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USA’s World Cup opponents: What to expect from Germany, Portugal and Ghana

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We all knew this World Cup was going to be difficult, but the U.S. have certainly been handed a tough task to make the last 16. Drawn in Group G alongside European powerhouses Germany and Portugal and another meeting with old foes Ghana, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side couldn’t have got a tougher draw as they’re entrenched in a dreaded “Group of Death.”

(MORE: 2014 World Cup Draw – USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues)

It’s not all doom and gloom, as the USA face Ghana in their opening game before battling it out with Germany and Portugal, both of whom are ranked in the worlds top five… Wowzer. Let’s take a quick gander at the three teams the USA face in the Group G and what we can look forward to next summer.

GERMANY (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #2) Klinsmann will face his home nation in the final group stage game, you just knew it would turn out likes this? Klinsmann’s former assistant for the German national team, Joachim Low, has taken the side to greater heights since the the U.S. coach left and the German national team are now stacked with some of the most exciting young talent in world soccer. Low has the likes of Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Lukas Podolski, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller amongst a whole host of other to choose from… and that’s just his attacking midfield spot. Germany are one of the favorites and although the USA beat the three-time World Cup winners in a friendly in Washington D.C. last summer, that was a weakened German side. At full strength and with all their players on form, Germany may be the favorites for this summers tournament. They’ve made the semifinals in the past three World Cups as USMNT head coach Klinsmann helped reignite the country’s hopes. Is he the man to dash them at Brazil 2014? Key Players: Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm, Manuel Neuer

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

PORTUGAL (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #5) They had to go through the European playoffs to make the World Cup, but make no mistake about it, Portugal will be one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Brazil. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese swept aside Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in style as the Real Madrid star scored four goals over the two legs. Former Portugal defender Paulo Bento is the manager and his side are stacked with experienced players and stars such as Joao Moutinho, Nani, Helder Postiga and many more, on their day Portugal are one of the worlds best teams. One man will cause the USMNT problems: Ronaldo. If Klinsmann’s defense can somehow keep the man many expect to be named World Player of the Year quite, they’ll have a chance. Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Helder Postiga

GHANA (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #24)

source: Getty Images
Can the Black Stars knock the USA out of a World Cup once again?

Ah, you again! The U.S. know Ghana only too well, as the African nation sent home Bob Bradley’s men from the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and beat the USA in the group stages of 2006 with the same 2-1 scoreline. That last 16 defeat over three years ago still rattles many cages of U.S. fans and plenty of national team supporters wanted another pop at the “Black Stars” to put things right. Well, now you have it. Coached by Ghanian James Appiah, they are solid and dependable and absolutely obliterated Bob Bradley’s Egypt in the finally qualifying round to make the World Cup. Their main striker Asomah Gyan has spent time in the Premier League and was a star in the last World Cup when Ghana were just a penalty kick away from being the first African side to make it to the semifinals. Expect a well-organized unit full of pace and skill on the wings. Revenge would be sweet, if they can deliver, against Ghana. Key Players: Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Harrison Afful

Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Sevilla: Gameiro, Vitolo give two-time champs an edge

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Facundo Ferreyra, left, competes for the ball with Sevilla’s Mariano during semifinal first leg of the Europa League soccer match, between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Sevilla at Arena Lviv stadium in Lviv, western Ukraine, Thursday, April  28, 2016. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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Vitolo scored a goal then drew a penalty, and Kevin Gameiro converted the chance as Sevilla picked up a pair of road goals in a 2-2 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday in the first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Europa League semifinal.

Marlos had a goal and an assist for Shakhtar Donetsk, with Taras Stepanenko scoring Shakhtar’s other goal.

Sevilla has won the last two tournaments, and hosts Thursday’s second leg with an advantage toward reaching a third.

[ MORE: Watch full Premier League match replays ]

Gameiro set up that oh-so-pivotal road goal in the first 6 minutes, sliding the ball to Vitolo for his left-footed finish between the legs of Andriy Pyatov.

But the Ukranians weren’t slow to respond, and Shakhtar netted twice before halftime. First Marlos scored a left-footed of his own from Yaroslav Rakitskiy in the 21st minute, and then Marlos turned provider for Stepanenko’s headed finish in the 35th.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Villarreal strikes late to take first leg on Liverpool in Europa League semis

during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.
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Denis Suarez found Adrian Lopez in the third minute of stoppage time to lift Villarreal to a 1-0 home win over Liverpool in Thursday’s first leg of their UEFA Europa League semifinal.

There wasn’t much enjoyable about the match for either side until late, but Liverpool looked set to head to Anfield in search of a win. Now they’ll need more.

[ MORE: Watch full Premier League match replays ]

The timing was off early for Mexican attacker Jonathan dos Santos and Congolese striker Cedric Bakambu, and Simon Mignolet made a couple collections to get into the flow of the match.

Liverpool answered with a dangerous chance in the fifth minute, but Joe Allen‘s only alley was a pass directly to keeper Sergio Asenjo.

Roberto Soldado knifed a bouncing shot wide of the far post in the 11th minute, and would later curl a shot around Kolo Toure that didn’t finish its dramatic bend inside the field of play.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The Yellow Submarine had the best of possession, but the Reds were stout in defense with the exception of some slips on the wet turf.

Roberto Firmino was the most dangerous Liverpool attacker, saved off the woodwork just over an hour into the match.

There wasn’t much threat coming from either camp before Mignolet made a terrific save on Bakambu in the 87th minute.

And Alberto Moreno sprung a near 60-yard run past the Villarreal back line, but couldn’t put his left-footed blast on net

Liverpool: Tribunal rules record payment due to Burnley in Ings case

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Danny Ings of Liverpool fends off Alan Hutton of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield on September 26, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
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The Premier League has a new compensation record, as Burnley has received close to $12 million for Liverpool’s signing of Danny Ings after a tribunal’s ruling.

Ings, 23, was a transfer rumor mill mainstay but stayed through his contract at Turf Moor, earning the right to go anywhere on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Agbonlahor quits as Villa captain ]

But clubs have to pay compensation when signing players who are under the age of 24, and Burnley will get money from Liverpool.

From the BBC:

Burnley chief executive David Baldwin said: “This is an unprecedented record payment for training compensation and not a transfer fee.

“As the initial fee decided by the committee represents almost double the previous record for a tribunal, this fully justifies our decision to press ahead with what we felt was a fair reflection of the part Burnley played in Danny’s development.”

The Clarets will also receive 20 percent of any sell-on fees should Ings move to another club, and Bournemouth stands to make a small percentage as well. The Cherries sold Ings to Burnley in 2011.

Agbonlahor quits as captain of relegated Aston Villa

Leicester City v Aston Villa - Premier League
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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Gabby Agbonlahor has quit as Aston Villa captain and apologized for his off-field conduct.

The forward was pictured in a newspaper with what look like nitrous oxide – or laughing gas – canisters on the same night that Aston Villa’s relegation was confirmed after losing to Manchester United this month.

Villa announced that Agbonlahor’s suspension from the club has been lifted, while he has been fined.

[ MORE: Alli’s season is over ]

Agbonlahor wrote on his Instagram account: “I am stepping down as club captain with immediate effect, as I do not deserve to carry out such a role anymore … it hurts to have lost it.”

Agbonlahor is Villa’s longest serving current player and their record English Premier League goal-scorer, having netted 73 times since his debut in 2006.