World Cup Preview Group B: Reigning Spain meets Chile, Netherlands, Australia

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Reigning Spain will meet anything but plain teams in Group B.

A loaded group with stars to burn — Arjen Robben doesn’t even make our Top Five players for the bunch — Group B should provide a bunch of terrific games. Australia is the afterthought of the four, but anything could happen and a Socceroos upset behind Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak would provide an even wilder card.

Let’s take another look at Group B (click on country name for full preview)

Spain: Loaded, as usual. The only question is whether they’ll adjust to the hemispheric chance right away in what is the likely the last go-round for a group of legendary Spaniards that includes Xavi, David Villa and Xabi Alonso.

Netherlands: Never rule out a team with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Robben, though it can be tempting. Can they turn back the clocks of time past 2012’s Euro struggles to the World Cup final run of 2010? Can they avoid murdering each other in training?

Chile: Look out for La Roja. Their only losses since March 2013 are to Brazil and Germany, with both matches played far from South America. The fan expectation will be getting out of the group, but is that fair?

Australia: Can Jedinak and Cahill skipper the Socceroos out of the round? Doubtful, but everyone loves an underdog.

Who’s going through: Spain and Chile. Especially given the South American locale, I wouldn’t sleep on the Chileans to spring a surprise and win the group.

Who’s going home: Australia and the Netherlands. Call it a shock if you will, but Holland is without its maestro in Kevin Strootman and is fresh off a major disappointment at Euro 2012. The Davy Klaassen-era is next, but he’s not even on this roster.

Marquee match: With apologies to the 2010 World Cup final rematch between the Dutch and Spain, Match 36 will pit Chile and the Netherlands against each other and is arguably for the right to advance. Both clubs will have played Spain, which will be finishing off its group stage against Australia.

Top players to watch:

5. David Silva, Spain

4. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

3. Arturo Vidal, Chile

2. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

1. Andres Iniesta, Spain

UCL Playoff Wrap: Liverpool, Sporting CP, CSKA advance to group stage

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It was another memorable European night for Liverpool in front of the Kop at Anfield.

Lifted by three goals in the opening 21 minutes, the Reds cruised to a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim 1899 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League playoff stage Wednesday evening. With the win, Liverpool returns to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

[ MORE: Champions League scores ]

Sadio Mane set up Emre Can twice and both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino chipped in with goals of their own to lead Liverpool to victory. After Can’s double and Salah’s goal gave Liverpool a three-goal lead, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann brought Mark Uth off the bench onto the field and he promptly scored in the 28th minute to draw within two.

Firmino again put Liverpool ahead by three goals with a goal into an open net in the 63rd minute. Hoffenheim recorded a consolation goal in the 79th minute through Sandro Wagner but Liverpool was resolute and held on for victory.

Liverpool, and the rest of the winning clubs, will learn their fates for the group stage on Thursday.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Champions League playoff scores:

Slavia Prague 0-0 APOEL (APOEL advances 2-0 on aggregate)

FC Copenhagen 2-1 Qarabag FK (Qarabag advances on away goals, 2-2 on aggregate)

FCSB (Steaua București) 1-5 Sporting CP (Sporting CP advances 5-1 on aggregate)

CSKA Moscow 2-0 BSC Young Boys (CSKA advances on aggregate, 3-0)

VIDEO: A sneak peek of Everton’s Europa League journey – Part 2

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In Part 2 of Everton Unseen, European football returns to Goodison Park as Everton host MFK Ruzomberok in the qualifying round of the Europa League.

Click play on the video below to get a feel for how Goodison Park will be in the second leg of the Europa League in Part 2 of this videos series.

[ MORE: Live Europa League scores

[ WATCH: Part 1 of Everton Unseen ] 

http://www.nbcsports.com/video/everton-unseen-part-2-everton-host-mfk-ruzomberok-europa-league

FIFA to send in emergency team to run Cameroon football

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it is sending in an emergency management team to run the troubled Cameroon football federation.

The panel to be appointed by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will oversee elections by next March to replace disputed polls in 2015 for the Cameroon federation board.

FIFA’s intervention comes amid speculation Cameroon could be stripped of hosting the next African Cup of Nations in June-July 2019.

CAF President Ahmad this month cast doubt on Cameroon’s ability to prepare for the expanded 24-team tournament.

FIFA says Wednesday it acted after “recent failed attempts … to reconcile the football stakeholders in Cameroon and overcome the current impasse.”

Transfer Roundup: Tottenham complete signing of Sanchez, Clucas joins Swansea

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Tottenham reportedly broke the bank for its first transfer of the summer.

The North London club confirmed that it had completed a transfer with Ajax for defender Davinson Sanchez after the Colombian international passed a medical. According to The Telegraph, the deal is worth around $54 million, a club record. The deal is subject to acquisition of Sanchez’s work permit but given the transfer fee and him being in Colombia’s squad, it’s likely a mere formality at this point.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The 21-year-old defender brings speed and strength to Tottenham’s backline as well as a year of seasoning in the Eredivisie, which features plenty of attacking talent. Sanchez will battle with Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen for a place in Spurs’ three-man backline.

It’s a risk moving to a new club a year ahead of the World Cup, but Sanchez is hoping that with appearances in the UEFA Champions League and Premier League up for grabs, he can do well enough to keep his place in the Colombia National Team squad.

Here’s some more transfer news from across England:

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