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2017 Confederations Cup: Group B preview

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We are just a few days away from the start of the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so it’s time to take a look at the four teams competing in Group B.

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Here’s what you need to know ahead of the tournament kicking off.

[ MORE: Full schedule, stadiums, streams 


Group B

Cameroon
How they qualified: By winning the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, beating Egypt 2-1 in the final.
FIFA ranking: 32
Star player: Vincent Aboubakar – Besiktas striker scored the winner in the AFCON final and has 16 goals in 56 games. Bags of pace and experience.
One to watch: Fabrice Ondoa – Goalkeeper is just 21 years old but already has 31 caps to his name. A real star for the future.
Manager: Hugo Broos – Experienced Belgian manager who led the Indomitable Lions to success at AFCON 2017.
Chance of winning: 30% – They will do well to get out of this group but if they do they can keep things tight and cause a few upsets. Darkhorse.

Chile
How they qualified: Winning 2015 Copa American on home soil by beating Argentina on penalty kicks in Santiago. Adding the Copa America Centenario for good measure  in 2016 too.
FIFA ranking: 4
Star player: Alexis Sanchez – One of the top forwards in the world right now, scored 24 goals and added 10 assists in the PL for Arsenal. A wanted man who will put on a show to drive up his wages and transfer fee. Just watch.
One to watch: Not exactly an up and coming star, but Marcelo Diaz is so often overlooked while Sanchez, Vidal, Bravo and Medel steal the limelight. Diaz holds everything together.
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi – Former Spanish international has had ups and downs but his team are dynamic and experienced. If they qualify for the World Cup next summer (slight qualifying struggles continue) they may be among the favorites.
Chance of winning: 60% – Clear favorites for this tournament after Germany sent a young, inexperienced squad.

Australia
How they qualified: Winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, beating South Korea 2-1 in extra time in 2015.
FIFA ranking: 48
Star player: Tim Cahill – Okay, he’s 37 years old but Cahill still comes up with the goods when the Socceroos need him. 48 goals in 96 games.
One to watch: Aaron Mooy – An absolute beast in Huddersfield’s promotion push. Man City man will likely have plenty of loan offers in the PL this summer. Energetic and creative midfielder.
Manager: Angelos Postecoglou – In charge of Australia for almost four years, Postecoglou has built a solid core which has taken the AFC by storm.
Chance of winning: 10% – Will struggle to progress from the group.

Germany
How they qualified: By winning the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA ranking: 3
Star player: Julian Draxler – Named captain of this young German squad, the PSG attacker will be the go-to guy for Die Mannschaft.
One to watch: Sandro Wagner – Three goals in two games for Germany say it all. Wagner is looking to continue his fine season after helping Hoffenheim finish fourth in the Bundesliga.
Manager: Joachim Low – A really intriguing squad selection from Low who has left Ozil, Kroos, Muller, Neuer, Hummels, Boateng and many more experienced players at home. Time to see if his next crop of youngster have what it takes.
Chance of winning: 50% – Will progress from the group and this young German team will gain valuable experience from a big clash with Portugal or Mexico in the semifinals.


Game schedule
June 18: Cameroon vs. Chile – 2 p.m. ET – Moscow
June 19: Australia vs. Germany – 11 a.m. ET – Sochi
June 22: Cameroon vs. Australia – 11 a.m. ET – Saint Petersburg
June 22: Germany vs. Chile – 2 p.m. ET – Kazan
June 25: Chile vs. Australia – 11 a.m. ET – Moscow
June 25: Germany vs. Cameroon – 11 a.m. ET – Sochi


MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

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Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

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New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

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The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.