Will Messi and Aguero lead Argentina to World Cup success?

Will a South American team win the World Cup?

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Will a South American team win the 2014 World Cup? The short answer: yes.

The long answer? Yes.

Ok, it’s not a certainty that a team from South America will wind up hoisting the trophy. There are no certainties when it comes to international soccer, except for the fact that when Brazil is involved, commentators will inevitably mention “samba.” But the continent has hosted the World Cup four times, with a South American country winning each time. South American nations have also won all three tournaments played in North America.

Of course, it can also be argued that this sort of split is sure to disappear with time. In the past, players weren’t used to such extensive travel. It was difficult to adjust to foreign conditions, foreign foods, foreign temperatures. But now that the vast majority of the world’s best players are hopping planes every couple weeks, and many associations have the means to begin preparations early in custom-built training camps, the home-continent advantage might soon be a thing of the past.

Still, the chances of this Cup going to a South American team are still rather high. Of FIFA’s top ten teams, four of them are from the continent. The rankings system may be a bit flawed, but the talent is still evident.

Ecuador
La Tri may have beaten Uruguay to the final automatic qualification spot, but they’re still the weakest side on the continent. Oh, and in Switzerland and France, they’ve got two very tough sides to beat should they want to make it out of Group E (they can probably make it past Honduras, however). Their strength lies in their wingers – Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia – but wide play alone isn’t going to cause Ecuador to make a deep run.

Uruguay
Wait, are Uruguay really the fifth-worst side in South America? Perhaps not. But they head to this tournament with fifteen of the same players that went to South Africa, and their age is starting to show. If Luis Suárez isn’t fully fit, it’s difficult to see the 35-year-old Diego Forlán shouldering much of the scoring burden. They’ve still got Edinson Cavani, but the forward had a rather poor season at PSG. Basically, they’re relying on dramatic goals from Suárez to gloss over a lack of shininess elsewhere.

Chile
Attacking, free-flowing, fun-loving soccer. This Chile side also features two world-class players, in Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sánchez.  This side has its own weaknesses in defense, but it’s certainly capable of pipping Netherlands to second place in Group B. In fact, their style could even catch the heavily-favored Spain off guard. They’re not one of the most talked-about teams on the continent, but they should be.

Colombia
Colombia’s odds of lifting the World Cup diminished significantly with the news that Radamel Falcao wouldn’t be making the trip to Brazil. But to count out los cafeteros would be foolish. They’ve still got an incredibly talented creator in Monaco’s James Rodríguez, and Teófilo Gutiérrez, of River Plate, is rather good at scoring. Colombia should still be tipped to make it out of the group, and could very well find themselves in the quarter-finals.

Argentina
Argentina have a shaky defense and a goalkeeper that made all of three appearances for Monaco this season. Why are they being named as one of the sides most likely to win the tournament? Here are four reasons: Ángel di María, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and Lionel Messi. Coach Alejandro Sabella has Messi playing the best he ever has for the albiceleste, putting to rest the worry that Messi would never be good for his country. And when the Barcelona man combines with the rest of that attack…well, who needs a defense?

Brazil
Don’t underestimate home-field advantage. The host team has won the tournament six times: Uruguay ’30, Italy ’34, England ’66, West Germany ’74, Argentina ’78, France ’98. And Brazil have lifted the Cup five times: ’58, ’62, ’70, ’94, ’02. Put those two together and you have an easy equation for predicting that Brazil will win in 2014. Plus, the Seleção have an incredibly talented squad, one that’s ready to attack without mercy. If Neymar’s at his best, it’s likely Brazil will be unstoppable.

Then again, the last time the World Cup came to town, in 1950, Brazil needed only a draw to emerge as World Champions. They ended up losing to Uruguay.

Update on Hull’s Ryan Mason after he suffered a fractured skull

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Ryan Mason of Hull City lies injured after the collision with Gary Cahill of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Hull City have released an update as to the status of midfielder Ryan Mason.

[ MORE: Pulisic signs new deal ]

The 25-year-old was injured in an aerial collision with Gary Cahill during Hull City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday and it has been revealed that he fractured his skull.

Mason is currently at St Mary’s hospital in central London receiving treatment and he and his family have been visited by John Terry, Cahill and assistant manager Steve Holland of Chelsea.

Here’s what Hull had to say early on Monday about Mason’s current condition as he recovers from surgery.

The Club can confirm that Ryan has been visited this morning at St Mary’s Hospital by Club Captain Michael Dawson, Club Doctor Mark Waller, Head of Medical Rob Price and Club Secretary Matt Wild. Ryan has been speaking of the incident yesterday and will continue to be monitored at the hospital over the coming days where the Club will remain in close contact with Ryan, his family and the staff at St Mary’s.

Ryan and his family have also been extremely touched by the overwhelming support they have received  and would very much like to thank all of those who have posted such positive comments both on social media and in the press over the last 24 hours.

Tributes have poured in for Mason from across the soccer world following the horror injury after what looked like an innocuous aerial challenge with Cahill.

USMNT’s Christian Pulisic extends deal at Dortmund

Dortmund's Mario Goetze, left, celebrates with Christian Pulisic after scoring the first goal of his team during the Champions League Group F soccer match between Legia Warsaw and Dortmund at Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
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U.S. national team star Christian Pulisic has signed a new deal at Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic, 18, has extended his stay at the Westfalenstadion until 2020 and his new contract will end speculation surrounding his future at the Bundesliga giants.

In the past two transfer windows Pulisic has been linked with a move to the Premier League with Liverpool reportedly interested in his services but the young playmaker will remain with Thomas Tuchel’s side for the foreseeable future.

This season he has made 19 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions, scoring twice, and has become a regular started in the UEFA Champions League.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania native continues to be one of the most coveted young stars on the planet and after rising rapidly through the youth ranks at Dortmund he will continue to develop in a team which is renowned for not only giving talented youngsters a chance to shine but also nurturing them.

Pulisic has scored three goals in 11 appearances for the USMNT and will be a key part of Bruce Arena’s team in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March.


Wayne Rooney wants to remain at Man United, for now

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LONDON — Wayne Rooney became Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer on Saturday but his 250th goal for the Red Devils has inevitably thrown up plenty of questions about his future at Old Trafford.

[ VIDEO: Rooney’s best goals for United ]

Rooney, 31, was honored by the Football Writers’ Association at a tribute dinner in London on Sunday at the Savoy Hotel and spoke at length about his future with reports continuing to link him with a big-money move to China in the coming months and his manager Jose Mourinho saying the club won’t stand in his way if he wants to move on.

[ MORE: World reacts to Rooney’s record ]

Speaking with Sky Sports before the event Rooney revealed that although he isn’t happy at only playing a bit-part role at United this season under Mourinho, he is happy to stay at the club.

“I’m committed,” Rooney said. “I have been at the club for a long time. Football is a strange game. Anything can happen and things change very quickly but I am happy at Manchester United. Of course, as I have said before, I want to play more games. I am in a happy place, a good moment personally, so I think I have a year, with an option year to go. We will see what happens and what happens after that.”

Before going on stage to accept his award at the glitzy event, former England manager Roy Hodgson and current West Bromwich Albion captain (and Rooney’s long-time United teammate) Darren Fletcher spoke about the striker glowingly.

Rooney, now the all-time leading goalscorer for both England and United, posed for photos and signed autographs all night long.

He seemed overwhelmed with the award and it capped off a crazy 24 hours which saw him break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record to become United’s all-time leading scorer, celebrate the first birthday of his youngest child and then head to London for the tribute dinner alongside his wife Coleen.

Speaking to the FWA members (which included yours truly) and guests, Rooney also called for the media and players to come closer together in the future to help out the English national team.

“The media is a massive part of football and I’ve seen firsthand since I’ve become captain of Manchester United and England,” Rooney said. “I’ve recognized it has had a huge influence on the game and the players and especially the young English players because they are the ones who have to go out and perform. It’s tough. I also feel like it is sometimes a bit unfair. The one thing I think, for me, that should happen is we need to realize and the media need to realize that at this moment in time there is a huge gap between the media and the players. I think the quicker the media and players can come together and meet in the middle, then the better it is for English football.”

Much has been said about Rooney throughout his career but you cannot deny his quality and supreme goalscoring ability which will see him go down as a legendary figure for both England and Manchester United.

If he doesn’t end up in China in the not so distant future, he will have offers flooding in from the rest of the world.

MLS: Le Toux to join D.C., Timbers set to acquire Myers and more

Sebastien Le Toux, Tony Beltran
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Two teams are set to bring in experienced players ahead of the new season, while another veteran has said his goodbye to his former club.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

D.C. United has reportedly signed veteran forward Sebastian Le Toux after spending last season with the Philadelphia Union and the Colorado Rapids.

According to SB Nation’s Black and Red United, Le Toux has inked a one-year deal with D.C. United. Le Toux has scored 57 goals in his time in MLS, with 50 of those goals coming with the Union.

Le Toux has also previously played for the New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders.


Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers are reportedly set to sign long-time Sporting KC defender Chance Myers, who spent the last nine seasons with the Western Conference side.

The 29-year-old had made 147 appearances for Sporting KC since joining MLS, while adding two goals over that span.


Dax McCarty posted a heartfelt message to New York Red Bulls fans, players and staff following the veteran’s move to the Chicago Fire.

The midfielder was recently traded to the Eastern Conference side after the spending the last five-and-half years with the Red Bulls, where McCarty served as the team’s captain.