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New league, very different challenges for Fabio Capello in China

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As he won league titles as head coach of Real Madrid, Milan and Juventus, Fabio Capello never had to contemplate relegation. In his first foray to China, it has suddenly become a very real threat.

Capello, winner of the UEFA Champions League in 1994 and who also led the national teams of England and Russia to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, was appointed as head coach of Jiangsu Suning in June.

In three Chinese Super League games under one of the world’s most famous coaches, Jiangsu has collected just one point. More worrying still is that in those games, the Nanjing-based club failed to score.

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The latest setback was a 1-0 home loss to Shanghai SIPG, which was missing star players Oscar and Hulk through suspension. That loss left Jiangsu bottom of the 16-team league, three points adrift of safety.

“Maybe this is the most testing situation that Capello has ever faced,”Gary White, who led Shanghai Shenxin clear of relegation from China’s League One in 2016, told The Associated Press.

“He does not have a team full of world-class players to rely on. He must bring the big foreign stars and the Chinese players together and get them to play for each other. It is not about quality, it is about motivation.”

The player stocks are still high at the club which finished runner-up in the 2016 season. Bolstered by more than $80 million spent on Brazilian internationals Alex Teixeira and Ramires, Jiangsu pushed Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Guangzhou Evergrande all the way for the title.

This season the stars remained at the club and firepower was added in the shape of Colombian international striker Roger Martinez.

There were high hopes at the start of the season but the expected title challenge hasn’t materialized and Jiangsu started to slip down the standings, winning just once in the first third of the season. South Korean coach Choi Yong-soo resigned on June 1.

“With the experience Capello has, you would think he can turn it around,” White said. “This club should not be bottom of the league with the players they have. He has to get them to play for each other, the team, the fans and the city.”

The expected upturn has yet to happen, though the 71 year-old Italian coach is trying to stay positive.

“We are improving,” Capello said after the latest loss. “We are playing better all the time but we are lacking confidence especially in front of goal. Against Shanghai we played well and did not deserve to lose …I can see the quality that there is in the team.”

Capello has been in China for less than a month but much of the Chinese media has warned of the need for a result soon.

However, Capello can take heart from Felix Magath. The former Bayern Munich boss arrived in June 2016 to take over a struggling Shandong Luneng.

“The Chinese Super League is a tough league and when you are in the relegation zone, confidence falls and when you are a big team with famous players, the other teams like to beat you,” said Magath, who steered Shandong to safety with a margin of just two points.

This season Shandong is much-improved and currently sits in fifth.

For Capello, anywhere outside the bottom two when the season ends in October will do.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.