Offshore drilling, Russia: at CSKA Moscow 2, Spartak Moscow 1

3 Comments

Man of the Match: Even though his goals were more luck than marksmanship, former Manchester United protégé Zoran Tosic was the difference today for CSKA. At least, he was the difference on the scoresheet. In the lineup in large part because of his service, Tosic scored both CSKA’s goals from dead balls. The first was an attempted cross Spartak let fall in the box, confusion on the part of the goalkeeper leading to an unfortunately conceded goal. The second was a great strike from the deep right flank, that needed help from the opposition. Spartak’s Ari lifted his left forearm to his face after Tosic struck his shot. The ball deflected off his arm and in for the winner.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • While Zenit St. Petersburg has long secured first in Russia, there is a knockdown, drag out for second place (otherwise known as Russia’s place in the preliminary rounds of UEFA’s Champions League). With the win (and Dinamo Moscow’s loss at Zenit), CSKA jumped from fourth to second, one point ahead of their pair of Moscow rivals.
  • While there no shortage of clubs in Moscow, CSKA-Spartak is the big derby. Both share Luzhniki Stadium, site of today’s game. The crowd was in full-force pre-match, half the stadium waving blue and red flags (for CSKA), the other flaunting their red and whites.
  • CSKA started the game stronger, making headway into Spartak’s attack through the athleticism of right winb Ahmed Musa, but by halftime, Spartak was generating the better chances, especially winning crosses drilled to the edge of Igor Akinfeev’s six yard box.
  • Akinfeev, just back from a layoff after reconstructive knee surgery (for an injury suffered against Spartak), looked confident laying out for a number of first half saves. While only two of the (six, or so) saves were particularly difficult, Akinfeev seemed to have glue on his gloves, getting his body in front of and catching an array of headed shots.
  • There is little Akinfeev could have done on the conceded goal, with Spartak forward Artem Dyzuba leaving Aleksei Berezutski in quicksand before launching an equalizer into the upper 90 from 14 yards out. It almost looked like a high school play: A small shimmy from the dangly attacker before going left to the side of the area and letting go of a rocket.
  • Dyzuba was a part of one the matches strange, quirky symmetries. At 6’4″, he was often playing the number 10 to Emmanuel Emenike’s number nine. Emenike’s only 5’11”. At the other end, CSKA often did their own inverse big-little partnership when 6’3″ Tomas Necid played behind Seydou Doumbia (5’10”).
  • You can spend years watching Russian soccer and it never gets old: There were two sets of twins on the field today. The Berezutski twins (Aleksei and Vasili), Russian internationals, were the central defense pairing for CSKA. The Kombarovs twins (Dmitri and Kirill) took up the fullback positions for Spartak, though they are natural midfielders.
  • The acquisition of Swedish ball-winner Pontus Wernbloom is a perfect fit for CSKA. At least, if allows them to play a very aggressive team, as they did today. Musa was basically an attack-only winger, and with Tosic having little value when he’s in from the left, having Keisuke Honda as part of a two-man midfield could be an invitation to be dominated. Wernbloom, however, was very good today and allowed Honda to roam, even as CSKA was matched against a 4-2-3-1.
  • If you’re somebody who likes seeing the middle-tier countries of Europe do well, you can’t help but hope CSKA holds on to second. They have far too much talent to be fluttering around Europe. With strong international quality at nearly every position, this team should be in Champions League.

Highlights

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’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 – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

Getty Images
1 Comment

A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.