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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.

UEL: Saint-Etienne hope Beric comes to the rescue vs. Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Kevin Monnet-Paquet of Saint-Etienne in action during the UEFA Europa  League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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PARIS (AP) While Zlatan Ibrahimovic was scoring a hat trick in Manchester United’s win over Saint-Etienne in the Europa League last week, Robert Beric’s 11-minute substitute appearance at Old Trafford was barely noticed.

Still reeling from a hamstring injury, Beric’s cameo had little impact as Ibrahimovic ended Saint-Etienne’s 10-game unbeaten run in Europe by 3-0.

[ MORE: Man City win in epic comeback vs. Monaco | Atleti blitz Bayer ]

Beric’s condition has improved since the heavy loss, and he featured in a French league game in Montpellier last weekend. The 1976 European Cup runner-up is hoping that’s enough for Beric to help it overturn their deficit against United on Wednesday in the last-32 return leg.

Beric, a versatile center-forward capable of playing with his back to goal and creating, joined Saint-Etienne last season. He’d scored 27 goals in 34 matches in his final season with Rapid Vienna, but was unable to replicate the feat in the French league because his progression was abruptly stopped by a serious right knee injury.

He is expected to start at Geoffroy Guichard Stadium after his teammates managed to force United goalkeeper Sergio Romero into only a single save from 14 shots last week.

“Beric is so skillful and astute in front of goal that we all want to give him a starting nod,” former Saint-Etienne striker Herve Revelli, now a club ambassador, told L’Equipe.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

United was carved open at times, but the French club was made to pay for its blatant lack of efficiency. Revelli insisted Beric can make a difference.

“He is likely to put our chances into the back of the net,” Revelli said.

With an estimated budget of close to 70 million euros, Saint-Etienne simply can’t afford the services of a world-class striker. When he joined the 10-time French champion for a reported six million euros, Beric became the third most expensive player signed by the club.

A humble player and a man of few words, Beric is somewhat the opposite of the self-infatuated Ibrahimovic.

Unlike Ibrahimovic, who once said he will be “God of Manchester,” Beric rarely speaks about himself and his rare comments on social networks are limited to praise of his teammates and Saint-Etienne fans.

Beric, who scored the last of his three league goals this season back in September, is not yet fully fit and should not be able to last the whole match. But Revelli is counting on his instinct for goals.

[ MORE: Guardiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” ]

“With him in a finisher role, I firmly believe in our chances,” said Revelli, Saint-Etienne’s all-time best scorer.

Saint-Etienne needs to find a way to stop Ibrahimovic, but history does not favor the home side.

During his time in France with Paris Saint-Gernain, Ibrahimovic was the scourge of Saint-Etienne, scoring 14 goals in 13 games in all competitions. He now has 17, including three hat tricks.

“It’s difficult to neutralize him. There is a possibility that we will set up an anti-Ibra plan,” Saint-Etienne coach Chirstophe Galtier said. “I don’t know what’s inside Zlatan, but for sure he likes to play against us. It’s not easy to score a hat trick in a European Cup game.”

Champions League Wednesday: Leicester’s last stand; Porto-Juve

SEVILLE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City looks on during a press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Sevilla FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on February 21, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Previewing Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League round-of-16 action…

[ MORE: Man City win in epic comeback vs. Monaco | Atleti blitz Bayer ]

Leicester City vs. Sevilla

There’s no two ways about it: Leicester’s season — and perhaps their status as a Premier League club — is quickly spiraling out of control. The Foxes, just nine months after winning the PL title, sit 17th in the league table, one point clear of relegation, with 13 games still to play. Chances are, they won’t be back in the Champions League anytime soon, making Wednesday’s round-of-16 first-leg clash away to Sevilla all the more a monumental moment in the club’s history.

Where has hasn’t it gone wrong for Claudio Ranieri‘s side this season? If you’re of the mind that one player — N'Golo Kante in Leicester’s case — doesn’t make a team himself, then we’ll have to go one step further in diagnosing the stunning regression seen at the King Power Stadium this season: Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who combined to score 41 goals in the PL last season, have managed all of eight together in 2016-17. It’s the loss of Kante, though, that has left the defense forever exposed (43 goals conceded in 25 PL games, after conceding 36 in 38 all of last season), and the goal-getters forever feeding on scraps (24 goals scored, compared to 68 last season).

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]


Porto vs. Juventusfrom the AP

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci will be left in the stands for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Porto as punishment for his outburst aimed at coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri announced the move on Tuesday at the pre-match news conference, saying he had agreed it with club officials as “a fair decision, out of respect for the squad, the fans and the club.”

Bonucci became embroiled in a heated argument over substitutions with Allegri after a 4-1 win over Palermo on Friday.

Allegri also will punish himself for his angry reaction to Bonucci, announcing a donation to charity.

U.S. U-20s awaken in 2nd half vs. Haiti, keep WCQ hopes alive

USMNT U-20 team (Photo credit: U.S. Soccer)
Photo credit: U.S. Soccer
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With many thanks to the hat trick scored by Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake, on loan from Liverpool), the U.S. U-20 national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 U-20 World Cup remain intact.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After dropping all three points in their opening group-stage game against Panama on Saturday, Tab Ramos’ young Yanks faced elimination from CONCACAF’s U-20 Championship in Costa Rica with a defeat to Haiti on Tuesday. After 15 minutes, the Americans found themselves a goal down, the prospect of winning zero points from their first two games a terrifying possibility.

Then, Lennon struck from the penalty spot. A draw wouldn’t be enough, realistically, though, as they’d still trail Haiti by three points ahead of the final group game, against Saint Kitts and Nevis, with the top two sides from each team advancing to the classification stage.

The score remained 1-1 until halftime, after which point the Yanks roared to life with three goals in a seven-minute span. Luca de la Torre (Fulham) scored the first of the bunch, an empty-net finish after a failed punch by the goalkeeper. Lennon quickly followed suit with two more to make it 4-1.

With three points from two games and a goal differential that now sits at +2, the Yanks are second in Group B, just ahead of Haiti on goal differential (+1). Panama sit atop the group with six points and a +5 goal differential. A U.S. victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis, to go with a Haitian upset of Panama, would see the Americans finish top of the group go into Group E in the classification stage, which would see them accompanied by a pair of second-place sides. The first-place side in each classification group qualifies for May’s tournament in South Korea.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”