Sunderland beat Spurs in Asia Trophy friendly, but Jozy Altidore squanders chances

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This morning in Hong Kong, Tottenham and Sunderland squared off amid torrential downpours in South China, as Paolo Di Canio’s side beat Spurs 3-1.

Goals from Cabral, Wes Brown and David Moberg Karlsson handed Sunderland the comeback victory, after Gylfi Sigurdsson had opened the scoring for Spurs.

Their friendly in the Barclays Asia Trophy semifinal was in doubt, but after a delay the pitch was ready for an 80 minute game between the Premier League clubs, and the Black Cats didn’t disappoint.

For fans of the U.S. national there was plenty of interest in this one, as red-hot forward Jozy Altidore started for Sunderland while Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel put in a shift for Spurs.

Surprisingly, Sunderland ran out comfortable winners but it could have been even more convincing if Altidore had brought his shooting boots with him.

(MORE: Altidore officially signs for Sunderland in $13 million deal)

The 23-year-old USMNT striker had three glorious opportunities to score, but countryman Friedel thwarted him superbly towards the end of the game as the contest opened up. But despite missed chances, included a fresh air shot from three yards out, Altidore looked at home with his new teammates and made several good runs off the last defender that gave Tottenham plenty of problems. But he did slot in Cabral for Sunderland’s opener.

Nevertheless, Di Canio would have been pleased with Altidore and several of his new signings as they swept aside a Spurs team that was missing Gareth Bale amid increased transfer speculation.

Dempsey put in a solid performance on a heavy pitch in Hong Kong, and was substituted after 70 minutes. But one of the moments of the match came from veteran goalkeeper Friedel who made a stunning reflex save in the 73rd minute to deny Connor Wickham.

The old dog, 42 years young, still has some life left in him, it seems.

So how much can we read into these preseason friendlies? It is difficult. Sunderland certainly looked fitter and Di Canio has been working his roster tirelessly over the summer months. But you never know how both teams have structured their training around this match, as Spurs may have had a heavy session the day before.

Regardless, a welcome win for Altidore and Sunderland who’ve made the final and will play the winner of Manchester City and South China in the four-team tournament.

As for Altidore, maybe he’s saving up all his goals for the World Cup qualifiers later this year?

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

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.