It’s getting to be that time of year when we start talking about the upcoming season in Europe. (Didn’t we just stop talking about the season in Europe? Well, yeah. It’s hard out there for a footballer who wants some rest.)
The good news is that with more and more Americans heading across the pond, we have an increasing amount to discuss. Today, we’ll tackle two guys on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
- Maurice Edu – Fox Soccer’s Ives Galarcep has a solid feature about the for-now Rangers midfielder. The upshot: The club has no money and while Edu won’t say if he’s on the move — he’s been linked to Turkish side Bursapor — it’s hard to see him (along with Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya) sticking around. Edu has just a year left on his contract and a transfer would make sense for the cash-strapped club. That said, he enjoyed his time: “Being able to play in Champions League, win trophies, win medals, win cups, win leagues. These are things that I have dreamt of doing, and I set as goals for myself when I came to this club.”
- Robbie Rogers – Greg Seltzer’s must-read MLSSoccer.com column, “Postcard from Europe,” features a man who’s spent the past few months training and rehabbing with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Rogers got hurt early in his Leeds career, but he sounds ready to help his club back into the EPL this coming season. “The manager is bringing me back,” said a content Rogers. “And [he’s] expecting me to help push this team to the Prem.” Best of luck with that goal.
A few quick hits, courtesy of Seltzer at No Short Corners:
- Geoff Cameron to Stoke City looks solid.
- We’re going to be waiting some time before Michael Bradley‘s future is decided.
And finally, a bit on Stuart Holden from Franco Panizo
- “It felt so good to strap some cleats on and do a little bit of jogging, but still just plugging along,” said Holden. “It’s been going slowly but it’s been going well. I’ve just been making sure I don’t have another relapse like I did last time, so my eyes (are) on the prize and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to getting back on the field.”
A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.
[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]
Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.
Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.
Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.
The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.
Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.
Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.
They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.
Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.
Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.
Below is Friday’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
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.
“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”
[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]
Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.
And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:
“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.
“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”
Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.
That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.
There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.
[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]
Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.
The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.
“Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”
Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”
That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni.
Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.
“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”