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)

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | MLS Three Things ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)