Neymar turning heads with Confederations Cup form

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LeBron James recently proved success can do wonders when the surrounding white noise gets loud.  A recently-crowned two-time champion James so ingeniously reminded us, “I ain’t got no worries.”

With his third brilliantly taken goal in three matches and another assist to boot, Neymar has fed many of his biggest critics their own words to munch on.

Ahead of his debut with Barcelona, who are €57 million ($74.8 million) poorer thanks to his purchase, the Brazilian youngster is showing his ability to change a game and ignite a crowd.

Even respected journalists are reconsidering things they’ve said about the new Catalan signing

Let’s recap.

Against Japan in the tournament opener, the 21-year-old begun the scoring in just the third minute by crushing Fred’s knockdown into the top corner.  It was a pressure-lifting goal, with the team having won just two of its last nine matches, and it’d been 23 months since their last competitive fixture.

Then came Mexico, whom Neymar chewed up and spit out in just nine minutes with a venomous volley past the in-form Jesus Corona.  Then, he showed he’s not just a finisher but a creator too with a wonderful short cross to substitute Jo who slotted home easily, and he should have had another assist but Hulk missed wide with a poor final ball.

Finally, the Italians were the most recent to face the Neymar chopping block.  From a tough angle and close range, he fired a bending free kick into the top corner to give them the lead for good.  Free kicks at the edge of the box can be difficult without space to put movement on the ball, but Neymar calmly converted his chance.

Neymar becomes the fourth player behind Ronaldinho, Riquelme, and David Villa as the only players to score in all three Confederations Cup group matches.

With the spotlight on his home country’s preparation for next year’s World Cup, the Brazilian youngster stepped up to the plate and delivered.  It still remains to be seen whether he can consistently deliver at the highest club level, but those back in Barcelona must be salivating at the thought of him and Messi pairing together to make maybe the most formidable strike force in the world.

At the moment, in his current form, Neymar ain’t got no worries.

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.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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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.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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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

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE