Earlier today, the news broke that Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had injured his ankle during training, and needed tests to determine whether he would be able to start against England.
The reports are in, and the news isn’t good for the azzurri. The ‘keeper, who’s been first-choice for his country for over a decade, will sit out Italy’s first match.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli first described the injury as a light twist, but after undergoing physiotherapy, the injury was revealed to be more serious than previously thought. There is no word yet on whether Buffon will be available for the game against Costa Rica next Friday, or the final group stage game, against Uruguay, next Tuesday.
In absence of Buffon, Prandelli will deploy Salvatore Sirigu between the sticks. Sirigu has experience at the highest levels, as the starting goalkeeper for Paris Saint-Germain, but he’s also been dealing with injury. His bruised ribs aren’t enough to prompt Italy to turn to Mattia Perin, however. The 21-year-old, who plays for Genoa, has yet to be capped for Italy.
Italy are also without Riccardo Montolivo, who broke his leg in the warm-up match against Ireland and had to be cut from the squad, and Mattia De Sciglio, who was injured in training earlier in the week. Without three of their expected starting XI, will Italy stumble? Or are they strong enough to overcome England?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.
Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.
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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).
Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.
The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.
“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”
Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.
Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.
In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.
He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.
But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.
Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.
You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.
Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.
Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.
“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”
Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.