International Friendly Roundup: Sturridge scores a stunner, Torres nets for Spain

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As we roll towards the World Cup in just two weeks’ time, teams are getting in their final tuneups to prepare their squads for international play.

Today was a big day for World Cup teams to take to the field and get in some work.  The United States takes on Turkey come Sunday, but here’s a roundup of the World Cup teams in action today:

England 3-0 Peru

Daniel Sturridge scored a stunner out of nothing and England held off Peru at Wembley. Having scored just one goal in their last three international matches at Wembley, the young Liverpool striker offered England some form of hope as they get set for a blisteringly difficult group that features Uruguay, Italy, and Costa Rica.

The game shut down after Sturridge’s goal, with paper airplanes and the wave exciting the crowd more than what was actually happening on the pitch.  Gary Cahill picked up England’s second as he headed in a corner, and that was all she wrote for Peru, as Phil Jagielka also grabbed a third.  However, the match didn’t exactly excited the masses in England.

One question mark for England is Wayne Rooney, who was relatively ineffective and overshadowed by Sturridge.  Despite Rooney’s perceived untouchable status, it may behoove Roy Hodgson to question that going forward.  Rooney has long had a reputation for underperforming for his country.

Spain 2-0 Bolivia

Fernando Torres started for Spain for the first time in over a year, and scored a penalty but missed another wide open chance a few minutes later (oh Fernando). Iniesta scored a beauty with the inside of his foot to complete the scoreline, but the match was mostly for the fringe players who are looking to impress Vicente Del Bosque.

Reports out of Spain have Juan Mata on the outside looking in, and the Manchester United star played the first 45 hoping to change those thoughts.  Gerard Deulofeu got 10 minutes of time, and David Silva got around a half-hour as well. Spain held possession for 76% of the time, yata yata, nothing else to see here, carry on.

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Edin Dzeko bagged a brace against an Ivory Coast side missing plenty of key pieces.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 Ivory Coast

Two World Cup sides squaring off so close to the event is uncommon, but this pair of Brazil-bound squads met up in St. Louis for a warm-up.  Didier Drogba didn’t start but made the bench after recovering from minor groin surgery.

Both Toure brothers missed out, Kolo because of a case of malaria and Yaya thanks to minor surgery as well on an unspecified knock.  Other names on the Elephants’ bench include Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia, Salomon Kalou, and Wilfried Bony. None got into the match.

Star striker Edin Dzeko started for Bosnia and opened the scoring inside 20 minutes.  That wasn’t all from the Manchester City man, who doubled his total after halftime and secured his in-form status headed into the competition.

Drogba made it into the game and scored late, a fantastic sign for Ivory Coast going into their advance-able Group C alongside Colombia, Greece, and Japan.

Uruguay 1-0 Northern Ireland

With Luis Suarez still recovering from his meniscus operation, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan were the biggest names in Uruguay’s attack tonight, but it wasn’t until Forlan’s replacement Christian Stuani broke the scoreless deadlock in the 62nd minute that the South Americans asserted their supremacy.

Northern Ireland managed 43% possession, but couldn’t get a single shot off until the 85th minute, while Uruguay peppered Roy Carroll with 17 shots, five on target. Other starters for Uruguay included Premier League duo Diego Lugano and Gaston Ramirez.

Switzerland 1-0 Jamaica

Bayer Leverkusen striker Josip Drmic fired Switzerland through with just six minutes left as the Rossocrociati staved off pre-Cup disappointment.

Drmic, at just 21 years old, Drmic was used mainly as a garbage-time sub throughout qualification, but with the World Cup approaching, he’s piggy-backed onto a 17-goal season in the Bundesliga with goals in each of the two friendlies the Swiss have played this calendar year.  Look for his name in Brazil as his country looks to maintain its #1 seeding in Group E.

Chile 3-2 Egypt

With the Chileans preparing for a World Cup the Egyptians just barely missed out on, but the Brazil-bound South Americans fell down 2-0 early to Bob Bradley’s old side thanks to Mohamed Salah and Khaled Kamar netting inside 16 minutes.

Marcelo Diaz pulled Chile one-back, but things bogged down after that and La Roja – who weremissing star midfielder Arturo Vidal – had to wait until 15 minutes after halftime for Eduardo Vargas’s equalizer.  Finally, Vargas won it for Chile with a 78th minute strike, but nonetheless the start will worry Jorge Sampaoli.

Iran 1-1 Angola

Those picking Iran to struggle mightily at the big dance had their fears worsen today as they needed a second-half goal from Karim Ansarifard to salvage a 1-1 draw with 94th-ranked Angola.

Since beating Kuwait by a goal in March, Iran has gone winless in four matches, and things aren’t looking good for them in a strong group with Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Watch Live: Mexico vs. Russia, NZ vs. Portugal

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Group A comes to a close on Saturday, with a pair of spots in the semifinals on the line. The group is jam-packed at the top, with nobody confirmed on to the next round and only New Zealand eliminated.

Russia meets group-leaders Mexico at 11:00 a.m. ET in Kazan, with the hosts needing a win to advance, while a draw would complicate things for Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad. Mexico needs just a draw to confirm advancement.

WATCH LIVE: Mexico vs. Russia live online at Telemundo Deportes

Mexico has brought back its first-choice lineup for the final group stage match, with a number of rotations made in the near-disaster against New Zealand. However, Carlos Salcedo is out with a dislocated shoulder, bringing Nestor Araujo into the starting lineup. Hector Moreno starts despite his injury concerns.

On the other side, Portugal takes on New Zealand with a chance to win the group still intact. Portugal sits in second position currently, level with Mexico on both points and goal difference, but behind by one on goals scored. Should Portugal win and earn a greater goal difference or outscore Mexico by more than one, they would win the group.

WATCH LIVE: Portugal vs. New Zealand live online at Telemundo Deportes

Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal yet again, fresh off his match-winning goal against Russia. They see both full-backs rotated from that match, with Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric rotated for Eliseu and Nelson Semedo.

New Zealand has already been eliminated, without a point thus far in the competition despite a pair of spirited performances for the Group A underdogs.

LINEUPS

Mexico: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Layun, Araujo, Herrera, Guardado, J dos Santos, Hernandez, Lozano, Vela.

Russia: Akinfeev, Jikia, Kudryashov, Vasin, Glushakov, Erokhin, Bukharov, Samedov, Smolov, Zhirkov, Golovin.


Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Eliseu, Semedo, Moutinho, Pereira, B Silva, Quaresma, Ronaldo, A Silva.

New Zealand: Marinovic, Durante, Smith, Boxall, Doyle, Ingham, Rojas, Thomas, McGlinchey, Wood, Lewis.

Huddersfield breaks transfer record for first recruit

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Huddersfield Town’s first signing as a Premier League team has broken the club’s transfer record.

The newly promoted side snagged Belgian striker Laurent Depoitre from FC Porto, the club has confirmed. The 28-year-old had played in the Belgian ranks his entire career before trying his hand internationally, moving to Porto last summer. Unfortunately, he found playing time scarce, and has looked to the Premier League for a career revival.

“He is a proper striker,” said Huddersfield manager David Wagner. “One who has played for a very good Belgium side, featured in elite European competition and who has won domestic titles. It is great news that we have had the opportunity to sign a player of his quality and now we will focus on getting him back to the top form he showed only a season ago.”

Wagner also mentioned how Depoitre fits the “Terrier mentality” with a hard-working playing style.

The signing of Depoitre was at an undisclosed fee, but the club confirmed it broke the transfer record. Some reports tab the signing at around $6 million. That would far and away mark the highest fee paid by the club, with the previous record set last summer for German defender Christopher Schindler who arrived from 1860 Munich for around $2.2 million.

Still, that transfer record could be shattered again, with the club expected to announce the permanent signing of Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy for a reported $12.7 million.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lacazette to Arsenal, Aguero to PSG

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Things are beginning to truly heat up in the transfer market as we approach the official opening of the window. No serious domino has fallen yet, with the biggest signing so far proving to be Liverpool’s capture of Mohamed Salah.

Still, the big guns are taking aim, and the feel is that, while still needing some time, the bomb could drop at any moment. Here’s what’s making the rounds today:


Arsenal is being linked to several top-line forwards, many from Arsene Wenger‘s home country of France. One of them, Alexander Lacazette, could be progressing significantly.

According to The Guardian and the Telegraph, the Gunners are preparing a $56 million bid for the Lyon frontman, an amount which would prove to break the club transfer record. The report says Arsenal has spoken with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and “agreement is close” on a transfer fee.

The report also states that Lacazette is open to the idea of moving to Arsenal, although the lack of Champions League play would be a drawback. Nevertheless, with the degradation of his favored move to Atletico Madrid due ot the club’s transfer ban, Arsenal would still reportedly be a foreseeable destination.


Manchester City also has striker news; two of them, in fact. First, Sergio Aguero’s career continues to find itself shrouded in mystery. With Gabriel Jesus‘s explosion onto the Manchester City scene, Aguero can be nothing but unsure of his role in the team moving forward.

With the recent ultimatum from Italian midfielder Marco Verratti possibly serving as motivation, French giants Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing a massive bid to lure Aguero away from the Etihad. According to The Times, PSG is weighing a potential $76 million bid for the Argentinian. It’s no surprise that the bid would need to be massive to pry Aguero free. Not only has his goalscoring record proved vital to City in the past, but he has also stated multiple times he wishes to stay and fight for a first-team spot despite the arrival of Jesus.

The 28-year-old has a contract at Manchester City that runs through the summer of 2019, meaning if he is to be sold, time is running out for City to deal him.


Another Manchester City striker is in the news. With both Aguero and Jesus ahead of him, Kelechi Iheanacho has fallen from young gun to bench player. The 20-year-old has been looking for a new home, but things have bogged down because his parent club is insisting on a buy-back clause.

Iheanacho has been linked with both Watford and West Ham, with the pair of clubs both heavily in the market for a new striker. Leicester City has also reportedly been in the mix for Iheanacho. According to The Telegraph, Manchester City realizes that they may be letting a significant talent leave the club, and they’d like to give themselves the option of bringing him back. That will obviously lower the asking price considerably, but could be a benefit in the future.


One bit of completed business, former Premier League striker Victor Anichebe has completed a move to China, where he has joined second-tier club Beijing Enterprises Group.

Anichebe was with relegated Sunderland as recently as last season, but failed to make an impression and also saw his time hampered by injuries. The Chinese club he has joined is the club of late Ivorian Chieck Tiote, who passed away last week during training.

Marco Verratti crushes teammates in PSG ultimatum

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When asked if he wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, Marco Verratti gave an answer sure to turn the heads of his teammates in the French capital.

Transfer rumors have swirled around the Italian midfielder all summer, and he finally addressed the situation in Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. When asked if he wanted to leave, Verratti said he’d like to stay, but if he is to do so, the club must come through in the transfer window.

“It’s not that I want to go at all costs,” Verratti said. “It’s just I want to see if they really do build a great squad this time. In that case, I would be happy to stay.”

“Each year they say they are going to build a great squad, but we’ve seen the results. Promises are not enough. If, on the other hand, this time PSG with [sporting director Antero] Henrique stick to what they say, then I will be absolutely happy to stay. At the end of the day, nobody is forcing me to leave.”

It’s one thing for a player to say he thinks the club needs reinforcements in the summer, but Veratti goes all in here. For the Italian to claim that promises had been broken and good players were not brought in, that’s a ruthless aside to his current teammates.

Media reports have linked Verratti with a move away from Parc de Princes all summer. The 24-year-old has been most heavily linked with Barcelona, although clubs like Bayern Munich and Chelsea have been mentioned. According to a number of reports, Verratti turned down a new PSG contract as recently as last week in a meeting with the sporting director.