Cruising downhill, absent youth, and France-Sweden: Tuesday’s Euro 2012 A-Side



Get one point from an already eliminated Sweden and France is through to the quarterfinals, though on Monday, Spain provided them with all the incentive they’ll need to go for first in Group D. The group’s winner gets Italy next Sunday, a quarterfinal matchup to has to be to France’s liking. Should they stumble, draw Sweden, and somehow finish second in Group D, they’ll get Spain, against whom a possession team that isn’t great on the counter could be left searching for a way to get into the game.

Normally this would be the place where I transition into a don’t forget about Sweden paragraph, but today, I can’t muster one up. The Swedes were eliminated after Friday’s 3-2 loss to England. Lacking cohesion and having gone through a number of lineup chances before and during the tournament, it’s difficult to see what collective will can be brought to bear on this match. They are, after all, facing a France team that was generally favored to win the group.

Those circumstances make Tuesday’s match a good test for France’s new core, albeit paradoxically so. Against England, France seemed slightly naive and failed to push for the decisive goal against a team that posed almost no threat. It’s a small tournament lesson France needs to learn. On Tuesday comes another tournament lesson: How to take care of business against an already eliminated opponent.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. Eastern, the same time England and Ukraine kick off in Group D’s other match. With a draw, France goes through (and would still win the group if England-Ukraine draw). With a win, they take Group D provided their goal difference continues to best England’s.

Here’s your playlist:

Side 1: France vs. Sweden

1. Walking downhill

France’s road back from their South Africa episode was intended to be a slow process. Laurent Blanc initially downplayed his team’s chances impact on this tournament, yet here we are. France has a third round game against an eliminated team to stay undefeated, clinch their group, and earn a favorable quarterfinal matchup. I don’t know if that qualifies as having an impact, but a place in the semifinals certainly would.

After seeing the improvement France made between rounds one and two, we’re reminded Les Bleus are still a work in process, if a process that’s pretty far down the road. We’re also reminded Laurent Blanc has crafted a very responsive team into which he’s completely attuned. The tweaks he made between England and Ukraine worked perfectly, taking France from a dominant if frustrated side to a team thoroughly in control.

It’s as if the hard work is done. Now, they’re walking downhill toward their goal. That goal wasn’t winning titles – it was something more ethereal.

When Blanc came in, the goal was restoring the pride surrounding France’s national team. In less than two years, Blanc seems to have done that.

2. Find the other one

The next step for France is continuing to solidify their defense. Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami were in focus at the beginning of the tournament, and they remain in focus now. The only difference: One of the players is finally coming around.

Mexes is coming off a strong game against Ukraine. Like France’s overall performance, Mexes was calm, controlling, and dominant. It was exactly the kind of effort that Blanc envisioned while maintaing his faith in the inconsistent Milan defender.

Now it’s Adil Rami’s turn. The Valencia center half has struggled in 2012, and in Ukraine, he hasn’t shown the same progress as his partner. Andriy Shevchenko was able to beat him twice on Friday, and poor decisions on the ball have made him a problem with and without the ball.

source:  Against Sweden, Rami gets one more warm up before he needs to be ready for primetime. As with Mexes, Blanc’s maintained his faith. Now it’s time for Rami to reward him.

3. Picking up the pieces

Sweden was the second team eliminated from the tournament after Ireland, who were run out of Group C after two rounds. Sweden’s story is far different. They had seconds leads in each of their first two games yet are playing for nothing on the final day of group.

After the 3-2 loss to England that confirmed Sweden’s elimination, Erik Hamrén admitted to being in shock. You can understand why.

What’s left to play for? Pride? It may already be gone. Glory? There’s none to be had. The thrill of taking down France? They’re not a major rival.

It’s the same question we posed yesterday when talking about Ireland, but for Sweden, there seems even less incentive to care. When the players step onto the field, their instincts will take over. Perhaps something amazing will happen. One day out from kickoff, it’s hard to see what.

4. Pointless change

Nobody on Sweden’s Euro roster is under 24 years old. While a situation like this would normally be a perfect chance to go young an inject some life into the team, there’s very little “young” in this team. Even Ola Toivonen, for years a prospect on rumor mills, is 25.

It’s a concern for Sweden as they heading into World Cup qualifying. Where’s the new blood? This team failed to qualify for South Africa 2010 but got a boost when Hamrén opened things up. But that change didn’t lead to anything, so what’s next? Or, who’s next?
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news


Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 


Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium

Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).

Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

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WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel


Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)


USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.

Josef Martinez scores vicious overhead kick in Atlanta United loss (video)


If this is the last goal of Josef Martinez’s (likely) final season with Atlanta United, it will be very appropriate.

So for Martinez, even in a losing effort, to go airborne for an overhead kick that is a simply sensational feat of athleticism and power, well, it just feels right.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan forward joined the Five Stripes in 2017 in what seemed a massive capture for the club at the time and now seems downright gargantuan, but he’s fallen out with current manager Gonzalo Pineda and was even suspended for a match last month.

[ MORE: West Ham beats Wolves | Klopp reacts to latest setback ]

Martinez has nine goals and four assists in an injury-abbreviated 25-game season, giving him 111 goals in 156 appearances for ATL UTD. The former Torino and Young Boys striker is still being capped for Venezuela and would leave with an MLS Cup, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Campeones Cup as well as a boatload of individual honors.

Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England on Saturday and returns home for their season finale next weekend versus New York City FC. The Five Stripes won’t make the playoffs unless at least two teams decide not to field teams, so if the NYCFC game doesn’t go well, let’s pretend this one was his final appearance for the club.