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Rafael Baca, José Villarreal sent to Cruz Azul’s B-team in Mexico’s second division


Two months after being part of Cruz Azul’s winter raid on Major League Soccer, both Rafael Baca and José Villarreal find themselves in the Mexican second division, with the Mexico City-based club announcing the players have been sent to Cruz Azul Hidalgo – the club’s B-team which plays in the Liga de Ascenso.

Michael Farfan, who moved from the Philadelphia Union to Cruz Azul this December, will stay with the parent club, but for Baca and Villarreal, the reassignment becomes a setback. The Mexican-born Baca, who spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, was a starter in Major League Soccer before making the move to Mexico. The 20-year-old Villarreal, a product of LA Galaxy’s academy, made 22 appearances last season before going on loan to La Machina.

Through the first seven games of Cruz Azul’s Clausura season, none of Baca, Farfan, or Villarreal have made an appearance, with only Baca having dressed for Luis Fernando Tena’s squad. According to the club’s website, Baca and Villarreal make the move to the second division team in an attempt to help their adaptation process, with Cruz Azul hoping time training with Hidalgo coach Joaquín Moreno will improve each player’s “footballing rhythm.”

Undoubtedly, neither player moved south to play in the second tier, but for Baca, the move to Liga MX may have been motivated by more than competitive reasons. Moving south not only allowed him to return to the country of his birth but likely represented a financial decision. The 24-year-old made only $49,500 last year while starting 28 games for San Jose.

For Villarreal, a return to Los Angeles looks more likely by the day. Cruz Azul has an option to buy the U.S. U-20 international, which casts his move to the second-tier in a different light, but whereas once La Machina were once having Villarreal train with the A-team (and appear with the club’s U-20s), the Galaxy attacker has now, perhaps temporarily, been deemed more of a Hidalgo-level talent.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia