World Cup Today: Brazil, Mexico compete for Group A; Group H kicks off

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WORLD CUP TODAY: TUESDAY, JUNE 17

Each of the 32 World Cup teams will have played one tournament match by the end of Tuesday, as Group H makes its maiden voyage in Brazil. Meanwhile, Mexico and Brazil will duel in the hopes of securing frontrunner status for the knockout rounds, as each teams won its first match.

Group H is the group that will be paired with the winners of the United States’ Group G come the first knockout round.

As for Monday, the United States survived a game test from Ghana thanks to a late John Anthony Brooks header, Germany dominated Portugal, and Nigeria and Iran tested eyelids in a scoreless draw.

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MATCH 15: BELGIUM VS. ALGERIA
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s guide: Time to see whether Belgium is the giant many claim. With a wide variety of Premier League stars and plenty of depth at every position, Belgium should be able to handle stingy Algeria. After being shut out at the 2010 World Cup, Algeria seeks its first tournament goal since 1986.

What they’re saying:
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots: “The international press have called us an outsider and a favourite at the same time. It is a great pleasure to be back in the competition with players who are hungry and have a desire to achieve.”For Hazard and les Diables Rouges, back on the world stage after too long away, it is time to deliver.

History:
Belgium has beaten Algeria once, and the two nations drew their other encounter but haven’t squared off since 2003.

Premier League players:
Belgium: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).
Algeria: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham Hotspur)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 17: BRAZIL VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
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Cheater’s guide: The hosts got plenty of officiating breaks in their opening win over Croatia, while Mexico had to overcome brutal linesman work in its victory over Cameroon. This one’s for group dominance, most likely, and it remains to be seen whether the hosts will find their form… and if Mexico can keep theirs.

What they’re saying:
Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Hulk’s fitness: “If there is a problem with Hulk I will have to completely change the system we have used for some time. The way he positions himself, on the right and on the left (makes him a threat). But I have players with different characteristics and qualities who can bolster the team.”

History:
Brazil has a 22W-6D-10L record against Mexico, but El Tri triumphed in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Premier League players:
Brazil: David Luiz (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)

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source:  MATCH 16: RUSSIA VS. SOUTH KOREA

Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Two teams that bring a bit of mystery to the World Cup, as both clubs have a remarkable amount of home-based club players. Russia actually has zero players plying their trades outside their borders. This could be a great prime time match-up for neutrals.

What they’re saying:
Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol on their height disadvantage: “The Russians are a lot taller than we are.We’ve taken that into consideration. If it happens on the pitch we know what to do, how to defend ourselves against it – the main thing is to focus on our concentration.”

History:
The two nations paired up in November, with host Russia winning 2-1.

Premier League players:
Russia: None
South Korea: Yun Suk-Young (Queens Park Rangers), Park Chu-Young (Arsenal).

West Brom: Evans relegation release reportedly just $4m

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Jonny Evans has been fantastic for West Bromwich Albion this season, shepherding the Baggies back line while being involved in as many goals as any player not named Salomon Rondon or Jay Rodriguez.

[ MORE: High profile loan for Palace ]

So it would make sense for West Brom to hang onto the player at almost all costs given its status as a team in danger of the drop after its slow start under Tony Pulis has kept its lackluster pace under Alan Pardew.

Here’s the rub: Some big clubs would like to purchase Evans, who has 18 months left on his deal but reportedly no interest in signing a new deal the Hawthorns. Even worse? Monday’s story that a Baggies’ relegation would make his buyout clause just over $4 million.

Defenders who cost more last summer on the Premier League market include Jan Bednarek, Nathan Ake, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, Florian Lejeune, Mathias Jorgensen, Andrew Robertson, Bruno Martins Indi, and many others.

Heck, Evans’ buyout clause is the same price Derby County paid Liverpool for Andre Wisdom. And these fees are all pre-Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool madness.

Considering only Swansea and Brighton have scored fewer league goals than the Baggies, who are just now committing to a two-striker approach under Pardew, does it make sense for West Brom to sell now?

Evans’ value at 18 months out will be more than it is at 12 months out even if the Baggies avoid relegation, but he’s possibly a lynch pin of the team. And the volatile value for attackers mean the $25-35 million he’d generate may not make for like-for-like value.

It’s not an easy decision, but desperate times call for similar measures. The Baggies have played in four nil-nils this season, and lost 1-0 to relegation rivals Southampton and Huddersfield Town away. Both of the reverse fixtures remain.

There are creative options here, too. Would Jurgen Klopp sanction a high(ish) profile attacker loan to WBA in order to pair Evans with Van Dijk? Same for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

Palace loan: Rakip joins Malmo hero Hodgson

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Erdal Rakip’s whirlwind season is heading to London.

The Swedish international sealed a permanent deal to Benfica this month, but is set for a loan at Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Rakip, 21, has made 120 appearances with 12 goals for Malmo in betrayal of his tender age, including a career-high nine goals in 2017 as the Swedish champs sealed a fourth title in five years.

Helping seal the deal was Hodgson’s status as Malmo legend, leading the club to five league titles and two Swedish cups. From CPFC.co.uk:

“It will be an honour playing for Roy. He is a legend in Malmö and everyone know who he is,” Erdal added. “Crystal Palace is a fantastic club with a lot of history that plays entertaining football, and was the best option for my development and my career at this stage.

Malmo has lost two big players in the past six months in Rakip and Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotun.

Given Palace’s injuries, players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye were going to be taxed a lot by the run-in to safety. Rakip will help with that.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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  • Reds clobbered Swans on Boxing Day
  • Swans six points adrift
  • Reds go third with three-goal win
  • Liverpool leads all-time 23W-8D-11L

Liverpool looks to avoid a letdown when it visits Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Swansea City has managed a win over the Reds in each of the previous two seasons, but was simply crushed by Jurgen Klopp‘s men in a 5-0 defeat at Anfield last month.

WATCH ON NBCSN AND ONLINE HERE AT 3 P.M. ET

The hosts badly need to pick up points, though few expect them to do so on Monday. Skeptics, however, will note that Liverpool under Klopp has been giants against the top teams and often lackluster against the other sides.

What they’re saying

Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal on springing an upset“I would prefer to be Goliath, I would rather be in his position. But during my career most of the time has been spent in the position of David, and we have been able to do some surprises as David. We have done it often, we are working to make more of them. I was kind of the Goliath when I was with Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon, but during those moments Goliath was a little ill.”

Liverpool’s Klopp on goalkeeper Loris KariusMy favourite solution, always, is that we do it with our boys. They step up, they deliver, they improve. The problem they have is that everyone is watching them (through a magnifying glass) and saying ‘still not good enough!’ I will only mention one name. Everyone talks about him with us and that is Butland. I only saw the game (against Manchester United). Fantastic goalkeeper but was he perfect? No. He wasn’t in that game. But everyone says ‘still better than our boys!'”

Prediction

It’s hard to see this going in Swans favor at all, though we’ll peg them to keep it close on the score board: 2-0 to Liverpool.

Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs

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A new name has emerged on the loan market, as Borussia Dortmund forward Andre Schurrle is reportedly being made available for the second half of the Premier League season.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.

But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.

Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.

And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.

He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.