SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 19: Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and England at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 19, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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′

Arsene Wenger “99.9 percent confident” new players will arrive at Arsenal

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger is just teasing Arsenal’s fans now.

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With the Gunners reportedly closing in on a double swoop for Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez which will cost them almost $70 million, Wenger seems very confident that the deals will get done very shortly.

Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger confirmed they are closing in on new signings ahead of the summer transfer window shutting on Aug. 31.

“We are working on the deals. We are not close enough to announce today that they will sign for us, and will we sign anybody before the end of the transfer window? I am 99 per cent confident.”

The deal for 24-year-old Mustafi has been rumbling on for some time now with Valencia driving a hard bargain for the German international defender. However, it is believed a fee of $46.2 million has been agreed for the center back and he is now on his way to London to complete a medical.

[ MORE: Europa League draw tough for United, Saints ]

As for Perez, the 27-year-old striker from Deportivo La Coruna has emerged as a late target for Arsenal after Everton had tracked him for most of the summer. It is believed Arsenal has met the $22.5 million release clause in his contract after Lucas scored 17 goals in La Liga for Deportivo last season. He will challenge Olivier Giroud for the central striking position at the Emirates Stadium but can also play in a variety of positions in the attacking unit.

If both of these deals go through as expected then Arsenal will have actually spent the third-most of any PL club this summer on new players, trailing only Manchester City and Manchester United in spending. They also signed Swiss international midfielder Granit Xhaka for $40 million earlier this summer.

Wenger joked about now being branded a big spending this summer and told one journalist “it is a shame you are not my friend. You will see I spend a lot of money,” when asked about the perception that Wenger doesn’t like to spend much in the transfer market.

Arsenal’s manager also revealed that Calum Chambers is likely to leave on loan before the window shuts with Mustafi taking his place, while the Gunners will have Gabriel back soon to join youngster Rob Holding, Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny as center back options. There is also club captain Per Mertesacker but he center back is out with a long-term knee injury and won’t be back until January.

UEFA Europa League group stage: Man United, Saints handed tough draws

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with Paul Pogba during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on August 19, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Premier League clubs Manchester United and Southampton were both handed tough, but exciting, draws in the 2016-17 group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

The draw, which took place in Monaco on Friday, saw Jose Mourinho’s United placed in Group A as they face Turkish giants Fenerbache, Dutch powerhouse Feyenoord and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk with some big games coming up at Old Trafford.

United’s manager was happy with the tough tests for his squad: “It’s a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam – it’s good for us,” Mourinho said.

Saints, who have reached the group stage of the Europa League for the first-time in club history, face mouth-watering clashes against Inter Milan, while they also have tough games against Czech giants Sparta Prague and the champions of Israel Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

48 teams who had qualified for the Europa League group stage were split up into 12 groups of four teams with some other big ties cropping up as Group G looks particularly strong as it contains Ajax, Standard Liege, Celta Vigo and Panathinaikos.

The Europa League final will take place in Stockholm, Sweden at the Friends Arena on May 24, 2017.

Below is the draw in full, with the opening group games taking place on Thursday Sept. 15. There are six group games in total for each team and you can see the full schedule by clicking on the link above.


GROUP A
Manchester United
Fenerbache
Feyenoord
Zorya Luhansk

GROUP B
Olympiakos
APOEL FC
Young Boys
FC Astana

GROUP C
Anderlecht
St Etienne
FSV Mainz 05
Gabala

GROUP D
Zenit St Petersburg
AZ Alkmaar
Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Dundalk

GROUP E
Viktoria Plzen
AS Roma
Austria Wien
Astra Giurgiu

GROUP F
Athletic Bilbao
Genk
Rapid Wien
Sassuolo

GROUP G
Ajax
Standard Liege
Celta Vigo
Panathinaikos

GROUP H
Shakhtar Donetsk
SC Braga
Gent
Konyaspor

GROUP I
FC Schalke 04
FC Salzburg
Krasnodar
Nice

GROUP J
Fiorentina
PAOK FC
Slovan Liberec
Qarabag

GROUP K
Inter Milan
Sparta Prague
Southampton
Hapoel Beer-Sheva

GROUP L
Villarreal
Steaua Bucharest
FC Zurich
Osmanlispor

UEFA: Top four leagues guaranteed four teams in UCL from 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  UEFA  Champions League trophy is seen ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The UEFA Champions League will see a big change for three seasons from the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

On Friday it was announced by UEFA that several changes, most notably the way teams qualify for the UCL, had been approved and will take place in the next competition cycle.

The biggest change and the one everyone is talking about is that from 2018 the teams who finish in the top four of the four highest ranked UEFA nations will automatically qualify for the UCL group stage.

[ MORE: Analyzing UCL draw for PL teams ]

That means no more UCL play-off for teams who finish fourth in the Premier League.

In a statement on their website, UEFA’s General Secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis revealed everyone is happy with the changes.

“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions. We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”

Some argue that having 16 places guaranteed to teams from the top four nations in Europe — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — is a monopoly and limits the chances of smaller clubs from smaller nations from qualifying.

UEFA also revealed a new coefficient system with clubs no longer having a country share tacked on to their coefficient under most circumstances, plus historical success will be weighted in the coefficient rankings to take into account past UCL and Europa League titles won.

For example, Liverpool’s coefficient will likely increase despite not playing in Europe this season as instead of the coefficient being solely made up of how they and other English teams have performed in Europe over the past few years, now their five previous UCL titles will be weighted and their coefficient will improve due to past success.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

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Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.