal the $64.7 million deal for Sanchez due to the Chilean’s desire to be reunited with his former boss at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola.

Sanchez and his agent had talks scheduled with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger at the end of the season but with the Gunners not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season it appears increasingly likely the oft-frustrated forward will move on this summer with a new contract offer of $324,000 per week reportedly turned down.

Each and every day new stories and snippets emerge on Sanchez’s future but the Chilean star (who scored 24 goals and added 10 assists in the PL last season) rarely gives interviews, leading to increased hype around his situation at Arsenal at every turn.

Previous reports in Chile quoted Sanchez as saying he wanted “to stay in London, but for a club that wins” so Chelsea was his next destination. When Danny Welbeck‘s name was above the No.7 shirt on Arsenal’s website for a brief moment during their new kit launch there was hysteria. Bayern Munich are now said to be out of a deal for Sanchez due to the high transfer price Arsenal is demanding. The list goes on and on and everyone wants to know one thing: will he stay or will he go?

Arsenal’s reluctance to sell to a direct PL rival — especially to City, once again, after they bought Sami Nasri, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna from the Gunners in the past — remains the main sticking point in this deal with the north London club preferring to sell Sanchez overseas to Bayern or PSG rather than see him inspire the attack of a rival in England.

From a pure playing standpoint, a move to City seems perfect for Sanchez.

He gets to play in a fluid front three system and can roam alongside Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and potentially Sergio Aguero. City, and Guardiola, also match his intense hunger to win trophies at any costs and challenge for titles in the PL and Europe, something he hasn’t been able to do at Arsenal. Yes, he has won the FA Cup twice during his three-season stint at the Emirates, but he wants more. He always wants more.

That’s why seeing Sanchez remain at Arsenal after scoring 72 goals in 145 games in all competitions seems highly unlikely.

Cristiano Ronaldo announces birth of twin sons via surrogate

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not play in Portugal’s third-place match at the 2017 Confederations Cup this Sunday.

He has bigger things to sort out.

Ronaldo, 32, was released from Portugal’s squad late Wednesday after their defeat on penalty kicks to Chile in the Confed Cup semifinals in Russia.  The Real Madrid and Portugal superstar will now travel to visit his new twin sons, who were born via a surrogate earlier this month, with Ronaldo set to meet them for the first time after captaining Portugal in Russia over the past few weeks.

According to reports from Portuguese TV channel SIC, the surrogate mother was based on the west coast of the U.S. (I can already hear you guys asking ‘does that mean they’re eligible to play for the USMNT?’). Ronaldo is now the father of three children after already having a seven-year-old son, Cristiano Ronaldo Jr.

Reports also suggest that his 22-year-old girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez is five months pregnant, so soon he could be a father for the fourth time. He would then be able to field a five-a-side team of Ronaldo’s for indoor games…

Below is the post from Ronaldo confirming his departure from Portugal’s squad, which the national team also confirmed, as he is set to meet his new children for the first time.

“I was in the service of the national team, as always, body and soul, even though my two sons were born. Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve the main sporting objective that we wanted, but I am sure we will continue to give joy to the Portuguese.

“The President of the Portuguese Football Federation and the national picker have today had an attitude that has touched me and I will not forget. I’m very happy to finally be with my children for the first time.”

Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic