International friendly roundup: Top teams continue to struggle as Germany, France both draw

1 Comment

Already this weekend Portugal struggled with Greece, Russia drew Norway, Italy finished scoreless with Ireland, Colombia drew Senegal, and Chile needed a miraculous comeback to beat Egypt.

For many countries expecting to make serious noise at the World Cup, not everything is going as planned in the run-up to the competition.

Today, more teams faltered as Germany drew with Cameroon and France was held by Paraguay.

Here’s a roundup of all the international friendlies today:

Germany 2-2 Cameroon

Young Erik Durm received glowing reports with Joachim Löw still to name his final 23 for Germany, but the rest of the squad left much to be desired as their central midfield has suddenly become a huge problem for the European powerhouses.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira are both below 100% physically, and it showed as those two struggled to cover for defenders. In addition, it’s affecting their attack. “We seem to need a lot of chances to score,” Löw said after the match.

Mesut Ozil was also not effective in the attack, and was replaced by Lukas Podolski for the second half.

Samuel Eto’o scored and poked fun at Jose Mourinho with his celebration, while Thomas Mueller and Andre Schurrle bagged goals for Germany. All the goals came in the second half within 16 minutes of one another, as Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting rounded out the scoring.

This result, alongside their last match – a 0-0 draw with Poland – should give Germany fans some cause for worry heading into Brazil.

source: AP
Despite their inability to finish on the day, Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud are developing a fearsome strike partnership for France.

France 1-1 Paraguay

A pair of goals in the final 10 minutes proved the only goals as France dominated Paraguay but could only muster the draw. Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy were bright in combination, setting each other up and proving reason for Group E to fear their pairing.

However, despite Real Sociedad striker Antoine Griezmann breaking through for his first international goal on just his third cap, the hosts conceded late Victor Cacares equalized with a set-piece header to send the French home disappointed.

France were rocked before the match by news that Franck Ribery could potentially miss the World Cup with a back injury, but Didier Deschamps looked to ease those fears saying the injury is not as serious as the media made it out to be.

Griezmann has taken Ribery’s place on the wing and performed well, so if it turns out Bayern Munich’s star is unable to go, France shouldn’t be too downtrodden.

Belgium 2-0 Sweden

One team that did take care of business was Belgium, who picked up goals from expected sources Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard en route to a 2-0 victory over an Ibrahimovic-less Sweden.

Lukaku bagged a howitzer into the top corner, a beauty of a goal, while Hazard’s was of a lower degree of difficulty after a beautiful flick by Kevin de Bruyne.unlocked the Sweden defense, and Hazard finished the chance in space.

Chelsea’s Lukaku is in outstanding form, coming off a brilliant season with Everton and scoring a hat trick against Luxembourg last Monday.

Honduras 2-4 Israel

Yet another World Cup team with a sub-par performance, Honduras found themselves fighting from behind all match, and a cracking goal from Roger Espinoza wasn’t enough to help Honduras feel any better about giving up four to Israel.

Eran Zehavi started things out for Israel, and they also got goals from Gil Vermouth, Omer Damari, and an own goal from Maynor Figueroa. Carlos Costly rounded things out for Honduras.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
Leave a comment

Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms

Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
1 Comment

PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.