BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Head coach of Nigeria Stephen Keshi answers to the media during a press conference on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between France and Nigeria at Estadio Nacional on June 29, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Add Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi to the list of coaches unhappy with officiating

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Contrary to what we usually heard after matches, there is no law that requires head coaches to criticize officiating after their teams are eliminated from the World Cup. It’s just a natural, organic, but mostly petty way of saying goodbye to the biggest sporting event of the world. If you made a list of men who speak up about the officiating in the knockout round, it would correspond nicely to the bosses who’ve seen their teams sent home.

Take Miguel Herrera. The Mexico head coach saw his team eliminated yesterday after the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben dived exaggerated contact in stoppage time of his team’s Round of 16 victory. After the match, Herrera confronted referee Pedro Proença and eventually argued that the Portuguese official shouldn’t have given the call. Given the nature of Rafa Márequez’s foul, however, the World Cup knockout round isn’t the only place where Robben would have drawn a whistle. Blame Robben if you want, but El Tri‘s captain did, after all, step on Robben’s foot.

Keshi’s issues with Monday’s officials are far more trivial. The Nigeria boss derides a first half offside call that replays showed was correct, while his other complaints are your regular, run-of-the-mill appeals for cards. In other words, there’s nothing new here, though Keshi does go so far as to call Major League Soccer official Mark Geiger “biased.”

From reporting by The Guardian, after France’s 2-0 win eliminated the Super Eagles:

“I am not happy with the officiating because Onazi, on two occasions, he had a very bad tackle and nothing was done by the referee,” Keshi said. “I think the referee was just … for me, I think he was biased. This is the first time I will speak about the referee in my life as a coach but it wasn’t good.

“If you look at the goal we scored, I don’t think there was any infringement. The referee is a human being, bound to make some mistakes, but a lot of mistakes is questionable. I am not happy about it but he’s the man who decides whatever goes on the pitch.”

If you want to say Geiger made mistakes, fair enough. We all see the game in different ways. If you want to call him biased, however — in this case, predisposed to ruling against Nigeria — that’s out of line. It only furthers the notion that Keshi’s thoughts are just paranoid sour grapes, derived from an attitude that may have blamed the officials, regardless.

It’d be too much to ask coaches to see games through an objective lens, but that’s another reason why we shouldn’t take anything they say post-match too seriously. Not only is it not their job to be impartial, but they have an incentive to depict officials as acting against them. After all, it’s much easier to explain losses in a world where outcomes are beyond your control.

 

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.

WATCH: Amazing bicycle kick goal at beach soccer championship

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Anyone who’s competed in a beach soccer match can attest to the tricky nature of getting traction on sand.

That’s what makes this feat from Makenson Cadet so impressive (and fun).

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

Turks and Caicos was trailing Costa Rica 8-1 in their CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship game, and Cadet gave the visitors something to brag about by popping the ball up for a juggle and bicycle kick goal.

Cadet is only 17, and apparently has some game on the grass as well. He was on trial with Nottingham Forest in 2015.

Europa League: Spurs look to overturn 1-0; La Liga resurgent?

GENT, BELGIUM - FEBRUARY 16:  Kenny Saief of KAA Gent and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg match between KAA Gent and Tottenham Hotspur at Ghelamco Arena on February 16, 2017 in Gent, Belgium.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Who will join Manchester United, Schalke, and Krasnodar in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16?

Four-goal leads give Roma and Rostov a very good shot at advancing, while Anderlecht, AZ Alkmaar and Besiktas will also like their chances of moving forward.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

But plenty remains up for grabs, including Tottenham Hotspur’s chance of moving to the Round of 16. Spurs trail Gent 1-0 after their road leg, and now have to get a shutout or two-goal win at Wembley.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino says his side can’t push too hard, too soon, if it wants to move onto the next:

“We need to be patient. It’s important to know that tomorrow is a game that we need to win, that is in our mind. We need to turn the result (around) and it’s true that we need to have very good balance – that is key. It’s important for us to keep the balance between attacking and defence because it’s only 1-0 from the first leg and now we have time to turn it (around). We need to be clever, play well, be aggressive and improve our performance from the game in Belgium.”

Spanish sides are in danger of elimination on Thursday. While Athletic Bilbao won its first leg versus APOEL Nicosia, it allowed two road goals. Villarreal trails Roma 4-0, and Celta Vigo is down 1-0 against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Full Thursday schedule

11 a.m. EDT
Osmanlispor vs. Olympiacos (0-0)

1 p.m. EDT
Apoel Nicosia vs. Athletic Bilbao (AB leads 3-2)
Besiktas vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Besiktas leads 3-1)
Ajax vs. Legia Warsaw (0-0)
Roma vs. Villarreal (Roma leads 4-0)
Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Anderlecht (Zenit trails 2-0)
Fiorentina vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (Gladback trails 1-0)

3:05 p.m. EDT
Lyon vs. AZ Alkmaar (Lyon leads 4-1)
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Celta Vigo (Shakhtar trails 1-0)
Sparta Prague vs. Rostov (Rostov leads 4-0)
Genk vs. Astra Giurgiu (2-2)
Copenhagen vs. Ludogorets (Copenhagen leads 2-1)
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Gent (Spurs trail 1-0)