As Tom Dart pointed out yesterday, Roberto Mancini’s logic was always curious. The Manchester City boss tried to depict a world where his Citizens deserved to be closer to league-leading Manchester United than the 15-point gap that currently separates England’s top two teams. He said something about injuries and fewer goals, as if Manchester City has been uniquely cursed by fitness woes and goalscoring issues. Call it regression, variance, or what have you – Mancini’s arguments was pretty weak stuff.
Given the thin logic, it’s not surprising one of Mancini’s players sees things differently. And perhaps not surprisingly, given the times they’ve butted heads, the first person to openly disagree with Il Mancho is goalkeeper Joe Hart:
“[T]hey have kept winning and we haven’t, so it has to be a true reflection.
“We have not quite finished teams off and little things have not gone our way – and I don’t mean that in terms of luck, but in the way we have played.
“United have been a machine who have kept killing, and we haven’t. They have just kept winning. They were always going to come back strongly and we intended to do the same.
Let’s stop for a moment as ask whether we’re taking Mancini’s comments too seriously. The man hasn’t always been the most reliable analyst. Last season, he insisted City’s title hopes were dead before going on to claim the club’s first Premier League title. For much of this season, he insisted his team was in still alive though United’s title-winning destiny had long been assumed. With Mancini now trying to redefine what 15 points mean, we should keep in past statements in mind.
Ultimately, this is one of the least interesting questions we could ask about this City team. Why they regressed this season is intriguing. Whether they’ll bounce back next year is compelling. Who was at fault and who’s the potential answer – they’re all worth talking about.
But whether City are actually closer to United than the table says? It’s just not interesting. It’s much more fascinating to consider why Mancini’s chosen to accept this skewed world view.
Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.
Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:
“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.
“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”
Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.
Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.
Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?
Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.
[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]
The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.
The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.
Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.
He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.
Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.
Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:
“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”
The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.
France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.
That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.
Below is Thursday’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
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE