The world's most expensive soccer player hails from Cardiff. Gareth Bale's success has helped put South Wales on the map.

Spain roundup: Ronaldo hat trick, Bale double lead Real Madrid’s rout of Sevilla

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Jokes about Gareth Bale’s failed move to Real Madrid had become so odious that the Welsh international’s Wednesday performance should be seen as an act of charity. His two goals within 27 minutes at the Bernabéu not only silenced that tedious analysis but ignited a breakout from the Blancos, Real Madrid going on to win 7-3 over visiting Sevilla.

Bale, that unskilled clot truly prescient analysts rightly passed judgment on after five La Liga matches, is now up to three goals in six Primera Division game – an unacceptable one-in-two rate from a wide attacker. Though he’s only been in the Spanish capital for a couple of months, this far-fetched experiment has gone on for too long. Its time to ship him back to Tottenham — nay, Southampton — once and for all.

In the real world, Real’s world record had them up two within a half-hour, with Cristiano Ronaldo adding the first of his three goals from the spot in the 32nd minute. Sevilla, however, would respond with a pair before halftime, Ivan Rikitic (penalty) and Carlos Bacca making it a one-goal game at intermission.

By the hour, Real Madrid had restored their there-goal lead, with score from Karim Benzema and Ronaldo making it 5-2. Rakitic’s second brought Sevilla within two before a third from Ronaldo, a missed penalty kick from Rakitic, and a Stephane M’Bia sending off ended the visitor’s hopes. When Benzema completed his double in the 80th minute, Real Madrid had their highest scoring day of the season.

For Bale and Benzema, their contributions went beyond the goals column, Each player added two assists while giving their best performances of the season. For Bale, the performance helps the winger move beyond the injury-riddled start to his Real Madrid career, while Benzema’s day comes after being excluded from the starting XI for this weekend’s Clasico.

As for the team, coming into the contest El Real had scored 20 times in 10 games – a prodigious rate, but one that put them behind Barcelona and Atlético Madrid on the league’s goal scoring charts. With today’s outburst, Real temporarily pass their crosstown rivals, who will try to improve on their 26 goals against Athletic tomorrow.

Defending, however, is still a problem for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. In today’s shootout, they gave up three goals, an unconverted penalty, and 16 shots (six on target). While Barça and Atlético have held their opponents to seven goals each, Real Madrid has now conceded 14 times this season.

Elsewhere today in Spain:

Real Valladolid 2-2 Real Sociedad: A pair from Antoine Griezmann had the visitors up two by the 53rd minute, but a three-minute outburst that produced goals from Daniel Larsson and Javi Guerra left the match even in the 78th minute. Sociedad were ultimately denied their third-straight win.

Valencia 1-2 Almería: Los Che suffer the indignity of being the first team to lose to Almería, with goals from Marco Torsiglieri and Aleix Vidal giving Spain’s cellar dwellers three points at the Mestalla. Jonas opened the scoring in the first half with a conversion from the spot after a Rodri penalty, but with six saves in Almería’s goal, Esteban Suárez never conceded from open play. Already under pressure, Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic could see a pink slip after this one.

Osasuna 3-1 Rayo Vallecano: Osasuna came into the match with Spain’s second-worst attack, an ailment cured by Rayo’s league-worst defense. Oier’s first minute goal gave the home side an immediate lead, an edge Oriol Riera doubled 12 minutes later. Early in the second, Roberto Torres completed Osasuna’s scoring, with Alejandro Gálvez pulling one back after Miguel Angel de las Cuevas had been sent off.

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.