Game(s) on: Colombia looks to clinch first, Ivory Coast aims to advance out of Group C

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Of the six teams already qualified for the knockout round, only one has gone through with a perfect record. Today in Cuiabá, Colombia looks to join them, though the Cafeteros need only a draw against third place Japan to secure first place in Group C at the 2014 World Cup.

That placing will ensure the attack-heavy South Americans will avoid the top qualifier from Group D. Because of the depth of that group, though, first place will provide little consolation. The South American champions, Uruguay, will face Colombia, should José Pékerman get a result this afternoon.

Even if Colombia’s upset by the Samurai Blue, it will take a lopsided result in one of the day’s games to push the Ivory Coast into first. For Les Elephants, however, the goals are more modest. Making their third appearance at the World Cup, the Ivorians are looking for their first place in the knockout round. Beat Greece in Fortaleza, and Sabri Lamouchi’s side is through.

But that’s not the only way the Ivorians can get through. Thanks to edges in goal difference and goals scored, the first tiebreakers are currently in the Elephants‘ favor, which means with one point against Greece, the Ivorians are through unless Japan puts up a high-scoring or lopsided win. If Greece upsets Lamouchi’s team, the former European champions will go through with a Colombia result.

[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Japan-Colombia | Greece-Ivory Coast ]

Tired of the scenarios? Yeah, they get a little think at this point of the tournament. Thankfully, the soccer starts soon. Here are the lineups:

Japan: Kawashima; Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Nagatomo; Hasebe, Aoyama; Okubo, Honda, Kagawa; Okazaki

Colombia: Ospina; Arias, Valdes, Balanta, Armero; Cuadrado, Guarin, Mejia, Quintero; Ramos, Martínez

Expectation: Colombia are big favorites, with Japan failing to impress over their first 180 minutes in Brazil.

One blogger’s prediction: Japan may give the Cafeteros some early trouble, but they’re just outgunned. Even if Alberto Zaccheroni can spring an early surprise, the depth at Pékerman’s disposal should get the team to nine points. 3-1, Colombia.


 

Greece: Karnezi; Torosidis, Manolas, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Christodoulopoulos, Karagounis, Kone, Salpingidis; Samaras

Ivory Coast: Barry; Aurier, K. Touré, Bamba, Boka; Tioté, Serey Die, Y. Touré; Kalou, Drogba, Gervinho

Expectation: While there is a healthy respect for the trouble Greece can give an opponent, few are picking them to trip up the Ivorians.

One blogger’s prediction: The Ivorians haven’t scored a goal in the first 60 minutes of either of their games. Should they start slow again, they’ll find it difficult to switch gears against a Greece them comfortably hanging out in their bunker. While a 0-0 is tempting, I’m still taking the Ivorians, 1-0.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Crystal Palace

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Leicester City host Crystal Palace on Saturday at the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams in fine form recently.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Claude Puel has led Leicester to four consecutive wins and the Foxes have surged up the standings since he took charge in October with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in fine form.

Palace are unbeaten in six games, winning twice, as Roy Hodgson has turned them into an incredibly tough team to beat.

In team news Leicester bring in Demarai Gray for Shinji Okazaki despite the Japanese international scoring twice in the win over Southampton in midweek.

Palace bring in Martin Kelly and James McArthur for Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Luka Milivojevic.


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Luan, Gremio looks to dethrone Real Madrid at Club World Cup

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“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.”

That’s Gremio youngster Luan after being told Real Madrid star and countryman Marcelo said he has a huge future in the game.

Luan and his teammates could make a lot more noise with a win in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Real.

[ MORE: Galaxy to acquire Bingham? ]

Gremio edged Pachuca in extra time of its semifinal after Real came back to beat Al Jazira, and now hopes to become just the second non-European club to win the Club World Cup since 2007.

Brazilian clubs won the first three CWCs between 2000-06, but Corinthians claimed the lone Brazilian title since when it beat Chelsea in 2012.

Spanish clubs have won the last three finals, with Real sandwiching two around Barca’s 2015 win over River Plate.

The 24-year-old Luan won Olympic gold with Brazil in 2016, and has two caps with the national team.

Still waiting for these Premier League summer transfers to hit

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They seemed like hits at the time, but some significant summer transfer buys are are struggling in the Premier League.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

Whereas Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic, and Alvaro Morata have been solid pickups, and even lesser moves like Kurt Zouma to Stoke and Grzegorz Krychowiak to West Brom have hit the spot, some purchases just have not panned out at their new clubs.

Some aren’t getting playing time, while others aren’t hitting their stride, but here are some moves which just haven’t paid off (yet).

Andre Gray, Watford — The striker has two goals and two assists, but has had problems keeping hold of the ball and has the same amount of goals as defender Daryl Janmaat and midfielder Will Hughes despite playing about 300 percent of their minutes.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham — The ex-Stoke player was a menace in a midweek draw against Arsenal, but Arnautovic has managed just one goal for the Irons this season. That’s equal to his amount of red cards.

Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa, Swansea City — Sanches hasn’t been able to get into the squad despite being one of the more talked about loans of the summer; Mesa may be coming around in recent weeks, but was an unused sub or not in the squad in 10 of Swans’ first 13.

Jese, Stoke City – The Real Madrid attacker was almost certain to take time to adjust to the Premier League, but his match-winner against Arsenal on Opening Day remains his lone marker.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool — His deadline day move to join Liverpool, supposedly to play centrally, seemed a head-scratcher. He’s only recently seen consistent minutes in a more central role despite Liverpool having loads of problems there. Maybe that’s on Jurgen Klopp, but we’re still scratching our heads.

Report: Galaxy close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper

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The LA Galaxy may be turning to its Cali Clasico rival for a new goalkeeper.

Reportedly denied in its pursuit of longtime Vancouver backstop David Ousted, the Galaxy are said to be close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper David Bingham from San Jose, according to ESPN.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

The deal would reportedly cost LA between $200,000 and $250,000 in TAM.

Bingham, 28, lost his starting gig to Clemson product Andrew Tarbell this season, and the latter looks intent on keeping the position.

The Galaxy have not had a long-term answer in goal since Jaime Penedo left the club in 2015 (though 24-year-old Jon Kempin showed some very good things last season). Bingham would be a fine addition for a Galaxy team that hemorrhaged the second-most goals in MLS.