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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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.


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.

Report: Guardiola to take manager’s job at Man City next season

Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.

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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?

Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”

However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.

“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.

“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”

With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.

Mourinho-Costa feud could mean January transfer activity for Chelsea

Diego Costa & Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.

The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.

The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:

Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.

The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.

Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.

“Unprofessional” Grealish banished to U-21s after nightclub incident

Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC
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2015 has been an eventful calendar year for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, to say the least.

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First, there was his emergence as a prominent first-team player for his boyhood club; followed by the Villans’ run to the FA Cup final in May; then came the England-versus-Ireland tug-of-war for his international services; a forgettable vacation to Spain for the 20-year-old; and another managerial change at Villa Park. After yet another off-field incident last weekend, in which Grealish was photographed in a nightclub hours after a 4-0 defeat to Everton, his new manager, Remi Garde, has labeled Grealish “unprofessional” and sent him away to train with the club’s U-21 side.

Garde, on Grealish’s actions and subsequent punishment — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is not professional. It is not what is expected from my players. That is why now Jack is training with the under-21 team for the moment. He won’t be included in the squad for Watford. At this stage he is not playing this weekend and he is training with the under-21 team. That is all I can say for the moment.”

“Sometimes players in every country ask to stay in the city we have played in and this is not a problem for me, it happens one or two times a season. The problem with Jack was not that he wasn’t on the bus. The problem was elsewhere.”

Villa, who will welcome 13th-place Watford to Villa Park on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), currently sit rock bottom in the Premier League (5 points from 13 games), five points away from climbing out of the relegation zone.