Offshore drilling, France (Coupe de la Ligue final): Marseille 1, Lyon 0

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Man of the Match: What does it say about a match when a man who played only 23 minutes takes this award? Probably not much, as it concerns the quality of the match, but Marseille forward Brandão became the different-maker when, seven minutes after coming on, he outmuscled Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti to a ball in the left of Hugo Lloris’s six-yard box. The Brazilian target man kept his left-footed shot low and, beating Lloris into the far side-netting, won Marseille’s third straight Coupe de la Ligue.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Brandão was the change that was begging to be made. For 97 minutes, head coaches Didier Deschamps (Marseille) and Remi Garde seemed (for some unknown reason) too scared of ruining their sides’ mediocre performances. Lyon was more capable but never really tested Steve Mandanda, while Marseille was more plucky than able. One tweak from either side could have swayed the match either way. The managers decided not to rock the raft.
  • And in that way, this match was completely wasted by Garde. OL were always one, positive tweak away from breaking the game open. But Garde never made that tweak, and with only a very organized Marseille line (continuously drawing crucial offside calls) keeping OM in the match, the Lyon boss mistakenly waited for his opponent to capitulate. Against a team that hadn’t won in two months, you would have thought he’d have taken some initiative.
  • After 105 minutes, Alexandre Lacazette finally came on for Kim Kallstrom. Garde needed to make that move a half-hour earlier. Instead, Lyon waited until they were down to put on their bench’s best attacking option.
  • Though it’s only his first season with the club, it’s very difficult to look at a match like this and think Remi Garde is the right man for Lyon. He sits fourth in league (with top two talent), was seen out of Europe by Cypriot cinderella APOEL, and let the league cup slip through his fingers. A Coupe de France final against third division Quevilly gives Lyon one more route to silverware, but after seeing Garde allow Deschamps 97 minutes to win this match, you can’t help but ask questions.
  • For that reason, Deschamps should be seen as lucky rather than good. With his team consistently able to get behind Anthony Réveillère on Lyon’s right, he needed one of Brandão or André-Pierre Gignac on the field to work in the penalty area. That the match was so tight and looked like it could be decided on a set piece was even more reason to make that tweak. Instead, Deschamps waited for extra time, when a ball from Marseille’s left led to the goal.
  • The win was Marseille’s first since Feb.22, when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. Though they sit ninth in Ligue 1, the  trophy earns them  spot in next year’s Europa League.
  • As for Lyon, they have an easy Ligue run-in, one which could allow them to pass Lille for France’s final Champions League spot. They’ll need to bounce back from today’s result, something which may not be that difficult. They’re unlikely to be as frustrated by this performance as we were.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

Adam Davy/PA via AP
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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images
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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE