Is France falling apart already, with the World Cup still weeks away?

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France made a decent showing in World Cup qualifying. Sure, they were forced into a playoff with Ukraine, but after being drawn into a group with Spain, you almost expect to come in second. Their side looked revived, and the country started to dream of a strong national team once more.

But will those dreams once again be discarded? Will France fall apart before they even get on the plane to Brazil?

The last time the World Cup came around, France did a spectacular job of falling apart. Les Bleus were in open rebellion against their manager, refusing to train after Raymond Domenech expelled Nicolas Anelka from the squad. Earlier attempts at team bonding enforced by Domenech, including mountain biking and dune-buggy racing, had failed miserably. The cracks forming between the teammates grew even more sharply defined as the spotlight in South Africa grew brighter.

Of course, their play suffered. After a draw with Uruguay and defeats to both Mexico and South Africa, France finished last in their group. Les Bleus were on their way home.

France are now under the leadership of Didier Deschamps, who took over after Laurent Blanc took the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Deschamps seems to want to avoid making the same mistakes as Domenech, which may be why he left Samir Nasri out of his World Cup roster. Nasri had a wonderful season at Manchester City, but according to Deschamps, his behavior could weaken team spirit during the time spent in Brazil.

But France are already suffering from the fallout. After Nasri’s girlfriend insulted Deschamps on Twitter, throwing plenty of ugly curses his way, the French coach elected to file a lawsuit against her, claiming “public insult”. The French Football Federation also released a statement, backing Deschamps.

A minor blip, perhaps. After all, Nasri isn’t included in the squad, and there’s no evidence that his teammates are set to rebel over the slight (Nasri was also not part of the 2010 squad). But is this a preview of what is to come from France this time around? Will the coach attempt to crack down, prompting public blowouts and attracting media attention? Will both the coach and the players be distracted, once again, by antics off the pitch?

Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras certainly hope so.

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]

That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

FRISCO, TX - APRIL 12:  Mauro Diaz #10 of the FC Dallas controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC on April 12, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
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FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]


VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast