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World Cup Qualifying Preview: Ukraine v. France

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France travel to Kiev on Friday for the first-leg of their World Cup Qualifying play-off match against Ukraine.

Failing to overcome Spain for top spot in their qualification group Didier Deschamps‘ men now face a difficult Ukraine squad in a hostile location, the Olympic Stadium. France, however, enter the match on a strong run of form, winning their last three matches (against Belarus, Australia and Finland) in convincing style.

Les Blues will be led by Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, who was recently named Best Player in Europe for the 2012-2013 season by UEFA. In an interview on Wednesday Ribery described himself as “fit and healthy” ahead of the match and insisted that France are not taking Ukraine lightly. “For me it’s very important that we qualify. Ukraine are a good team but France have to be in Brazil.”

Another key player for France, striker Karim Benzema, echoed the urgency and seriousness of the play-off. “We will give everything in these two games,” the Real Madrid striker said. “We will qualify, I am sure. There is no choice. At the end, there is the ticket to the World Cup in Brazil – the most beautiful. A World Cup in the land of football.”

A lingering issue for the French, of course, is the poor showing the side gave both on and off the pitch in South Africa 2010. For Ribery, the matches against Ukraine provides a chance for the team to make it up to the fans. “It was difficult for us in 2010 and now we have a chance to make amends.”

From all indications, those amends could be made in front of as many as 2,000 Frenchman scheduled to accompany Les Bleus to Kiev. “There is a relationship that is developing between us and our fans,” said midfielder Rio Mavuba. “They’re behind their team now, and that’s great because we’ll really need them for these two matches.”

Ukraine have also enjoyed good form by taking 13 of a possible 15 points from their last five World Cup Qualifiers. In large part that success has been due to Ukraine’s primary attacking threats, wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, with the former having scored four times in the group stages.

Yet still, most players on the Synyo-Zhovti recognize they are the underdogs in this play-off. “Their players are all based in the leading championships,” said forward Marko Devic. “We’re not heading into the unknown; we know exactly what we’ll be up against: one of the best teams in the world.”

Both sides have past heart-aches that will serve to motivate.

Deschamps was part of the France team that lost 2-1 to Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes in November 1993, ending French hopes of securing their berth at the 1994 World Cup. The 45-year-old admits he is still haunted by the failure 20 years ago but is nevertheless focused on ensuring qualification for Brazil. “It may have been 20 years ago but it still sticks in my mind,” he said. “I don’t want to experience that again.”

Ukraine’s bad memories are a bit more recent as they have suffered play-off defeats in three of the last five World Cups: 1998, 2002 and 2010.

Prediction

Expect a cagey first leg in Kiev with Ukraine looking to defend well and feed off the energy from the home crowd. They’ll do their best to avoid conceding and I think Ukraine will manage to do that for the majority of the game but the French will break them late and enjoy a one goal edge heading back to Paris.

Done Deals: Perez to Arsenal, Remy joins Palace, Marshall to Hull

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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It has been a busy Transfer Deadline Day eve in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at three deals which have already been confirmed.

And don’t forget, the summer transfer window shuts at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday so stay up to date with all the latest transfer news right here.


Arsenal have completed the signing of Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna.

Perez, 27, was on fire for Deportivo last season, scoring 17 goals and adding eight assists in 36 games. The Spanish striker has had a nomadic career to date but after his breakout season in La Liga, he has now sealed a move to the Gunners for a fee believed to be close to $23 million.

Able to play as a central striker or out wide, Perez will give Arsene Wenger plenty of attacking options as the Spanish international arrives at the Emirates. Not quite the wow factor Gunners fans had been hoping for but still a player who can contribute goals and push Olivier Giroud all the way for the starting spot up top.


French international striker Loic Remy has landed at Selhurst Park.

Remy, 29, has joined the Eagles on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea and is reunited with Alan Pardew who he worked with at Newcastle United.

The former QPR striker has found life pretty tough at Chelsea, making just 47 appearances over the last two seasons in all competitions but he did score 12 goals in that time. Pardew managed to get the best out of Remy at Newcastle, with the former Marseille forward scoring 14 goals in 26 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 campaign.

Now Remy will line up alongside Christian Benteke in a completely revamped Palace attack and all of a sudden the Eagles look much more capable of scoring goals. What a partnership Benteke and Remy could be in south London.


Goalkeeper David Marshall has joined Hull City from Cardiff City for a fee believed to be in the region of $6.5 million.

Marshall, 31, is a Scottish international and has previously played in the PL with Cardiff during the 2013-14 season. Now he is returning to the top-flight with the Tigers, as caretaker boss Mike Phelan makes him Marshall his first significant signing of the summer as the club continues to finalize a takeover from Chinese investors.

He is likely to be the first-choice goalkeeper at Hull although Allan McGregor will push him all the way when he returns from injury and Eldin Jakupovic has certainly not let anyone down after Hull surprisingly won two of its first three PL games this season after securing promotion from the Championship.

Hull is expected to also add Ryan Mason from Tottenham Hotspur in the coming hours.

VIDEO: Hope Solo launches furious rant after being handed suspension

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Hope Solo did not take her six-month suspension from the U.S. women’s national team well.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Solo, 35, was suspended by U.S. Soccer on Aug. 24 and also had her contract terminated with immediate effect after calling Sweden’s national team “cowards” following their quarterfinal win over the USWNT at Rio 2016.

After finding out about her suspension in person in Seattle from USWNT head coach Jill Ellis and Dan Flynn of U.S. Soccer, Solo launched an furious, expletive laden tirade which was caught on camera by a Fullscreen documentary “Keeping Score” which has been following her and other members of the U.S. women’s national team around. The full video will be released soon.

“Six month suspension no pay, terminated contract effective immediately,” Solo said. “17 f***ing years and it’s over!”

She was consoled by her husband Jerramy Stevens in the video clip.

Here is the video of Solo’s initial reaction.

Wayne Rooney to retire from England after 2018 World Cup

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Wayne Rooney will not play again for England after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Speaking ahead of England’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia this Sunday, Rooney confirmed the next World Cup will be his last major tournament with England.

Rooney, 30, is the all-time leading goalscorer for England with 53 goals and he has once again been named captain of the English national team under new manager Sam Allardyce.

The Manchester United skipper spoke to reporters at England’s training HQ at St. George’s Park and confirmed his plans to retire from international duty in 2018.

“I know myself that Russia will be my last opportunity to do anything with England. I am going to try and enjoy these two years and then hopefully I can end my time playing for England on a high,” Rooney said. “I am not old. I am 30 years of age. Come Russia I feel like that will be the time for me to say goodbye to international football. My mind is made up. It’s down to Sam Allardyce again, in terms of the next two years, but that will be my last tournament if selected. I will have enjoyed some highs, some lows but I am an immensely proud man.”

Rooney first played for England as a 17-year-old in 2003 and over the last 13 years he has played six major tournaments for the Three Lions, captaining them since 2014 when Steven Gerrard retired from international duty.

So often criticized, especially in recent months after being dropped into a deeper midfield role by Hodgson for England and Louis Van Gaal at his club, Rooney is still the talisman for England. He will become the all-time leading appearance holder for an outfield player when he next plays for England, surpassing David Beckham’s record of 115 caps. The former Everton striker is only 11 appearances away from equaling legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s record of 125 appearances.

When all is said and done, despite disappointments at major tournaments (the kick at Ronaldo at the 2006 World Cup and the rant at England’s fans at the 2010 World Cup stick out) Rooney will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players to ever play for England.

His legacy will remain intact no matter what happens between now and the end of the road in the summer of 2018.

Report: Jack Wilshere available on loan; Juventus, Roma interested

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Multiple reports are claiming that Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has met with Arsene Wenger and wants to go out on loan to play regularly.

[ TRANSFERS: Who needs what? ]

Wilshere, 24, hasn’t started any of Arsenal’s opening three games of the season and after the arrival of Granit Xhaka this summer, it seems as though the England international is down to fifth or sixth place in the pecking order with Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny around.

It is widely claimed that Serie A sides Juventus and AS Roma are interested in taking Wilshere on loan, while West Ham United has also been mentioned by the London Evening Standard but it seems as though Slaven Bilic is looking elsewhere and is focusing on getting a new striker in.

Either Italian side would be a good fit, but particularly Juve as Wilshere could play in the UEFA Champions League and challenge for titles. Whether or not he’d be a regular in Massimilliano Allegri’s team is another matter, and at this point that’s all he needs.

Wilshere was left out of Sam Allardyce‘s first squad as England manager and after missing pretty much the whole of last season he was taken to EURO 2016 by Roy Hodgson and featured in three games for the Three Lions.

Injuries have hit the Arsenal academy product hard over the past five years with persistent ankle, lower league and foot issues leading to him playing just 17 PL games since the start of the 2014-15 campaign.

With the reports suggesting Wilshere is openly available on loan, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a host of Premier League teams trying to grab the combative midfielder on loan.

There’s no doubting Wilshere’s talent on the ball as his passing, dribbling and ability to link midfield with attack is incredibly good. This injury record is hanging over him though and if he isn’t going to be a regular at Arsenal this season, which seems to be the case, then Wilshere must go out on loan to prove he can still do it for a whole season.

This isn’t quite a last-chance saloon for Wilshere, but it’s not far off it.