After day of speculation, de la Torre keeps his job with Mexico

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If you checked in to social media this morning, you would have assumed Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre had been fired as Mexican national team coach. And when ESPN Deportes was briefly broadcasting Tomas Boy’s appointment as interim coach across their bottom third, you would have had confirmation. Yet throughout the day, there was a lively debate as to whether the initial reports were accurate, with some of the vast array of reporters beneath the Deportes umbrella issuing conflicting reports on Twitter – an editorial process implicitly erupting into the digital universe.

This evening, however, the Mexican Federation put all speculation to rest, confirming in a somewhat bizarre press conference that de le Torre is and will remain the coach.

The official word from the Federation’s website, which described the session the federation’s president and technical director held late Monday:

“This afternoon, after a meeting with Mexican soccer’s Sports Development Committee, the President of the Mexican Football Federation confirmed for the media the retention of Jose Manuel de la Torre as head coach of the Mexican national team.”

The man who led the session, president Justino Campeón, went on to describe meetings that were held between the national team director (Hector González Iñarritu), de la Torre, and de la Torre’s staff, conversations prompted by Mexico’s Gold Cup performance and the team’s inability to advance at the Confederations Cup.  Only after those meetings did the development committee some to the conclusion to retain de la Torre.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some stern words for Mexico’s coach. Iñarritu acknowledged the team is currently in a “difficult state” and the summer’s “objectives were not achieved.” Campeón went on to note the decision does “not at all justify the situation we are in,” and there’s “no excuse” for the team’s state.

That’s not the most ringing endorsement. In fact, Campeón went on to acknowledge de la Torre’s failure when calling this “a second chance,” saying the coach’s integrity and professionalism had earned it. At the same time, Campeón declined to say whether de la Torre would be judged on the Sept. 6 qualifier against Honduras, instead noting he sees de la Torre’s job in terms of 10 games (the entire final round of qualifying) instead of one.

It was a surreal way to end a surreal day. At one point this morning, de la Torre was proclaimed fired by a major cable channel. By the end of the day, the president of the FMF was speaking to reporters, and not with the typical overcooked bravado we’re used to seeing in empty votes of confidence. This was not a vote of confidence at all; rather, it was a honest reflection of where Mexico stands.

The main problems is many Tri fans won’t agree. For each person you find that feels Chepo deserves more time or the time isn’t available to switch mid-stream, you’ll find at least one person that thinks de la Torre’s current failures are enough, be they in World Cup Qualifying, the Confederations Cup, or the Gold Cup.

Now Chepo gets the chance to prove one group wrong.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.