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At halftime: Just as we thought, goalless between Costa Rica and Greece – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Well, nobody expected anything different. With the game goalless at the break, you can collect your prize money.

Costa Rica had a few opportunities for break-away chances, but came up empty as Greece made mistakes in the midfield but not at the back, and they get through the first 45 without conceding just as they’d planned for.

They failed to entertain the crowd or the viewers, and received a shower of boos from the Recife crew for their efforts (or lack thereof) but the Greeks won’t trade less boos for more goals.

The Costa Ricans, heavily favored in this match having shown an attacking flair, were pegged down for much of it, but definitely had some opportunities to build on a counter and weren’t able to do so.

The best chance fell to Greece late in the half, but a good save from the Costa Rican goalkeeper kept them out in an otherwise listless half.

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Goals:

Yea, no.

Other key moments:

6′ – a poor back-pass by Andreas Samaris went right to Joel Campbell and started a 3-on-3 break for Costa Rica, but the Greek defense got back in time to cover and Giorgis Karagounis completed a solid tackle on his Fulham teammate Bryan Ruiz to end the threat.

20′ – The crowd grew restless, and fed up with the failure of Greece to advance possession, began booing.

26′ – Another great counter opportunity for Costa Rica, this time 4-on-3, results in failure again. Celso Borges tried to spring a forward with a through ball but it’s cut out by Lazaros Christodoulopoulos.

37′ – Best chance of the game oddly enough falls to Greece. A beautiful cross from Greece’s Jose Cholevas found the charging feet of Dimitris Salpigidis, but it’s bested by a fabulous reflex save by Keylor Navas.

LINEUPS:

Costa Rica: Navas; Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa, Umaña, Diaz; Borges, Bolanos, Tejeda; Ruiz; Campbell.

Greece: Karnezis, Maniatis, Manolas, Samaras, Karagounis, Salpingidis, Torosidis, Lazaros, Sokratis, Cholevas, Samaris.

Key players:

Giorgis Karagounis – The Greek engine in the middle was predictably all over the pitch, throwing his body into vital challenges and working in possession as well.  Karagounis completed 18 of his 19 passes, and was successful in all three of his challenges, including the important one mentioned above on Ruiz.

Oscar Duarte – Completing 32 of 36 passes in the first half, Duarte was Costa Rica’s heaviest passer in the first half as they looked to press up the right flank. However, most of his passes were square across the pitch into the middle or backwards as they were pinched in. Greece did a good job holding the Costa Ricans back.

Numbers to know:

6 – Number of times Greece forwards were called offsides.  Costa Rica did not have the flag go up against them.

61% – Percentage of passes completed by Costa Rica in the attacking half.

3 – Costa Rican shots on goal, none of which were on target.

Questions for the second half:

1. Can Costa Rica clean up the sloppiness and unlock Greece? The Greeks never really even came close to slipping in defense, and thus far the Costa Ricans look flabbergasted in their attempts forward. Their pressure is good and covering of passing lanes even better. Costa Rica, however, were sloppy, and will need to clean it up if they hope to have any solid chances on goal.

2. Will Greece pick out the right spot? Despite their defensive nature, the Greeks had the better opportunities at the front, and if not for a good save and a few brain farts by Giorgos Samaras straying offside, they may have broken through. They are good at picking their spots and not trying to pick out a shot that isn’t there, so if Costa Rica continue to struggle on net, the Greeks may eventually be the ones to get on the scorebook first, which would be devastating for Costa Rica.

Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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Designing the perfect UEFA Champions League Round of 16

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 06:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona chips the ball over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Bayern Muenchen to score his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, first leg match between FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Muenchen at Camp Nou on May 6, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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With 16 teams settled into their spots for Monday’s UEFA Champions League draw, what would be the most tantalizing octet of matches for February’s Round of 16.

We’ll include a full list of seeded and unseeded teams at the bottom so you can pair ’em up however you like, but let’s start with our best ideas.

Remember: Teams can neither be drawn against teams from their own domestic leagues, or against the other advancing team from their group stage quartets.

[ MORE: USMNT GK off to Belgium? ]

Let’s begin with the reigning champions. Real Madrid is unseeded, and cannot draw Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund. Our vote would be Juventus and a reprisal of the 2015 final in Berlin.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane would not be pleased.

Staying in Spain, seeded Barcelona only knows it will avoid Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Sevilla. We’re interested in attractive soccer, so how about a bombastic battle with Bayern Munich.

Manchester City is the lone Premier League team in the unseeded pool, and cannot face Arsenal, Leicester City, or Barcelona. We’re thinking Sky Blue vs. Sky Blue, and a match-up with Napoli.

Leicester City completes the Premier League trio. Given our above draw and group mates Porto, that leaves Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Sevilla, and PSG as potential rivals. We’ll chose Bayer Leverkusen as the match-up likely gives the Foxes their best chance to hit the snooze button and keep dreaming.

The biggest name left is Paris Saint-Germain (with apologies to BVB). Unai Emery’s bunch would be left with Atletico Madrid as the lone option, and another tete-a-tete between the ex-Sevilla boss and Diego Simeone works for us.

Now Arsenal… who do you draw with the hopes of a quarterfinal berth in ages? The remaining options are Benfica, Sevilla, and Porto. We’ll give Benfica a trip to the Emirates, leaving Porto to face Monaco, and Sevilla on the road to Borussia Dortmund.

Our final draw:
Arsenal vs. Benfica
Monaco vs. Porto
Borussia Dortmund vs. Sevilla
Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Napoli vs. Manchester City
Leicester City vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Juventus vs. Real Madrid


Seeded
Arsenal
Atletico Madrid
Barcelona
Napoli
Monaco
Leicester City
Juventus
Borussia Dortmund

Unseeded
Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
Benfica
Bayer Leverkusen
Porto
Sevilla
Real Madrid

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Europa League preview: Saints, Man Utd hope to join Spurs in Round of 32

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Yuto Nagatomo of Internazionale (R) and Ivan Perisic of Internazionale close down Nathan Redmond of Southampton during the UEFA Europa League Group K match between Southampton FC and FC Internazionale Milano at St Mary's Stadium on November 3, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Tottenham Hotspur will be seeded in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 32. What do Manchester United and Southampton need to do Thursday to join them?

Both the Red Devils and Saints enter the final group stage match day in their respective groups’ second place, but only United can claim a seeded place in the Round of 32.

[ UCL: Scenarios for Premier League sides ]

United can still win Group A, and would need to better Fenerbahce’s result on Thursday. Jose Mourinho’s men are in Ukraine against bottom-dwelling Zorya Luhansk, while Fener are away at Feyenoord.

Manchester United will advance with a draw, and could also go through if they lose and Feyenoord doesn’t defeat Fenerbahce.

As for Saints, Claude Puel‘s men are level with Hapoel Be’er Sheva and welcome the Israel side to St. Mary’s after drawing 0-0 in the reverse fixture.

Southampton needs to beat Hapoel or hold them to a scoreless draw. A scoring draw would push HBS through via road goals.

Full UEL schedule

11 a.m. EDT
Konyarspor vs. Gent
Qarabag vs. Fiorentina
Osmanlispor vs. Zurich
Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs. Steaua Bucuresti
PAOK vs. Liberece

1 p.m. EDT
Vikrotia Plzen vs. Austria Wien
Apoel Nicosia vs. Olympiacos
Sassuolo vs. Genk
Anderlecht vs. Saint-Etienne
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Rapid Wien vs. Athletic Bilbao
Young Boys vs. Astana
AZ Alkmaar vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Feyenoord vs. Fenerbahce
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dundalk
Mainz vs. Gabala
Astra Giurgiu vs. Roma

3:05 p.m. EDT
Panathinaikos vs. Celta Vigo
Standard Liege vs. Ajax
Inter Milan vs. Sparta Prague
Southampton vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva
RB Salzburg vs. Schalke
Nice vs. Krasnodar

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