Huge Iranian win puts Carlos Queiroz’s team one step closer to World Cup 2014

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In a life blessed with more live soccer matches than I possibly count, one that I’ll never forget played out back in 1998, a high-tension night as the United States met Iran in Lyon, France.

A real State Department nightmare, that one. I will never forget the palpable tension – not to mention the extended rings of security that meant a longer hike into the stadium – that warm night at Stade Gerland.

You could make an argument that U.S.-Iranian relations are worse today than back in 1998. So what are the chances of a U.S.-Iran contest at World Cup 2014 next year in Brazil?

Well, “a little better today than yesterday” is the short answer.

That’s because Iran scored an absolutely huge victory over Qatar, reviving a World Cup pursuit that was just about on the skids. Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Doha’s Al Sadd Stadium more or less finishes Qatar’s chances while positioning the Iranian’s in reasonable shape.

Remember, Iran is coached by Carlos Queiroz, a big figure in the game who has managed here (with New York), at Real Madrid, at Portugal (as national team manager as well as under-20 steward of the “Golden Generation”) and has served as Alex Ferguson’s longtime assistant at Manchester United.

The Asian final round standings are here; the top two teams from each group qualify automatically for Brazil, with the two third-place finishers still capable of reaching the tournament through two additional play-in series.

Klopp to the Kop: Multiple reports say deal agreed at Liverpool

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp shouts to his players during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund at Juventus Arena on February 24, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp is on his way to Liverpool to sign a contract naming him the next coach of the Reds.

The celebrated manager, 48, has been on “hiatus” from football since leaving Borussia Dortmund last season.

[ MORE: Messi to stand trial in Spain ]

Reports starting emerging earlier today that an agreement was imminent, and now the BBC is among those reporting that Klopp will be rolled out Friday morning.

From the BBC:

No contract has yet been signed but that is viewed as a formality when Klopp arrives in Liverpool later on Thursday. He will be officially unveiled by Liverpool on Friday morning at 10:00 BST.

There’s not much to say besides this: Klopp’s addition to the Premier League will give more color and brilliance to the country’s footballing scene. Only a certain class of manager can be instantly expected to find a better system for an inherited group of players.

This could and should be a game changer on Merseyside.

Appeal rejected! Lionel Messi will face court trial in Spain

VIGO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Lionel Messi looks dejected after the La Liga match between Celta Vigo and FC Barcelona at Estadio Balaidos on September 23, 2015 in Vigo, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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It was a mere 48 hours ago that Lionel Messi looked close to in the clear when it came to tax evasion charges.

Now the question is whether a Spanish court will lock away the greatest active footballer, as a judge rejected the prosecutors’ (!!!) request to drop the charges.

[ WATCH: Hilarious spoof pegs Messi, Ronaldo as “Friends” ]

Messi and his father have already made a $5.5 million corrective payment, but there’s principle in play here. And the judge wants to know how Messi can claim he had no idea what was being done with his money.

From the BBC:

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

“There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties,” wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

Can you imagine one of the world’s richer men ending up in a Spanish prison? It’s very difficult to consider. In some ways it’s more plausible that he would buy his own island and start the “Messi Isle Premiership”.

Still, we won’t laugh off the idea, especially with FIFA apparently going down. Messi in prison. That’s something. Sepp in Switzerland. Lionel in Spain.