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World Cup Today: Fast Facts on the Final

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SUNDAY, JULY 13

The day has finally arrived. 32 days after this all started. 63 matches are behind us. Just a few hours are ahead of us. By the time the sun sets in Rio, Brazil’s World Cup will have come to an end.

Let’s not get too panicked about how we’re going to cope. Not just yet, anyway. There’s still time to revel in what’s to come…


THE FINAL: GERMANY VS. ARGENTINA

Location: Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Time: 3 p.m. ET, ABC
A CLOSE LOOK AT GERMANY | A CLOSE LOOK AT ARGENTINA | PREVIEWING THE FINAL

How they got here
Argentina
Did you know Argentina have yet to go behind in a match? That doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled, though. It looked as though things were going to be all too easy when, in their first match, Bosnia and Herzegovina put in an own goal to give Argentina the lead before five minutes were out. But it took until injury time for Lionel Messi to break down Iran, then Nigeria gave them a thrilling match that ended in a 3-2 win for the albiceleste.
Winning the group set up a date with Switzerland, who made it their mission to shut down Argentina, thus taking the game to extra time. A goal from Ángel di María — set up by Messi, of course — put them in the quarterfinals. Gonzalo Higuaín scored early, and despite a Belgium fight-back, Argentina left with a 1-0 win.
Which was more than they managed against Netherlands. That was one of the few genuinely boring matches of this tournament, with both sides desperate to hang on. Penalties came, Louis van Gaal had no more substitutes to use, and Argentina came away with a special treat.
A date with Germany.

Germany
Germany caused very few surprises when winning their first match 4-0, despite the fact that their opponents were Portugal. Of course, Pepe getting himself sent off didn’t help, but Germany were already up 2-0 at that point. It was surprising, however, when they could only get a point from Ghana, but we did all appreciate the thrilling 2-2 draw. They could’ve gone through top of the group with just a draw with the United States, but Germany decided to be mean and win anyway.
Many thought it would be easy for Germany to beat Algeria, but that proved to be a sore underestimation of the Fennec Foxes. André Schürrle finally broke the deadlock just after the start of added extra time, to the dismay of everyone not wearing a Germany kit. Then came France, another game which turned out different than expected when France barely put up a fight, exiting with a 1-0 loss.
Everyone knows the ending to this story: Germany smashed Brazil 7-1 in the semifinal. Manuel Neuer still managed to be irritated when his defense allowed an injury-time goal to Oscar, however.
Think Argentina are worried?

History
Whoever lifts the cup this evening will have done it before — well, the country will have won, at least. Germany have claimed the title three times, while Argentina have won it twice. Since that last win came in 1990, however, the current players have yet to lay their hands on the World Cup.

That 1990 title was claimed by West Germany — with a win over Argentina. Yep. And at the previous World Cup, it was Argentina beating West Germany to lift the Cup. Yes, this match will provide bragging rights beyond the usual “we’re the champions of the world!”

It’s worth noting as well that Argentina were eliminated by Germany in each of the last two tournaments, so a win for the albiceleste may be particularly sweet.

What they’re saying
Argentina captain Lionel Messi: “The dream is not over yet.”

Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger: “We know how to handle things.”

Short, sweet and to the point. But who will prevail?

Prediction
Argentina keep playing the organized, defensive game that brought them this far.
Germany attempt to find their way through but find themselves stifled.
We get extra time.
An exhausted Argentina defense succumbs to the wonder that is Thomas Müller.
Germany win 1-0 (a.e.t.)

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.