World Cup Today: What you need to know about the three Friday matches

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WORLD CUP TODAY: FRIDAY, JUNE 13

Neutrals (read: those not rooting for Brazil) will be hoping for less controversy from Matches 2-4 of the 2014 World Cup, all set to go off in Brazil today.

The only match on Thursday was Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia, which was loads of fun before a probable dive from Fred gave the host nation the decisive penalty. Neymar scored twice, Oscar added another and Croatia’s only goal came from a Marcelo own goal.

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MATCH 2: MEXICO VS. CAMEROON
Location: Arena das Dunas, Natal
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Much like the CONCACAF/CAF match-up in Group G, this opener is a must-have if either team wants to get out of Group A (especially if Brazil is going to have the host nation fortune it had against Croatia). Mexico’s lineup is out, and head coach Miguel Herrera has said El Tri will have five defending at all-times against Samuel Eto’o and the Indomitable Lions.

What they’re saying:
Herrera: “Every training session leaves me easy and calm knowing every player will leave their last bead of sweat and last breath on the field to please the Mexican fans. We will fight to the death.”

History:
Mexico leads all-time series 1-0 (Sept. 1993)

Premier League players:
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)
Cameroon: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Queens Park Rangers)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: AP
Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal

MATCH 3: SPAIN VS. NETHERLANDS
Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Spain formally starts what it hopes will be a historic World Cup-Euro-World Cup championship run. This rematch of the 2010 World Cup final won’t be as dramatic, and likely won’t be as evenly-matched. Holland is without injured Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart, while Spain is deeo and relatively healthy.

What they’re saying:
Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque: “”This is a mature team with players in their prime. They aren’t here for what they have achieved, but what they will achieve…The Netherlands has changed a lot in four years. Our team has been stable over the last four years compared to them. They’ve had some enormous changes.”

History:
Spain leads all-time series 5W-1D-4L. Last match was Spain’s 1-0 win in the 2010 World Cup final.

Premier League players:
Spain: David de Gea (Manchester United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
Netherlands: Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

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source: Getty Images
Cahill

MATCH 4: CHILE VS. AUSTRALIA
Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Chile is the favorite here, and some think the South American nation can even topple Spain to win the group. That won’t happen without a defeat over the Socceroos, who are almost an afterthought in a loaded Group B. Chile will be physical and difficult — not to mention dangerous in the attack — but has to hope their “on the edge” play doesn’t take them over, especially players like Gary Medel.

What they’re saying:
Australia midfielder Tim Cahill: “I know for a fact that they’ll have someone, or a few holding and shirt pulling and things like that to put me off my game … So it will be no different to the way we’re going to be and for us we’re up for every single battle. We’re going to stand up and be counted.”

History:
Chile has never lost to Australia (3W-1D). The teams haven’t played since Feb. 2000)

Premier League players:
Chile: None
Australia: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)

Major League Soccer players:
Chile: None
Australia: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

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Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.