Defense is not most important, insists Greece manager

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Look up “defensive” in any good soccer dictionary*and you’ll find a photo of the Greece national team. More specifically, you’ll find the squad from 2004. That’s when Greece surprised the world by winning the European Championship, using a string of 1-0 victories during the knockout stages to propel them to the trophy.

Ten years on, Greece remains stereotyped as a side that focuses primarily on defense. Indeed, in qualifying they never scored more than two goals in a match, while fellow group members Bosnia and Herzegovina thumped Liechtenstein 8-1 and beat Latvia 5-0. Greece only conceded four in ten games played (three to Bosnia) but Bosnia’s haul of 30 goals meant that they went through to Brazil, while Greece needed to go through UEFA playoffs.

In the press conference on Thursday, forward Georgios Samaras seemed to confirm Greece’s devotion to defense. Explaining his manager’s strategy, he said, “just defend well and score one goal, that’s it.”

Manager Fernando Santos took exception to this characterization. He’s spoken before about the problems he’s faced trying to change Greece’s style, saying, “we’ve tried to play a different way [but] then we slipped back into our comfort zone, our defensive strength.”

In response to Samaras, Santos insisted he hadn’t stated his vision for the team in that way. He went on to say, “Defense is not the most important feature of Greece. The most important feature is Greece and the team itself. If we only played defensively we would lose.”

Perhaps not lose, but certainly draw.

Greece face Colombia on Saturday in their first game of the tournament. Even without Falcao, los cafeteros have a potent attack, stronger than any side Greece faced during qualifying – except Bosnia, and they let slip three goals in one match. Could this mean we might see a Greece side that actually attempts to get forward and score?

Neutrals can only hope.

*if these don’t exist, they should

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.