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UEFA opens cases against Arsenal, Cologne after crowd disorder

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LONDON (AP) UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Arsenal and Cologne on Friday after crowd disorder marred their Europa League game.

Arsenal also said it will conduct a review into how large numbers of Cologne fans gained access to the home sections of Emirates Stadium for the Group H match on Thursday.

Kickoff was delayed for an hour because of the presence of thousands of ticketless Cologne fans around the ground, which made it hard for ticketholders to enter the stadium. It was clear during the match that many away supporters were sitting among Arsenal fans in the stadium, with some of them causing problems for stewards.

Cologne faces four charges from UEFA: Crowd disturbances, setting off fireworks, throwing objects, and acts of damage.

Arsenal was charged with having stairways blocked in the away section.

The case will be heard on Thursday.

Arsenal said it was “very disappointing” that touts sold tickets to Cologne supporters, beyond the 3,000 allocated to the German team in line with UEFA rules, after taking “extensive steps in advance” to stop that happening

An estimated 20,000 Cologne fans came to London ahead of the match. Police said five people were arrested for public disorder.

Arsenal won the game 3-1.

VIDEO: Spartak Moscow section fires flare 50-plus yards at referee

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What’s Russian for “behind closed doors?”

Spartak Moscow may find out after one of their supporters fired a flare from the end line to the midfield stripe, barely missing referee Deniz Aytekin.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap-up ]

Maribor and Spartak drew 1-1, but UEFA repercussions are almost certainly coming for the Russian visitors.

That could benefit Liverpool, who visits Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow on Sept. 26. The Reds drew Sevilla 2-2 on Wednesday.

World Cup prognoses for all confederations

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Eight teams are headed for the 2018 World Cup, while only a half-dozen others should feel comfortable with their tickets to Russia.

Here’s where it stands in terms of who’s in, who’s likely in, and who’s reached the next step with a playoff berth.

[ MORE: Should USMNT go 3 at the back? ]


Qualifying in a nutshell

IN: Russia (hosts), Brazil, Belgium, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico

NEARLY THERE: Costa Rica, Uruguay, Germany, Serbia, England, Spain.

PLAYOFF BOUND:
(Australia vs. Syria winner) vs. (CONCACAF fourth place)
(CONMEBOL fifth place) vs. New Zealand


Africa

— Tunisia¬†controls its own destiny with a three-point lead on¬†DR Congo and no matches between the two.

—¬†Nigeria¬†leads¬†Zambia by three points ahead of an Oct. 7 meeting between the two. A win will ensure a spot, while a draw would put it on the precipice via a significant goal differential advantage.

— No one’s been eliminated in Group C, though¬†Mali is an extreme long shot. Ivory Coast leads the group, a point ahead of Morocco, and two clear of Gabon.

—¬†Senegal¬†is now in pole position after FIFA ruled that a match-fixing scandal demanded a replay between South Africa and the Senegalese. Full breakdown here.

—¬†Egypt¬†has a two-point lead on¬†Uganda, and two will not meet.¬†Ghana is four back of Egypt, but could be eliminated before it gets a chance to face the Egyptians on Nov. 6.

Best guesses: Tunisia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt.


CONCACAF 

Costa Rica needs a point to join Mexico in Russia.

Panama will clinch an automatic spot with a win over the U.S. on Oct. 6, before hosting presumably-safe Costa Rica on Oct. 10.

—¬†The¬†United States will get an automatic spot with a win over Panama on Oct. 6 and by bettering Panama’s result versus Costa Rica.

—¬†Honduras¬†heads to Costa Rica on Oct. 6 and hosts Mexico on Oct. 10.

[ MORE: USMNT’s World Cup scenarios ]

Panama has 10 points, while the USMNT and Honduras have nine. One will automatically qualify for Russia, while another will face Australia or Syria over two legs in November. A third will be left out in the cold.

Best guesses: USMNT finishes 3rd, Panama to playoff where it loses to Australia.


CONMEBOL

One of the most fun and breakneck tournaments in sports, Brazil is in, Uruguay as close to being in as Ecuador and Paraguay are to being out, and both Bolivia and Venezuela are out.

Remaining opponents
2. Uruguay (27 pts)¬†‚Äď Venezuela (A), Bolivia (H)
3. Colombia
¬†(26 pts) ‚Äď Paraguay (H), Peru (A)
4.¬†Peru (24 pts)¬†‚Äď Argentina (A), Colombia (H)
5.¬†Argentina¬†(24 pts)¬†‚Äď Peru (H), Ecuador (A)
6. Chile (23 pts)¬†‚Äď Ecuador (H), Brazil (A)
7. Paraguay¬†(21 pts)‚Äď Colombia (A), Venezuela (H)
8.¬†Ecuador¬†(20 pts)¬†‚Äď Chile (A), Argentina (H)

Uruguay, Colombia, and Argentina should be relatively happy with their routes, while there is — stunningly — a scenario in which Chile wins both its matches and still misses out on an automatic playoff spot. Of the teams in the Top Four, Peru has looked good but faces the hardest route to stay in a slot. Of the teams beyond, both Argentina and Chile will like their chances of catching Peru. Paraguay would set up one of the wildest final days ever if it wins in Colombia on Oct. 5.

Best guesses: Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina qualify; Chile to playoff win over New Zealand.


UEFA

—¬†France¬†only has a one-point lead on¬†Sweden thanks to a surprise draw with Luxembourg. The¬†Netherlands will hope to pull at least a three-goal win over the visiting Swedes on the final day while at least matching their result on Oct. 7.¬†Bulgaria¬†needs a wild array of results, but is alive.

—¬†Switzerland¬†has a three-point lead on¬†Portugal, who has 11 goals better differential. The two sides meet in Portugal on Oct. 10 at which point the EURO champs will likely have strengthened their almost insurmountable GD advantage, but will still need a win.

—¬†Northern Ireland is likely heading to the playoffs unless it beats¬†Germany¬†in¬†N.I. on Oct. 5, and then wins in Norway while Germany loses at home to Azerbaijan.

—¬†Serbia needs to choke to allow¬†Wales¬†or¬†Ireland into the top spot, while the Welsh hold a one-point advantage over the visiting Irish should it come to their Oct. 9 meeting.¬†Austria needs to win both — likely by multiple goals — then hope both Wales and Ireland are upset in their Oct. 6 matches before drawing each other.

— Three teams are alive in Group E, with Poland leading Montenegro and Denmark by three points. The latter hold four-goal advantages in differential on Poland. Montenegro hosts Denmark and visits Poland, while Denmark also hosts Romania and Poland heads to Armenia. No one is safe, but Poland could solidify its advantage with a multi-goal win in Armenia.

— Second-place¬†Slovakia has one-point and goal differential edges on Slovenia and Scotland. Scotland faces both its rivals, while Slovakia hosts Malta and Slovenia is off to England. Any of the three could win the playoff spot.

—¬†Group G likely belongs to Spain, which has a three-point and 17-goal advantage on¬†Italy, who needs just a point from a home match with Macedonia to make a final day meeting with¬†Albania moot. The Albanians would have to win at Spain, then beat visiting Italy while making up 11 goals of differential and seeing Italy lose at home to Macedonia.

—¬†Bosnia and Herzegovina are the favorites to nail down second, with a one-point edge on¬†Greece and a four-point lead on¬†Cyprus. BNH has to host mighty but already-qualified Belgium while Cyprus hosts Greece on Oct. 7. A road win over Roberto Martinez’s men would leave it with a trip to Estonia, while Greece’s last day is a visit from lowly Gibraltar and Cyprus is off to Belgium. Greece could be in the best position here.

— At the risk of writing another 900 words, Group I is jammed up.¬†Croatia and¬†Iceland¬†have 16 points, while¬†Turkey¬†and¬†Ukraine have 14. Here’s how they finish:

Croatia (16 pts, +9 GD): vs. Finland, at Ukraine
Iceland (16 pts, +4 GD): at Turkey, vs. Kosovo
Turkey (14 pts, +4 GD): vs. Iceland, at Finland
Ukraine (14 pts, +4 GD): at Kosovo, vs. Croatia

Your guess is as good as ours. Tricky, tricky group.

Best guesses:

Group winners —¬†France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Turkey

Second-place* —¬†Sweden, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Slovakia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia

*Republic of Ireland misses out on playoffs as lowest-ranked second-place team.

UEFA World Cup Qualifying: Home favorites including England, Germany dominate

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It was a good day to be on home soil as home teams won eight of the nine UEFA World Cup qualifiers on Monday afternoon. Most teams were expected to win handily, and that they did, with two four-goal margins of victory, two three-goal margins, and one six-goal margin.

England 2-1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford shook off a poor start to score a fabulous winning goal, bursting into the attacking third and finishing expertly into the top corner as England moved five points clear at the top of Group F with a big 2-1 victory over 2nd place Slovakia.

The home side went down in just the third minute, as Rashford inadvisably tried to dribble out of his own half, instead dispossessed, and a wonderful ball over the top saw Stanislav Lobotka score around a poor Joe Hart. England fought back, however, as they would level things up before halftime with Eric Dier heading in a corner from a tight angle. Then Rashford’s goal on the hour mark signaled the winning touch.

[ MORE: US prepares for must-win in Honduras ]

Germany 6-0 Norway

The defending World Cup champions rolled from start to finish as they trounced Norway to move closer to mathematical qualification. Timo Werner scored twice and goals from Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gomez rounded out the match.

The win keeps Germany five points clear of Northern Ireland, with everyone else in the group eliminated.

Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Northern Ireland kept its automatic qualification hopes alive with a smooth 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Jonny Evans scored a diving header from a tight angle to start things off, and Chris Brunt dispatched a bouncing free-kick just before halftime. The win is the fifth in a row for Northern Ireland in UEFA qualification.

Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan

A trio of strikes from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, and Robert Lewandowski saw Poland ease by Group E minnows Kazakhstan. Milik hit a diving header similar to Evans’ 11 minutes in, and as Poland pummeled David Loria’s net all game, they would eventually grab a second in the 74th minute with Glik delivering a powerful header off a corner. Lewandowski finished things off from the spot with four minutes remaining.

Poland’s position is still in question as they sit just three points above both Montenegro and Denmark in Group E.

Scotland 2-0 Malta

Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland a comprehensive win over point-less Malta. The win keeps Scotland alive in crowded Group F, even on points with Slovenia at 14 and a point back of 2nd place Slovakia.

Armenia 1-4 Denmark

Denmark got a quick scare as lowly Armenia scored just six minutes in, but they righted the ship not long later and cruised to a 4-1 victory. After Ruslan Koryan’s opener, Thomas Delaney scored not 10 minutes later with his head to level things back up, with the assist coming from a deep Henrik Dalsgaard cross. Christian Eriksen provided the eventual winner in the 29th minute via a free-kick, but the day was Delaney’s. He scored his second on an impressive left-footed drive from outside the box, and picked up his hat-trick in stoppage time heading in off a corner.

Just Friday, Delaney had picked up his first goal for Denmark in his 18th cap, and the hat-trick makes this a memorable international break for the Werder Bremen midfielder.

Montenegro 1-0 Romania

Stevan Jovetic grabbed the game’s only goal in the 75th minute as Montenegro picked up all three points to keep pace with Denmark. The former Manchester City man headed in a cross from Lazio winger¬†Adam Marusic to secure the vital win. The game featured plenty of wastefulness from both sides, with the teams combining for 27 shots, but just five of them on target.

Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Slovenia kept in stride with Slovakia as they downed eliminated Lithuania on a pair from Atalanta attacker Josip Ilicic, plus late goals from¬†Benjamin Verbic and Valter Birsa. The brace doubled Ilicic’s international goal tally in his 45th cap, and keeps Slovenia even with Scotland on points and just one back of Slovakia, with all three countries trailing England in Group F.

Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino

Azerbaijan may be eliminated, but they showed strength as they brushed aside Group C minnows San Marino. Afran Ismayilov hit twice while Araz Abdullayev and Rasad Sadiqov each added to the goal tally which was rounded off by an own-goal.

Another tournament without the Dutch? WC hopes all but gone

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It was just about inconceivable that the Dutch could qualify for EURO 2016, denying fans the world over an entire month of what is arguably the most iconic aesthetic in world football ‚ÄĒ the Oranje.

[ MORE: Rooney insists he won’t come out of retirement for World Cup ]

Despite securing a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria on Sunday, the 2010 World Cup runners-up and 2014 third-place finishers find themselves on the brink of missing a second straight major tournament, the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Sweden’s simultaneous 4-0 dismantling of Belarus proved the day’s far bigger result.

Current Group A standings

1.¬†Sweden ‚ÄĒ 16 points (+11 GD)
2.
¬†France ‚ÄĒ 16 points (+10 GD) ‚ÄĒ still to play their 8th fixture
3. Netherlands ‚ÄĒ 13 points (+5 GD)

That’s not so bad, so they just need Sweden to drop points and to beat them head-to-head on the final matchday, you say.

To which reality replies, Sweden’s next game is against Luxembourg, who have four points from their first seven games, prior to playing France later on Sunday, and a -10 goal differential.

[ MORE: David Villa injured on Spain duty, doubtful for next game ]

Sweden’s already-superior goal differential will further improve (perhaps drastically) before facing the Dutch on Oct. 10, leaving Dick Advocaat’s side would need something in the neighborhood of a 4-0, or 5-0, or maybe even 6-0, victory to overturn the deficit just to get into the qualification playoffs.

To think of the Wesley Sneijder (133 caps), Arjen Robben (93)¬†and Robin Van Persie (101) era ending without a proper tournament send-off almost seems criminal, given everything they’ve accomplished during their 14-, 14- and 12-year international careers, respectively.