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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.

Spurs’ Bentaleb off to Schalke on loan, joining PSG’s Stambouli

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Nabil Bentaleb of Spurs U21 looks on during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Leicester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspurs U21 at The King Power Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Schalke’s quest to rejoin Germany’s elite was buttressed by a pair of interesting pickups on Thursday.

The Royal Blues have added Benjamin Stambouli from Paris Saint-Germain and Nabil Bentaleb from Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bentaleb deal is a loan, as the oft-injured attacker looks to shake off his underperforming reputation. The 21-year-old has 19 caps and three goals for Algeria.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints ]

Stambouli joins on a four-year deal. A defensive midfielder, Stambouli left Spurs for PSG last year and made 27 appearances for the French champions.

The side nabbed high-profile prospect Breel Embolo earlier this offseason, and should be a problem for most opposing sides when the season begins this weekend.

Schalke finished in fifth place last Bundesliga season, and brings back captain Benedikt Howedes and Olympic star Max Meyer.

Ranking toughness of UCL groups for Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City

Kompany and City's defense struggled to contain Messi and Barca in the first half.
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Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all entered the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and they found out their fate on Thursday following the draw in Monaco.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

Right now Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs will be feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to the UCL’s Round of 16. As for Man City, boy, it will be a tough route through the group stage once again for them.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins top award ]

Below is a look at the toughness of the group stage draw for all four PL teams.


GROUP G: Leicester City, FC Porto, Club Brugge, Copenhagen

Their first-ever season in the UCL, the draw could not have gone any better for reigning PL champs Leicester in terms of their dreams of advancing. Claudio Ranieri‘s side have FC Porto, who will be a very tough test, but in Club Brugge and Copenhagen they drew two of the easier teams they could have faced. Overall, this is not a tough group especially when you see the full draw. Looks like the fairytale for the Foxes will go deep in the Champions League this season. Toughness ranking: 3/10


GROUP A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Arsenal will fancy their chances against PSG and when it comes to FC Basel and Ludrogorets they will expect to take two wins from each of these teams. But this is Arsenal so they’ll probably need a 3-0 win in their last group game to make the knockout rounds… Seriously, though, Arsene Wenger will be a relieved man to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Barelona in the group stage but Arsenal’s games against PSG will be pivotal in their chances of getting a good draw in the last 16. Overall, could’ve been a lot tougher. Toughness ranking: 4/10


GROUP C: FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchendgladbach, Celtic

It just had to happen for Pep Guardiola, didn’t it? He will return to the Nou Camp in his debut season at City to face his beloved Barcelona and Man City’s fans will be sick of the sight of Lionel Messi and Co. after they knocked them out of the competition in two of the last three seasons. That said, there will be two magnificent games between the giants with Barca the favorites to win the UCL this season. As for Monchengladbach, they are quietly a very strong team and even Celtic (who famously beat Barca in the group stage in 2012) will provide a tough challenge for City at Celtic Park in the away game. All in all, couldn’t have been tougher for City but they will likely squeeze through with Barca to the Round of 16.

Toughness ranking: 8/10


GROUP E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco

Maurcio Pochettino’s side will be grinning like a Cheshire cat with this draw. Arguably it is even easier than Leicester’s with CSKA Moscow perennial strugglers in the UCL, plus German side Bayer Leverkusen very beatable and Spurs have done well against Monaco in the Europa League recently. Overall, if Spurs don’t win this group they will be very disappointed. A great draw for the north London club. Toughness ranking: 3/10


Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal kisses the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after their 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League.

Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy.

Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title coming in 2014.

Previous winners of this prestigious award, which takes into account the form of the player both for this club team in Europe and also for his national team, include Messi (the only other player to win the award twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery.

UEFA Champions League group stage: Premier League teams learn their fate

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  The  UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Premier League teams got off very lightly, overall, in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday as reigning Leicester City were handed a very comfy group of opponents in Group G with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, as were Tottenham Hotspur who were placed in Group E with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

Arsenal also got a very decent draw with Paris Saint-Germain, FC Basel and Ludogorets in Group A, but Manchester City once again got a very tough draw at the group stage along with FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in Group C.

[ MORE: Full UCL schedule

Reigning champs Real Madrid have been drawn in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid drawn together in Group D.

Below is the group stage draw in full with the opening group games to take place on Sept. 13/14 and a further five group games taking place — each team plays one another home and away — between September and December. The knockout stages then begin in February 2017 ahead of the UCL final in Cardiff, Wales on June 3, 2017.

You can click on the link above for the full schedule for group games.


GROUP A
Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal
FC Basel
Ludogorets

GROUP B
Benfica
Napoli
Dynamo Kiev
Besiktas

GROUP C
FC Barcelona
Manchester City
Borussia Monchendgladbach
Celtic

GROUP D
Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven
Rostov

GROUP E
CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen
Tottenham Hotspur
Monaco

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Sporting Lisbon
Legia Warsaw

GROUP G
Leicester City
FC Porto
Club Brugge
Copenhagen

GROUP H
Juventus
Sevilla
Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb