Giggs still available for Team GB, eyes Beckham reunion

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The Welsh FA might not be too keen on contributing to Team GB, but Ryan Giggs doesn’t seem to mind. The Manchester United legend is eyeing a role at this summer’s London Olympics, even if his nation’s federation would have him stay away.

Though Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales compete individually on the international level, the nations have been lumped in with England for this summer’s Olympics, which are contested by kingdom of Great Britain. As such, soccer players from those nations will have to compete for Team GB or not at all.

‘Not at all’ is Wales’ preferred option. Northern Ireland and Scotland want the same from their players. Their reasoning: The concept of a Team GB undermines the country’s individual football associations, which have independent recognition from FIFA. If a Team GB is allowed to compete at this major tournament, where will it end?

At this major tournament, most would say. The slippery slope is hard to see.

Apparently, Giggs is overlooking the fallacy, too, having re-affirmed his desire to be one of Stuart Pearce’s the over-age (older than 23) selections.

“I’ve put myself forward to be involved,” said Giggs, who has already spoken to the GB head coach, Stuart Pearce. “Whether I get picked we’ll have to see. Everybody is excited about the Olympics coming to London and different parts of Britain.”

That second part is important. The soccer tournament isn’t just a London-based event. Matches will also be taking place in Glasgow (Scotland) and Cardiff (Wales), in addition to Manchester, Newcastle, and Coventry. Only five of the events 32 games will be waged in London.

Giggs isn’t the only prominent Welshman to defy his country’s FA, with Tottenham Hotspur dynamo Gareth Bale also professing his desire to play in the Olympics.

He also isn’t the only Manchester United-linked winger to put his boot in, with LA Galaxy cast member David Beckham is hoping London will be his international swan song.

“Becks is obviously a friend,” said Giggs of the 37-year-old, “and he remains a great player. If [featuring in the GB side together] was to be, it’d be great. I started my playing career with Becks in the [United] youth team. Twenty years later, to be still doing that would be great.”

To me, these two are obvious picks, though many question whether Beckham’s play warrants a spot on the team. Depending on how Team GB does, the squad could be looking at six games in 16 days, too much for the 37-year-old to handle. Then again, that’s why squads are allowed to pick more than 11 players.

Whether the intent behind that is to allow honorific appointments is more debatable. The general public in England seem to want Beckham to participate. Stodgy soccer honks worried about which players are “in form”? Not so much.

I don’t really care how Team GB does at the summer games, so my main concern is entertainment value. If we’re talking about nothing more than a few minutes of Giggs and Beckham at this summer’s games, I’m already far more interested in this tournament than I was China’s.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’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 – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.