Slimani

At halftime: Furious Algerian pressure overwhelms South Korea for 3-0 lead

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Story of the game: Algeria made significant attacking changes to their lineup, and boy did it pay off in the first 45 minutes against South Korea.

With both group underdogs looking to take three points from this crucial match if they are to have any hope at a surprise knockout phase appearance, the Algerians clearly wanted it more. They played a smash-and-grab attack and caught the South Koreans completely off guard.

Islam Slimani, on the bench for Algeria’s first match, got the start up front and played beautifully, picking up a goal and assist in the first half.

Goals:

26′ – After poking just about every pressure point in the South Korean defense, Algeria found their breakthrough straight up the middle.  A long ball up the gut found a charging Slimani, and he powered his way through a pair of defenders unable to keep up, and touched the ball past the keeper for the opener.

28′ – Algeria weren’t finished, and their attacking flair earned another goal. A corner flew into the South Korean box, and goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong misjudged the flight of the ball. He came out too far for the punch, and Algerian defender Rafik Halliche beat him to the ball and scored with a powerful header.

38′ – Slimani cut through the South Korean defense, and the Algerians continued their blitzkrieg. In space in the box, he brilliantly touched the ball with the outside of his foot across two defenders to a wide-open Abdelmoumene Djabou for an easy low finish.

Other key moments:

4′ – Algeria started the much better and more attacking side, and nearly produced a goal right away.  Sofiane Fegouhli was brought down in the box but no foul called by the Colombian referee.  Yacine Brahimi ended up scuffing the shot over.

9′ – With Algeria still asking all the questions, a corner found Islam Slimani at the far post, but his free header went just wide and into the side netting.

LINEUPS:

South Korea: S R Jung, S Y Yun, Y G Kim, H M Son, C Y Park, Y Lee, J C Koo, K Y Han, S Y Ki, C Y Lee, J H Hong.

Algeria: Mbolhi, Bouguerra, Halliche, Mesbah, Feghouli, Brahimi, Medjani, Slimani, Bentaleb, Djabou, Mandi.

Goals – Slimani 26′, Halliche 28′, Djabou 38′

Key players:

  • Islam Slimani – By far the most dangerous Algerian in the first half, he was incisive on the ball and smart off it.  He found spaces in every situation he was put in, and has his country well in front.
  • Sofiane Feghouli – With both pressure in the midfield and chances at the front, Feghouli shadowed Slimani and proved dangerous in doing so.

Numbers to know:

  • 86% – The passing accuracy of Algeria, 14% better than their full opening match against Belgium.
  • 25 – The number of successful attacking-third passes for Algeria in the first half, 20 of which came on the left flank.
  • 8 – The amount of touches South Korean star Son Heung-Min had in the first half (7 passes received, 1 interception), one of which came in the Algerian box. He did not produce a shot.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can Algeria maintain this heavy pressure for another 45 minutes? Smash-and-grab is exhausting, and the Algerians clearly worked incredibly hard to build this lead. The biggest question for them is will they change things up and sit back to hold on, or will they continue to pour on the pressure and risk getting tired very early?
  • Is South Korea emotionally sunk? Anytime a team falls behind by three goals this early, it’s always a valid to ask if they’re too far back, physically and emotionally.  Can they break through this furious Algerian pressure to get their forwards the ball?

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.