MLS first kick 24 hours away – but clubs remain busy adding and subtracting

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For all we soccer geeks, this 72-hour off-season for Major League Soccer is about the best thing this side of free wi-fi.

OK, it was a little longer than 72 hours – but not much.

From last kick of 2012 MLS Cup until Saturday’s first kick of 2013, a mere three months has gone by. (For clubs and players, the down time was somewhere between six and 10 weeks, depending on when they bombed out of the post-season picture; preseason practices began around Jan. 18 for most clubs.)

For those of us who find a little more pep in our step once MLS regular season passing and trapping begins anew, the freshly compressed off-season time frame is a whole lot of awesome. It does, however, add some element of difficulty as clubs go through the off-season paces of roster fortification.

MORE: full roster of PST previews and predictions for MLS)

The league’s shortest off-season yet has made it more difficult for teams to get their rosters set within a more ideal time frame.

Thus, quite a few clubs continue to make significant roster moves, still adding and trimming, continuing to create the best possible personnel assembly, never mind that first kick is now about 24 hours away.

We find this, for instance, in Seattle, where the Sounders continue to finalize plans on importing Obafemi Martins into Century Link Field.   “We are on the verge of finalising everything and it should be another step in my career,” Martins told BBC Sport.

We told you this morning about Portland Timbers adding English league veteran Frédéric Piquionne, who will not be available for the Timbers opener Sunday against New York.

Of course, there are all kinds of comings and goings in Toronto, where the makeover will apparently stretch into … well, hard to say how long. Just yesterday, Torsten Frings announced his retirement, subtracting one of the club’s most experienced men.

And if you believe the reports today, Welsh international Robert Earnshaw is on his way to BMO Field. (Earnshaw is pictured above.) (FYI, the wise Bobby McMahon from Fox Soccer Report calls Earnshaw the “poor man’s Robbie Keane.” Brilliant.

Elsewhere, some late preseason signings are just now signing up, such as Andrew Driver in Houston, who made his first Dynamo practice just this very morning.

More moves are certainly on the way. Remember, whereas the international transfer window closed Jan. 30 in many parts of the world, it remains open in MLS through May 6. Plus, players out of contract may move into MLS at any time.

Belgium vs Morocco, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Belgium will look to get back to their best and make it two wins from two in the group stage but Morocco will make it extremely tough for Kevin de Bruyne and Co.

STREAM LIVE BELGIUM v MOROCCO

Roberto Martinez saw his side totally dominated by Canada in their Group F opener but they took their one big chance and won the game, largely thanks to poor finishing from Canada and Thibaut Courtois saving a penalty kick. The No. 2 ranked team in the world has to improve. Fast.

Morocco caused Croatia plenty of problems in their opening game and a draw was a fair result as their high-pressing caused Croatia a lot of problems. They will look to do exactly the same against Belgium and could have plenty of joy if Hakim Ziyech is found in dangerous areas in the final third.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Belgium vs Morocco. 


How to watch Belgium vs Morocco live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 8am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor 
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Kevin de Bruyne was almost apologetic after being named man of the match against Canada as he said he and his teammates really struggled in their World Cup opener. Belgium have to give their back three more protection as they are really susceptible to speedy wide players cutting in wide and teams playing direct and cutting out their midfield playmakers. Roberto Martinez starts Meunier and Onana in this game to try and give Belgium a little more control and solidity. Michy Batshuayi continues to fill in for the injured Romelu Lukaku once again.

Morocco will try and do exactly what Canada did to Belgium and they have the players to do it. Ziyech and Boufal will cause problems out wide and Morocco looked solid defensively against Croatia. There is a real whiff of an upset in the air around this one as Morocco will be roared on by their large group of supporters in Qatar.


Belgium quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 2
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Key players: Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard

Morocco Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss


Costa Rica stuns Japan to blow Group E wide open

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Costa Rica scored a late winner to stun Japan and blow Group E wide open as the Samurai Blue will be kicking themselves.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Keysher Fuller scored a chipped effort in the final 10 minutes to grab Costa Rica and an unexpected win as Japan dominated the game but couldn’t create clear-cut chances and they were made to pay.

After beating Germany in their group stage opener, Japan knew a win in this game would basically send them in to the last 16. Now they face Spain in their final Group E game needing to dig deep.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Following their 7-0 defeat to Spain in their World Cup opener, Costa Rica dug deep and have given themselves a chance of getting out of the group as they face Germany in their final game and are level on points with Japan.


Los Ticos put in perfect underdog display

After being battered by Spain this was a heroic display from Costa Rica. They let Japan have most of the ball and play but late on took their one big chance (it was their only shot on goal) and that was all they needed. This was almost like watching a lower league team play against a Premier League opponent in an FA Cup game. Costa Rica were solid defensively in a back five and snapped into challenges and did whatever they could to put off a very talented and technical Japan side. Yes, Japan had an off day and just never looked comfortable on the ball but don’t underestimate the incredible work Costa Rica did off the ball to unsettle their opponents. Los Ticos have restored pride in their team and they now face a showdown with Germany knowing they have to put in exactly the same kind of display.


Stars of the show

Japan vs Costa Rica
Graphic via FotMob.com

Kendall Waston: Came into the team and delivered a brilliant defensive display. The veteran led by example and cleared everything.

Maya Yoshida: Japan’s captain did everything to hold off Costa Rica and tried to drive his team on from the back.

Keylor Navas: The legendary Costa Rican goalkeeper made a key save late on and rolled back the years to inspire a great defensive display.


How to watch Japan vs Costa Rica live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan will now look to build on their first-ever win against Germany and they will be full of confidence after a resolute team display. Manager Hajime Moriyasu makes five changes to the team which beat Germany as the the strength of his squad is incredible and he will once again look to the bench and aim to blow opponents away in the final 30 minutes. It is all about the team first and his players totally buy into that model.

As for Costa Rica, they have to forget the hammering to Spain. That can happen when you play Spain who have so many great attacking players and when it clicks, they can pummel teams. They simply have to win this game and Kendall Waston and Gerson Torres are the only two changes from the defeat to Spain.


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada

Costa Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz


Australia vs Denmark: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This will be an epic battle in Group D as Australia and Denmark can both reach the last 16 of the World Cup heading into their final group game.

STREAM LIVE AUSTRALIA v DENMARK

After their superb win against Tunisia last time out, Australia know a win against Denmark puts them in the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history. Graham Arnold has had plenty of criticism for the way his team play but they were totally committed against Tunisia and always carried a threat on the counter. They will have to put in a very similar display against the talented Danes but a point could well be enough as Tunisia would have to beat France in the other game in Group D to complicate matters further for Australia and Denmark.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Denmark, they have had a very poor tournament so far. They were woeful in attack against Tunisia in an opening game stalemate, while they were beaten by France last time out and Kasper Hjulmand has failed to get his team going in attack. Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are trying to drive Denmark on from midfield but they just haven’t look dangerous going forward. They have to win against Australia and then hope Tunisia doesn’t beat France and it goes down to goal difference. 

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

Here is everything you need for Australia vs Denmark.


How to watch Australia vs Denmark live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Australia will set up exactly the same as they did against Tunisia as they will whip in balls to Mitchell Duke who was the hero with his superb flicked header. Both Duke and Arnold pointed to the ‘Aussie Spirit’ getting them the win against Tunisia and there is a real grit and determination about this team.

Denmark know they have to win, so they will go for a more attack-minded lineup and they have the quality to beat Australia. They will likely start Braithwaite and Dolberg as they try to get something going in attack and this is basically a knockout game in the group stage.


Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Denmark quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 10
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group F)
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Key players: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen


Tunisia vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Tunisia need a win and help as they clash with reigning World Cup champions France in their Group D finale.

STREAM LIVE TUNISIA v FRANCE

With France already through to the last 16 of the World Cup courtesy of their two wins so far against Australia and Denmark, Didier Deschamps may rest a few key players for this game. That will give Tunisia hope and after their 0-0 draw against Denmark and their narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia, they’ve been in both games but just can’t find that finishing touch in the final third.

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

France have an abundance of talent, and that’s just on their bench. Despite losing Nkunku, Benzema, Pogba and Kante to injury before the tournament kicked off, it hasn’t really impacted them as they’ve made light work of their opening two group games. Kylian Mbappe was the difference against Denmark and he already has three goals at this tournament to be the joint top scorer.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Tunisia vs France.


How to watch Tunisia vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia need to take more risks in attack and this is all or nothing for them now. They need to win and hope that Australia against Denmark ends in a draw as they have the upperhand over Australia when it comes to goal difference. If they win and Denmark win it will also go down to goal difference to see if they reach the last 16. Surely Khazri and Khenissi will start this game to give them extra quality in attack.

France now have the luxury of resting some of their key players ahead of the last 16 but Deschamps will be keen to make it three wins from three in the group stage to keep momentum going. Expect to see the likes of Camavinga, Saliba, Guendouzi and Thuram from the start. France just need a point to guarantee top spot in the group but in reality their huge advantage in goal difference over Australia (6 goals better off) means they’ve already won the group.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema