greece

Game on: Costa Rica, Greece prepared for a defensive duel?

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Today’s Round of 16 match marks the first time Greece have advanced beyond the group stages, and the second time Costa Rica have done so. But will any neutrals be glad to see them continue on?

Well, fans of CONCACAF will be thrilled to see the confederation getting more respect, particularly since success in the World Cup could mean an extra half-spot granted for future tournaments. And there are those that are happy that Greece’s football team is bringing joy to a nation that’s experienced such turmoil over the last few years.

But really, do these neutrals actually want to watch them play? Let’s find out…

[ MORE: Greece secure last minute victory over Ivory Coast| Costa Rica play out dull draw with England ]

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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

Talking points

Are Greece really that defensive? 
Well, yes and no. Since winning Euro 2004 with a defensive system, Greece has had the reputation of being a defensive-minded team. And, as Fernando Santos himself admits, it’s been hard to change the mindset of his players, to encourage them to shift to a more attack-oriented system.

Yet Greece have trouble defending. They made it through UEFA qualifying with only four goals shipped, but four of those came from Bosnia, the only strong team they faced. Then, of course, they fell apart against Colombia in the first match, conceding three goals.

Greece didn’t score until the 42nd minute of their third match, further adding fuel to the boring fire. But when they did finally decide to attack, they were actually fun – and that’s what we’re all hoping happens here.

But can Greece manage to get past Navas?
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas has truly impressed at this World Cup. The Ticos may enjoy sitting back and have perfected their tight defense, but it’s Navas that has ensured they’ve conceded just one goal thus far at the tournament. The 27-year-old as loaned to Spanish side Levante in 2011 and has been there ever since. Whether he will stay, well, that’s doubtful. The goalkeeper’s quick reflexes and intense concentration have made him one of the standouts thus far, and he could very well be the main reason Costa Rica are able to frustrate Greece.

Expectation
The edge goes to Costa Rica, who topped their group with two wins and a draw. As said before, it took Greece over 222 minutes to find the back of the net. Now they’re going to have to do it against one of the most talented goalkeepers at this World Cup.

One blogger’s prediction
Making my own predictions has yet to work. I’m going to go right along with the general expectation, and throw my weight behind Costa Rica.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.