At halftime: Portugal down 3-0 and a man after Pepe headbutt – FOLLOW LIVE

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If you’re like me and forecasted Germany to win this tournament, you certainly envisioned halves like this. The Germans were dominant in the air and on the ground, forcing Portugal into fouls of frustration and a bevy of mistakes.

And if you’re a team with a superstar thinking he can carry you by Joachim Low’s unit, well, you better hope Cristiano Ronaldo was far less than healthy. Germany frustrated CR7 at nearly every turn.

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Goals (and how they happened):

12′ – Mario Gotze was dragged down in the box by Joao Pereira, who is given the yellow card. More importantly, it’s a penalty kick for Thomas Muller and, well, he’s good. Low, hard and to the right of the keeper. 1-0, Germany.

30′ – The culprit from the PK, Pereira, bails out Bruno Alves by deflecting Gotze’s shot out for a corner but the relief is short-lived. Toni Kroos sends in a beaut that Mats Hummels rises to head past Rui Patricio. 2-0, tallest team in World Cup.

45’+1 – Bruno Alves’ weak clearance attempt falls to Muller’s feet, and the German forward does what he does in the World Cup: he scores. 3-0.

Other key moments:

7′ – The third of three early counter attacks from Portugal ends with an odd-angled shot from Ronaldo that Manuel Neuer.

8′ – An awful clear from Rui Patricio comes inches from costing Portugal, as Sami Khedira’s rushed one-touch shot bounds just wide of the goal.

25′ – Nani lets fly with what could’ve been among the goals of the tournament if it dipped an inch further a moment sooner. Instead the shot from the left corner of the 18 goes over the bar.

28′ – Hugo Almeida comes off for Eder, an unwelcome moment for Portugal.

32′  – Eder nearly heads a corner in, but he didn’t leap high enough and the shot loops over the bar.

36 – RED CARD!! Pepe being Pepe… but even for him this is a moment of sheer lunacy! After Muller makes the most of Pepe’s hand to the face, the Portuguese defender puts his head into the prone forward. Just stupid. And Germany could make it nasty.

LINEUPS

Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Veloso, Coentrao, Ronaldo, Moutinho, Almeida, Meireles, Nani, Pereira.

Germany: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Khedira, Ozil, Muller, Lahm, Mertesacker, Kroos, Gotze, Boateng

Question(s) for the second half:

  • Can Portugal keep their goal differential down?  – They were already being controlled by the German machine before Pepe’s ludicrous decision.
  • How badly can Germany punish Portugal? Same question asked in a different way.

Luan, Gremio looks to dethrone Real Madrid at Club World Cup

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“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.”

That’s Gremio youngster Luan after being told Real Madrid star and countryman Marcelo said he has a huge future in the game.

Luan and his teammates could make a lot more noise with a win in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Real.

[ MORE: Galaxy to acquire Bingham? ]

Gremio edged Pachuca in extra time of its semifinal after Real came back to beat Al Jazira, and now hopes to become just the second non-European club to win the Club World Cup since 2007.

Brazilian clubs won the first three CWCs between 2000-06, but Corinthians claimed the lone Brazilian title since when it beat Chelsea in 2012.

Spanish clubs have won the last three finals, with Real sandwiching two around Barca’s 2015 win over River Plate.

The 24-year-old Luan won Olympic gold with Brazil in 2016, and has two caps with the national team.

Still waiting for these Premier League summer transfers to hit

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They seemed like hits at the time, but some significant summer transfer buys are are struggling in the Premier League.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

Whereas Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic, and Alvaro Morata have been solid pickups, and even lesser moves like Kurt Zouma to Stoke and Grzegorz Krychowiak to West Brom have hit the spot, some purchases just have not panned out at their new clubs.

Some aren’t getting playing time, while others aren’t hitting their stride, but here are some moves which just haven’t paid off (yet).

Andre Gray, Watford — The striker has two goals and two assists, but has had problems keeping hold of the ball and has the same amount of goals as defender Daryl Janmaat and midfielder Will Hughes despite playing about 300 percent of their minutes.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham — The ex-Stoke player was a menace in a midweek draw against Arsenal, but Arnautovic has managed just one goal for the Irons this season. That’s equal to his amount of red cards.

Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa, Swansea City — Sanches hasn’t been able to get into the squad despite being one of the more talked about loans of the summer; Mesa may be coming around in recent weeks, but was an unused sub or not in the squad in 10 of Swans’ first 13.

Jese, Stoke City – The Real Madrid attacker was almost certain to take time to adjust to the Premier League, but his match-winner against Arsenal on Opening Day remains his lone marker.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool — His deadline day move to join Liverpool, supposedly to play centrally, seemed a head-scratcher. He’s only recently seen consistent minutes in a more central role despite Liverpool having loads of problems there. Maybe that’s on Jurgen Klopp, but we’re still scratching our heads.

Report: Galaxy close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper

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The LA Galaxy may be turning to its Cali Clasico rival for a new goalkeeper.

Reportedly denied in its pursuit of longtime Vancouver backstop David Ousted, the Galaxy are said to be close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper David Bingham from San Jose, according to ESPN.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

The deal would reportedly cost LA between $200,000 and $250,000 in TAM.

Bingham, 28, lost his starting gig to Clemson product Andrew Tarbell this season, and the latter looks intent on keeping the position.

The Galaxy have not had a long-term answer in goal since Jaime Penedo left the club in 2015 (though 24-year-old Jon Kempin showed some very good things last season). Bingham would be a fine addition for a Galaxy team that hemorrhaged the second-most goals in MLS.

FIFA worried about government interference in Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation, FIFA said Friday it will send a delegation to the country to investigate government meddling.

FIFA said in a statement written in Spanish that it had recently sent a letter to the federation “expressing our concern for the situation that the federation is going through and reminding (its officials) that, according to the Statutes of FIFA, all member federations must manage their affairs independently and assure that there is no interference by third parties.”

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported earlier Friday that the FIFA letter warned of a possible suspension because of the government’s push to hold elections following the arrest of federation president Angel Maria Villar in July on suspicion of corruption.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

According to El Pais, FIFA is concerned that the government’s interest in federation elections could be considered outside meddling and break its rules. If the national federation were to be suspended, Spain’s team would not be allowed to play at next year’s World Cup.

FIFA’s statement made no mention of a suspension or other punitive measures.

But the scare was big enough for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say that Spain will not miss soccer’s biggest event.

“I am sure that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and that it will win it,” Rajoy said at a news conference in Brussels.

FIFA added in its statement that “in the coming days” it will send a delegation, which will include representatives from UEFA, to Madrid to “observe and analyze the situation” of the Spanish soccer federation.

The federation said in a separate statement that its interim president, Juan Luis Larrea, had spoken with FIFA and UEFA officials at the World Cup draw on Dec. 1 and that he had passed on their “enormous concern” to Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.

The Spanish federation said it was waiting for the ministry to set a date for a meeting.

Spanish police arrested Villar, his son, and two other soccer officials in July on suspicion of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar was replaced by Larrea, the body’s treasurer for three decades. Critics of Villar argue that elections are needed to make a clean start for the institution that has been tarnished by the scandal.