CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying: Excitement abounds in South America

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There are just two matches left to play in South American World Cup qualifying, yet just one team has qualified thus far — Argentina. Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay will be at home watching the matches in Brazil, preparing for 2018. But for Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and even Venezuela, there’s still all to play for. And with most of those sides eager to attack and not afraid to show some trickery, CONMEBOL just might be the confederation to be watching on Friday night.

(MORE: An overview of World Cup qualifying)

CONMEBOL Matches (Friday, October 11)

Colombia vs. Chile (6 p.m. ET)

This match has to be counted as one of the highlights of this round of qualification — not just in South America, but throughout the world. Colombia and Chile are separated by just two points, and between them, they’ve scored 46 goals thus far. Chile, currently in third place, go all out in attack and refuse to back down, producing a side that’s yet to record a draw. La Roja must stick to their score-and-score-again philosophy, as their defense is rather suspect, having conceded 21 goals thus far. That’s in marked contrast to Colombia, who’ve conceded just nine in fourteen matches (the lowest in CONMEBOL) and haven’t given up a goal at home in their last five games.

The winner in Barranquilla, should there be one, gets their ticket punched to Brazil. Colombia has the advantage in that even if they draw, they’re through to the World Cup — and even a loss is good enough if Ecuador or Uruguay manage a win.

Ecuador vs. Uruguay (6 p.m. ET)

You have to feel a bit sorry for Ecuador. With Uruguay performing so poorly in the first half of qualification, La Tricolor looked to be on the verge of booking their spot at Brazil. Now, they’re just barely hanging on to fourth place, sitting above Uruguay by virtue of a positive goal difference. But it’s La Celeste that have the advantage going into this game in Quito. Having finally turned themselves around, Uruguay have picked up three straight wins, a marked contrast to Ecuador, who haven’t won in their last four matches. But Ecuador can console themselves with the fact that they’re unbeaten at home and, should that not work, the knowledge that it’s practically impossible for Venezuela to creep in to fifth place.

Should this match produce a winner, and should Chile lose to Colombia, that winner is rewarded with a trip to the World Cup.

Venezuela vs. Paraguay (6 p.m. ET)

Venezuela’s hopes may be dim, but the point is, they’re still there, flickering dimly like a candle amidst a hurricane. This is Venezuela’s last qualifier, so not only must they beat already-eliminated Paraguay, La Vinotinto must hope that luck falls in their favor. Either Uruguay or Ecuador must lose both of their final two matches to allow Venezuela to slip into fifth place…and they’ll also have to make up a lot of goals, seeing as right now they have a -6 goal difference. Start lighting those candles, Venezuela!

Argentina vs. Peru (8 p.m. ET)

Ah, the meaningless match. Yes, yes, no matches are meaningless when there’s a World Cup to be prepared for, but let’s face it, this one is about as meaningless as it gets. Argentina have qualified. Peru are out. Thank goodness it’s the late game and everyone can tune in!


Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.