Who do you like? A neutral’s guide to the World Cup’s ‘Final Four’

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Four big names remain in the chase for the 2014 World Cup, but in several cases these are not your grandfather’s international powers. Either Germany, Argentina, Brazil or the Netherlands will win the world’s greatest tournament, and we’re here to discuss the pros and cons of each team lifting the appropriately-named FIFA World Cup Trophy.

[MORE – Preview: Expectations weight heavy on tournament favorites as Brazil faces Germany ]

(Warning: This is pretty tongue-in-cheek).

Option 1: The host nation

Brazil is the most-accomplished World Cup champion in the history of the tournament. They have won the thing five times, appeared in seven finals and finished fourth or better in an almost-absurd 10 of 20 tournaments. Only Germany has finished in the Top Four more times (12, eight times as West Germany)

Pros: They will have triumphed without their best player, Neymar. The people of Brazil deserve something for the trouble of paying for a tournament that many didn’t want. Rainforests wouldn’t have been wasted in defeat.

Cons: They have arguably been the villains of the tournament, playing foul-heavy and getting loads of love from the referees (Cough, Fred. Cough). A win may inspire other nations to forego the well-being of their general populace with the intent of getting home-FIFA advantage and winning a big soccer tournament.

Option 2: The machine

Germany is really really, really really, really good at soccer. With three titles, all as West Germany, the team has won the third-most championships in addition to appearing in the most title matches (tied with Brazil, 7).

Pros: With arguably the best collection of talent remaining, they’d be an attractive champion. They would dispel the myth of a European team being unable to win in South America. I’ve heard the American team has some relationship to the German team, so it’s kinda like they win, too. The States would’ve lost to the champion. I’d be right in my prediction.

Cons: Outside of Brazil, they were arguably the favorites to win the thing anyway, so there’s a ‘boredom’ factor. Plus, if you don’t like Germany, you definitely won’t be happy.

Option 3: The long-sufferers

Long-known for playing super-attractive soccer, the Netherlands are doing it the old-fashioned way this time arounsource:  d, grinding out wins against sides they’d normally crush. The Dutch are 0-3 in World Cup finals, and are regarded as the best team to never lift the trophy.

Pros: A passionate fan base gets rewarded with a title. They have a splendid collection of talent and really play well as a team. Johan Cruyff will be happy.

Cons: Arjen Robben. We’ll have to hear 4,000 references to Louis van Gaal’s penalty genius in every Manchester United match. Arjen Robben. There isn’t an easy ‘best team to never have won’ after the Dutch. Arjen Robben. Also, my friend Ruud is going to be really smug for a long time. Arjen Robben.

Option 4: Lionel Messi and friends

Of course, I kid. The Argentina team is much more than Lionel Messi, and the injury to Angel Di Maria will mean they would have overcome the loss of their second-most important player. The two-time champions are 2-2 in World Cup finals.

Pros: It would be emotionally-fitting following the passing of native son Alfredo Di Stefano on Monday. They play pretty attractive soccer. And Messi gets a title, erasing the annoying “Can he lead his country?” debate (though replacing it with the almost-as-annoying “Where does he rank among all-time greats?” debate).

Cons: A South American team winning would validate the constant “European teams can’t win” conversation. Martin Demichelis’ hair. Messi haters won’t be happy.

Men in Blazers: Jurgen Klopp talks loss of Coutinho and more

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Roger Bennett talks with manager Jurgen Klopp about revolutionizing Liverpool, his Greatest Show on Turf-esque offense, the loss of Philippe Coutinho and how he keeps football in perspective.

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MLS: Higuain extends with Crew, Royer gets new deal with Red Bulls

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Two key midfielders earned new deals on Thursday, as two of the Eastern Conference’s recent successes helped solidify for their attacks for the next few years.

The Columbus Crew extended Designated Player attacker Federico Higuain through the 2019 MLS season.

Higuain has been with the Crew since 2012, when the Argentine joined the club from Colon de Santa Fe in his native country.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls extended Daniel Royer’s contract, as the Austrian winger in the midst of his third season with Jesse Marsch’s group.

Thus far, Royer has tallied 17 goals in all competitions for the Red Bulls, including 15 during the 2017 campaign, where the former Midtjylland player finished second on the team in goals behind Bradley Wright-Phillips.

UEL: Griezmann nabs crucial away goal vs. Arsenal, Marseille cruises

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A game of back-and-forth at the Emirates Stadium set up an enticing second leg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, while a Ligue 1 side positioned itself well to move into the final.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw in London, as Antoine Griezmann’s late strike leveled the match for the Spanish side.

The Gunners looked on their way to a victory when Alexandre Lacazette‘s goal just beyond the hour mark put Arsene Wenger‘s men in front.

The result sets up a strong showdown for the two giants in a week’s time, although Arsenal will feel it left something on the table after racking up 26 shots (seven on target) on the day, particularly after Sime Vrsaljko was sent off after 10 minutes for the visitors when he picked up a second yellow card.

Meanwhile, Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie gave Marseille a 2-0 win over Red Bull Leipzig, giving the French side the edge it sought out ahead of the competition finale.

The two clubs will meet again at Red Bull Arena Salzburg for the second leg.


Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Marseille 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Marseille host first legs

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Diego Costa brings a solid career record against Arsenal back to London in a bid to ruin Arsene Wenger‘s farewell season at the Emirates Stadium.

[ FOLLOW: Arsenal vs. Atleti ]

The now-Atletico Madrid forward returns to England on Thursday as his La Liga outfit aims to stop Arsenal from reaching next month’s Europa League Final in Lyon.

[ FOLLOW: Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg ]

That’s a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff, the same as Marseille’s date with Red Bull Salzburg in France.

ARSENAL-ATLETICO MADRID LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Atleti: Oblak, Lucas, Godin, Gimenez, Vrsaljko, Saul, Thomas, Koke, Correa, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Werner, Savic, Gabi, Vitolo, Olabe, Torres, Costa.