2014 World Cup team preview: Bosnia

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Getting to know… Bosnia: The tiny nation has only been a full FIFA member since 1995 and they have been on the up and up in recent years but were knocked out by Portugal in playoffs for both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. After qualifying for the tournament in Brazil, Bosnia have reached their first-ever major tournament as a nation. A strong core of players including Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic should see them give a very good account of themselves this summer.

Record in qualifying: Bosnia finished top of their group in UEFA qualifying, as they won eight of their ten games in Group G. They beat Greece to the automatic spot on goal differential and only lost once the entire campaign. They scored 30 goals and let in just six as Dzeko’s status as a national hero in Bosnian was reinforced by his goalscoring exploits in qualifying.

Which group are they in? They are in Group F alongside red-hot favorites Argentina, Iran and Nigeria. Bosnia will be hoping their first-ever World Cup appearance will yield a trip to at least the last 16 stage. Many favor the Bosnian side to cause some huge upsets and you would expect them to battle it out for second spot in the group.

Game schedule:

15 June, 18:00, Rio de Janeiro – Argentina vs. Bosnia

21 June, 15:00, Curitiba – Nigeria vs. Bosnia

25 June, 12:00, Salvador – Bosnia vs. Iran

Star player: Edin Dzeko

The bustling striker heads to the World Cup fresh off winning the Premier League title with Man City and Dzeko played a huge part in that with key goals late in the campaign. Overall he scored 26 goals for the Citizens and his power in the air and incredible hold up play makes him a key cog in Bosnia’s machine. Not many defenders can out-muscle Dzeko and he has a knack of popping up in the right place at the right time, as all good strikers seem to do. If they can get him the ball regularly, the big Bosnian will finish.

Manager: Safet Susic

A manager with plenty of experience, 59-year-old Susic has mainly managed in Turkey after his long playing career with Paris Saint-Germain and FK Sarajevo. He played for Yugoslavia for 13 years but also appeared for Bosnia after the war in 1993 before they became an official FIFA nation. Susic has been at the helm since 2009 and has won 24 of his 42 games in charge. He encourages Bosnia to attack but they are also extremely solid defensively. We saw that in their 1-0 World Cup warm up win against Mexico.

Secret weapon: An unknown quantity

It seems silly in this day and age, but not many people know about the player possess. With guys like former St. Louis University star Vedad Ibisevic and many others working their way up through the European leagues, this will be the first time they have experienced the World Cup and the biggest stage of all. There could be nerves but they could also feel no pressure and exceed everyone’s expectations.

Prediction: Bosnia are a well-organized and with their tough mentality, many teams won’t relish playing against them in the World Cup. They could easily make it out of their group and then who knows? Ultimately, this is their first World Cup so anything other than getting embarrassed in the group stage is an achievement.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.