Manchester City’s pride-boosting win over United draws circle around a bigger, important point

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Manchester City’s net result for its pride boosting win Monday over rival Manchester United is no more than stripping a little sheen (and even then only temporarily so) from the next trophy about to be delivered to Old Trafford.

United’s lead still stands at a formidable 12 points, never mind City’s 2-1 achievement Monday on Sergio Aguero’s latest something-special, his late game-winner in the fictional Manchester championship.

In the end, for most of us, it was just an enjoyable Monday afternoon match, one that added some bonus sizzle at the end for finishing on the highly combustible side. (Mostly just “handbags,” as they say.) The Premiership race has long since been decided.

Monday’s was a deserved win for City, who parlayed passion with intelligence in generally appearing to be the better team, creating more of the quality chances.

And all does reiterate the important point of what might have been – what dream may have come for a City side that looks, up and down the roster, like the better collection of talent.

As a collection of individual skill and know-how, City’s bunch seems more equipped than Manchester United’s to deal with the hills and mountains that appear weekly in perennially heavy weather of Premier League competition.

Manchester United’s roster is full of wonderful players, clearly – and yet City’s roster seems better stocked with absolute game-breakers. Once past Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney (on his good days), United’s roster does not reach the same starry heights. Again, we’re only talking about independent, individual assessments here.

What City clearly does not have is Alex Ferguson, master of squeezing every teeny-tiny drop of talent from the Old Trafford tube.

And what City does not have is United’s ability (linked surely to Ferguson, who has already forgotten more about the game than many manager will ever know) to grind and grind and grind across the long months.

While City was suffering questionable losses at Sunderland and Southampton, United kept grinding and grinding, turning up ways to turn draws into wins. (City also drew at home to Liverpool and Everton, for instance.)

At the end Monday, the yellow cards flew, the game was gripping and Aguero’s game-winner was just plain awesome. City deserved the night – but it’s not enough to do it once. Being crowned kings of EPL is all about doing it again and again. United still have a big edge there.

Croatia coach says “we have nothing to lose” against Argentina

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Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic chose his words wisely when discussing their final Group D opponent, Argentina, but his side won’t be backing down when they take on Lionel Messi and Co.

[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran equalizer called off by replay ]

With three points already in the bag for the European nation, Croatia currently sits atop their group, however, Dalic recognizes the task that lies in front of him and his team on Thursday.

“I didn’t say that Argentina was the easiest opponent,” Dalic said. “I said that this was the easiest game for us. We have nothing to lose. We are playing against one of the best.”

Croatia does have the benefit of having won its first match in group play, which has given the side a decided enthusiasm heading into the meeting.

For Ivan Rakitic — who plays at Barcelona with Messi — he believes there isn’t much he or anyone on his team can say or do to further prepare themselves for the Albiceleste.

“What can I tell them that they don’t know?” Rakitic said. “The world knows. Messi is one of the best players in the world. He will have his moments, clearly. It is up to us to stop him, to play the right way against him, and to enjoy the match and play our best.

“It’s a beautiful thing to play against one of the best teams in the world. We are especially motivated.”

In four all-time meetings, Argentina leads 2-1-1 against Croatia, including a 1-0 victory during the 1998 World Cup in France.

The two teams last met in 2014 following Argentina’s World Cup final defeat to Germany, with Messi and Co. earning a 2-1 victory over Croatia.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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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.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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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.