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

Three seriously injured, 120 detained in Bruges hooligan riot

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BRUSSELS (AP) Authorities are investigating a hooligan riot which seriously injured three people and forced Brugge police to detain 120 following the match between Club Brugge and Antwerp.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy ]

Local police chief Dirk Van Nuffel says one policeman was among the seriously wounded as authorities sought to contain a brawl between Belgian fans reinforced by others who had come from the Netherlands.

By Monday morning all were released but investigators were still seeking to see who was at the core of the fighting. Van Nuffel says such hooligan fighting “hadn’t been seen for years.”

Everton fires Ronald Koeman

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A 5-2 home loss versus Arsenal sent Everton into the Premier League drop zone, and that’s apparently a bridge too far for the Toffees when it comes to their managerial position.

Ronald Koeman is out at Goodison Park.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

Everton sits 18th in the Premier League with eight points, it’s minus-11 goal differential second-worst in the top flight. Its 18 goals conceded are third-worst, and only three clubs have scored fewer goals than its seven.

The Toffees won two rounds in the Europa League, beating Ružomberok and Hajduk Split, but have lost to Atalanta and Lyon while drawing Apollon Limassol in Group E play.

Everton faces Chelsea in League Cup play on Wednesday before a critical early season match at Leicester City on Sunday.

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The Best: Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi — Is there a front-runner?

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While France Football has its Ballon d’Or winner somewhere on a 30-man shortlist, FIFA’s “Best” men’s player is down to an unsurprising three ahead of Monday afternoon’s ceremony.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar are up for the award, and there was no major summer tournament outside of the Confederations Cup — only Ronaldo participated — to help tilt the scales in one’s favor this summer.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

Of course, Ronaldo claimed another UEFA Champions League crown, but was far from the simple standout of the club. In international play, both Ronaldo and Messi’s World Cup qualifying campaigns came down to the wire while Neymar captained Brazil’s dominant ride through CONMEBOL.

The award, which is said to be for on- and off-field behavior, was voted on by national coaches, national captains, select members of the media and fans.

Ronaldo is the favorite according to hardware, while Messi’s numbers and Neymar’s playmaking both can lay claim to the throne.

Stats since start of 2017

Lionel Messi

Club goals: 46
Club assists: 16
Country caps: 6
Country goals: 4
Accolades: World Cup qualifier, Copa Del Rey winner

Neymar

Club goals: 24
Club assists: 21
Country caps: 6
Country goals: 2
Country assists: 3
Accolades: World Cup qualifier, Copa Del Rey winner

Cristiano Ronaldo

Club goals: 31
Club assists: 7
Country caps: 11
Country goals: 11
Country assists: 4
Accolades: Confederations Cup semifinal, World Cup qualifier, Champions League winner, La Liga winner

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Mbappe wins Golden Boy over Rashford, Pulisic, Gabriel Jesus

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Paris Saint-Germain, France, and (former) Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe has claimed the Golden Boy Award over Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, and others.

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The Golden Boy is chosen from the top Under-21 players in Europe, and the short list had the above names and 22 more including Gabriel Jesus, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Marcus Rashford.

Mbappe, still 18 until Dec. 20, has four goals and four assists this season for PSG after scoring 26 goals with 14 assists for Monaco last season. He also has a goal for France.

The teenager likely played the biggest role at the biggest club last season, though Donnarumma was exceptional at Milan, Jesus’ injury conspired against him at Man City, and Marcus Rashford was very good for United.

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