World Cup final Man of the Match rankings

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Germany has won the World Cup in extra time, outlasting Argentina who were up for the challenge but ultimately wasteful.

Lionel Messi wasn’t able to put the cherry on his legacy, but for Germany they put a handfull of near-misses behind them and capped off a two-decade long building process.

For a match that produced few goals, it was still full of individual performances, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.

Much of the action took place in the midfield, and that’s where we concentrate our list. But first, the hero…

5. Mario Götze

Not even born the last time Germany won the World Cup, the 22-year-old came on just as regulation came to a close, and replaced a legend. But it was he who produced the moment of brilliance, and that it was.

Settling Andre Schurrle’s cross with a chest touch and volleying home midair, he produced a moment his country and the world will never forget, and for that it’s impossible to ignore.

Götze is the youngest scorer in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966. Shots of him taking in the moment after the match were chill-inducing.

4. Ezequiel Garay

Argentina’s defense has to get credit in some way, and Garay was the best of the bunch

As the match went on, the Argentinian defense had to do more and more work, and for most of it they were up to the task. Martin Demichelis had himself a great match as well, but as they tired he did too, and was at fault for not tracking Mario Götze on the final blow, Germany’s goal.

Garay completed 35/40 passes including just two giveaways in his own half, and led the match with 11 clearances. He tracked Miroslav Klose very well, and had the most energy of his defense as the match waned on.  The Argentinian defense didn’t concede for nearly 500 minutes before Götze’s winner, and Garay was a leader at the back.

3. Jerome Boateng

From Argentina’s defense now to Germany’s defense, Boateng was a rock.  He often pressed up high to support the midfield, and pumped long balls up forward as well.  Those long balls ended up bringing his passing numbers down, but his marking abilities – even with the high line – were near perfect.

He also completed all six of his attempted tackles, meaning he was incredibly hard to beat on the ball. He won 4/6 duels in the air, and cleared the ball nine times.

His brother is embroiled in controversy with the Ghanan national team, but for Jerome, it’s delight at the end of the 2014 World Cup.

2. Javier Mascherano

Lionel Messi wore the captain’s armband, but it’s clear who ran the midfield: Mascherano. A star performance all tournament, Mascherano was a physical presence that punished Germany every time it tried to enter the middle of the pitch.

He probably should have earned a second yellow card a few times, but let off a couple of times, he rewarded his team.

Messi won the Golden Ball for player of the tournament (more on that ridiculous decision later) but Mascherano was the best player on the Argentinian team.

1. Bastian Schweinsteiger

This is actually a relatively obvious choice.  Punished repeatedly by physical Argentinian play, Schweinsteiger got up and responded every single time. When Sami Khedira went down just minutes before kickoff with an injury, young Christoph Kramer came in.

Schweinsteiger knew he would have to provide the youngster with cover already, but when Kramer himself got his bell rung and replaced by an attacker in Schurrle, it was the 29-year-old who took the middle of the pitch and made it his own.

As Messi felt the need to drop deeper and deeper into the midfield, he found himself smothered by Schweinsteiger, and he was able to distribute the passes as well.  He finished with 94 completed passes in 105 attempts, a 90% completion rate and the most completed passes of anyone on the field.

It’s not the first time Schweinsteiger’s put in a performance like this for either club or country, but he’d been somewhat of a princess this tournament, whining to the referee constantly and shying away from physicality, along with making silly challenges. Not today. He was the Schweinsteiger of old, and ruled the midfield of a World Cup final, and for that is our Man of the Match.

MLS Snapshot: Sounders cruise, 3-0, as Galaxy struggles continue

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy’s midfield remains… nonexistent, to put it very nicely. It was a problem in 2015; it was a major problem in 2016; and it remains a problem early in 2017. On Sunday, Curt Onalfo’s side (as a quick aside, no, his seat isn’t yet getting hot) sat by and watched — almost literally — as the Seattle Sounders found the back of the net three times in the first half at StubHub Center.

Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris scored the goals for Seattle, to go with an own goal from Ashley Cole. It’s LA’s fifth loss in seven games, while Seattle have their second win of the season and put to bed a three-game winless skid.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

29′ — Dempsey heads into an open net for 1-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro floated the cross toward the back post, and Dempsey made extremely easy work of it with Brian Rowe scrambling through no man’s land.

35′ — Cole applies the finish into his own net — If it happened at the other end of the field, we’d have said it was a cool, calm, composed finish. Alas…

44′ — Morris fires past Rowe for 3-0 — The counter-attack was quick, what with no one stepping to the ball as Seattle covered two-thirds of the field. The finish wasn’t so simple for Morris.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Dempsey (29′), Cole (OG – 35′), Morris (44′)

Chelsea’s Kante claims PFA Player of the Year award

Photo credit: PFA / Twitter: @PFA
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Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, who many felt was hard done by in not winning the award during Leicester City’s miraculous title-winning season of 2015-16, was named the 2016-17 PFA Player of the Year on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

With Chelsea six games from claiming this season’s Premier League title (they currently possess a four-point advantage on Tottenham Hotspur), it’s impossible to ignore Kante’s presence and impact on each of the last two (presumed) title-winning sides.

While his goal and assist numbers (1 and 1 this season) don’t come anywhere close to those of past winners (Riyad Mahrez tallied 17 and 11 en route to last season’s award), Kante’s industry, energy and rugged, ball-winning ways have integrated so seamlessly into Antonio Conte‘s debut Chelsea side.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

The Blues splashed the cash — $40 million was the fee — to sign Kante last summer, and they’ve reaped unbelievable, immediate return on investment from the 26-year-old.

Spurs’ Alli wins PFA Young Player award for 2nd straight season

Photo credit: Tottenham Hotspur / Twitter: @SpursOfficial
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Dele Alli joined Wayne Rooney (2004-05 and 2005-06) on Sunday as the only repeat or back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award winners since the turn of the century.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Alli showed in 2016-17 — much like his Tottenham Hotspur teammate and 2014-15 Young Player of the year winner Harry Kane — that he’s much more than a one-season wonder, improving upon 2015-16’s goal and assist numbers (10 and 9) with a 16-goal, 5-assist season this time around.

Alli was signed by Tottenham (out of League One and relative obscurity) for a fee just north of $6 million in 2015. Recent rumors have linked the 21-year-old with a move to join the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for a transfer fee well over 10 times what Spurs paid to MK Dons.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

Between Alli and Kane, Spurs players have won the last three Young Player of the Year awards, and five of the last six (Gareth Bale in 2012-13; Kyle Walker in 2011-12). Only Eden Harzard could break up Spurs’ stranglehold on the award, in 2013-14.

Ryan Giggs (1991-92 and 1992-93) and Robbie Fowler (1994-95 and 1995-96) are the only other players to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

El Clasico: Messi scores 499, 500; Barca, Madrid level on points

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After 31 (and 32, respectively) games played, three points were all that separated Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table in La Liga.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

After another 90 scintillating, pulsating, thrilling, plot-twisting minutes of El Clasico on Sunday, there’s not a single thing to separate the two sides (other than Barca’s current tiebreaker on head-to-head meetings, and Madrid’s game in hand). This time, it was Lionel Messi who outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the meeting of the world’s brightest stars, the former scoring twice and reaching the 500-goal mark in his Barcelona career (all competitions).

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 33 23 6 4 94 32 62 12-3-1 11-3-3 75
 Real Madrid 32 23 6 3 84 36 48 12-4-1 11-2-2 75
 Atlético Madrid 33 20 8 5 60 24 36 12-2-2 8-6-3 68

Casemiro opened the scoring with a tap-in into an empty net in the 28th minute. Marcelo floated a ball to the back post, where Sergio Ramos made clean contact but came up with nothing but hit nothing but woodwork. Fortunately for Los Blancos, the ball ricocheted off the post, bounced across the face of goal and found the Brazilian midfielder all by his lonesome.

The lead was short-lived, though, as a bloodied Messi scored yet another of his patented Messi goals just five minutes later. With two touches atop Madrid’s penalty area, he slalomed past and beat three defenders before applying the cool finish past Keylor Navas with that magical left foot of his.

Following the halftime break, the balance of play tipped in Barca’s favor. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez went oh so close to putting the visitors ahead either side of the hour mark, but Navas produced a pair of stunning saves that’ll (perhaps) go a long way toward silencing his increasingly vocal critics.

[ MORE: Griezmann scores no. 25 as Atleti win to hold onto 3rd ]

There was absolutely nothing the Costa Rican no. 1 could do about Rakitic’s 73rd-minute strike, though. Cutting inside onto his left foot, the Croatian caressed and curled the ball toward the far post, where it made a hard right turn at the last possible second and nestled itself into the

Already up a goal, the game appeared to swing totally in Barca’s favor just four minutes later. Sergio Ramos, the most Sergio Ramos player to ever Sergio Ramos, went lunging in, with two sets of studs exposed, on Messi. He was rightly shown a straight red card.

Another pair of plot twists were still to come, though, as James Rodriguez got on the end of Marcelo’s cross and slammed the first-time finish past Marc Andre ter Stegen with four minutes of regular time remaining.

Then, with all of 13 seconds remaining in stoppage time, that man — the undisputed best player in the world and the greatest of all time — broke Madridista hearts once again. Sergi Roberto started the sequence all the way back in midfield, and Jordi Alba supplied the cross to the top of the box, and Messi drove that same left foot through the ball to beat Navas for the last-kick winner. The shirt-off-held-aloft celebration was simply salt in the wound.