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.

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.

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”

Rob Harris is at and

2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Who will win MLS Cup? ]

Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

Arsenal AGM: Wenger’s future; points target to win title set

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on October 2, 2016 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Mystery continues to shroud Arsene Wenger‘s future as Arsenal manager.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

The Frenchman, who celebrated his 67th birthday on Saturday and 20 years in charge of Arsenal earlier this month, has yet to decide if he will remain in charge at the Emirates Stadium beyond this season.

Wenger’s current contract runs out next summer and at the club AGM on Monday it was revealed no talks have been held between the manager and directors about a new deal.

Key figures such as majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, chairman Sir Chips Keswick and Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis spoke, as well as Wenger himself who didn’t address his future and instead talked about the points target Arsenal must reach to win the Premier League this season.

Via Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, who was at Wenger’s AGM, below are some of the key quotes which surfaced.

Overall, the mood of this AGM was much more relaxed compared to previous years where many shareholders called for Wenger to leave and/or Arsenal to send more money amid a lack of success on the pitch.

Wenger on how he sees Arsenal’s title chances

“We have gone through periods where we had more selling of players. The amount of selling was a big part of our income. I think we have survived quite well that period. Now, in the last three or four years, we have reinforced by strengthening. We are much more competitive today than five or six years ago to fight for the championship. After nine games, the first trend is set. It is about 20 points which means the championship will be certainly decided at 82 to 86 points. Our challenge is to compete for absolutely everything. I think we have the squad of the first time that is more mature and better equipped for to compete for all the challenges. I am absolutely committed to give my best.”

Chairman Sir Chips Keswick on Wenger’s future

“We will sit down and discuss Arsene’s future at the appropriate time. We all recognize the fantastic contribution Arsene Wenger has made. He continues to have huge energy passion and desire. We are confident in his ability to take us forward. Our current focus is continuing our strong run and competing for trophies.”

Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke on Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal

“One of the main reasons we got involved is the values and traditions of the club and no one has represented them better than Arsene. You have always shown dedication, commitment and energy. You brought a new style to English football and our club. Amid a world subject to great scrutiny and pressure, you have always handled yourself with great class. We are excited about the club and season. We know we will compete for trophies and we would like nothing better than to see you win the Championship.”

Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis on Ozil and Sanchez’s future

“We have a good track record in recent seasons of retaining players as a result of a lot of hard work. I can’t get into discussion on individual players but can say we will apply the same diligence and focus to our existing squad. I think you can see our direction of travel.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool applauds the fans following their team's 2-1 victory during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 22, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of your title talk.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

After Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Saturday at Anfield and Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all dropped points this weekend, plenty of people are talking up Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

With nine games of the season gone, Liverpool sit joint-top with Arsenal and Man City on 20 points with Chelsea and Tottenham just behind them on 19 points.

It is tight at the top but whatever people are saying, Klop isn’t bothered.

“I don’t care. It is normal in football that when you are in a good position people start talking a little more positive. I don’t recognize so much what everyone is saying about us but of course I recognize the mood, I said it already, around LFC it is good. But we are still in October… unfortunately. There is a long way to go,” Klopp said. “Nothing to say about this. Hopefully you can ask these questions through the whole season and everything is good but at the moment I have no answer for it. It is good up until now. Not more but good. Let’s carry on.”

Liverpool’s attack has been mightily impressive this season with the fluid movement of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ripping teams apart. Klopp’s side are the highest scorers with 20 goals thus far but the one issues many have about them being genuine title contender is their defensive play. Klopp’s side have kept just one clean sheet in their nine PL games so far this season and they’ve conceded the most goals in the top six.

Klopp’s right, there’s a long way to go. But plenty are also correct to be positive about this Liverpool team.

Challenging for the PL title this season may just be beyond them but securing a top four finish certainly isn’t. Klopp is pushing Liverpool in the right direction. Any of us can see that, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.