COLUMBUS, Ohio – Happy to report that Michael Bradley has kept his sense of humor through what surely is a blast of bitter disappointment.
The U.S. midfielder, the most important man in the national team jersey for some time now, spoke to reporters just before the United States’ practice Monday at Crew Stadium.
Someone asked for clarification; was it pretty much the last kick of warmups Friday when Bradley badly sprained his ankle, robbing himself of the opportunity of playing Friday, Tuesday in Columbus or probably for another couple of games yet with Roma in Italy?
“After that it was the last one,” he said with a little laugh.
Bradley, wearing Nike high-tops for a little extra protection on the tender ankle, explained that the field in Costa Rica was left soft from the day’s rain. He has certainly performed on soggy fields before, but this time he planted with his left foot, aiming to shoot with his right and simply rolled the ankle.
Bradley talked a bit about the disappointment of not getting to play in these matches, but the importance of him remaining with the team into its Columbus leg rather than returning early to Roma. For one, he said the U.S. training staff offered, literally, round-the-clock treatment if that was required. And he stressed the importance of initial, early treatment of an ankle sprain in minimizing time lost on the field.
“Being able to get those early days of treatment without having to fly [back to Italy], and being around this group of guys for these two important games, that was all important me,” he said. “They [Roma officials] understood and from a standpoint of getting my ankle back to 100 percent quickly, they agreed this was the best way to do it.”
The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.
[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]
Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.
The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.
The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.
Morocco’s World Cup journey will conclude after the group stage, but the African side isn’t pleased with how their second match transpired on Wednesday against Portugal.
[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled off ]
The Moroccans have lodged a complaint with FIFA against referee Mark Geiger — an American who has become one of the most well-known officials in Major League Soccer.
Geiger was alleged to have asked Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey at halftime of the 1-0 win over Morocco, to which Geiger has categorically denied the claims.
FIFA released the following statement on the matter:
The claims stemmed from Morocco player Nordin Amrabat, who addressed the matter in an interview following the match.
“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo],” Amrabat said. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”
Geiger returned to action on Thursday as video assistant referee for the Denmark-Australia match, which included an important alteration in a call that led to an Australia penalty kick.
Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.
France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.
The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.
Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.
Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.
Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.
A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.
The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.
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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.
The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.
Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.
After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.
Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.