Canada v United States

Kyle Beckerman is the natural choice as U.S. Gold Cup captain


Now that Jurgen Klinsmann has dropped the Gold Cup roster, only a few lingering questions are left unresolved in terms of personnel. Clearly, which players start in the July tournament is the biggie – and foremost under that big umbrella is how Stuart Holden and Landon Donovan fit into the rotation?

Which players, if any, will be used as reinforcements after the group stage – a threesome of matches that really should come and go without much muss or fuss from Klinsmann “B” team – provides another point for debate.

Then there is the question of the team’s captaincy, something that should be answered soon.

There seems to be just one clear choice: RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman.

Beckerman is among the most experienced players on Klinsmann’s 23-man roster announced Thursday, and until last fall was a starter for the U.S. manager. He’s been lapped in his position by Danny Williams and Jermaine Jones, the current top choice at holding midfielder, but remains just beyond the first-team pool.

Klinsmann likes Beckerman’s professionalism and the all-soccer, all-the-time mentality he brings to daily training sessions. Which is why the manager chose Beckerman to captain the United States earlier this year in a friendly with Canada (a 0-0 draw down in Houston).

Clarence Goodson, on the roster for World Cup 2010 and also on this year’s Gold Cup roster, is another reasonable choice. Nor would anyone turn up their nose at DaMarcus Beasley as captain.

Otherwise, the options begin looking a bit slim for different reasons. Landon Donovan, attempting to humbly demonstrate he can fit into the bigger group, probably isn’t the wisest of choices at the moment. Everyone respects Stuart Holden, but he’s got plenty on his plate just to demonstrate that the touch and fitness is still within him.

Chris Wondolowski has a lot of experience, but his form is just so-so, which means he may not be starting.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia