Game on: Argentina face Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group F blockbuster

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An incredible opening three days to this World Cup is capped off by a gem of a match between title-hopefuls, Argentina, and long-shot darlings, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For today’s match Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella has opted for a 5-3-2 formation that expects to feature high-flying wing-backs in Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo. In the midfield sit the defensive stalwart Javier Mascherano alongside the lightning quick Angel Di Maria and the precise Maxi Rodriguez. They’ll support the wing backs flying forward while Lionel Messi will sit just inside Kun Aguero, where he will playmake as well as finish from attacks in the channnels.

For B&H,  Safet Susic has his side in a 4-2-3-1 with the holding pair of Muhamed Besic and Izet Hajrovic tasked with shutting down the center of the pitch while one of the most complete midfielders in the world, Miralem Pjanic will look to create space and provide service for the towering Edin Dzeko up top.

[ MORE, Previews: Argentina| Bosnia & Herzegovina | Group F]

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Starting lineups:

Argentina – Romero; Rojo, Garay, F. Fernandez, Campagnaro, Zabaleta; Di Maria, Mascherano, Rodriguez; Messi (c), Aguero.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Begovic; Kolasinac, Spahic (c), Bicakcic, Mujdza; Besic, Hajrovic; Lulic, Misimovic, Pjanic; Dzeko.

Talking points:

1. Can Messi step up and meet the pressure? The conversation continues to divide opinion – is Lionel Messi the greatest ever footballer to walk the planet? Most say ‘yes’ based simply on what he has won at club level and, simply, witnessing his incredible movements on the pitch. Others, however, complain that to be considered the best ever, you have to win the World Cup. Now at the age of 26-years-old and with an above average supporting cast around him, Messi is in the perfect position to do just that. The pressure to do so is immense and it all begins today, against Bosnia & Herzegovina.

2. Is Bosnia & Herzegovina this tournament’s dark horse? Over the last few weeks many have tipped Bosnia & Herzegovina to be the dark horse of this World Cup. To achieve that status a team needs to advance out of the Group Stage, and, before being eliminated, knock off one of the giants in world football. Taking down Argentina would certainly qualify. To make that happen players like Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Asmir Begovic will have to enjoy the tournament of their lives. But for a team that’s been through hell and back, few are denying they have what it takes to be this summer’s darling.

Expectations: Expect goals. If Argentina has a weakness it’s in defense while B&H is a more balanced side. This tournament has had more than its fair share of goals so far and on Sunday evening, we should expect nothing but the same.

One blogger’s prediction: Should be a barnstormer of a match with both squads on full-blooded, end-to-end attacks. Bosnia and Herzegovina will impress but look for Argentina to leave their stamp on this tournament right away. Messi with a brace, Argentina with a 1-2 goal victory.

 

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.

WATCH: Snazzy Sargent goal leads U.S. U-17s past Mexico

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Josh Sargent scored a pretty goal as the United States Soccer program had another banner day against Mexico.

Nearly two months to the day after the U.S. U-20 side beat Mexico for the first time in 31 years, the U.S. U-17 topped El Tri for the first time ever. That win snapped Mexico’s 25-match unbeaten streak.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The goal is the first of Sargent’s two goals, as the 16-year-old latched onto a long diagonal ball and used his right foot and head to move the ball into position for a strong shot.

The U.S. clinches a spot in the next round of U-17 World Cup qualifying with one match remaining in group play.

Sargent is from St. Louis and plays with Scott Gallagher-Missouri. Former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth coaches the U.S. U-17s.

Heads of South American soccer sent $128M in bank transfers

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) The leaders of South America’s soccer confederation transferred $128.6 million between 2000 and 2015 to personal accounts, suspicious accounts, or unauthorized third-party accounts, according to an audit released Wednesday by Ernst & Young.

According to the audit presented to the annual CONMEBOL congress in the Chilean capital, the confederation’s former president Nicolas Leoz transferred $26.9 million to his personal accounts. Leoz was the president for 27 years until resigning in 2013 for what he said were health reasons.

The audit also found $58 million in payments “to third parties without adequate documentation,” payments of $33.3 million to “unidentified accounts,” and $10.4 million to “suspicious third-parties.”

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

“We had said that we would have four pillars, and the first two pillars were clear accounts and accountability,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL who commissioned the audit last year. “Today we are accountable to the leaders and the whole world of football.”

Leoz, 88, is one of three ex-presidents of CONMEBOL accused on corruption charges by the United States Department of Justice. He is in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States.

The South American body has been plagued by corruption, which was exposed two years ago during the FIFA scandal. Leoz’s two successors, Eugenio Figueredo and Juan Angel Napout, were both arrested on corruption charges.

“I’m here, I’m the manager” – Moyes will not quit Sunderland

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This has been one horrible stretch for David Moyes.

The Sunderland manager probably thought he’d been through the worst once he left Real Sociedad, where he went 12-15-15.

But he’s managed just seven wins and seven draws in 38 matches in charge of the Black Cats — an 18 percent win mark. He’s also been charged for threatening to slap a female journalist.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

And after Wednesday, Moyes has lost both of his derby matches against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland is 12 points back of safety with five matches left. The odds the Black Cats are headed for the Championship are somewhere north of 99 percent, and fans are calling for his job.

Well, he isn’t quitting. From the BBC:

“No, I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose.

“There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”