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Geoff Cameron relishing USA’s World Cup opener, as wait is almost over

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In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil began last Thursday, as 32 nations battle it out to become champions of the world.

The U.S. national team are one of those sides, however being drawn in Group G means they have to wait five days into the tournament until they make their bow on the biggest stage in soccer.

[ MORE: 2014 World Cup homepage ]

With that in mind, we caught up with USMNT and Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron on the phone from the U.S.’s hotel in Natal, as the Premier League star — who many believe is a definite starter at the heart of the USA’s defense — prepares for the opening game vs. Ghana, which will also be his first-ever World Cup match.

Speaking from a rain-soaked Natal, Cameron talks us through an average day in and around the U.S. camp, his feelings on being at a World Cup, what the experience of being in Brazil has been like so far and loads more juicy pieces of info.

Here’s what Cameron had to say, as the USA’s long wait to get going in Brazil is almost over…

On what an average day in camp is like…

You wake up, get breakfast with the team, then we have training for a couple of hours. You come back to the hotel, get treatment if you want treatment to get ready for the next day of training or a game. To prepare yourself for the game, we’ve just been watching videos of your opponent. Just doing what you would normally do. Go back to your room, take naps, get your rest, recover and it’s all gearing up to Monday night. Overall, it’s a low-key day apart from the intense training sessions, sometimes we do a lifting session later on in the evening. Now we’ve been tapering it down because the games aren’t too far away. One session a day, stretches and it is a really relaxed day besides from training.

On the mood in the camp and if there’s anxiety to get things started from the players…

We are all just excited. We just want to play. We don’t want to wait anymore. We want to play and get this thing on the road. We are anxious, excited. I’m sure there will be some nerves around before the game but we are confident in our own ability and go out there and turn some heads. If we take care of business the way we know we can, we can put on a real good performance.

On his emotions heading into his first World Cup tournament…

I am super excited. It is surreal. I try not to think about where I am right now, that I am actually part of a World Cup and I’m in this World Cup. It is a dream of mine since I was a little kid. Obviously the nerves kicking in here and there, the best way to deal with that is to distract yourself, keep yourself busy, so watching movies, jamming out to music or being around the guys where you are joking around that always helps. You just want to get on the pitch, start playing and get that first touch underway.

source: Getty Images
Cameron is ready to roll in Brazil, as USA face Ghana in Group G opener on Monday.

On what the team does in their spare time…

We play table tennis, cards, Playstation 4, factime with friends or whatever. I tend to play ping-pong, hang out with Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud but we all hang out with each other. The whole team get on really well. We all hang out in the players lounge where there is table tennis, pool, there is always something going on. Whether it is watching the World Cup games altogether or watching movies, we just joke around.

On the USA’s training base in Sao Paulo…

The people have been amazing here, the reception from the people in Brazil has been absolutely phenomenal. You can tell how excited they are and how happy they are that we are here, whether they are fans of the U.S. or not. You get some other supporters that aren’t too happy… but most of the people are super, super nice and you can tell how much passion and love for the game is here.

On the coolest experience in Brazil so far…

When we actually got off the bus and getting to the hotel (see the photo, top right, for Geoff’s reaction when he saw the hotel… we know, priceless) for the first time, the reception we got from all the staff outside who welcomed us into the hotel, that was pretty cool. It you gave you the chills a little bit and made you fell ‘wow, we are really here to take care of business.’ Plus you get all the Tweets, the Instagram messages and all the support from back home, that means a great deal and is always good to see. The guys are very happy everyone is behind us, supporting us and believes in us. We try and let the fans see what it is like to be here and a part of things, which they are. Going out onto the field knowing the whole country is supporting you gives you such a big boost. All of the players really appreciate the huge amount of support we’ve been getting.

On seeing plenty of U.S. fans in Brazil…

You see fans from all over the world but you definitely see people wearing the American flags and jerseys. It puts a smile on your face. No doubt. We are hoping that we have a good home crowd rooting for us on Monday night, it puts a smile on your face knowing that people are here supporting you and they made a trip to come out here.

On how he will sleep and feel on the eve of the USA’s World Cup opener…

I feel like I have prepared myself, with my friends, family, teammates and coaches, they all have belief in myself and my team and confidence in our ability. I think it is just a matter of controlling your emotions and your anxiety. For me, I just want to vibe out, chill out, relax and not think about it too much. You lose too much energy when you think about things like that too much. Just let it be and be confident. That’s what it is all about and I’ll be ready when Monday’s game against Ghana arrives.

VIDEO: Man United’s Marcus Rashford scores 3 minutes into his England debut

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 26:  Marcus Rashford of England arrives at the team hotel on the eve of their international friendly against Australia at the Hilton Gateshead on May 26, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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12 months ago Nine months ago Six months ago Three months ago, if anyone asked you, “who is Marcus Rashford?” you, just like me, probably would have responded as such: “I haven’t a clue. Should I know who he is?”

[ MORE: Man United confirm Mourinho as new manager ]

Stars are, of course, born overnight in the sports world, and the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, who spent 12 years with the club’s youth academy, is just the latest example. On Feb. 25, he made his first-team debut and scored twice in the Europa League. Three days later, he made his Premier League debut, again scoring twice.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “I prefer to forget the last three years at United” ]

Fast forward to Friday, and Rashford is a fully-fledged England international. In keeping up with the theme of his other debuts this season, he marked his international debut with a goal against Australia after just three minutes of play at the Stadium of Light.

It remains to be seen whether Rashford completes his hat trick of debut braces this year. We’ll update this post if he does so.

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.