World Cup Today: England, Uruguay among four fending off elimination

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WORLD CUP TODAY: THURSDAY, JUNE 19

A pair of elimination games feature on Thursday’s World Cup docket after Wednesday saw reigning champions Spain bounced, Chile and the Netherlands punch tickets to the knockout rounds and Croatia cruise past Cameroon.

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MATCH 21: COLOMBIA VS. IVORY COAST
Location: Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s guide: Ivory Coast is a win away from exorcising the demons of consecutive group stage exits at World Cup, while Colombia was impressive in absolutely demolishing a reputable Greek defense. Certainly both teams would appreciate the comfort of a win.

What they’re saying:
Ivory Coast head coach Sabri Lamouchi on their opener: “”We didn’t start the game very well by conceding through a lapse in concentration. After that, we got into a lot of good positions. For us it was really important to start well this tournament. To have a player like Didier Drogba in your squad, as a starter or a sub, changes a game. The players are very happy with the victory, but we are not yet qualified.”

History:
First meeting.

Premier League players:
Colombia: None.
Ivory Coast: Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Cheick Tioté (Newcastle), Kolo Touré (Liverpool), Yaya Touré (Manchester City)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source:  MATCH 23: URUGUAY VS. ENGLAND
Location: Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Another “elimination” game, will one of these clubs join the ranks of Spain as perceived giants to go out after just two matches. Uruguay gets Luis Suarez back but will be without Maxi Pereira and Diego Lugano, while England will be missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

What they’re saying:
England’s Steven Gerrard on his message to the team: ” I have had that feeling of going out of a major tournament. I know what that feeling is about and that is the feeling I don’t want come Friday morning… There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. You go home earlier than you expect. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it.”

History:
This will be the 11th meeting between the two nations, with England holding a 4-3-3 edge.

Premier League players:
Uruguay: Luis Suárez (Liverpool), Gastón Ramírez (Southampton)
England: 22 of England’s 23 players are on Premier League clubs. The full squad list can be found here.

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 22: JAPAN VS. GREECE
Location: Arena das Dunas, Natal
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: The loser of this match is out of the World Cup, and a draw would hurt both teams’ chances dramatically considering both lost their openers. Greece’s normally-stingy D was humbled by Colombia 3-0, while Japan was “Drogba’d” in blowing a 1-0 lead to the Ivory Coast.

What they’re saying:
Japan star Keisuke Honda on their 0-1 start: “Nobody feels good about losing and obviously it was a shock. But it’s not a shock that we lost, the thing that shocks me is we lost because we could not play to our strengths. We gave our opponents’ front line too much respect. Mentally we were weak but that is not a problem that can’t be fixed. A little bit more spirit can turn things around … of course we still have an opportunity to get through the group phase.”

History:
Japan won the only meeting, 1-0, at the 2005 Confederations Cup.

Premier League players:
Japan: Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Greece: None

VIDEO: Pedro scores stunning goal for Chelsea

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Not a bad way to start the Premier League weekend…

12 minutes into the first game of Matchweek 9, Chelsea’s Pedro curled home a stunning effort into the far corner and off the far post after a corner was played short to him.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A simply stunning goal from the Spaniard which you can watch in the video above.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Watford in top five clash

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Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as fifth and fourth clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea are without a win in three games in all competitions and some pressure is starting to build on the Blues as they’ve fallen further behind the two Manchester clubs atop the PL table.

As for Watford, Marco Silva‘s men are in fourth place and aiming to keep up their impressive away form in the PL this season with three of their four wins coming on the road.

In team news Chelsea’s injuries are piling up with Victor Moses and N'Golo Kante missing but Alvaro Morata does start after recovering from his hamstring injury, while Watford start Troy Deeney up top after his impressive cameo against Arsenal last week.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Musonda, Willian, Batshuayi

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra, Deeney, Richarlison. Subs:

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!