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Germany to dominate for the next decade

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Soccer comes in cycles. Certain countries produce generations of exceptional players then suddenly one day it stops.

The all-star, World Cup-winning group of Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa, among others, are now either in their 30s or late 20s, and there is a feeling that their dominance of the international game will end at next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. They have won three major tournaments in a row, but all good things have to come to an end at some point.

Lurking behind them are the Germans, who look set to take over Spain’s empire at the top of international soccer.

You only have to see this season’s Champions League to appreciate just how many young Germany stars are emerging. After they were knocked out of the European Championships in 2000, the German Football Association overhauled their youth development system, and that decision is now looking like a great one.

GOALKEEPER

Manuel Neuer is not only Germany’s undisputed first-choice ‘keeper, he’s also one of the top three in the world. The 27-year-old is young in goalkeeping terms, and has a decade in the national side ahead of him still. The likes of Rene Adler and Ron-Robert Zieler are good, young reserves to Neuer.

DEFENSE

Mats Hummels is the main star of Germany’s defense, and the 24-year-old has the look of a future Germany captain about him. He has shone for Dortmund in the Champions League, and his poise, elegance and stature make him a hugely formidable player. Marcel Schmelzer, again of Dortmund, is a very solid left-back, while the Bayern Munich duo of Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, both also 24, complete the first-choice future back four. The experience of players like Philipe Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Marcel Jansen remain, but they won’t be around forever.

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MIDFIELD

With the brilliant Bastian Schweinsteiger nearing 30, his place in the German side is slowly coming under threat. His midfield partner, Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira, is only just 26 and he has years ahead of him. The most impressive young midfielder is Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, who looks a superb prospect. He can do everything: pass, tackle, shoot, header. He is the complete midfielder. At 22 he could be around for many years while Sven Bender his 23-year-old Dortmund teammate is also a very good defensive midfielder.

OFFENSE

The offensive area of the pitch is the most exciting for Germany, where they have many great youngsters. Mesut Ozil, despite his experience, is still just 24 and will get better and better with age. Playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid will only help his development. Tony Kroos and Thomas Muller and both only in their early 20s but are regulars for Bayern, keeping the likes of Arjen Robben out of the side at times. Both are very good technically and score plenty of goals. Dortmund’s magnificent duo of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus are perhaps even more impressive. Both are just 20 and 23 respectively, and are being spoken of as potential ‘top 5 players in the world’ material. For all their great depth of youngsters, these two are the real stars. Keep an eye on 19-year-old Julian Draxler too.

While the 2014 World Cup may come to soon for this brilliant German side, with South American conditions favouring Brazil and Argentina, there is no doubt that they could dominate international soccer for many years to come.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET