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USMNT-Costa Rica preview

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The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table is tight, and will have many U.S. Soccer supporters feeling nervy ahead of Friday’s home tilt against Costa Rica in New Jersey.

With John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin out with injury, the anxiety is a bit higher. And memories of a 4-0 shellacking in Costa Rica that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job won’t help things, either.

That said… everybody exhale.

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As noted in Wedneday’s Four Keys post, the Yanks of this generation don’t lose meaningful home games to Costa Rica, and Los Ticos have not been impressive in World Cup qualifying aside from that beatdown last November.

In fact, Costa Rica has struggled to perform on away days this year, especially when considering the opposition:

July 22 – at USA – L 0-2
March 28 – at Honduras – D 1-1
March 24 – at Mexico – L 0-2
Jan. 22 – at Panama – L 0-1

Los Ticos like to work the right of the field, putting pressure on the left side of the opposition. That means another big test for Jorge Villafana (probably), as well as left midfielder Fabian Johnson and whoever Bruce Arena slots into left center back.

Six points from these next two matches, Friday and then Tuesday in Honduras, essentially assures the Yanks a berth in Russia (It would take a home loss to Panama and a road loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October plus other results going against them to defy that assertion).

Best case scenario

In fact, the U.S. has a potential major ally in rivals Mexico. Should the Yanks win both their matches and El Tri do the same — Mexico plays Panama and Costa Rica — the table will look something like this come Tuesday. The Yanks would then want T&T to draw visiting Honduras (possible) and beat Panama in Panama (unlikely).

Mexico — 20 points
USMNT — 14 points
Costa Rica — 11 points
Panama — 7 points
T&T — 7 points
Honduras — 6 points

In this scenario, the spot in Russia is clinched and we’re watching Weston McKinnie and Christian Ramirez in October.

Worst case scenario

What does the unlikelihood of two USMNT losses do to their chances? Obviously, it’s not good, and Mexico could become the Yanks’ biggest enemy. In this scenario, Costa Rica wins both their USMNT and Mexico tests, while Mexico draws Panama. Los Canaleros, in turn, smash Trinidad and Tobago in Panama City on Tuesday, with T&T also losing to Honduras, and the table looks like this:

Costa Rica — 17 points
Mexico — 15 points
Panama — 11 points
Honduras — 11 points
USMNT — 8 points
T&T — 3 points

Again… that’s not happening but these are the facts. Even then, the Yanks would control their own fourth place/playoff destiny (at least) with a home match against Panama in October before closing out the Hex at likely last place T&T.

Full schedule

USMNT vs. Costa Rica — 6:55 p.m. ET
T&T vs. Honduras — 8 p.m. ET
Mexico vs. Panama — 9:30 p.m. ET

Honduras vs. USMNT — 5:36 p.m. ET
Costa Rica vs. Mexico — 10:05 p.m. ET
Panama vs. T&T — 10:05 p.m. ET

Real Madrid come from behind to win in Club World Cup semis

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Real Madrid made things on Wednesday a bit more complicated than they would have preferred, but the two-time defending European champions are through to the final of the Club World Cup for the second straight year.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

Zinedine Zidane’s men came from behind to beat United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira (winners of the U.A.E. Pro League, the tournament’s host country), courtesy of second-half goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, 2-1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Al Jazira held a 1-0 halftime lead, thanks to Romarinho’s opening goal in the 41st minute. The advantage lasted just a dozen minutes, though, as Ronaldo used Madrid’s first genuine chance of the game to bring Los Blancos back onto level terms in the 53rd minute. Luka Modric slipped the Portuguese superstar through, and the recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner finished with ease to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: West Ham targeting Wilshere in January transfer window ]

The winner didn’t come for quite some time after that, as Madrid were made to wait — and work — for their place in Saturday’s final, where they’ll face Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio. Bale had only just come off the bench seconds earlier, when Lucas Vazquez cut the ball back for Bale to hit it hard and low past the goalkeeper.

The Welshman nearly made it 3-1 with four minutes to go in regular time, but his scissor from the edge of the box was saved to deny Madrid a stunning insurance goal very late on.

Madrid are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Club World Cup titles after beating Kashima Antlers, 4-2 after extra-time, in the 2016 final.

Watch Live: Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs in action

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Seven Premier League games are coming your way from 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City head to Swansea looking to extend their winning streak to a record-breaking 15-straight in a season, while Manchester United host Bournemouth and Tottenham welcome Brighton to Wembley. There’s a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal, while Liverpool host West Brom, in-form Leicester head to Southampton and struggling Newcastle clash with Everton.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the seven games on Wednesday is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.

Wednesday’s Premier League schedule

2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Copa Sudamericana finals, leg 2: Flamengo vs. Independiente

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Germany’s players have big-money incentive to win World Cup

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.

The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.

Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.

Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.