World Cup Today: Argentina, Germany both hoping for second win

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 21

Yesterday, Costa Rica qualified for the next round with a 1-0 victory over Italy, knocking England out of the tournament in the process. Then came an absolute goalfest between France and Switzerland, with France scoring five before deciding to be generous, and allowing Switzerland a less-embarrassing 5-2 defeat. Any match after that was bound to a a let-down, but Ecuador still did their best to entertain with a 2-1 comeback against Honduras.

Now, get comfy on your couch or find a decent table at the bar, because you’re not going to want to miss any of Saturday’s matches.

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MATCH 27: ARGENTINA VS. IRAN
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Argentina showed they aren’t invincible in the first game, with coach Alejandro Sabella electing to roll out five defenders against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite taking a 1-0 lead into the break, the albiceleste looked rather impotent, and were only ahead thanks to Bosnia’s own goal in the third minute. But Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 for the second half, highlighting Argentina’s impressive attack and culminating in a 2-1 victory.

Iran’s first match, on the other hand, went as expected. Both they and Nigeria played defensively, giving us the tournament’s first goalless draw.

What they’re saying

Lionel Messi on Alejandro Sabella’s decision to switch tactics mid-match: “As strikers we prefer that system as it gives us more attacking opportunities and if we don’t use that system we suffer a bit. We as strikers favour that line-up. In the first half I was often on my own and so was Kun (Aguero) and it was very difficult, so there are things to be improved on.”

History
Argentina and Iran have faced off just once, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Most think there will be a rather different result this time around.

Premier League Players
Argentina: Manchester City loves Argentina, with Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero all part of the squad

MLS Players
Iran: Steve Beitashour plies his trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 28: GERMANY VS. GHANA

Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
It was all too easy for Germany the first time around. Portugal were already down by two goals when Pepe decided to nuzzle Thomas Müller lovingly with his head, getting himself sent off and thus permitting his enemy to easily score two more. Germany ended the day with a 4-0 win.

As for Ghana, well, we all know that story, don’t we? Clint Dempsey scored within seconds, but André Ayew pulled one back with less then ten minutes to go. John Brooks put in the winner minutes later, giving the USMNT the 2-1 win.

Oh, and two brothers face off today: Jerome Boateng for Germany, Kevin-Prince Boateng for Ghana. Granted, Jerome’s not likely to see much time, but it’s still pretty neat.

What they’re saying

Kwesi Appiah insists Ghana’s performance against the U.S. was not due to unpaid bonuses: “I’m surprised to hear this. I mean, fine. Some of the money hasn’t been paid yet, but…if you look at the performance today, it’s got nothing to do with money. We created a lot of chances but we didn’t take them.”

History
Germany have won both times the two teams have faced off, with a combined scoreline of 7-1. Will Ghana fare better this time?

Premier League players
Germany: Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski (Arsenal); André Schürrle (Germany)

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MATCH 29: NIGERIA VS. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

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

Cheater’s guide
Bosnia did a good job of keeping Leo Messi quiet in their first game, but still came away with a 2-1 loss to Argentina. Nigeria, meanwhile, kept quiet in general, notching a 0-0 draw with Iran.

What they’re saying
Safet Sušić on how his Bosnia side aren’t just “happy to be in Brazil”: “But we haven’t come here to learn, we have players in top class European clubs, players who have acquired a great deal of experience. We have self-imposed ambitions to make it out of the group, and so not come here for people to see us, we have ambitions to progress out of the group, it won’t be easy, but I’m convinced we haven’t said our last words.”

History:
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses (Chelsea); Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Asmir Begović (Stoke City); Edin Džeko (Manchester City)

Totti leaves future uncertain before final match with Roma

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ROME (AP) Francesco Totti has finally announced that Sunday’s match against Genoa will be his last with Roma after an incredible 25-season career with his hometown club.

Whether the 40-year-old Totti will continue playing with another squad remains anyone’s guess.

The 2006 World Cup winner opened his future to questions by releasing a carefully worded statement on Thursday.

[ MORE: Jordan Morris talks to PST ]

“Roma-Genoa, Sunday 28th May 2017. The last time I can wear Roma’s jersey,” Totti said. “I can’t tell you in a few words how much these colors meant, mean and will always mean to me.

“I just feel that my love for football never fades; it’s a passion, my passion. It’s so deep I can’t imagine not fueling it any longer. Ever. From Monday I’m ready to go again. I’m ready for a new challenge,” Totti added.

The first part of Totti’s statement inferred that it wasn’t his decision to end his Roma career but that of the club, by not offering him a contract for next season.

Totti has not hidden his difficult relationship with Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, who has used Totti mainly as a last-option substitute.

However, Spalletti is widely expected to follow former Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini to Inter Milan; while Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco, a former teammate of Totti’s, could move to Roma.

The second part of Totti’s statement, when he mentioned a “new challenge,” inferred that Totti is considering ending his career with another club.

Miami FC, which plays in the second-tier NASL and is managed by Totti’s former teammate with the national team, Alessandro Nesta, and co-owned by Paolo Maldini – another former Italy teammate – appears to be the most attractive option.

James Pallotta, Roma’s American owner, has offered Totti an unspecified management position.

As for Sunday, Totti is not expected to start.

While the match at the Stadio Olimpico was sold out for Totti’s goodbye, Roma enters the final match of the season still looking to seal second place in Serie A and a direct berth into the Champions League.

Roma is one point ahead of third-place Napoli, which will play at Sampdoria.

Totti has appeared in 785 matches in all competitions with Roma, third all-time in Italy for most games with a single club behind only Maldini (902 with AC Milan) and Javier Zanetti (858 with Inter Milan).

Totti is also second all-time in goals scored in Serie A with 250, 24 short of the record that Silvio Piola established from 1929-54. No other active player has more than 200.

But statistics don’t tell the entire story for Totti, a cultural icon perhaps more linked with his club and city than any other player in Italian history.

Born in the working-class San Giovanni section of Rome, Totti made his debut for Roma at the age of 16 way back in 1993.

In 1998 at the age of 22, Totti became the youngest ever Serie A captain.

At the 2000 European Championship, Totti’s chipped “Panenka” penalty against the Netherlands highlighted his talent and audacity.

A year later, Totti led Roma to its third Serie A title and was the centerpiece of a celebration inside the Circus Maximus attended by a crowd estimated at 1 million.

After a spitting incident with Denmark’s Christian Poulsen at Euro 2004 slightly tarnished his image, Totti regained respect within the national team by returning from a broken leg to help Italy win the 2006 World Cup – playing with a metal rod and about 10 support screws inside his left ankle.

In 2007, Totti led Serie A with a personal-high 26 goals and earned the Golden Shoe award as the top scorer in Europe.

In 2015, Totti scored twice as Roma came back from two goals down to earn a draw with Lazio in the city derby, then took a selfie with Roma’s fans in the background.

A final highlight came in February, when Totti scored in added time to give Roma a 2-1 win over Cesena and a spot in the Italian Cup semifinals.

On Sunday, Totti’s career will be honored with an extensive post-match celebration at the Olimpico.

Whether or not there will be more highlights next season – somewhere – remains to be seen.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Transfer rumor roundup: Morata flying to Milan, Carvalho to Newcastle

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Alvaro Morata is one of the hottest properties on the planet. Like James Rodriguez, he doesn’t get the time at Real Madrid he’d receive at most other clubs in the world. And like James, he’s been linked with plenty of clubs including Premier League powers Chelsea and Manchester United.

[ MORE: Man City medical for Silva ]

But Italian site Gazzetta says Morata will skip over the Premier League for a return to Serie A, this time heading to AC Milan. The ex-Juventus star, 24, scored 20 goals in 42 appearances for Real this year.

Morata is said to be flying to Italy, hours after Marca claimed that Jose Mourinho would insist on his inclusion in any deal for David De Gea.

Newcastle United is the latest club linked to Portuguese center midfielder William Carvalho, and the Magpies are said to be looking into a $78 million bid. The 25-year-old Sporting CP dynamo is a regular in the transfer rumor mill, and has 31 caps for Portugal. The Angola-born Carvalho played nearly every minute of Portugal’s EURO 2016 winning run.

Sevilla: Agreement with Sampaoli to leave for Argentina job

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Argentine managerial wizard Jorge Sampaoli is coming home.

Sevilla announced that Sampaoli is leaving the club after one season to take charge of the Argentina national team, with La Albiceleste’s World Cup fate hanging in the balance.

Sampaoli won 50 percent of his matches at Sevilla, leading the side to the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 in addition to finishing fourth in La Liga.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

He previously led Chile to its first Copa America crown.

Sevilla said the agreement to let him go will be signed on Thursday, allowing him to oversee Argentina’s next World Cup qualifier in late August. Argentina sits fifth in the CONMEBOL table, just two points out of second.

It heads to Uruguay before hosting Venezuela, with the remaining qualifiers versus Peru and away to Ecuador.

FA Cup Final preview: Desperate Arsenal meets Double-seeking Blues

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  • Clubs split PL series
  • Chelsea’s Conte aims for double
  • Chelsea 8W-3D-2L vs. Arsenal since 2012

Arsenal and Chelsea face off with a trophy on the line for the fourth time this century when the London sides hit Wembley Stadium for Saturday’s FA Cup Final.

Arsenal beat Chelsea in the 2015 Community Shield, the first silverware match-up between the two sides since the 2007 League Cup Final in Wales. The Blues won that one, 2-1, while Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in the 2002 FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Conte open to contract extension ]

A win would be Arsenal’s third FA Cup trophy in four seasons, and Arsenal would be thrilled to put something shiny in its trophy case following a season of tumult at the Emirates Stadium which ended without UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years.

Conte knows Arsenal is desperate for something good.

What they’re saying

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on what a win could mean“We wanted to finish higher up in the league, there is no doubting that. We cannot hide from that and we need to own up to that. The FA Cup is a big trophy, one we want to win and which would definitely boost morale going into next season.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on the match: “If you ask me who is the favorite now, I can tell you it is Arsenal because Arsenal now has the possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason, we must play with great patience. We must find in ourselves the right motivation, the right anger because the game can be very difficult for all of these reasons.”

Prediction

Could go either way, with many players not just glory-hunting but in the shop window. Will Alexis Sanchez be the difference maker? Mesut Ozil? Maybe, but we think Chelsea ratchets up the intensity one more time and claims a double with a 2-1 win.