Tottenham fans alarmed by Gareth Bale’s removal from promotional materials

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Speculation surrounding Gareth Bale’s seemingly impending transfer has picked up steam since former teammate Clint Dempsey left Tottenham Hotspur for Seattle Sounders FC. In New York’s Times Square, the giant Bale NBC billboard came down today, adding fuel to the fire.

WorldSoccerTalk wrote:

Either NBC Sports knows something we don’t, or they were planning on rotating the billboard ads to keep the campaign fresh, we don’t know. But it’s concerning news for Tottenham Hotspur supporters, but continued great news for soccer fans Stateside.

Unfortunately, we’re not staffed with anybody named Nostradamus, or any direct descendants (that we know of).

NBC rented the billboard for a year and will change its look every so often during the season, as the Sports Business Journal reported in July:

As NBC replaces Fox Soccer and ESPN as the destination for EPL fans, the network hopes to win new ones by spotlighting the league’s fan culture. In Manhattan, for example, there are pubs associated with specific teams. It’s not unusual for an Arsenal fan in New York to be told to try another pub around the corner because, “This is a Tottenham bar.”

“Keep in mind, there isn’t a traditional hometown team in the Premier League for fans in the U.S.,” Miller said. “When you’re trying to sell a league where many of the people are not as familiar with the stars, I think showing them the excitement and emotion of the fans is one good way of doing it. We want to widen the net by growing the sport and creating a rooting interest.”

There are additional New York-based marketing efforts in play, as well:

■ A Times Square billboard, measuring 5,472 square feet, debuted two weeks ago with the image of Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale and the tagline “Every Match. Every Team. Every Week.” The billboard, on 48th Street and Broadway, has been rented for one year, and NBC plans to change its messaging during the course of the season. According to a source, the rate card for a space of that size in Times Square is $200,000 per month. In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 17 start of the 2013-14 EPL season, an artist — expected to be chosen this week — will work daily in public view at the Times Square site on a new ad for the billboard.

At the same time as the billboard incident, Tottenham changed away from its Twitter background image featuring Bale, which also sent up red flags for many supporters. Football.co.uk has a before-and-after shot.

Tottenham took to its official Twitter account on Tuesday to respond to both incidents. As it turns out, there is a logical explanation that has nothing to do with Bale transferring to Real Madrid — yet.

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

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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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.