Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast triumph in first leg of African World Cup qualifying

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On Saturday, Africa kicked off its third and final round of World Cup qualifying. Ten countries remain in the running, playing two-legged, home and away ties. The five teams that come out on top book their spots in Brazil.

(MORE: A closer look at Africa’s third round of World Cup qualifiers)

Tonight, it’s Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast that hold the advantage. The first match was a thriller, with the hosts taking it right down to the wire in Ouagadougou against Algeria. The visitors were slight favorites, as Burkina Faso have never qualified for a World Cup, but the Stallions were out to prove that their impressive finish in January’s Africa Cup of Nations was not a fluke. Jonathan Pitroipa opened the scoring just before the halftime whistle, but Algeria came back with an equalizer from Sofiane Feghouli just after the restart. Djakaridja Kone put Burkina Faso back ahead in the 65th minute, but it took less than five minutes for Carl Medjani to put the visitors on equal footing once more. In the end it was an 86th minute penalty, converted by Aristide Bance, that gave Burkina Faso the win.

Things went a bit smoother for Ivory Coast, who’d had their win wrapped up by the 50th minute. Senegal, the clear underdogs against a team that included Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho, conceded a penalty before five minutes were up. It was Drogba that stepped up to bury the shot. Things went from bad to worse for the Lions of Teranga when, just ten minutes later, defender Lamine Sané put the ball into the back of his own net. All hopes of a comeback were squished early in the second half, when Salomon Kalou put in the third for Ivory Coast. The three goal deficit will certainly be difficult for Senegal to overcome when the two sides meet again in November.

On Sunday, Ethiopia host Nigeria before Cameroon visit Tunisia. Monday’s football free, but Africa swings back into action on Tuesday when Ghana play Egypt.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.

NASL side to broadcast all its matches on Twitter

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It’s fair to expect the San Francisco Deltas to be trendsetters in tech given their location and pedigree, and the first-year NASL club is doing just that.

The Deltas announced Wednesday that all of their home matches will be broadcast live on Twitter — in English, Spanish, and Portuguese — making them the first North American pro club to broadcast all of their matches on social media.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Twitter senior executive Josh McFarland had previously named as one of the investors in the Deltas, which makes the announcement even more natural. Other investors include tech execs from around the Silicon Valley.

Zlatan: Guardiola falling out “still drives me”

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Time heals all wounds, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still feel the scars from his falling out with Pep Guardiola.

The megawatt personalities saw their relationship deteriorate at Barcelona, with Ibrahimovic loaned to AC Milan one year after scoring 21 goals in 45 matches for Guardiola and the Blaugranas.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs Honduras? ]

Ibrahimovic never played for Barca again, and now has a chance to stare down Man City’s Guardiola in a Manchester Derby which could alter the Top Four fortunes of both sides. And he’s still powered by Pep.

From The Guardian, quoting a Sky Sports Italia interview:

“The problem wasn’t with me, it was with him, and he never came to terms with it. I don’t know what his problem was with me. It is something that drives me, gives me adrenaline and extra motivation. It is normal after what has happened. I’m using it as a positive, not negative.”

United visits City at the Etihad Stadium on April 27, and Ibrahimovic will be extra motivated (if that’s possible for the Swede, who seemingly would be fired up to beat someone in arcade bubble hockey).