Ghana was a must-win for the United States, but Portugal will define their World Cup

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Without three points against Ghana, none of this would be possible.

The first hurdle has been cleared thanks to the now-household name John Brooks, but the real test of skill and ability arrives tonight.

With the United States set to take on Portugal in Manaus – the middle of three in the “Group of Death” – the entire spectrum of possibilities shines brightly upon the Arena da Amazonia.

The draw between Germany and Ghana has put the US in a feast-or-famine situation. A win against the #4-ranked team in the World today and the Stars & Stripes would be the first of its group to qualify for the knockout stage. Not even Germany was able to pull that off in two matches.

But just as easily, a loss or even a draw could be the start of a downward spiral that would likely come to a disappointing close against Germany.

This is where World Cups are defined for bubble teams like the United States.

Will this tournament mark the announcement of the US on the world stage as a team to contend with once every four years? Or do they remain among the middle pack for another cycle?

Jurgen Klinsmann proved against Ghana that this team has fitness, resolve, fight, and guts.  But now against Portugal, this team must prove they have skill, technical ability, and quality.

They must prove they belong.  They must earn their place.

With so much on the line, we will see not just where the United States currently stands, but where they hope to go in the future. Does this young generation of American talent have the guts to perform in such an enormous game? Or will they fail to produce the quality it takes to defeat such a

Portugal is beatable. Heck, anyone is beatable in this crazy tournament. But the US has an opportunity. Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t 100%. Pepe is suspended. Fabio Coentrao is injured. The door is open to take advantage of a momentous situation.

But the important point to remember is whatever the outcome, it will likely be deserved.  Should the US slay the beast in front of them and secure their footing in the knockout round, they will deserve it.  If they stumble to the precipice of elimination, it will also likely be a just result.

Jurgen Klinsmann has the United States within reach of a win which could define the national soccer identity going forward into further building an ascending future in the sport.

It’s sort of a no-lose situation for the US. If they fail to achieve such a victory, it would by no means mark a degradation of the country’s progress made in the last 20 years.

But if they can complete the task in front of them, this band of 23 players will be known for a while as those who made the leap in Brazil.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET