Oguchi Onyewu, “almost certainly in Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad”

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Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp dropped some pretty significant U.S. national team news on Friday, following U.S. international defender Oguchi Onyewu signed a short-term deal with QPR.

Congratulations ‘Gooch’, it seems as though your spot in the USMNT World Cup squad is all but confirmed.

“Jurgen Klinsmann rung me about him,” Redknapp said. “To recommend him and he said he’s almost certainly going to be in his squad for the World Cup, and really was a big fan of his and liked him very much. Klinsmann said Onyewu needs to go and play somewhere, because he wants him for the World Cup squad.”

Okay, well, there you have it guys, straight from the horses mouth… sort of. English Championship side QPR have handed Onyewu a lifeline after he left Sporting Lisbon at the end of last season and has been without a club since. Redknapp revealed his been impressed with Onyewu in training, and will give the UMSNT stalwart, who featured in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, the chance to shine in England’s second-tier.

(MORE: Americans Abroad – Onyewu signs for QPR, Brek Shea wants loan deal)

“He’s done well,” Redknapp continued. “He’s trained well, a fantastic boy with a great attitude and we’ve sorted out a deal, not a long contract… but it’s up to him now to come and do well.”

Onyewu, 31, has bounced around Europe with varying degrees of success in recent years and his chances with the USMNT has been hampered due to injury issues and a lack of playing time with AC Milan, Malaga and Lisbon amongst others. Now he may finally get the chance to shine at Loftus Road, as the R’s challenge for an immediate return to the top flight and are currently sitting second in the Championship with a game against league leaders coming up this weekend.

source: AP
Is Oguchi Onyewu a must for the USA’s 2014 World Cup squad?

If the Washington D.C. native can recapture full-fitness and his best form, no doubt he would be a valuable addition to the USA’s World Cup roster. However with young MLS duo Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez locking up the two central defensive spots as of right now, it seems like Onyewu should need a few good months of action under his belt to displace the likes of Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco as back up center backs? Onyewu last played for the U.S. in the 2013 Gold Cup on July 13, as he captained the side in a 4-1 win over Cuba before returning to Europe after the group stages to sort out his club situation.

Regardless of whether or not 66-year-old Redknapp misquoted Klinsmann, the QPR manager did reveal how highly the USMNT coach rates the towering defender. And the fact that Klinsmann personally called Redknapp to arrange the deal shows how much faith he has in the defender to perform and be of use to him.

When informed that Onyewu once broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s ribs in a training ground bust-up a few years ago, Redknapp laughed and suggested he should lengthen the USMNT defenders deal so he didn’t get any punches thrown his way from Gooch.

“Oh my god, I didn’t know that,” Redknapp said. “I’ve got to be honest, you wouldn’t want to have a fight with this fella. He’s a big ‘un…. I think we better give him an extra year on his contract in case he ‘cops the needle with me. * But he could be a heavyweight boxer, he’s about six foot four.”

And if Onyewu can get his huge frame fit and raring to go for Brazil 2014, the USA’s defensive depth will be stronger for it.

*For those not familiar with Redknapp’s cockney terminology, he basically thinks he should offer Onyewu a new deal, otherwise he may end up getting punched like Zlatan. I’m sure you got that… just wanted to double check.

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina squad

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a trio of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 3-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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

Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.