Venue Guide: Check out where the USA will play at 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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With all the excitement of the World Cup draw last Friday for Brazil 2014, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at the cities and stadiums the U.S. national team will play in next summer.

As we all know, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side were handed and incredibly tough draw In Group G with Germany, Portugal and Ghana standing in their way of making it to the knockout stages. Ahem, ‘Group of Death’…

But what many have overlooked is the fact that in the group stages the USA will play in three of the four most Northern cities hosting games in the World Cup, which means unbearable heat, incredible humidity and will put plenty of extra strain on the players bodies as they play three games in 10 days.

FULL WORLD CUP DRAW ARCHIVE FROM PROSOCCERTALK

So, from the Amazon to the North East coastal resorts, here’s a look at what cities fans of the USMNT will be visiting if they’re lucky enough to be heading to South America to cheer on the Yanks. Plus, we take a cheeky look at the venues the USA may play at in the knockout stages, if they make it out of the dreaded ‘Group of Death.’

Warning: take plenty of sun block… and a hat.

source: Getty Images
Estadio das Dunas stadium, named after the famous sand dunes which are in the region of Natal, is a beauty.

NATAL – 16 June, 6pm ET: Ghana v USA

City: In the far North East of Brazil, a tropical climate awaits the USA (that will be a running theme here) as Natal enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year and is known as ‘Sun City’ in Brazil. Heavy European influence adorns the buildings and architecture of the city and tourism plays a big part in the local economy due to wonders such as Ponta Negra, Genipabu, Redinha, Pipa, Pirangi and the fabulous beaches along the coast. This area has struggled for any domestic soccer success for quite some time as fierce rivals America Futebol Clube and ABC Futebol Clube have both struggled since the 1980’s.

Stadium: The Estadio das Dunas has been newly constructed and it’s fantastic curving shape emulates the sand dunes Natal is famous for. A capacity of over 42,086 means it’s the smallest stadium at the World Cup. Could prove difficult to get tickets for this one.

source: Getty Images
The Arena Amazônia is the host stadium in the humid confides of the Amazon rainforest. Will the USA handle the heat?

MANAUS 22 June, 6pm ET: USA v Portugal

City: One of the most spectacular, yet problematic, venues in World Cup history, the Amazonian capital of Manaus is host to the USA’s game against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. Humidity around the 99 percent mark is likely to greet the USMNT, as well as heat in excess of 100 degrees in the heart of the Amazon rainforest but plenty of stunning sights, such as the convergence of the Negro and Amazon rivers, will make a trip to Manaus a one in a life-time experience. The most northern venue boasts quite a poor crime-record, so be on your guard.

Stadium: There are plenty of concerns over the heat and conditions deep in the world’s largest rainforest, as the kick off time has been moved backwards, but what a stadium they’ve built to welcome the world into the Amazon. Huge interwoven rafters mimics the wooden baskets this region is now far, but once again the capacity is only just over 42,000 so the USA will be playing in another of Brazil’s smallest host stadiums.

source: AP
The Arena Pernambuco has already hosted Confederations Cup games and is ready to go.

RECIFE – 26 June, 12pm ET: USA v Germany

City: Just down the coast from Natal, Recife is the state capital of Pernambuco and the fourth largest metropolitan area in Brazil. The gorgeous beaches close to urban areas makes this city unique and a heavy Dutch influence from the 16th century can be found amongst the architecture. Just like Natal and Manaus, this sprawling Northern city also enjoys searing temperatures and the USA’s noon kick off time vs. Germany may actually play in their favor. Well, at least more of the USMNT’s players will be used to playing in hot conditions compared to the Germans.

Stadium: Built through public and private funding, the stadium is now home to Clube Nautico Capibaribe, one of Recife’s three professional teams. With a capacity of 46,154, again it’s not the biggest stadium in Brazil but there’s sure to be a terrific atmosphere in the ‘capital of the North-east’ when the U.S. face Germany in their pivotal last group game. The stadium itself is located outside of the city proper and close to the region known as Grande Recife where huge poverty affects the local people, but this venue has regenerated the area by offering shops, jobs and other businesses to locals.

USA’s potential venues in knockout stages

Last 16: Porto Alegre on June 30 or Salvador on July 1

Quarterfinal: Rio de Janiero on July 4 or Brasilia on July 5

Semifinal: Belo Horizonte on July 8 or Sao Paulo on July 8

3/4 place game: Brasilia on July 12

Final: Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janiero on July 13

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga