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CAF World Cup Qualifying: Third and final round starts Saturday

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World Cup qualifying in Africa is an interesting, and rather expedient, process. The first round consists of 12 home-and-away rounds, featuring the 24 lowest ranked sides on the continent. The 12 winners join the remaining 28 countries for the second round, in which the 40 teams are divided into ten groups. After six matches, the top sides in each group continue on to the third and final round.

And that’s where we are now: ready for another round of home-and-away legs, with the five teams finishing on top the ones that book their tickets to Brazil. CAF doesn’t force viewers to choose between two exciting matches, instead spacing the first five games out over the next four days.

Saturday, October 12

Burkina Faso vs. Algeria
Burkina Faso have never made it to the World Cup, but they did reach the final of the last Africa Cup of Nations, only to be defeated by Nigeria. It’s Algeria that have the advantage here, having made it to the World Cup last time around and putting in 13 goals in six games in the last round. But the hosts seem fairly confident, with Belgian coach Paul Put stating that “everyone is focused and motivated to deliver.”

Ivory Coast vs. Senegal
Of course it’s the Ivorians that are tipped to come away with a trip to Brazil, as they’re the top-rated team in Africa and get to boast of players like Gervinho, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba. Meanwhile, Demba Ba misses out for Senegal, with Alain Giresse refusing to call players that don’t appear regularly for their clubs. That leaves the visitors with few experienced players on their side, and with a rather unimpressive second round, putting your money on Senegal doesn’t seem like a safe bet.

Sunday, October 13

Ethiopia vs. Nigeria
Ethiopia are the one team remaining from the first round, and just their luck, they’ve gone and drawn Nigeria. The Super Eagles are the current holders of the Africa Cup of Nations and made it through their group unbeaten. They’ve got the likes of Victor Moses, Victor Obinna and John Obi Mikel, while Ethiopia’s players mainly ply their trade in the domestic leagues. Still, Ethiopia have a great home record, so they’ve got that going for them.

Tunisia vs. Cameroon
Samuel Eto’o, who retired from international football last month, is already staging a comeback, having answered the call after being named to the Cameroon squad. The Indomitable Lions visit Tunisia, who are staging a comeback of their own. It appeared they’d lost their chance of going to Brazil after losing to Cape Verde in their final game of the second round, but after it emerged that their opponents had fielded a suspended player, Tunisia were awarded the win and moved on to the third round.

Tuesday, October 15

Ghana vs. Egypt 
It seems almost unfair — to fans of football, at least — that one of Ghana or Egypt won’t reach the World Cup. Although the Black Stars are ranked higher, it was Egypt that came out of the last round with six wins from six games. They scored 16 goals, second only to Ghana’s 18, although Egypt allowed seven to Ghana’s three. Even if we won’t be treated to both sides playing in Brazil, these two legs should at least be fun to watch. A slight tip to Ghana, though, in this one, not only as the hosts but because they’ll have their bonus’s doubled for a win. What better reason to get all three points?

Watch: Bobby Wood opens scoring account at Hamburg

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Bobby Wood #7 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Bobby Wood set the German second division on fire a season ago, but now the U.S. Men’s National Team forward has turned his attention to the Bundesliga.

Making his debut with Hamburg SV on Saturday, Wood didn’t waste any time in getting on the score sheet, netting just beyond the half hour mark with a tremendous strike.

While it appeared to be a tame long ball into the path of the U.S. attacker, Wood did well to head the ball in front with his first touch, before muscling the Ingolstadt defender off of him and powering his shot into the back of the net prior to halftime.

Check out Wood’s debut goal below.

Jurgen Klopp refuses to comment on Christian Pulisic rumors

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Jurgen Klopp is remaining tight-lipped over any move for U.S. international Christian Pulisic.

Liverpool were linked with a move for the 17-year-old attacking midfielder who is finding it tough to break through at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Spurs 1-1 Liverpool ]

Pulisic was brought to Dortmund by Klopp in January 2015 and it is believed the Hersey, Pennsylvania native is frustrated with the lack of match action he is getting in the Bundesliga. Pulisic has also been linked with a move to Stoke City and RB Leipzig among others.

Following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham on Saturday, ProSoccerTalk asked Klopp if there was any interest in Pulisic and what he thought about the player.

The German coach refused to comment.

“No transfer rumors. I have no comment for this. Absolutely nothing to speak about,” Klopp said. “That’s for all the other cases too. When we know something and when we are close to doing something then we will inform you… or a little bit later.”

So, a flat out denial from Klopp and you can read into that however you want.

The German manager is usually quite tight-lipped when it comes to transfer rumors and with the summer window shutting on Aug. 31, there will be no more word from him in public about potential signings.

To add further fuel to the fire, Pulisic was left out of the 18-man squad for Dortmund’s opening game of the 2016-17 Bundesliga season on Saturday.

STREAM: Watch Premier League “Goal Rush” live at 10am ET

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At 10 a.m. ET this Saturday you will be able to access NBC Sports Digital’s newest product, Premier League Goal Rush.

It will be available on the NBC Sports App and on NBCSports.com as goals from all six matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occurs around all the grounds in the Premier League.

STREAM “GOAL RUSH” HERE

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of NFL RedZone-like action from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all six games at 10 a.m. ET is below.


10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Burnley 
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Arsenal 
10 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Stoke City 
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth  
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Swansea City
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Sunderland

Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Liverpool

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur L) and Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool (R) embrace prior to kick off during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool drew 1-1 at White Hart Lane on Saturday as a first half penalty from James Milner was canceled out by Danny Rose‘s equalizer with less than 20 minutes to go.

[ MORE: Spurs 1-1 Liverpool ]

In a breathtaking encounter both teams had multiple chances but a draw was probably a fair result.

Here’s what we learned from an epic encounter at the Lane.


BATTLE OF THE HIGH-PRESS

This game was played at a breathtaking pace from start to finish.

With both Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp proponents of high-pressing, their teams delivered that approach on the pitch. There were chances galore for both teams and both managers will need a lie down after going toe-to-toe on the sidelines, sharing the occasional hug and then roaring their players on.

Neither teams look fine-tuned at this point but the effort and endeavor was their for all to see. Both Liverpool and Tottenham will be relatively pleased with their starts to the season as we head into the international break as Spurs have five points on the board and Liverpool have four.

As the season wears on the toll of this high-pressing tempo will impact both teams though. Without the rigors of a European campaign, Liverpool may have an edge this season but this clash showed there’s nothing between these two teams who not only have top four aspirations but dream of winning the title.

Both teams look a little disjointed for title-winning talk right now but with plenty of players returning late from a summer full of international duty, these two teams full of incredible athletes will soon be up to full speed. The fact they weren’t on Saturday is quite frightening.


KLOPP’S BOYS GETTING THERE

Three games into the new Premier League season we’ve so far seen the best and worst of Liverpool. Saturday’s win at Tottenham was a bit of both. They looked much more solid defensively than they did in their opening 4-3 win at Arsenal and away at Burnley in their shock 2-0 defeat last weekend, but the midfield area is still one they need to improve on.

With Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield, they saw plenty of the ball but didn’t force the issue. Too often there were sideways passes and they couldn’t get Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana involved in the game for large periods.

Klopp’s project has now been in place for 10 months and we now see that Liverpool has a clear playing style under him. The dynamic cutting edge to make the most of their counter attacks will come, especially with Daniel Sturridge returning to full fitness soon and only fit enough for a late cameo role against Spurs.

We are all still waiting for Klopp’s revolution to kick in for good but the signs are, once again, promising that his team understands how he wants them to play. Slotting everything together for a full 90 minutes is the hard part.


MISSING MOUSA

It is clear that there’s a Mousa Dembele sized hole in Tottenham’s midfield.

The Belgian international is serving a six-game ban for gouging Diego Costa in the eye in a heated London derby at Chelsea last May, as their title hopes were ended in the 2-2 draw and the red midst descended on the two-way midfielder.

Dembele, 29, will be available for Spurs’ game against Sunderland on Sept. 18 and his return can’t come soon enough.

With Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama in the two central positions Spurs looked solid but cumbersome and couldn’t provide Harry Kane with the service he needed. When Kyle Walker went off and Dele Alli moved into midfield with Wanyama they suffered even more.

Dembele is so smooth on the ball and was the unsung hero of Spurs’ third-place finish last season. He is able to slow things down when Spurs need it and it stops them from just flying back and forth without control on the game. When Dembele returns it will knit everything together rather nicely. Until then, Spurs look disjointed in an area of the field they never struggled in last season.