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Watch: Sporting Lisbon midfielder shows off nifty skills

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Marcos Acuna has scored just five goals for Sporting Lisbon, but on Thursday he showed one of the reasons why he was a coveted transfer to the club this past summer.

Facing Astana in the UEFA Europa League, Acuna displayed some incredible footwork and control of the ball, looping the ball over the head of a defender not once but twice in the second half of Sporting’s 3-1 win. It was a bit of street soccer brought onto the field, and it is just beautiful.

Acuna went on to provide the pass that was turned in by Gelson Martins for the game winner.

Watch and behold.

Full UEFA Nations League draw as big boys collide

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) World Cup champion Germany will play France and the Netherlands when soccer’s newest national-team competition kicks off in September.

The Nations League draw on Wednesday also placed 2010 World Cup winner Spain in a group with England and Croatia.

The first Nations League draw ranked Europe’s 55 national teams in four tiers, each containing four groups. Teams play home and away games from Sept. 6 through Nov. 20.

The top-tier League A also grouped European champion Portugal with Italy and Poland, while Belgium drew Switzerland and Iceland.

Group winners in League A will play a Final Four mini-tournament in June 2019 to decide the Nations League champion.

UEFA created the competition to replace most friendlies, which generate little interest among coaches, fans and broadcasters.

The format guarantees top-ranked teams play each other more often. Lower-ranked nations get extra competitive games against teams at their own level and a more realistic qualifying route to the European Championship.

Nations League results will also decide the playoff lineup in March 2020 for that year’s European Championship, helping at least one team from the lowest-ranked League D to qualify for Euro 2020.

By creating the Nations League, UEFA has delayed kicking off the next European qualifiers until 2019. That qualifying program of 10 groups will send 20 teams to the final tournament, leaving four places to be decided by the playoffs.

GROUP STAGE

Games will be played in September, October and November on the usual national-team match dates protected by FIFA.

Teams in League A and B – which have four groups of three nations, playing each other home and away – will still have two slots free to arrange friendlies against teams like Brazil and Argentina.

Lower-ranked teams in the four-team groups of Leagues C and D have all their matches booked.

FINAL FOUR

There will be a mini-tournament for the League A group winners to decide the Nations League champion.

The semifinals and final will be played in one host nation in June 2019. UEFA will pick the host in December from among the four competing teams.

PROMOTION AND RELEGATION

Group winners in Leagues B, C and D will be promoted up a tier for the next Nations League in 2020.

Last-place teams in Leagues A, B and C will be relegated.

EURO 2020 QUALIFYING

The Nations League will push back qualifying for the 2020 European Championship, which will be played throughout 2019.

It will also affect the 10-group Euro 2020 draw, which UEFA will not make until after the Nations League groups finish.

Top-tier teams going to the Final Four will go into one of the five groups of five teams. That will clear their June schedule for the mini-tournament.

There are also five Euro 2020 qualifying groups of six teams, playing qualifiers in March, June, September, October and November 2019 in the usual FIFA slots.

The top two in each of the 10 groups will advance to Euro 2020. The remaining four places in the 24-team lineup will be decided in playoffs.

EURO 2020 PLAYOFFS

In March 2020, each Nations League tier will have a four-team playoff bracket with the winner advancing to Euro 2020.

It means one League D team – possibly Azerbaijan, Belarus or Georgia – will go to the tournament.

Playoffs will be for teams that failed to earn a Euro 2020 place through the qualifying groups. Playoff entries will be allocated by positions in Nations League groups.

League A playoffs likely will look strange, filled by League B losers because most top-tier teams will qualify automatically in 2019.

It also means the Euro 2020 draw will be in April, only a few weeks before the tournament opens in 12 host countries.

UEFA’s Best XI of 2017 announced

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The top 11 players in Europe for 2017 have been announced by UEFA.

[ MORE: Liverpool, United to battle for Pulisic?

European soccer’s governing body had over 8.8 million votes from fans and below are the 11 players who made the team.

All 11 players took part in the UEFA Champions League over the calendar year.

In goal Gianluigi Buffon from Juventus got the nod, while in defense Real Madrid’s duo of Marcelo and Sergio Ramos were joined by PSG’s Dani Alves and Juve’s Giorgio Chiellini.

There were two Premier League stars voted in as Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard were selected, along with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric from Real Madrid’s midfield and attackers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The big omissions? Some suggest that Harry Kane and Neymar should have been included, as well as Kylian Mbappe for his role in AS Monaco’s run to the UCL semifinals in 2016-17.


Croatia great Prosinecki to coach Bosnian national team

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Former Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Robert Prosinecki has been hired to coach the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.

The Bosnian soccer federation says Prosinecki was picked ahead of Amar Osim, who was also interviewed.

Prosinecki spent the past three years coaching Azerbaijan’s national team.

[ MORE: Everton to sign Tosun ] 

Bosnia is targeting the 2020 European Championship after failing to reach the past two major tournaments. The Balkan republic made its tournament debut as an independent nation at the 2014 World Cup.

Playing for Yugoslavia, Prosinecki was selected as the best young player at the 1990 World Cup. He helped Croatia finish third at the 1998 tournament.

Prosinecki won a European Cup title in 1991 with Red Star Belgrade, then moved to Madrid. He later played one season with Barcelona.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out: