Colombia celebrate

Colombia has little trouble seeing Greece off, 3-0

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It wasn’t as thrilling as Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as Chile beating Australia 3-1, but watching Colombia beat Greece 3-0 on Saturday was still quite fun. Colombia’s back line will likely not be able to stop the top teams at the World Cup, but their offense certainly had no trouble slicing through Greece’s vaunted defense.

In the pre-match press conference, Fernando Santos insisted that defending was not the most important element of the Greece national team. Good thing, too, because after just five minutes, Colombia had taken the lead.

Juan Cuadrado, showing all the pace that prompted Fiorentina fans to dub the winger “Vespa”, zipped up the right to latch on to a through-ball. Cuadrao then sent a low cross into the area, looking, it seemed, for James Rodríguez. But the midfielder pulled off the perfect dummy, confusing the Greek defenders and, possibly his own teammate Pablo Armero. Armero got a touch to the ball, but had little power behind it. No matter – it deflected off Kostas Manolas and began rolling toward the back of the net. Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis could only watch in horror as the ball crossed the line.

Greece had no choice but to get forward in defiance of all stereotypes thrown at them since 2004. To almost everyone’s surprise, they very nearly equalized immediately – possibly because Colombia were still pondering the choreography of the full-squad dance party they’d hosted after the goal. But Georgios Samaras sent his shot wide, and Colombia escaped.

As Colombia slowed down, taking for granted that they had control of the match, Greece pushed harder and harder. But despite being able to slip easily enough behind the cafeteros defense, Greece just couldn’t put their shots on target. The best shot of the half came just before the whistle, when Panagiotis Kone pounced on a loose ball to put in a sharp shot. David Ospina pushed it aside, however, and Colombia went into the second half up 1-0.

After the restart, the Pirate Ship continued its leisurely path toward goal, but were soon undone once more by Colombia. In the 58th minute, James whipped in a corner, and Abel Aguilar got a touch. Teófilo Gutiérrez, totally unmarked, got a toe on it, chipping the ball over Karnezis to put Colombia up 2-0.

Greece had a terrific chance to equalize five minutes later, with Colombia’s defense completely caught out. Giannis Fetfatzidis, whose fresh legs replaced the aging limbs of Dimitris Salpingidis shortly before Colombia’s second goal, was free at the far post. He headed on to Theofanis Gekas who, despite being less than twenty feet out, smacked his header against the crossbar.

Gekas reward was to be replaced moments later by Kostas Mitroglou.

The changes mattered little for Greece, however. Instead, Colombia put in an insurance goal just before the final whistle – and a lovely one at that. James slipped easily through two Greek defenders to get on the end of a backheeled pass. Karnezis got a hand to it, but could only help it along into the back of the net.

Should Ivory Coast and Japan make even greater fools of Greece, that extra goal could come in handy for determining Group C’s rankings come the end of this round.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero (Arias 73); Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez (Martinez 75)

Goals: Armero 5′; Gutierrez 58′; Rodriguez 90′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone (Karagounis 78), Katsouranis; Salpingidis (Fetfatzidis 57), Gekas (Mitroglou 63), Samaras

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.