Ronaldo will spearhead a talented Portuguese team. Can the U.S. defense stop him?

Portugal: “Ronaldo best in world” but Ibrahimovic brushes battle off

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Ahead of Portugal’s crunch first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against Sweden in Lisbon on Friday, Portuguese head coach Paulo Bento is adamant he has the best player in the world right now captaining his side.

For weeks since the draw was made pitting Portugal against Sweden for a place at the 2014 World Cup, the clash has been billed as a head on duel between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The winner over these next two games will go to the World Cup, the other will be sulking at home all summer. This match up is monumental.

When asked who is the better player, Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic, Bento was crystal clear.

“For me it’s Ronaldo, without a doubt in my opinion,” Bento said. “He’s the player who has shown extraordinary quality and form throughout the year. It would be unfair if he doesn’t win the Ballon D’or this year for his performances, quality and professionalism. Regardless of what happens, for me, he is the best player in the world right now. No doubt.”

(MORE: Watch – Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Who You Got?)

As for Zlatan, the 32-year-old Swedish international was sheepish when asked about facing Ronaldo’s Portugal and the individual battle.

“It’s no me talking about Ibrahimovic against Ronaldo, it’s the media talking about it,” Ibrahimovic said. “It doesn’t disturb me at all. This is part of my professional work, we don’t decide who to talk about, it’s the media. They’ve built up this tension around the game.”

What a game it promises to be in Lisbon… (watch live on ESPN Deportes at 2:40pm ET) but who will have the edge?

Let’s take a look at the stats from World Cup qualifying so far.

Ronaldo has played eight times for Portugal, scoring four goals and adding two assist. While Ibra had played nine times and smashed home six goals and six assists.

Billed by many as a clash between two of soccer’s most talented yet cocky, stars, be sure you don’t miss out on what could be one of the greatest head-to-head battles for quite some time in international soccer.

My money is on Ronaldo to do the business, who’ve you got?

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.