Early look: Colombia faces Uruguay, Greece takes on Costa Rica in World Cup’s Round of 16

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Four more places have booked in World Cup 2014’s knockout round. Here’s an early snapshot of the two match ups that were set with Tuesday’s results:

Colombia vs. Uruguay
Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up
Where: Rio de Janeiro
When: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern

[ MORE: Rodríguez fuels Colombia | Uruguay eliminates Italy ]

Leading men: We’ve sang James Rodríguez’s praises throughout the day, so rather continue fawning over one of the best players in the tournament, all me to point you to this post on him and Neymar as well as the recap from today’s win over Japan. Coming in at halftime, Rodríguez turned the game on its ear.

For Uruguay, this is where I’d normally say something about Luis Suárez, how he’s one of the four or five players on the planet that can win a game on his own, and tactics could go out the window if he’s on his game. But our friend Luis has a little impulse control problem. You may have heard about it.

As a result, Uruguay needs a new leading man. Perhaps it will be Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani. Maybe Diego Forlán, the best player at the last World Cup, will give Father Time the slip for two weeks. Regardless, somebody needs to step up.

Supporting stars: For Uruguay, it’s Diego Godín. The veteran defender has carried over his play from a Spanish title-winning season at Atlético Madrid, helping La Celeste limit England and Italy to one goal over the last 180 minutes. He also shouldered home the game-winner in his team’s 1-0 victory over the Azzurri.

With the Cafeteros, there’s a small army of talented attackers who’ll vie to benefit from Rodríguez’s playmaking. Teofilo Gutíerrez started the team’s first two games at striker, but Jackson Martínez, Adrián Ramos, Victor Ibarbo, and Juan Cuadrado could all play significant roles. Though Colombia has a headlining star, the cast is an ensemble.

Strengths: Uruguay is able to slow a game down, stay strong at the back, and allow games to be defined by its talented attack, even though it’s often unclear how exactly they’re making the connections. For Colombia, as you can tell by the cast of attackers, the team will score goals. José Péckerman’s side averaged three goals per game in the opening round.

Weaknesses: If you pack that Uruguayan midfield back, they have to rely on the likes of Forlán and/or Nicolas Lodeiro to get the team out of its own half. If that doesn’t work on Saturday, Suárez’s absence will loom especially large. For Colombia, there’ve been no weaknesses through three games, but quality in defense and the ability to control play in midfield were questions coming into the tournament.

Early expectations: Particularly with Suárez out, the Colombians will be favored. They finished above La Celeste in qualifying. They’re stronger going into the knockout round.

Three narratives you will hear in the buildup:

  • Uruguay is nothing without Suárez. Just don’t worry about that Cavani guy over there.
  • This is Colombia’s best team since the ill-fated side the went to USA 1994.
  • South America’s depth has been on display at this World Cup … though CONMEBOL also put five teams into 2010’s knockout round.

To the winner: It will be an all-South America quarterfinal. Brazil and Chile face-off in the adjacent pod.

source: AP
Greece’s Giorgos Samaras celebrates with teammates during the group C match between Greece and Ivory Coast. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Costa Rica vs. Greece
Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up
Where: Recife
When: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern

[ MORE: Draw leaves Ticos top of Group | Samaras wins it late ]

Leading men: Thanks to strong play in front of him, Keylor Navas hasn’t been too stressed in Costa Rica’s goal, but as we saw against England, that may be changing. If it does, the Levante goalkeeper will be up to the challenge. Navas was one of the top goalkeepers in Spain last season.

Greece is a side devoid of stars, but because of his ever-present nature, attacker Georgios Samaras has become the face of the team. Though he only has nine goals in 77 international appearances, he’ll be the danger man on his team’s counterattacks. With a goal and an assist on Tuesday, he’s had a part in both of his team’s World Cup goals.

Supporting stars: At 35 years old, Kostas Katsouranis is one of two players in the team (along with Giorgos Karagounis) who were part of Greece’s 2004 European Championship squad. While he’s in the twilight of his career, he’s still a vital part of Fernando Santos’s midfield. Set to return from a one-game, red card suspension, Katsouranis will slot back into the heart of his team’s formation.

For Costa Rica, Joel Campbell will be familiar with his Greek counterparts, having spent last season on loan from Arsenal with Olympiacos. Joining him in attack, Bryan Ruiz’s versatility should help los Ticos break down a notoriously stalwart defense.

Strengths: Greece is defense and little else. Even the damage they do going forward almost always starts in the back. The team’s built its reputation on its ability to hold out.

Likewise, Costa Rica’s strength is in defense, with the Ticos’ five-man back line leaving the team amongst among the worst in the tournament in terms of shots per game (9.3) and possession (42.5). Those numbers, heavily influenced by the quality of Costa Rica’s opposition, don’t reflect the team’s willingness to be more confrontational than their Round of 16 opponents. They’ll defend, but they won’t be as quick to recede into their shell.

Regardless, one of these teams will have to move out of its comfort zone.

Weaknesses: For Costa Rica, between a solid defense and capable scorers is a midfield that’s lackluster but this tournament’s standards. Celso Borges and Yeltsin Tejada have been as solid as their teammates thus far, but against that renown Greek defense, Borges may struggle to create chances for Campbell and Ruiz.

For Greece, there’s no reliable scorer in a team which, short on creativity, is reliant on set pieces and counter attacks for goals.

Early expectations: Nobody anticipated this matchup, so there are no expectations. These are two teams that were expected to finish last in their groups.

Three narratives you will hear in the buildup:

  • Greece’s spots in the knockout rounds at Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014 aren’t about soft groups. No, no, no. It’s about team ethic and sums that are bigger than their parts, and … well, really easy groups, too. (You won’t hear that last part.)
  • Costa Rica’s quality debunks the notion of a thin CONCACAF (just don’t look too hard at Honduras).
  • Defense, not the combination of defense and offense, wins championships.

To the winner: Either the Netherlands or Mexico. Does CONCACAF dare to dream a place in the semifinals?

Donnarumma in tears after Milan fans jeer him

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MILAN (AP) A visibly shaken Gianluigi Donnarumma was comforted by AC Milan teammate Leonardo Bonucci as insults poured down on the teenage goalkeeper from the fans. And that was only the warmup.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Donnarumma has swiftly gone from being one of Milan’s most adored players to its most hated.

After a protracted saga appeared to be settled in the offseason by Donnarumma signing a contract until 2021, speculation over his future has started again and supporters have had enough.

Despite the new deal being worth 6 million euros ($7 million) a year and including the signing of his older brother as Milan’s third-choice goalkeeper, Donnarumma and his agent, Mino Raiola, are reportedly looking to annul the contract because he felt pressure to agree to it.

Before Wednesday’s Italian Cup victory over Hellas Verona, fans unveiled a giant banner saying: “Moral abuse, 6 million a year and the signing of a parasite brother? Now go, our patience is finished.”

There were jeers ahead of the kick-off when the 18-year-old Donnarumma’s name was read out, and shouts for him to leave. He was in tears as he was comforted by Bonucci.

Donnarumma had to play the first half below the giant banner and his every touch was greeted with boos.

“Of course he’s upset, he’s only 18,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said before his team plays Hellas Verona again in Serie A on Sunday. “For the age that he is, there’s no doubt that he will become the best goalkeeper in the world, but he’s not calm and it can’t be easy to go out on the pitch and be criticized by your own fans. I can only say that while he is with me he will always have my total protection.

“They’re turning a lad of 18 into a monster. And he doesn’t deserve it, he has incredible values. Luckily this was a match where there weren’t many people (about 9,000). Imagine how difficult it would have been with 50-60,000.”

It’s not the first time Donnarumma has faced insults from the stands. He had fake money thrown at him during Italy’s Under-21 European Championship opener against Denmark in June after it was announced he would not be renewing his contract, while a banner emblazoned with “Dollarumma” was also displayed.

“We understand the fans but I ask them to boo our opponents and not our players,” Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli said. “Gigio is a young lad and he’s not entirely at fault, he loves Milan and one day he will understand what’s good and what’s bad.

“He needs to be supported and the club will do so because he is an asset. We know where the evil comes from and we hope to resolve this problem in the next few months.”

Mirabelli said Milan “has no intention of selling Donnarumma” and criticized Raiola.

“I don’t have any plans to meet with Raiola. I don’t have anything to say to him,” Mirabelli said. “There’s a man who is trying to damage our image but he is becoming more a showman than anything else. We laugh about it, but he won’t get away with it.

“Gigio has never said he wants to leave, otherwise he would never have signed through to 2021. There’s someone who is trying to organize something deliberately, but we will look out for Milan’s interests in every arena.”

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year ]

Donnarumma has been playing for Milan since October 2015, when he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A match, at the age of 16 years, 8 months, 6 days.

He has made four senior Italy appearances and is likely to take over as the No. 1 after Gianluigi Buffon retired from international duty following the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Another Premier League weekend is on the horizon. Let’s just keep rolling.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-1 Southampton (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-3 Manchester United – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Leicester City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Brighton 1-2 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Watford 1-2 Huddersfield (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Stoke City 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Everton 1-2 Swansea City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 Tottenham (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) –  [STREAM

Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year

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Christian Pulisic was by far the best player for the U.S. men’s national team in 2017 and he was duly awarded on Thursday.

[ MORE: Pulisic speaks to JPW

Pulisic was named the 2017 Male Soccer Player of the Year by U.S. Soccer, with the 19-year-old becoming the youngest-ever player to win the award.

He beats Landon Donovan’s record who was the previous youngest at 21 years of age when he won the award in 2003.

Pulisic won 94 percent of the vote, with Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore the other nominees. In 2017 he won nine caps for the USMNT, scoring six goals and adding four assists as the teenager became the main attacking talent.

The Borussia Dortmund playmaker was delighted to receive the accolade.

“It really is a big honor and I just want to thank everyone who voted for me to win U.S. Male Player of the Year,” Pulisic said. “It’s something that I never could have imagined to be here in this position. I’m thankful for everyone who supported me and I’m excited for the future.”

With the USMNT failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the first time they had failed to make a World Cup tournament since 1986, many had called for no U.S. player to receive the award in 2017.

However, Pulisic was truly deserving of the accolade as he tried his best to drag the USMNT to Russia next summer.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 18 in the Premier League season is here and we are almost at the halfway point of the 2017-18 campaign.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Newcastle United – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBC  [STREAM]

Sunday
9:15 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Everton vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM