China v United States

U.S. women cap busy, busy year tonight in Florida

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For a bunch with no professional league to fill the gaps between international matches, the women’s national teamers certainly have managed to keep busy through 2012.

The schedule, which commenced in January with Olympic qualifying, finally comes to a close Saturday in Florida, match No. 31 for 2012.

Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and their teammates host China at Florida Atlantic University Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., capping their 10-game Fan Tribute Tour and the hustling, successful 2012 calendar year.

The match (7 p.m. ET kickoff) is on NBC Sports Network and Univision Deportes Network. Points to note on this one:

  • The team is 26-1-3 this year. (And there was a small matter of an Olympic Gold Medal along the 2012 way.)
  • Alex Morgan (28 goals) and Abby Wambach (25 goals) have combined for 53 goals this year, second most from any strike combo in the program’s history.  Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings combined for 55 in 1991. Akers’ 39 goals that year established the individual record.
  • The Americans will look for their fifth consecutive shutout tonight in Florida; last goal conceded by Christie Rampone’s back line: two to Germany in a 2-2 draw back in late October.
  • Rampone, the team captain, will move past Mia Hamm tonight for second place among all-time U.S. appearance leaders. Assuming she plays, this will be Rampone’s 276th cap. Kristine Lilly is the all-time leader with 352, a mark that looks safe enough.
  • Chances for the upset tonight? Not great. The United States has a 19-game unbeaten streak against visitors, a streak dating back to 2003.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?