France

At halftime: Deadly French hit first-half triple to take command of Switzerland – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Many blew off the French demolition of Honduras due to the quality (or lack thereof) of their opponent, but it looks as if the French are here to stay.

They’re taking it to Group E seeded team, on top of Switzerland 3-0 in the first 45 minutes, and probably should have had more.

It’s been all France, with a 12-5 shot differential and six of the seven on target.  They were heavy on the break, and converted their set pieces.

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Goals:

17′ – A corner fell to the French, and from a long way out, an Olivier Giroud header threaded the needle between Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and the near post defender Ricardo Rodriguez.  It was perfect placement from a good distance out, and France opened the scoring 1-0.

18′ – France are deadly, and they took advantage of a Switzerland mistake just a minute later. Valon Behrami’s back-pass was intercepted by a streaking Karim Benzema, and he slotted through Blaise Matuidi coming down the left.  Matuidi finished just inside the post, and the French had a 2-0 lead. Benaglio really should have done better to cover his near post, but could not read where Matuidi was going to put the ball.

40′ – A Switzerland corner turned deadly for the underdogs.  Raphael Varane put through a beautiful pass across the midline to a streaking Olivier Giroud, and he sliced in a perfect low cross for Mathieu Valbuena to crash home from close range.  After having a penalty denied, the French found their third to take serious control.

Other key moments:

7′ – Swiss central defender Steve Von Bergen produced a nasty cut above his eye and could not continue, forcing an early substitution that brought Aston Villa defender Phillippe Senderos into the fray.

27′ – A Switzerland free kick from outside the edge of the box found Granit Xhaka, and he put the ball into the back of the net, but the corner flag was up. It would have been a perfect response to the French double, but it was not to be.

30′ – A Swiss break sees Admir Mehmedi take a shot from straight on, which Hugo Lloris saved. The rebound fell to Xherdan Shaqiri, who struck a bouncer that forced Lloris into an outstanding save, just managing fingertips to the ball destined for the far post, and it just trickled wide and out of the reach of Haris Seferovic making a far post run.

32′ – An idiotic foul by Johan Djorou on Benzema two yards from the end line with the ball about to go out led to a penalty, but France couldn’t capitalize. Benzema stepped up but failed to find the corner with his penalty, and Benaglio guessed correctly and saved it. Yohan Cabaye had a great chance on the rebound, but he hit the crossbar with a lunging shot. The miss is the first failed penalty of the 2014 World Cup.

43′ – Valbuena almost had a second, catching many off-guard with a first-touch shot on the outside of his boot, but Benaglio saved it well with the shot right at him.

LINEUPS:

France – Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Varane, Sakho, Cabaye, Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema, Matuidi, Sissoko

Goals – Giroud 17′, Matuidi 18′, Valbuena 40′

Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen (Senderos 9′), Inler, Seferovic, Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Djourou, Shaqiri

Players to know:

Olivier Giroud – France’s first goalscorer is the standout frontman at Arsenal, and after finding himself on the bench against Honduras, he earned a start alongside Karim Benzema and was deadly with his head.  He also assisted France’s third to Valbuena.

Yohan Cabaye/Mamadou Sakho – The holding pair have been on point for France. Sakho has completed a game-high 27/29 passes out of the back and made three clearances, and Cabaye finished 20/24 passes as he quarterbacked the advance to all areas of the attacking half.

Key numbers:

81% – Neither side passed well in the first half, with lots of turnovers. The French completed 81% of their passes, while Switzerland only made 80% successful.

7 – The total shots on target for France, proving their dominance. They were actually out-passed by Switzerland by 20, but put seven shots on net as compared to Switzerland’s one.  The total shots are 12 for France and five for Switzerland.

Questions for the second half:

Hardly any, this game’s about done and dusted. The Swiss need a comeback for the history books if they are to make this a game.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.