Philipp Lahm

Gotze the hero, as Germany beat Argentina in extra time to win fourth World Cup title

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Germany won their fourth World Cup title as they beat Argentina 1-0 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

An entertaining first half played out, where both Gonzalo Higuain and Benedikt Howedes should have scored, but that gave way to a nerve-shredding second half and extra time period as Argentina and Germany could not be separated until the 113th minute when substitute Mario Gotze scored the game-winner.

Germany’s “Golden Generation” had their golden moment.

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Fellow substitute Andre Schurrle got free down the left and curled in an inch-perfect cross which Gotze chested down and volleyed past Sergio Romero to send Germany wild. The Bayern Munich man became the first substitute to score in extra time of the World Cup final to dash Argentina’s dreams and write himself into World Cup folklore.

With their victory Germany became the first team from Europe to win a World Cup in the Americas, as they clinched their first World Cup since 1990 after an exhausting game between two giants of world soccer.

As for Argentina, Lionel Messi failed to deliver the goods on the biggest stage of all, as a brave defensive display from Argentina wasn’t rewarded despite the Albiceleste only trailing for seven minutes during the entire World Cup.

That proved pivtoal, as the 2014 World Cup went to Das Mannschaft.

In the fifth minute a menacing counter-attack from Argentina released Higuain but the Napoli forward dragged his effort wide of the far post after Germany had enjoyed much of the early possession. The German offense started to click into place as Muller, Ozil and Klose continued to link up well as the first half wore on, however another lung-bursting run from Messi down the right saw Mats Hummels struggling for pace but the Argentine captain’s cross was cleared away from danger.

Argentina were having plenty of joy down the right-flank, as Pablo Zabaleta surged forward and drilled an inviting cross that just missed everyone. Germany continued to dominate possession but Argentina were content to soak things up and hit Das Mannschaft on the break.

source: AP
Gotze was the hero as Germany won in extra time.

In the 22nd minute Higuain missed another glorious opportunity to give Argentina the lead as Toni Kroos misdirected a header back towards his own goal and put the Argentina striker in. However Higuain shanked his effort wide with only Manuel Neuer to beat, as the Argentine players, fans and coaches looked to the sky in disbelief. As half time approached Germany began to crank up the heat as Klose and Lahm were both thwarted by Sergio Romero. Higuain then had the ball in the back of the net as Messi’s ball from the right found the striker who finished superbly but he was in an offside position. Argentina’s fans had to stop celebrating as Higuain strayed offside when he should have known better. It turned out to be an afternoon to forget for Higuain. Soon after came a real talking point as Howedes went in late and extremely high on Zabaleta but only received a yellow card from referee Nicola Rizzoli, when it could have easily been a red.

Then young German midfielder Christoph Kramer (who was a late, late replacement for Sami Khedira who injured his calf in the warm up) was then taken off after failing to shake off a head injury he received from colliding with Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder early on. The game continued to ebb and flow, as Kramer’s replacement Schurrle side-footed a powerful effort towards the top corner but Romero palmed the ball away superbly. Five minutes before the break Messi went on another surging run and only a last-ditch block from Neuer stopped the Argentine, then Kroos scuffed a shot into Romero’s arms after an uncharacteristic giveaway from Javier Mascherano. Howedes then headed against the post from six-yards out as the goal beckoned, then Muller was flagged offside as the rebound hit him during a frantic end to a pulsating first half.

At half time Argentina went for it as Sergio Aguero replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi and it almost paid instant dividends as Messi was played through but the Barcelona star dragged his shot wide of Neuer’s far post. Usually when he’s one-on-one the net ripples. Not this time. There was an air of tension around the Maracana as both teams sat with two central midfielders just in front of the back four and looked solid as a rock. The second half proved to be much tighter than the first.

source: AP
Germany managed to shackle Messi in open play.

Neuer and Higuain then collided, as the latter received a nasty blow to the head, but somehow referee Rizzoli gave a foul against the Argentine player as things heated up. Mascherano and Zabaleta were both shown yellows in quick-succession as Germany tried to get in-behind but the final ball was eluded them. In the 74th minute Messi found a second-wind as he cut inside from the right but he bent a trademark effort wide of the far post. Then in the 81st minute Ozil cut in from the right and found Kroos on the edge of the box but the Bayern Munich hit a tame effort towards goal as Germany pushed for a late winner but they neither team could find one.

After a tight second half with the scores locked at 0-0, extra time started with a bang as Schurrle was again denied by a smart stop from Romero then Aguero broke twice on the counter but Argentina couldn’t take advantage of it as the game opened up.

In the 98th minute Rojo’s whipped in a delicious deep ball from the left and Hummels misjudged it to leave Palacios in the clear but Neuer was out like a flash and the Argentina looped his effort harmlessly wide. Both sides looked incredibly tired as the second half of extra time began with 15 minutes left before penalty kicks could decide the outcome.

PKs were not needed as Gotze stepped up to be the hero.  In the 113th minute the Bayern star chested Schurrle’s cross down perfectly and finished powerfully past Romero to send the German fans into raptures. Despite a few last gasp attempts from Argentina, Germany held on to secure their first World Cup title since 1990 and are the Champions of the World.

LINEUPS

Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Kramer (Schurrle 32′); Müller, Kroos, Özil (Mertesacker, 120′); Klose (Gotze 88′)

Goal: Gotze 113′

Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Demichelis, Rojo; Biglia, Mascherano; Perez (Gago, 86′), Messi, Lavezzi (Aguero, 45′); Higuain (Palacios, 77′)

Arsene Wenger “99.9 percent confident” new players will arrive at Arsenal

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger is just teasing Arsenal’s fans now.

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With the Gunners reportedly closing in on a double swoop for Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez which will cost them almost $70 million, Wenger seems very confident that the deals will get done very shortly.

Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger confirmed they are closing in on new signings ahead of the summer transfer window shutting on Aug. 31.

“We are working on the deals. We are not close enough to announce today that they will sign for us, and will we sign anybody before the end of the transfer window? I am 99 per cent confident.”

The deal for 24-year-old Mustafi has been rumbling on for some time now with Valencia driving a hard bargain for the German international defender. However, it is believed a fee of $46.2 million has been agreed for the center back and he is now on his way to London to complete a medical.

[ MORE: Europa League draw tough for United, Saints ]

As for Perez, the 27-year-old striker from Deportivo La Coruna has emerged as a late target for Arsenal after Everton had tracked him for most of the summer. It is believed Arsenal has met the $22.5 million release clause in his contract after Lucas scored 17 goals in La Liga for Deportivo last season. He will challenge Olivier Giroud for the central striking position at the Emirates Stadium but can also play in a variety of positions in the attacking unit.

If both of these deals go through as expected then Arsenal will have actually spent the third-most of any PL club this summer on new players, trailing only Manchester City and Manchester United in spending. They also signed Swiss international midfielder Granit Xhaka for $40 million earlier this summer.

Wenger joked about now being branded a big spending this summer and told one journalist “it is a shame you are not my friend. You will see I spend a lot of money,” when asked about the perception that Wenger doesn’t like to spend much in the transfer market.

Arsenal’s manager also revealed that Calum Chambers is likely to leave on loan before the window shuts with Mustafi taking his place, while the Gunners will have Gabriel back soon to join youngster Rob Holding, Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny as center back options. There is also club captain Per Mertesacker but he center back is out with a long-term knee injury and won’t be back until January.

UEFA Europa League group stage: Man United, Saints handed tough draws

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with Paul Pogba during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on August 19, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Premier League clubs Manchester United and Southampton were both handed tough, but exciting, draws in the 2016-17 group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

The draw, which took place in Monaco on Friday, saw Jose Mourinho’s United placed in Group A as they face Turkish giants Fenerbache, Dutch powerhouse Feyenoord and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk with some big games coming up at Old Trafford.

United’s manager was happy with the tough tests for his squad: “It’s a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam – it’s good for us,” Mourinho said.

Saints, who have reached the group stage of the Europa League for the first-time in club history, face mouth-watering clashes against Inter Milan, while they also have tough games against Czech giants Sparta Prague and the champions of Israel Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

48 teams who had qualified for the Europa League group stage were split up into 12 groups of four teams with some other big ties cropping up as Group G looks particularly strong as it contains Ajax, Standard Liege, Celta Vigo and Panathinaikos.

The Europa League final will take place in Stockholm, Sweden at the Friends Arena on May 24, 2017.

Below is the draw in full, with the opening group games taking place on Thursday Sept. 15. There are six group games in total for each team and you can see the full schedule by clicking on the link above.


GROUP A
Manchester United
Fenerbache
Feyenoord
Zorya Luhansk

GROUP B
Olympiakos
APOEL FC
Young Boys
FC Astana

GROUP C
Anderlecht
St Etienne
FSV Mainz 05
Gabala

GROUP D
Zenit St Petersburg
AZ Alkmaar
Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Dundalk

GROUP E
Viktoria Plzen
AS Roma
Austria Wien
Astra Giurgiu

GROUP F
Athletic Bilbao
Genk
Rapid Wien
Sassuolo

GROUP G
Ajax
Standard Liege
Celta Vigo
Panathinaikos

GROUP H
Shakhtar Donetsk
SC Braga
Gent
Konyaspor

GROUP I
FC Schalke 04
FC Salzburg
Krasnodar
Nice

GROUP J
Fiorentina
PAOK FC
Slovan Liberec
Qarabag

GROUP K
Inter Milan
Sparta Prague
Southampton
Hapoel Beer-Sheva

GROUP L
Villarreal
Steaua Bucharest
FC Zurich
Osmanlispor

UEFA: Top four leagues guaranteed four teams in UCL from 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  UEFA  Champions League trophy is seen ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The UEFA Champions League will see a big change for three seasons from the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

On Friday it was announced by UEFA that several changes, most notably the way teams qualify for the UCL, had been approved and will take place in the next competition cycle.

The biggest change and the one everyone is talking about is that from 2018 the teams who finish in the top four of the four highest ranked UEFA nations will automatically qualify for the UCL group stage.

[ MORE: Analyzing UCL draw for PL teams ]

That means no more UCL play-off for teams who finish fourth in the Premier League.

In a statement on their website, UEFA’s General Secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis revealed everyone is happy with the changes.

“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions. We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”

Some argue that having 16 places guaranteed to teams from the top four nations in Europe — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — is a monopoly and limits the chances of smaller clubs from smaller nations from qualifying.

UEFA also revealed a new coefficient system with clubs no longer having a country share tacked on to their coefficient under most circumstances, plus historical success will be weighted in the coefficient rankings to take into account past UCL and Europa League titles won.

For example, Liverpool’s coefficient will likely increase despite not playing in Europe this season as instead of the coefficient being solely made up of how they and other English teams have performed in Europe over the past few years, now their five previous UCL titles will be weighted and their coefficient will improve due to past success.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

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The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

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Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.