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.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone

VIDEO: Reus scores stunning winner for Dortmund

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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BERLIN (AP) Marco Reus scored his first Bundesliga goal of the season to give Borussia Dortmund a 1-0 win at his former team Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.

Reus, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze started for the first time together for Dortmund, and the three Germany teammates were all involved in the 32nd-minute goal.

Goetze played the ball to Schuerrle, who crossed for Reus on the right. Reus looked up and lifted the ball over ‘Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer to score off the underside of the crossbar.

“It was a good goal. I think he wanted to do that,” Sommer said.

Reus, who returned from a serious knee injury last weekend against Hamburger SV, said he wanted to play the ball further to the left “but the important thing is it went in.”

Goalkeeper Roman Buerki was man of the match for producing a string of saves to deny the home side what would have been a deserved equalizer.

Dortmund moved second, 19 points behind Bayern Munich, while ‘Gladbach stayed 10th after its fourth consecutive defeat without scoring.

Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi failed to score for the first time in four games since his deadline-day switch from Chelsea, though he wasn’t helped by the poor condition of the pitch. Some players lost their footing as the grass gave way.

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

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Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.