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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.

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday