Five World Cup teams were in action this afternoon with the 1-1 draw between Italy and Luxembourg headlining the results followed closely behind by the 2-2 draw between England and Ecuador. Elsewhere, Algeria showed some nice grit in a 2-1 win over Romania while the Netherlands dumped out a Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale-less Wales side 2-0.
The matches served as a pre-cursor to tonight’s fixtures when Argentina takes on Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay plays Slovenia, Chile faces off against Northern Ireland and Ivory Coast meets El Salvador.
Here’s an expanded rundown of this afternoon’s results.
Italy 1 Luxembourg 1: Maxine Chanot denied Italy their first win in seven matches when the Luxembourg defender headed the equalizer past Gianluigi Buffon with five minutes to play. The Azzurri jumped out to an early lead through Claudio Marchisio’s 9th minute goal but were unable to capitalize in the 2nd half, twice striking the woodwork. It was a worrying performance for Cesare Prandelli’s side, made up largely of first-team players including Mario Balotelli, who couldn’t find the back of the net despite his five shots.
England 2-2 Ecuador: In an open and entertaining match, a searing shot by Ecuador forward Michael Antonio Arroyo Mina in the 70th minute ensured a share of the spoils on a muggy day in Miami. La Tri opened the scoring just eight minutes into the match when Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after some poor defending by Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw. A scuffle in the box then saw Wayne Rooney level for England in the 29th minute before a sensational 51st minute strike by Rickie Lambert was cancelled out by Mina’s howitzer from the top of the box. Antonio Valenica and Raheem Sterling were sent off with 11 minutes to play when the latter came through the United winger, who reacted angrily by strangling the English youngster.
Algeria 2-1 Romania: Algeria and Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb and Romania’s Alexandru Chipciu exchanged early goals before the two sides were removed from the pitch in the 43rd minute following fans throwing lit flares and bottles. After a 15 minute break the two squads returned to the pitch and in the 66th minute Algeria forward El Arabi Soudani nailed the winner that triggered 15 fans to run on the pitch at Switzerland’s Stade de Geneve.
Netherlands 2-0 Wales: It was a comfortable win for the Netherlands, who received a goal from Arjen Robben and Jeremain Lens in each half of play. The real story, however, was Dutch striker Robin van Persie, fresh off recovering from a knee injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks, sparked injury concerns when he was withdrawn at halftime after struggling with fitness.
Manchester City have confirmed that new striker Gabriel Jesus is available to play against Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
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Jesus, 19, agreed to move from Palmerias in the summer for $35 million but remained with the Brazilian side for the rest of their season as he was their to scorer en route to them winning the league title.
After a few weeks training at City he is now registered in the squad and ready to feature for Pep Guardiola‘s side to help them claw back the 10-point gap between themselves and current Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Jesus scored 28 goals in 85 games in all competitions for Palmerias and has shown great promise for the Brazilian national team, scoring four goals in his first six appearances for the Selecao in 2016.
Speaking about his arrival at City, Jesus is looking to hit the ground running.
“I want to win titles and Manchester City is a club that is used to winning,” Jesus said. “City is a Club that always competes for the title in the competitions it enters, so that was an important factor, and because of the manager, Guardiola, and the squad.”
Jesus has arrived at the perfect time to give an ailing City side a boost.
On the back of their 4-0 drubbing at Everton last weekend (City’s worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever in the league as a manager) they need to beat Tottenham this weekend to keep alive any hopes of winning the title. City can’t afford any more slipups and their defensive unit has to improve.
Going forward Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling David Silva and Sergio Aguero have been in good form for most of the season, but adding Jesus will bring competition and Kelechi Iheanacho will also be pushing him all the way for minutes.
Many would like to see Aguero given some help up to and maybe Jesus can start alongside him in the weeks and months to come?
We all saw just how good Jesus can be during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Now he has all eyes on him as he prepares to make his long-awaited debut against Tottenham.
Kaka is enjoying life in Florida.
The former Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to stay with Orlando City SC beyond the end of his contract, which runs its course after the 2017 season.
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Kaka has been very good for the Lions, scoring 19 goals and 15 assists in 53 total matches. Reports had said he’s skip town after the third year of the deal, but Kaka refutes that idea.
“A misunderstanding because I am very happy here,” Kaká told reporters at MLS Media Day on Tuesday. “I had a three year contract, so this is the last year under this contract, but my idea is to stay here.
“Of course we never know what can happen at the end of the season or during the season, but my idea for now is to stay in Orlando and stay in the league.”
Kaka turns 35 in April, but has been consistently good even if injuries kept him to 24 MLS contests last season. If he puts forth a similar season, there’s little reason for Orlando — or another team — not to take a chance on Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.
Gabriel Jesus could go straight into Manchester City’s starting lineup.
The 19-year-old Brazilian has finally been cleared to suit up for the English side after finishing a title-winning campaign with Palmeiras.
With four goals in six caps for the Brazil national team and an Olympic gold medal with their U-23 side, Jesus is among the hottest prospects in the world.
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City is struggling, and the fresh injection of attacking talent could be music to the ears of boss Pep Guardiola (who, fun fact, celebrates his 46th birthday today).
From the Manchester Evening News:
“He’s a great player. Going to Europe is a good thing for a player. He will grow quicker, he will start to understand football in another way and also be respected inside the football scene.
“I guess that for Gabriel Jesus it was a good thing to leave Brazilian soccer, he did everything he had could in [Brazil]. He’s going to a very difficult, competitive [type of football] but I think that he can be successful.”
Jesus had 21 goals in 46 matches this season with Palmeiras.
The pressure at Real Madrid can be overwhelming, and the players who thrive there generally have thick skin and short memories.
They also take losses pretty seriously.
That goes for the manager as well, as both Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and Casemiro have reacted to Real’s third-straight non-win in serious fashion.
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Remember, this is coming after the first match of the “slump” — a 3-3 draw with Sevilla — was the final match of a world record 40-match unbeaten run.
Casemiro, whose record in the Real Madrid lineup is as good as anyone’s, said this (via Marca):
“Yes, it’s worrying to lose again,” he said just after the full-time whistle. “Real Madrid aren’t ever allowed to lose. The defeat against Sevilla has hurt us.”
And if you want to tell Casemiro to relax, that only one of those matches was in league play and the club still leads the table by a point with a match-in-hand on nearly everyone… well… enter Zidane.
“I’m the one responsible and I must find the solution,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I wasn’t surprised by the way Celta played, as we knew that they’re a team that can really hurt you. I’m not worried, although it’s a bad moment. We know that we can overcome it and we are going to overcome it.”
I’m far from a Real Madrid fan, and you can credit Florentino Perez’s ideas and the hanky-waving fans for a lot of that, but it’s impossible not admire how seriously Real takes the business of winning. And maybe, just maybe, the fan and board expectations occasionally help the squad.