United States World Cup qualification page: questions, answers and links

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I’ve gotten the same questions a few times since Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. got their official invitation to the 2014 World Cup. So, let’s run through them. (Followed by the ProSoccerTalk pieces from the last two days, which should answer any other questions about whys and wherefores as your United States national team qualified for its seventh consecutive World Cup.

Do the final CONCACAF standings impact World Cup seeding?

Here’s the deal when it comes to FIFA and World Cup seedings and how they are determined before teams are drawn into groups: FIFA folks pretty much do whatever they want. (And they will do it just before the December draw.)

They decide what’s best ostensibly for the tournament (or maybe for FIFA, I’m not really even sure) and then backtrack on the methodology until they arrive where they want to be. That’s my theory, anyway.

So, no … not much. Perhaps marginally if they use the FIFA World Rankings as part of the formula.

Q: Did Clint Dempsey miss that penalty kick on purpose?

Spend any time at all with Dempsey and you will know that he is all about soccer. (Well, fishing, too … but mostly soccer.) It’s a serious game to him, serious business. He approaches it honestly.

So, no. I never suspected for a second that he did. Why in the world would he? (No, not even for the sake of “Dos a cero.” My guess if he had scored: He would run to the crowd and say “Tres a cero!”) Besides, in post-game comments he said he didn’t miss on purpose. And he probably wondered why anyone would even ask such a thing.

Q: Will Mexico make it?

Best guess, 50-50. Third-place Honduras has a home game against already qualified Costa Rica, then a road game against bottom-of-group Jamaica. That’s ample opportunity for points collection, so I see Honduras keeping its lead on Mexico.

That means Mexico has to collect more points than Panama – just to get 4th-place and that playoff spot against New Zealand!

ProSoccerTalk posts on U.S. qualification for World Cup Brazil 2014:

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

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Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.