World Cup today: Saturday brings the first games of the knockout round

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 28

How is everyone today? Did you enjoy a bit of time off yesterday, perhaps by lying in a darkened room with your eyes closed, trying to recover from over two weeks of glorious madness? Or did you suffer soccer withdrawals, and need to resort to watching World Cup highlights on a loop?

Well, good news. The World Cup is back in action today, with the first games of the knockout stage. The bad news is, by the end of the afternoon, there will be two fewer teams left in the tournament.

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MATCH 49: BRAZIL VS. CHILE
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 and Cameroon 4-1, but in between could only manage a 0-0 draw with Mexico. In other words, they’re not quite invincible, but it was enough to take them top of the group.

Chile were overcome by Netherlands in their final group stage game, losing 2-0 to take second in the group. But they’d previously beat Australia 3-1 and Spain 2-0, and their attacking prowess is not to be underestimated.

What they’re saying

Arturo Vidal is quite confident about Chile’s chances: “This is the best generation in the history of Chilean football. Beating Brazil? That’s our dream. Chile can create a surprise. We’ve beaten the champions, so we can beat Brazil. We’re good enough to win the World Cup.”

History
Chile and Brazil have faced off numerous times, as they’re both part of CONMEBOL, which rather requires them to see a lot of one another. Of the 68 matches played, Brazil have won an astonishing 48; Chile, just 7. The good news is that 217 goals were scored in those matches, giving us an average of 3.19 per game. This should be fun!

When it comes to the World Cup, Chile have experienced heavy defeat each of the three times the two sides have met. When Chile and Brazil met in this stage in 2010, Brazil won 3-0.

Premier League Players
Brazil: Oscar, Ramires, Willian (Chelsea); Fernandinho (Manchester City); Paulinho (Tottenham)

MLS Players
Brazil: Júlio César of Toronto FC

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 50: COLOMBIA VS. URUGUAY

Location: Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Colombia are perfect through three, the only side in today’s games that can boast such a feat. They beat Greece 3-0 and Ivory Coast 2-1, then finished up with a 4-1 thrashing of Japan.

Uruguay, well, they haven’t been quite as lucky. Their first game was a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica, which they followed by beating England 2-1 thanks to a brace from Luis Suárez. Suárez, of course, struck again in Uruguay’s final match, biting Giorgio Chiellini just before Diego Godín scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory.

What they’re saying

Uruguay forward Christian Stuani on his side’s historical edge: “Statistics are just numbers. The game has to be played. World Cups are very complicated tournaments and matches are settled by small details.”

History
Uruguay have the edge, with 18 wins from 38 games played, while Colombia have won 11 times. But, as Stuani said…

Premier League players
Uruguay: Luis Suárez, Sebastián Coates (Liverpool); Gastón Ramírez (Southampton)
In general, if you’re looking to watch players from either Uruguay or Colombia, your best bet is to pay attention to Italian football: Uruguay have five players in Serie A, Colombia have seven.

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.