Though our soccer Saturday is just starting, the day is well underway in Asia, where the AFC have crowned a new confederation champion. And thanks to one of the goal celebrations, we also got confirmation that Gangnam Style is still a thing. Thanks for that, Rafinha.
The Brazilian attacker, who scored the day’s second goal, helped complete South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai’s remarkable run to their first confederation title. In front of 42,153 at the Big Crown in Ulsan, last year’s K-League runners-up got goals from Korean international defender Kwak Taw-Hwi (13′), Rafinha (67′), and winger Kim Seung-Yong (76′) en route to a surprisingly easy 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli.
The win culminated an amazing 10-0-2 run by Ulsan, with the team overcoming a slow start to blast their way through the last half of the competition. Once done with their East Asian competition (after the Round of 16), Ulsan posted +12 goal difference over the tournament’s last three round. They closed the competition with nine straight wins.
Along the way, Ulsan became the seventh different Korean team to win an Asian title, the third to claim the crown in the last four years. A K-League team has appeared in eight of the last 12 finals.
Forward Lee Keun-Ho, in his first season with Ulsan after five years in Japan, was named tournament MVP, with Kwak earning the honors for the final game.
Here are the highlights. Whoop `em Ulsan Style.
Multiple reports claim Crystal Palace has offered its managerial position to Dutch boss Frank De Boer.
Palace has been without a manager since Sam Allardyce retired after the season. The Eagles finished 15th in the Premier League, five points behind eighth place Southampton and seven points clear of the drop zone.
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An accomplished defender at Ajax and Barcelona, the 47-year-old De Boer led Ajax in his first managerial stint before spending less than three months at Inter Milan last season.
De Boer twice won the Rinus Michels Award as the top manager in Dutch football, and would become just the second Palace manager from outside the British Isles.
He would inherit a very good group of attackers with Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, and Andros Townsend. Palace also has a talented midfielders Luka Milivojevic and Yohan Cabaye to go with marauding Dutch back Patrick Van Aanholt.
Mexico should be counting their Confederations Cup blessings in congested Group A after a prolonged shoving match at the end of its 2-1 win over New Zealand on Thursday somehow ended with a single red card.
New Zealand is fortunate, too, but the All-Whites have already seen their hopes of the knockout round extinguished by a pair of losses in Russia.
With New Zealand counterattacking in hopes of a late equalizer, Mexico’s Diego Reyes pulled back charging Niko Boxall. It was the second pull back in minutes after Rafa Marquez went uncarded at the other end, and Boxall reacted poorly by lunging cleat-first into Hector Herrera’s calf.
Referee Bakary Gassama should’ve easily pulled two red cards there, but lost his focus in an ensuing melee that saw Herrera charge back to knock down Boxall, headbutts between Diego Reyes and Andrew Durante, and an absurd hand-throwing performance from Javier Aquino. Perhaps this lapse was understandable, which is why he had Video Assistant Referee available.
Even video couldn’t get it right, as a long and sloppy review was seemingly bungled by the referees saw a trio of yellow cards given to Boxall, Reyes, and Herrera.
All three should’ve been sent off, and otherwise Man of the Match contender Aquino and his teammate Marco Fabian should not have escaped discipline by any stretch of the imagination. If Gassama needed it to be level, Michael McGlinchey, Ryan Thomas and Durante could’ve left the match as well.
Instead, a terrific match has been left in the lurch. Will FIFA have the guts to issue supplemental discipline ahead of the important final matches of the group stage?
Oscar‘s antics aren’t missed in the Premier League, and they won’t be missed over the next two months in China.
The 25-year-old Brazilian has been banned for eight matches after igniting a brawl between Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou (video here) by lashing a pair of shots at defenders and then hitting the ground in comical fashion.
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It’s amazing Oscar lived through the vicious shove (at least this dive didn’t influence a UEFA Champions League match).
While his antics won’t be missed, his playmaking will; It comes as no surprise that Oscar has thrived in the nascent Chinese Super League, posting nine assists and a goal in 13 league matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo will meet with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez at the conclusion of the Confederations Cup, according to reports, at which point a pair of cut-and-dried options could be on the table.
Paris, or the status quo.
Marca reports that Ronaldo will bring a “money no object” offer from Paris Saint-Germain into the meeting, although the same outlet says Perez will know exactly what’s coming due to an understanding between the two big money clubs.
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The 32-year-old Ronaldo remains in fine form at the Confederations Cup, with Portugal’s unbeaten run continuing in Russia. If Portugal is upset by New Zealand in its group stage finale on June 24, it would still stand a good chance of proceeding to the knockout rounds depending on the Mexico-Russia result.
That means the Perez-Ronaldo meeting wouldn’t occur until after July 2, which is when the Final and third-place playoff are scheduled in Russia.
In the meantime, Real manager Zinedine Zidane is said to be cutting his vacation short to meet with Perez regarding not just Ronaldo’s future but the club’s pursuit of Kylian Mbappe (which is a bit over-dramatic given the above news. Feels like a phone call could get the job done).