Conflict, confusion mark the end of John Terry’s international career

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It’s never easy with John Terry, a man whose controversies rival his medals. Now part of the captain’s career has succumb to those conflicts.

On Sunday, the former England, current Chelsea captain retired from international soccer, his representation releasing the announcement:

“I am today announcing my retirement from international football.”

“Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour. I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision.

“I want to wish [England manager Roy Hodgson] and the team every success for the future.”

NBC Sports: John Terry quites England squad before FA hearing

Terry represented his country at two World Cups and two European Championships during a 78-cap career that began in 2003. He twice served  as England captain (Aug 2006-Feb. 2010, March 2011-Feb. 2012), originally awarded the armband when David Beckham vacated the role after the 2006 World Cup. Now, at 31, he’s called a premature end to that international career.

The announcement comes as a shock, but Terry’s statement make his reasons crystal clear. The English Football Association continues to pursue disciplinary action against him stemming from an Oct. 2011 incident that occurred in a match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.

Terry is accused hurling a racial epithet at Rangers’ defender Anton Ferdinand (younger brother of Manchester United defender and former England captain Rio Ferdinand). Although Terry was cleared of corresponding criminal charges on July 13, The FA announced its own charges on July 27.

I am making his statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.

It’s unlikely many of us considered this point of view before, but laid out in a single sentence, it makes perfect sense. How Terry represent an organization that’s intent on punishing him? Regardless of how you view the case’s evidence, the two parties don’t see eye-to-eye on the incident. For Terry to represent The FA while espousing his innocence feels hypocritical.

For some, Terry’s decision will be greeted with sadness. Others will be rejoice. Most will greet the news with a feeling of confusion. Over the last decade, no player has been more readily associated with the England national team than John Terry. Having already continued to represent his country despite losing his captaincy (twice), Terry walking away didn’t seem like a possibility. But with his disciplinary committee to begin Monday, things must have reached a point of no return.

This is also a point of no return for those who have closely followed Terry’s career. To this point, Terry’s controversies had led to a series of nebulous costs, the stripping of his captaincy meaningless for those narrowly concerned with final scores. Today’s decision indesputably changes part of that picture. We can no longer argue over whether Terry’s controversies have cost him (or his teams) anything. Today, a circumstance create by Terry has cost his national team one of their first choice defenders.

And although we may feel conflicted that a capable, iconic player feels compelled to turn his back on his country, we must remember that Terry’s had the heaviest hand in this situation, even if The FA’s played a necessary part. For those who have seen the video of what Terry said to Ferdinand, there’s little doubt as to what was mouthed. The most flattering thing that can be said in Terry’s defense is that a compelling alternatie narrative has yet to be presented.

In a criminal court, the evidence didn’t warrant a conviction, but the Football Association has good reason to discourage that kind of behavior. English soccer can’t be seen as looking the other way on race hate, particularly given the precedent it set in last year’s Luis Suárez case.

If the Ferdinand affair is an aberration – if it is inconsistent with how people know John Terry on a personal level – it makes the situation all the more unfortunate. But it is still something Terry has caused, just as ultimately he’s caused the circumstances that have ended his international career.

Report: Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

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The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.

VAR, Granqvist penalty lead Sweden over South Korea

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On Day 5 of the World Cup, VAR took center stage once again.

Referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador made the trek over to the video monitor in the 63rd minute after a no-call on a South Korea challenge in its own box, eventually reversing his decision and giving Sweden a penalty kick. Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and sent his side in front before holding on for a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday morning in Nizhny Novgorod.

With the win, Sweden is joint top of Group F with Mexico on three points.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The key moment in the match took place in the 62nd minute, as Sweden’s Viktor Claesson got his foot on a loose ball first before South Korea’s Kim Min-woo went through Claesson to clear the ball away.

Aguilar initially waved the penalty claim away, but after about 20 seconds and a word from his assistant referees in his ear, Aguilar made the sign for VAR and ran over to take a second look. Around 20-30 seconds later, Aguilar reversed his decision, awarding the Swedes a penalty.

Granqvist, who plays his club football for FC Krasnodar in Russia, stepped up to the spot and with veteran poise, sent Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

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Sweden had chances in the first half to get on the board. Marcus Berg was alone on goal in the 20th minute but Hyun-woo stuck out a leg and deflected it away. Another chance from Berg led to another save from Hyun-woo as he kept South Korea in the match.

Following Sweden’s goal, Sweden sat deep and allowed Heung-Min Son to find space on the wings, where South Korea set up numerous half-chances. But the final pass was just missing, and Sweden was able to clear the ball out of the box on numerous occasions, holding on to victory.

It’s a big win for Sweden, which will face an angry and pumped up Germany side coming off a loss in its first match. Meanwhile, South Korea looks to rebound against Mexico, with its spirits higher than the clouds.

It’s confirmed: Club Leon parts ways with Landon Donovan

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Landon Donovan’s four-month adventure in Mexico appears to be over.

Club Leon announced on Sunday that it had parted ways with Donovan, despite the 36-year-old having a contract through the end of the calendar year. Donovan made just eight appearances for Leon, with just one start, and failed to score or assist on a goal as Leon slumped to 13th place in the Clausura season.

[READ: England squad reconnects with fans]

“…both parties have decided not to (keep the contract) for the Clausura that united us,” Leon said in a statement. “The departure of Landon from our team has been exemplary in all aspects. The club loses a legendary professional from the world of sports that leaves an indelible institutional imprint.”

It’s unclear what’s next for Donovan, but he stated in an interview with PST’s Matt Reed that he intends to continue playing in Mexico.

Donovan recently drew the ire of U.S. Men’s National Team fans and Donovan’s former teammates when he revealed he was rooting for Mexico at the World Cup this summer as part of a Well’s Fargo campaign.

Panama boss blunt and honest before nation’s World Cup debut

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez isn’t in the business of sugarcoating the truth before his team makes history by playing in its first World Cup.

The Central American team has trouble scoring and his players will need to have a good day to have any chance against Belgium on Monday, he said.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Blunt and honest, Gomez didn’t even hide his starting lineup, the normal way of doing things for coaches these days. And when asked if Panama could repeat Iceland’s upset against Argentina — the teams drew 1-1 on Saturday — the Colombian didn’t bother picking the right words when downplaying the Argentine squad.

“Iceland sent Croatia to the playoffs (in European qualifying), and it did well in the European Championship as well,” Gomez said. “It played against an Argentina squad which isn’t at the same level as Belgium right now. I mean, the distance between Iceland and Argentina isn’t as significant as the distance between Belgium and Panama.”

Gomez didn’t completely dismiss Panama’s chances of a surprise result against the Belgians, saying “anything can happen in football,” but admitted it wouldn’t be normal.

“It’s very clear that they are the favorites,” the 62-year-old coach said. “But each game is different, and if we have a good day, maybe we can achieve something.”

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

If Panama does find a way to advance past the group stage, Gomez said he already knows how he will be celebrating.

“I’ll drink two bottles of vodka,” he said laughing, before taking it back. “No, no … we are professionals.”

Gomez didn’t bother keeping his lineup a secret for the match in Sochi, naming the 11 starters without hesitating when asked about it. He even frankly talked about the formation his team would be playing Monday.

Gomez said Panama won’t be trying anything but defending against the talented Belgians, and admitted that scoring goals has been a weakness of his team entering the tournament.

“We’ve become strong on defense. It’s Panama’s virtue,” he said. “Panama isn’t a team that will score a lot of goals. We may create good chances in some matches, but we aren’t able to score. We arrive at the World Cup with problems scoring the goals.”

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The 55th-ranked Panama drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and lost 1-0 to Norway in its final warm-up matches before traveling to Russia.

It qualified for the tournament by finishing ahead of the United States in CONCACAF thanks to a last-minute victory over Costa Rica in qualifying.

Gomez said the team carries a big responsibility by representing the nation at a World Cup for the first time, and his biggest job is to get the players ready for the pressure they are about to face.

“The whole country is excited about this,” Gomez said. “I have to prepare the players mentally.”

Gomez has been coaching Panama since 2014. He was previously with Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia.

Panama’s other Group G games will be against England on Sunday and Tunisia on June 28.