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.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.