Game On: France aim to impress, as Nigeria seek upset

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France have only ever met Nigeria once before in their history, they lost a friendly 1-0 to the Super Eagles back in 2009.

Les Bleus have also lost two of their last three World Cup matches vs. African opponents and manager Didier Dechamps will be hoping no complacency creeps in after his side breezed through Group H in qualifying. Undefeated so far, the French will come up against a stubborn and well-organized Nigeria who gave Argentina a scare in their last group game.

Captain and star goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama holds the key for Nigeria, as the ‘keeper who plays in France for Lille could well be the hero after making 16 stops in the group stages. That is more than any goalkeeper at the World Cup.

In this World Cup full of shocks, can Nigeria cause the latest upset and dump red-hot France out of the tournament?

[ MORE: France wins Group E after draw with EcuadorNigeria lost to Argentina, still make last 16 ] 

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LINEUPS

France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema.

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Yobo, Oshaniwa, Omeru; Musa, Onazi, Mikel, Moses; Odemwingie, Emenike.

Talking points

Will France’s offense find its feet again?

After scoring eight goals in their opening two group games, France fired a blank against 10-man Ecuador last time out. Benzema and co. seemed to be getting in eachother’s way and they will need to regain their attacking fluidity against a well-drilled Nigerian side. Going with Giroud and Benzema together from the start is a bold move from Dechamps.

Where will Nigeria’s goals come from?

They scored three times in the group stages, but Nigeria hardly threatened going forward. Argentina’s lackluster defense gave up two goals to Nigeria, then the African champions were battered by Bosnia but somehow survived and came out with a 1-0 win. Stoke City striker Peter Odemwingie is their main threat, but Victor Moses can also do some damage.

Expectations

If France score early, this could turn into a rout. Nigeria weren’t great in the group stages and battled to a 1-0 win over Bosnia that proved decisive. The French have all the tools to wipe the floor with the Super Eagles but as we’ve seen so far, no knockout game is easy at the World Cup.

One blogger’s prediction

It is hard to see past France here. It won’t be a blowout, but an easy 2-0 win for Les Bleus would be my prediction against a plucky Nigerian outfit.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET