Late arrivals into US camp, but they aren’t all the same

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Jozy Altidore will be a late arrival into the U.S. camp. So will Michael Bradley, and possibly Clint Dempsey, too. Maybe others still, depending on playoff possibilities.

Is that a problem?

For that matter, are the late-May, early-June friendlies a problem? As in, should the United States even be playing these contests, which fall on non-FIFA dates and therefore do not obligate teams to release them?

The answers are “no” and “yes.”

Altidore is a special case because the striker’s Dutch club is being difficult, as we talked about before.  Others who may miss the early part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s next camp will be playing or, at very least, training with their clubs.

Bradley, for instance, will stay sharp while training with Roma ahead of the May 26 Italian Cup final in Rome. So, check the box under “Not an issue.”

Same for Dempsey (pictured) if he is late to report into the U.S. camp that begins May 21 at the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles; presumably, in that case, he would continue training with Spurs ahead of their May 23 friendly against Jamaica’s national team in the Caribbean. (We’ll see if Dempsey can wiggle out of that one, or if the match contract calls for certain men to be availiable.)

Either way, it’s not a critical issue. Same for the others who could tangled up in German or Mexican league playoffs.

Altidore not being available could be a much bigger deal if he isn’t training – which is exactly the point to the friendlies; The United States meets Belgium in Cleveland on May 29, then Germany three nights later in Washington, D.C.

The Bundesliga season ends on May 18; the season in England’s Premier League ends a day later. That means a good chunk of the most important U.S. men could have been away from high-level training for two weeks or more. If the United States waited until days before the June 7 World Cup qualifier against Jamaica to start a shorter camp, most of those players – think Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones – would be risking match fitness.

Can a case be made that they could benefit from some rest? Probably. But most countries don’t see it that way. Germany, Ireland, England and Ecuador all play friendlies on May 29, same day the United States meets Belgium.

Japan plays a day later, while Italy, Mexico and Nigeria are in action one day past that.

It’s all tricky math, for sure, which is why Klinsmann will summon 23-25 guys for the upcoming camp, even though he will probably lean on just 15 or 16 of them for those critical June qualifiers. Here’s what he said about it all.

It’s a tricky picture because the players are all on different schedules. You have players going possibly going to relegation playoffs games in Germany with Hoffenheim and Augsburg. The Mexican league is still going on with playoffs where Herculez Gomez is, Tijuana [with Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo] is in Copa Libertadores, and Michael Bradley playing in an Italian Cup final on May 26, so all the different time tables play a role in how we build our camp starting on May 21. Ideally we’d like to have them all in camp from the beginning, but practically it’s not going to happen. You adjust to that. You respect their club schedule. They want to finish their season the right way on the right foot. The European guys have had a very long season and the Mexican guys have as well, so this all plays a role in it. It’s just part of a National Team process. We just have to make the best out of it and go from there.”

Sweden players, coaches left fuming after last-minute loss

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A last-minute goal. A non-called penalty. A disrespectful celebration.

Sweden had a lot to be upset about when the final whistle blew on Saturday.

[ MORE: Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion” ]

The Swedes were within seconds of holding defending champion Germany to a draw, and moving into good position to advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup, when Toni Kroos scored deep into stoppage time to give Germany a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“I’m sorry that we didn’t get at least one point,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “But I’m not blaming anyone tactically or analyzing too much right now, there are so many emotions going around. This is probably the heaviest conclusion that I’ve experienced in my career.”

Kroos’ goal from a set piece came in the fifth and final minute of injury time. The draw would have kept Sweden ahead of Germany in Group F and needing only a draw against Mexico in the last match.

[ MORE: Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination ]

“It was just bad luck,” Sweden forward John Guidetti said. “Now we need to try to find a way to win the last match. In a few days we play again and we have to win it. It’s simple.”

Germany, which is tied with Sweden on points and goal difference, will play against South Korea in the final round.

“We still have an excellent opportunity to qualify,” Andersson said. “Now we have to clean up, tidy up after this game. We’re going to do that.”

The Swedes were leading Germany at halftime thanks to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute at Fisht Stadium. They felt they could have been ahead even earlier if the referee had called a penalty when Marcus Berg appeared to be fouled inside the area with a clear chance to score. There was no formal video review called for.

“If we have the (VAR) system, it’s very unfortunate that he (the referee) can feel so secure in the moment that he doesn’t go and have a look at the situation,” Andersson said.

He and the Swedish players said they also couldn’t understand why Germany decided to celebrate near their bench.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“You shouldn’t celebrate in front of our bench the way they did, that’s disrespectful,” Guidetti said. “You can celebrate with your own fans. Don’t celebrate in front of our bench like that. That’s why they apologized, because they knew they did something wrong.”

Andersson said he was “very annoyed” by seeing the Germany team “running in our direction and rubbing it in our faces by making gestures.”

“We fought hard for 95 minutes,” he said. “And when the final whistle blows, you shake hands.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — England, Colombia back in action

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Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Sunday, with England back in action and in need of three points — and a resounding win — to keep pace with Belgium in Group G.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Following Belgium’s 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia — the same side that England beat in stoppage time earlier in the week — on Saturday, the Red Devils have positioned themselves perfectly to win the group with a draw against the Three Lions on Thursday. England need a five-goal victory at 6-1 or higher to the finish top of the group following a draw on the final day.

Then, it’s a pair of Group H fixtures, kicked off with Japan (1st) versus Senegal (2nd) — both of whom won their first game — followed by Poland (3rd) versus Colombia (4th).

Below is Sunday’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 – Sunday, June 24

Group G
England vs. Panama: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group H
Japan vs. Senegal: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Colombia: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

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FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion”

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At 1-0 down, they were headed for elimination in the group stage (with a game still to play); once level at 1-1, they faced yet a steep hill to climb on the final day of the group stage; after Toni Kroos scored his stunning 94th-minute winner, Joachim Low could finally exhale and imagine himself managing the German national team for another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Cup was, for most intents and purposes, a worrying performance for the defending world champions. Fortunately for Low and Co., the one place in which their comeback dramatic victory was a raging success is the only one that matters: the Group F table, where Die Mannschaft currently (somehow) sit second and control their own destiny — quotes from the BBC:

“This was a thriller, full of emotion, right up until the final whistle. Brandt hit the goal post just three minutes before the end too. We took out a defensive player and brought on an attacking player because we knew had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.

“We had a couple of great chances — Mario Gomez’s header being one of them. The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. We’ve had these situations in other tournaments as well. For the viewers that’s part of the attractiveness of football.”

“Something I did appreciate today was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down. We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.

“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”

There’s still plenty of work to do for one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites — there’s a little matter of needing to beat, or at the very least, match Sweden’s result against Mexico — but that can wait until tomorrow, because Saturday unexpectedly became all about survival.