World Cup Qualifying, Europe: Around the continent

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Comebacks in Madrid and Berlin will steal headlines, but when you have a 53-nation confederation, there are going to be a ton of matches to touch on:

Elsewhere in Europe

  • England’s match in Poland was postponed until Wednesday because of torrential rain that flooded the field in the hours before the game.
  • After Friday’s huge win over Portugal, Russia had to rely on a late spot kick from Roman Shirokov to get by minnows Azerbaijan, 1-0.
  • In what is likely Giovanni Trapattoni’s final game, Ireland downed the Faroe Islands, 4-1.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina stay at the top of their group, their 3-0 home win over Lithuania hinting the team have solved the lack of consistency that plagued them in previous cycles.
  • In the same group, Greece recovered from their home draw with Bosnia to post a 1-0 win in Slovakia. Dimitris Salpingidis had the match’s only goal.
  • Ukraine continued to put their draw at Wembley behind then with a 1-0 home loss to Montenegro.
  • Romania suffered their first defeat of the tournament, losing 4-1 at home to a Netherlands side that quietly went back to their dreaded two defensive midfielder setup.
  • Turkey’s disappointing campaign continued. Four days after a shock home loss to Romania, Abdullah Avci’s team fell 3-1 in Hungary. How much longer will it be his team?
  • Belgium stayed golden. Second half goals from Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany gave the Red Devils a 2-0 win over Scotland.
  • Croatia, in the same group as the Belgians, kept pace with their own 2-0 home win over Wales.
  • A late goal from Hélder Postiga salvaged a 1-1 for Portugal against visiting Northern Ireland.
  • And finally, an eventful day for Italy. First half goals four minutes apart from Ricardo Montolivo and Daniele de Rossi gave the Azzurri a 2-0 lead over Denmark. When William Kvist made it 2-1, the score started to fall in line with the play. When (in the 46th minute) Pablo Osvaldo volunteered to sit out the second half by throwing an elbow, Denmark seemed to have their window of opportunity. Mario Balotelli, however, closed that, putting home an nice ball from Andrea Pirlo to give Italy a 3-1 win.

How they stand

In, if the tournament ended now:

A: Belgium
B: Italy
C: Germany
D: Netherlands
E: Switzerland
F: Russia
G: Bosnia and Herzegovina
H: England
I: Spain

Would qualify for the playoffs:

Croatia
Greece
France
Bulgaria
Hungary
Sweden
Montenegro
Norway

Notably out:

Portugal
Denmark
Czech Republic
Ireland
Serbia

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.

Report: American teenager linked with Manchester United

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The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.

Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”

The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.

Chapecoense announces match against Colombia’s Nacional

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]

In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.

Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.

The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.

The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.