Suárez scores twice in return, leads Uruguay to 2-1 win over England

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Two shots are all you need, provided they fall to Luis Suárez. Scoring twice in his 2014 World Cup debut, Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer has put England on the brink of elimination, with his 84th minute game-winner giving the South American champions a 2-1 win over the Three Lions in São Paulo.

Suárez opened the scoring in the 39th minute with his team’s first shot on target, heading inside Joe Hart’s right post to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead. After Wayne Rooney’s first World Cup goal in the 75th minute appeared to preserve a draw for England, Suárez blasted a 84th minute shot from the right of the penalty area into the center of goal, converting La Celeste’s second shot on target into the game-winning goal.

Though England managed six shots on Fernando Muslera, the loss leaves the team on the verge of its first group stage exit since 1958, potentially eliminated before they take the field next Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. If Costa Rica draws Italy tomorrow, the Three Lions are out.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have new reason for optimism. Playing his first match since the end of the Premier League season, Suárez almost single-handedly sank a team that started five of his Liverpool teammates. In the process, Suárez gave Uruguay reason to believe ahead of their group stage’s toughest match: Tuesday’s meeting with Italy in Natal.

[ MORE: Talking points: Putting England’s failure in context ]
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Even play that saw England hold 60 percent of the ball through halftime failed to produce a shot on target until the 39th minute. Then, perfectly executing a plan that asked Nicolas Lodeiro to connected Uruguay’s midfield with its two attacking stars, La Celeste struck first, getting both Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez involved in the day’s first goal.

On a quick movement out of its own half, Uruguay found Lodeiro in front of the defense, with the ensuing attention leaving Cavani open on the left flank. A ball played wide opened up the English defense, allowing the Paris Saint-Germain striker to find Suárez with a right-footed chip to the middle of the area. Having pulled off the back of defender Phil Jagielka, Suárez headed inside Joe Hart’s right post, giving the two-time champions a 1-0 lead.

England nearly responded through Daniel Sturridge two minutes later, but after being sent to halftime with their one-goal deficit, the Three Lions allowed Uruguay to assume control of the game early in the second period. A 49th minute cross from Suárez nearly caught Hart out of position, though the Manchester City keeper fell back to his line to keep the ball out. Three minutes later, Lodeiro put Cavani in on goal in the left of the penalty area, though the ensuing shot was sent well wide of the right post. Minutes after the teams returned to the field, England was in danger of conceding a second goal.

source: AP
England’s Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match between Uruguay and England in Sao Paulo. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In the 54th minute, however, the Three Lions nearly even the scales, but with his second big miss of the match, Rooney’s World Cup goal-scoring drought continued. After heading an open chance onto the bar in the 31st minute, Rooney was given a chance to equalize from nine yards. One-timing a left-footed shot, Rooney found Muslera in the middle of goal, allowing the Uruguayan keeper to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.

Just over 20 minutes later, however, Rooney’s slump was over. Attacking the far post as play built down England’s right, the maligned attacker tapped in a Glen Johnson pass sent through the six-yard box, scoring his first World Cup goal from close range to bring the Three Lions back into the tournament.

By match’s end, however, the headlines belonged to Suárez. Off a long ball out of Uruguay’s end, a headed ball allowed Suárez to get behind the England defense and into the right of Hart’s penalty box. As the England keeper went low to try to block the shot, the Uruguayan sniper went high, putting his 41st international score into the middle of the Three Lions’ goal.

It’s a score that will likely send England out at the group stage for the first time since 1958 (England failed to qualify in 1994). Roy Hodgson and his team need Costa Rica to lose twice, Italy to beat Uruguay, and the tiebreakers to fall their way in order to make the knockout round. Any draws over the group’s final three games send the Three Lions home.

Though Uruguay has yet to face the Italians, their scenarios are more positive, particularly if Suárez continues scoring goals. With a win on Tuesday, La Celeste will likely go through. Even without that result, there are other scenarios that could see the two-time champions into the second round.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gonzalez (78′), Ríos, Lodeiro (Stuani 67′); Suárez (Coates 88′), Cavani.

Goals: Suárez 39′, 84′

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson (Lambert 87′); Welbeck (Lallana 71′), Sterling (Barkley 64′), Rooney; Sturridge.

Goals: Rooney 75′

Mascherano still believes Neymar is “the future” of Barcelona

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The Neymar-to-PSG saga has escalated quickly, and signs of the Brazilian’s move to Paris are growing, but one Barcelona player remains confident that his compatriot will stay in Spain ahead of the new La Liga season.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

PSG has shown a willingness over recent days to meet Barca’s worldly $260 million transfer fee for the 25-year-old, while Neymar has reportedly alerted his teammates that he will in fact be heading to the Parc des Princes next month.

Veteran Barcelona midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano is one of the Blaugrana players that hopes Neymar will stick around and help anchor the La Liga giants for years to come despite a possible massive payday in store.

“Obviously he is young and I hope he’s here with Barcelona for many more years,” the Argentina defender said to ESPN.

“He is a really important player for the club. Because of his age, he’s the future of the club and we hope we can keep on counting on him.

“He’s accustomed to the pressure and people talking. There’s always going to be rumours and news around him.

“It’s really difficult to give advice. Firstly, I’m not anyone to be giving advice and secondly, I see him really happy here, really happy. [Barca] are a club that have made it possible for him to perform at his best. But after that, each person has to make their own decisions.”

If Neymar does bolt for Paris the complexion of the MSN-Barca attack changes drastically despite still boasting elite talents Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

[ MORE: Man United drops Man City in Houston “Manchester Derby” ]

Barca has done little in the transfer market this summer, only adding Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo of Benfica. The club continues to pursue Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, however, the Reds recently rejected a bid of $93 million.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.