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Top 10 most memorable moments of the 2014 World Cup

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10. Luis Suarez bite

Why not start here? It can only go up from this embarrassing moment. He tried to deny it, but ultimately the video doesn’t lie. Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, earning him a 4-month ban from all competition.

It was memorable only in the sense that it rocked the soccer world (along with the internet), as it’s inconceivable he would do this a third time in his career, after the first two caused such a splash.

Suarez has since transferred to Barcelona, but will not be eligible to play until around November. The ban is full and total, meaning he cannot even be unvelied at the Camp Nou to Barcelona fans. Nonetheless, the Catalans decided to make him around the fourth-most expensive transfer in history.

9. The death of Spain

I said it could only go up from the Suarez bite, right? Well, it’s a slow climb.  Spain was a serious contender to win the entire World Cup…or so we thought. Instead, they bowed out of the World Cup almost immediately, with a pair of losses to open their campaign enough to send them packing.

The capitulation marked a moment of transition for Spain, a team that was not only the defending World Cup champion but also had put together a string of impressive title runs across multiple recent competitions.  For such a decorated coach as Vicente del Bosque and players like Xavi, Iker Casillas, and Andres Iniesta, it was a humbling moment compared to other career highs.

The team should be fine moving forward, and this will be just a bump in the road, but it still shocked the world to see such big names fail so miserably. Especially Casillas. Yikes.

source: AP8. Chile…and their fans

Chilean fans were praised for their passion during matches, and their team was praised for positive performances.  They took down Spain, battled the Netherlands, and stretched Brazil to penalty kicks. Players like Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel were standouts in the tournament and earned widespread praise for their electricity on the pitch.

Their fans were also memorable for something else…toppling over a barrier and storming the Maracana press room in an attempt to gain access without tickets.  The stampede stunned much of the media and gave us quite a laugh, but Chile’s performance on the field was just as memorable.

7. Louis van Gaal subs in Tim Krul for penalty shootout and he comes up big

Call it genius, call it lucky, or call it stupidity that came through, but Louis van Gaal produced a memorable moment when he switched goalkeepers just before the Netherlands penalty shootout against Costa Rica.

Then, after watching the Costa Ricans look so clinical in their penalty shootout the previous round, Krul made two beastly saves and made his manager look really, really good.  The Netherlands had one more amazingly memorable moment in their semifinal run, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

source: AP6. Speaking of Costa Rica, they were pretty awesome

May I present to you the jewels of CONCACAF, Costa Rica! Wait, what? Yep, Costa Rica not only made it out of a group with three previous World Cup champions, they won it. With room to spare.

The Costa Ricans, led by the stellar Bryan Ruiz (Wait…WHAT?!), took down both Italy and Uruguay before playing to a draw with England in a mostly meaningless game.  They then passed by the Greeks on penalties and took the Netherlands that far as well to complete an entertaining World Cup that gave CONCACAF a bit more clout.

5. Miroslav Klose breaks the all-time World Cup scoring record

It was slightly (ok, heavily) overshadowed by the drubbing that Brazil took in the match, but it’s hard to forget that Miroslav Klose passed Ronaldo as the all-time leading goalscorer in the World Cup.

The 36-year-old has had a stellar international career, scoring 71 goals for Die Mannschaft, but one of the biggest came with the game already at 1-0 against Brazil, the 16th in his World Cup career.  Germany eventually won 7-1, shoving Klose’s goal to the back shelf, but it didn’t diminish what he’d done.  Oh, and he went on to win the World Cup, so that’s pretty cool too.

4. Mario Götze wins Germany the World Cup in extra time

Yea, if you remember, Germany won the World Cup some time ago. And it’s hard to imagine a moment bigger than winning the World Cup on a goal in extra time. That’s what Mario Götze did in the 113th minute of a 0-0 game.  It was an absolutely brilliant goal, with a wondrous setup from Andre Schurrle and an even better finish from the 22-year-old that saw him chest down the ball coming hard at him and blast a precise and powerful volley past Sergio Romero.

The goal will no doubt write the young star into German history, and there’s not much more to be said for this one. His goal won the freakin World Cup. That’s about as good as it gets.

3. Germany annihilates Brazil 7-1

source: APA game that reverberated around not only the soccer world but an entire nation, Brazil had hoped to win the World Cup on their home soil, but they were sent packing with a disastrous performance that crushed the entire country.

Germany, with four goals in a 27-minute span and five in the first half, torched the hosts and threw the country into sudden soccer turmoil. The effects of the match could be seen in the third-place game, when Brazil had absolutely nothing to give their fans against a dangerous Netherlands team who made it look all too easy.

For a team who hadn’t lost a competitive home match in a really, really long time, this was a disaster of epic proportions. For a team that would go on to win the World Cup, it would give us a taste of how dangerous Germany really is.

2. Robin van Persie’s spearhead diving header

A moment that jumpstarted the World Cup, it remains one of the most memorable. It cemented the 2014 World Cup (especially the group stage) as one of the most unpredictable in history, and alerted the world what it was in for.

With the Netherlands down 1-0 to Spain on just the second day of the event, Robin van Persie flew through the air gracefully and deposited the ball into the back of the net past Iker Casillas. The goal signaled the demise of Spain in the tournament (see earlier) and would announce the Netherlands as a force. Also, it was just a really awesome goal.

1. James Rodriguez is amazing

The world fell in love with James Rodriguez in the 2014 World Cup, and for good reason. He ended up winning the Golden Boot, and because every moment was just as fun as the last, and for that, we’re just going to lump them all into one.

The Colombian international scored six goals, including at least one in every single match he played in the tournament. He braved the host country and massive bugs, and passed every test he faced.

He gave us a ridiculous volley against Uruguay, insane footwork against Japan, and tears after losing to Brazil, all which made us fall that much more in love with him.  With a move to Real Madrid likely in his future, Rodriguez won the hearts of the world.

Other moments we can’t forget: Tim Howard’s record 16 saves, Miguel Herrera’s sideline antics, German national team’s pants ridiculousness during training.

Premier League Playback: Ranking the chance of relegation

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With 12 games to go in the Premier League season, the bottom seven teams are starting to get cut off from the rest of the league.

Just like at the top of the table, this is the “business end” of the campaign and strange things start to happen.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Team who looked dead and buried start to rise (see: Hull and Swansea, already) and others start to sink from midtable and towards the abyss with Bournemouth and particularly Leicester City struggling.

[ MORE: Premier League standings | Schedule

Below is a look at the seven main contenders for the three relegation spots, focusing on the toughest games they have remaining, their reasons for optimism and a percentage chance of relegation.

[ MORE: Full PL Playback archive ]

Even if you have points on the board right now, momentum means everything at this time of the season…


Bournemouth

Points: 26
Reason for optimism: The quality Eddie Howe‘s side possess on the ball will see them create chances, so there’s that. However, they have to score two or three goals a game recently to get a win. They have four of the the current top six coming up, then finish the season with four of their last five games against relegation rivals. That will test the nerve of this talented yet inexperienced team.
Toughest games remaining: at Man United (Mar. 4), at Liverpool (Apr. 5), vs. Chelsea (Apr. 8), at Tottenham (Apr. 15)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Swansea City

Points: 24
Reason for optimism: Things are looking much more solid in defense since Paul Clement arrived. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente continue to score and assist, plus the Swans look dangerous on the break. Plenty of reasons to believe they’ll continue to pull away from the bottom three. Will complacency set in though? Swans next four games are against Burnley, Hull, Bournemouth and Boro. Huge few weeks ahead and then an easier finish to the season, on paper.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Tottenham (Apr. 4), at Man United (Apr. 29), vs. Everton (May 6)
Relegation percentage: 20%

Middlesbrough
Points: 22
Reason for optimism: They’ve got the fifth defensive record in the PL, so they can hang in there. That’s a good trait to have when the pressure is on. They just need a goalscorer to pop up with the goods. A run of three games against relegation rivals at the beginning of April is likely to decide their fate with four very tough games to finish the season.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Man United (Mar. 19), vs. Arsenal (Apr. 15), vs. Man City (Apr. 29), at Chelsea (May 6), at Liverpool (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Crystal Palace
Points: 22
Reason for optimism: Big Sam has never been relegated as a Premier League manager. Simple. That said, this task is tougher than he thought. The 1-0 win against Boro proved they can grind out a victory when they need to. Still, they have five of the current top six left to play in their final 12 games of the season. It will be a flip of the coin for the Eagles.
Toughest games remaining: At Chelsea (Apr. 1), vs. Arsenal (Apr. 8), at Liverpool (Apr. 22), at Man City (May 6), at Man United (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Leicester City

Points: 21
Reason for optimism: Scrapping the barrel here… Their incredible runs to safety in 2015 and then for the PL title in 2016 (that did happen, right!?) gives them experience in high-pressure situation. One big marquee win can help get momentum going again, either in the PL or by getting past Sevilla in the return leg. Claudio Ranieri‘s sacking could give the Foxes the jolt they badly need but it must happen soon.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Liverpool (Feb. 27), at Everton (Apr. 8), vs. Tottenham (Apr. 22), at Man City (May 13),
Relegation percentage: 50%

Hull City

Points: 21
Reason for optimism: Marco Silva’s side are much improved and have just two games remaining against the big boys. So many relegation scraps coming up. They look tough to break down and dangerous on the break. That’s a great combo at this point in the season. They have momentum among the teams at the bottom.
Toughest games remaining: at Everton (Mar. 18), at Man City (Apr. 8), vs. Tottenham (May 21),
Relegation percentage: 30%

Sunderland

Points: 19
Reason for optimism: Well, just look at pretty much the last four seasons. Down and out time and time again, somehow Sunderland survive. That’s the only reason for optimism. Oh, and Jermain Defoe‘s goals. David Moyes needs a miracle, especially what those remaining games…
Toughest games remaining: vs. Man City (Mar. 5), vs. Man United (Apr. 8), at Arsenal (Apr. 22), at Chelsea (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 70%


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.

VIDEO: Remembering Jamie Vardy’s magic vs. Liverpool

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Just over 12 months ago Leicester City beat Liverpool on a raucous evening at the King Power Stadium to ignite real belief into their Premier League title charge.

We all know how that turned out…

[ PREVIEW: Leicester host Liverpool

A year on and boy, Leicester could use some magic from Vardy as they host Liverpool on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Foxes fired Claudio Ranieri last Thursday and the reigning champions have slipped into the relegation zone over the weekend as they’re in freefall with five defeats on the spin and they’ve failed to score in their last six PL games.

Click play on the video above to see Vardy’s wonderful volley from distance as the England international was in full flow on his way to 24 goals for the season. He has just five in the PL this season, three of which came in the 4-2 win against Manchester City at the KP back in December.

Again, caretaker Craig Shakespeare needs some magic from somewhere on Monday if the Foxes are going to gain momentum in their battle against relegation.

Report: Jordan Henderson out with foot injury

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool embraces Jordan Henderson of Liverpool after the Premier League match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on December 27, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson for the clash at Leicester City on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) according to multiple reports.

[ PREVIEW: Leicester host Liverpool ]

Sky Sports are reporting that Henderson suffered a “badly bruised foot” injury in training over the weekend and will not be available to lead Jurgen Klopp‘s side against a Leicester side in freefall.

Henderson has struggled with injuries recently, missing two weeks in January with a heel injury.

The 26-year-old has become the main holding player in Klopp’s fluid 4-3-3 system and has built up a formidable partnership alongside Georginio Wijnaldum. Henderson provides energy and a wide-range of passing and he would’ve been key against a Leicester which will be fired up following the departure of manager Claudio Ranieri last week and having slipped into the relegation zone over the weekend.

In his absence either Emre Can or Lucas Leiva will seamlessly slot in to the lineup, both can play Henderson’s more defensive role admirably and provide balance to Klopp’s somewhat top-heavy time when you think of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ahead of them.

Klopp has options but it’s still far from ideal to lose your captain after two weeks off and following a break to Spain for training.

Why Mourinho needs Zlatan to stay at Man United

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United congratulates Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on December 14, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Following Manchester United’s EFL Cup Final victory on Sunday, Jose Mourinho laughed off a question about Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s future at Old Trafford beyond this season.

He shouldn’t be laughing. He should be taking this situation very seriously. United need Zlatan. End of.

[ MORE: United, Mourinho get lucky

Ibrahimovic, 35, scored twice in the 3-2 win against Southampton at Wembley, including the game-winner with a late header, to hand Mourinho his first piece of major silverware as United’s boss. The veteran Swedish striker has now scored 26 goals in 38 games in all competitions this season, including six in his last four games.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

The incredible stats aside, his impact and influence on this team is clear for all to see. That’s why Zlatan needs to remain at United for at least one more season, and he could probably go on for longer. That said, he isn’t giving anything away about where he will be next season.

“We have another two months of the season to go,” Ibrahimovic said. “Let’s see how I feel, the situation. Somebody made up a story that if we don’t qualify for the Champions League I will not extend. It has nothing to do with that.”

Mourinho thinks otherwise.

“One day, Zlatan decided to [leave me and Inter Milan to join] Barcelona, I was very sad, but I did nothing to try to stop him to go, so I don’t beg for players,” Mourinho said. “But, if needed, maybe United fans can go to the door of his house, and stay there all night, if needed. We all want, and believe, that he is going to stay another season.”

It simply has to happen.

Zlatan has a contract until this summer with United with an option to extend it for another year. Mourinho has suggested in the past Zlatan will stay but we’ve never had too much of a definitive answer from the player himself.

Right now, aside from his play on the pitch, Zlatan is having a massive impact on the confidence and belief levels of his teammates. He has scored the game-winner on eight occasions this season and comparisons are being made about Eric Cantona and the impact he had.

Zlatan’s aura is helping United win games at the moment and even at the age of 35 he has played more Premier League minutes than any other United outfield player, plus he’s played in more games this season, in all competitions, than any other PL player.

He can play until he is 40. Mourinho said it last week and he’s right. Zlatan doesn’t rely on pace to play the game. He has always had power, panache and predatory instincts in abundance.

With United’s creative talents and other pacey forwards, not to mention the potential arrival of Antoine Griezmann in the summer, he not only brings the best out of them on the pitch but off it too. Mourinho clerly needs to rebuild parts of his defense to take United from top four hopefuls to title contenders next season and beyond, but without Zlatan’s goals this season they’d be in midtable.

United and Mourinho need Zlatan to stay next season, even if Griezmann arrives. Ibra knows it. He’s playing the game.

It would be a huge shock to see him anywhere other than Old Trafford next season. It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him score the winner for United in the FA Cup and Europa League final this season, and then lead them to even greater glories next season and beyond. After his latest trophy, the 22nd of his playing career, Zlatan revealed he keeps all of his medals in one of his houses. He was also asked if United are building something special under Mourinho?

“I came. That’s special,” Ibrahimovic said.

Anyone who doubted Zlatan’s ability (something he has never done) last summer ahead of his move to the Premier League will be scratching their heads. Like United right now, he seems to always find a way to score goals and get the job done. In that sense, Mourinho needs him to be the focal point of United’s attack for as long as Zlatan can play.

And also, well, he’s Zlatan. In this mammoth rebuild of a roster and self-belief, he’s the X-Factor Mourinho can’t do without.