Ronaldo: Portugal’s chances still ’50/50′ after Friday win

1 Comment

The scoreline favors Portugal, the Seleccao using Cristiano Ronaldo’s late header to claim a 1-0 lead on Sweden, but for some, that one-goal, first leg result amounts to holding serve – the minimum margin a team should take from the home leg of their World Cup playoff. Though Paulo Bento’s team have the added benefit of having kept a clean sheet (denying Sweden a crucial away goal), right now, they’re still shooting par.

That’s the theory Ronaldo seemed to embrace after today’s result.

“[I]t’s not done yet,” the Seleccao captain told Portuguese radio shortly after scoring his 44th international gaol. “It remains 50/50 chances for both teams, in my opinion.”

[MORE Portugal 1, Sweden 0: Cristiano Ronaldo wins battle of titans (that wasn’t)]

Ronaldo meet Sweden left back Martin Olson to Miguel Veloso’s 82nd minute cross, heading home the only goal in Lisbon. Portugal had also generated close chances through João Moutinho (fifth minute) and Helder Postiga (50th), but for much of Friday’s match, a well-organized Sweden seemed capable of returning home with a 0-0, having held their hosts to three shots on goal.

After pulling out a slim win, Bento agreed with his star attacker, calling the victory “an important step to reach the World Cup but not yet decisive.”

“We created a great early chance and Sweden hit back,” Bento told reporters post-match. “But in the second half it was one way for us.”

One way may an understatement. At halftime, each team had taken six shots, but by the end of the match, Portugal had a 19-6 edge, having held 68 percent of the match’s possession.

“We managed to counter Sweden’s direct football,” Bento said. “I don’t think their football will change much in their home leg, maybe perhaps press a bit higher.”

Sweden will certainly have to open up next Tuesday, with Erik Hamrén’s team only putting two shots on Rui Patricio. After the game, the Sweden boss hinted his team may have been playing for a clean sheet.

“We would have been very happy with a draw,” Hamrén said. “We played a good game defensively, the goal was unnecessary, we were careless with that cross.”

The playoff resumes next Tuesday at Friend Field in Solna, with Portugal looking to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

instagram.com/bastianschweinsteiger
Leave a comment

Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.