Cristiano Ronaldo in pain but fit to start against Germany in Group G opener

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Cristiano Ronaldo has declared himself fit to face Germany in Portugal’s Group G opener of the 2014 World Cup on Monday.

The Portuguese winger has been struggling with a left knee injury that, following reports of leaving training early on Friday with ice, had many believing he might miss Monday’s match.

On Sunday, however, he trained without issue albeit with a bandage on his knee. Afterwards, he told reporters, “I would be the first to tell the coach if I were unable to play, I would never put my career at risk even for a World Cup.” He then admitted that he was not at peak condition but was close: “I’d love to be 110 percent and but I am 100 percent and that is enough to help my team.”

He continued: “Obviously I wish I did not have any pain, but that is impossible,” Ronaldo said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a day without pain.”

The last three times Portugal has met Germany, it’s ended poorly for A Seleccao, losing 3-1 in the match for third place at the 2006 World Cup, 3-2 win at Euro 2008 and 1-0 in the opener at Euro 2012. Ronaldo, however, hopes the change in tide that occurred at club level this past season can be duplicated for country.

Obviously history has been positive for Germany. But Real has beaten Bayern Munich (in the Champions League semifinals) and maybe this will be the year to change the history and Monday would be the best day for it to happen. It’s a new tournament, new players, our team is good, we have confidence.

We must be humble. It’s a difficult start for us. We are playing one of the favorites and one of the best teams. I personally and the entire team is very motivated and we want to enjoy the tournament.

That’s right, folks, Cristiano Ronaldo is talking about being humble. Just another chapter what is fast becoming the craziest World Cup on record.

Portugal and Germany face off tomorrow at 12:00pm ET at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.