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2014 World Cup Team Preview: Portugal

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Getting to know… Portugal: In the year their nation lost its legend, Portugal turns to its present superstar to try and replicate Eusebio’s success at the 1966 World Cup. That year, Portugal finished third in the tournament behind Eusebio’s tournament-high nine goals. Since then, Portugal endured a 32-year period with just one qualification before being shocked by the United States (amongst other teams) in 2002’s group stage. A fourth-place finish in 2006 was met by a Round of 16 loss in 2010 heading into this tournament.

Record in qualifying: Suffice it to say they almost blew it. Portugal went 6W-3D-1L in UEFA’s Group F, finishing second to Russia and putting Ronaldo and company into a playoff against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden. Portugal drew Israel and Northern Ireland at home, and a win in either of those games jumps them over Russia for automatic qualification.

What group are they in? Group G with Ghana, Germany and the United States

Game schedule: Group G

16 June, 13:00, Salvador – Germany vs. Portugal
22 June, 19:00, Manaus – United States vs. Portugal
26 June, 13:00, Brasilia – Portugal vs. Ghana

Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Well, duh. Ronaldo scored all four of Portugal’s goals in their qualification playoff against Sweden (Ibrahimovic scored both of Sweden’s markers). If he’s not the best player in the tournament, he’s 1b or 1c at worst. He’s magic on the ball and the key to any hopes for the Portuguese faithful.

Manager: Paulo Bento

At just 44, Bento may have come close to missing the World Cup, but he also led Portugal to the semifinals of Euro 2012. He’s a smart boss who led Sporting CP to wins in 61% of his games in charge before leaving for the national team. Does he have the player ammo to emerge from Group G?

source: APSecret weapon: Raul Meireles

The Fenerbahce star, 31, is the same fiery former Chelsea and Liverpool guy you recall from his Premier League days and can keep opposing stars in check. He also carries the ability to draw and earn cards, so he’ll be absolutely necessary to Portugal’s chances to emerge from Group G.

Prediction: Ronaldo will find a way to take his shirt off in the highest profile of ways. In fact, if he was bleedy profusely from his knee, I bet he’d rip off his shirt and flex while tying the tourniquet. As far as Group G, the Portuguese should find their way into the next round, second to Germany. It’s not that the United States nor Ghana have little chance of stopping Ronaldo, but watching what he did against Sweden shows that a determined C-Ron is remarkably difficult to stop.

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.