Neymar wins best player, and yes, Torres picks up another award

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This is becoming a bit of a joke, albeit a particularly funny one as soccer jokes go. Spanish striker Fernando Torres, by virtue of registering one more assist than Brazil’s Fred, has won the 2013 Confederations Cup Golden Shoe award as the tournament’s top scorer. He joins Neymar, voted the tournament’s best player, and Julio Cesar, best goalkeeper, as individual award winners after Sunday’s final, but given Torres’s much-discussed struggles, the perceived irony of another top scorer’s award may receive as much attention as Neymar’s expected honor.

Torres’s five goals, four of which came against Tahiti, left him even at the top of the competitions scoring list, allowing him to add this individual award  to the Euro 2012 Golden Boot won last year. Then Torres was one of six players to finish with three goals, winning the honor on a tiebreaker, though he was not selected to the all-tournament team.

Since moving to Chelsea FC in January 2011, Torres has only scored 15 goals in 82 Premier League games. At international level, Torres has scored 10 times in 24 games, with six goals coming against Tahiti and Ireland.

Torres played 59 minutes today in Rio de Janeiro and had very little impact on the match, arguably his least influential performance in Brazil. Aside from his four against Tahiti, Torres scored against Nigeria in the final match of group play. He was scoreless in 94 minutes against Italy in the tournament’s semifinal.

The tournament’s most prestigious individual award, however, went to Brazil’s Neymar, who added two assists to the four goals that helped the Seleçao to their third-straight Confederations Cup title. After disappointing in his other major senior tournament, the 2011 Copa America, Neymar took over the festivities in Brazil, scoring within three minutes of the tournament’s start against Japan and adding a thunderous goal just before halftime of Sunday’s final.

Only 21 years old, Neymar has never played club soccer outside of Brazil, leading to a debate of his talents ahead of his impending debut with Barcelona. But in a dominant tournament in which Brazil ran a gauntlet of quality opposition (Japan, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay and Spain), the former Santos forward may have assuaged many’s doubts. Perhaps you could complain we still don’t know how Neymar will performed outside of Brazil geographically, but we have a clue as to how he’ll perform against high-level talent.

Julio Cesar, Brazil’s goalkeeper, achieved vindication of a different sort. After a club season that saw him sold by Inter Milan ahead of losing his job at Queen’s Part Rangers, Cesar ceded has place among the world’s best goalkeepers. Whether he reclaims such a spot remains to be seen, but having allowed only three goals in five Confederations Cup games, Cesar may have sparked the discussion, having been awarded the tournament’s Golden Glove.

Andres Iniesta won the Silver Ball as the tournament’s second best player, with Corinthians’ Paulinho claiming Bronze. Fred was awarded the Silver Shoe, while Neymar picked up the award as the tournament’s third-leading scorer.

Spain won the Confederations Cup’s Fair Play award.

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