More Gareth Bale fallout: Arsenal target Karim Benzema could be expendable at Real Madrid

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How is this for an unintended consequence? If Gareth Bale does end up at Real Madrid, the Spanish giants will have an even greater excess of attackers, one that could leave Karim Benzema as their odd man out.

And if a prominent French player is available, you know who’s going to be linked: Arsenal.

Though the French international is ostensibly the only number nine in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad, the new Merengues boss has been thought willing to go with a false nine up top. That could mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who spent a good deal of time behind the striker this weekend, finding a more permanent home through the middle. That could also mean the to-be-acquired Bale assuming a role not unlike the one he placed near the end of last season for Spurs.

But most importantly for the balance of power in North London, it could mean Benzema’s available. With a $62 million evaluation, his purchase would crush Arsenal’s $23.4 million record, but given Arsène Wenger’s love for a good French talent and Benzema’s potential fit in the Gunners’ 4-2-3-1 system, a lot of stars seems to be aligning around a North London move for the Real Madrid attacker.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to change the tune of those yelling from the stands, demanding Arsenal finally spend big.

Because he hasn’t truly broken through at Real Madrid, it seems like Benzema just recently arrived from Lyon, but the the 25-year-old just began his fifth season with Los Blancos. On Sunday, he recorded the first goal in their 2-1 win over Real Betis. In 184 all-competition appearances, Benzema’s scored 88 times and registered 49 assists, yet he never truly won the No. 9’s role from Gonzalo Higuaín. Even with Higuaín having moved on to Napoli, Benzema isn’t assured of a job.

Of course, any mention of Higuaín in a story about Arsenal obliges us to mention: The Gunners missed out on the Argentine international earlier this summer. The team’s attention was eventually (and fruitlessly) drawn to Luis Suárez, and Napoli swooped. It’d be a strange twist if Arsenal ended up with Higuaín’s platoon partner (at a price that would have gotten Higuaín) after losing out earlier this summer.

Whether Benzema is worth $62 million (no) or if he’s much of an upgrade on Olivier Giroud (yes) now come into focus, as will the Gunners’ strength relative to Tottenham, should they get their target. Ultimately, this is all about holding on to fourth place.

Then again, given this is Arsenal, we probably shouldn’t take anything for granted. Benzema’s not a Gunner, yet.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’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 – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE