Spotlight USA: Geoff Cameron enjoying new lease of life at Stoke City ahead of USA’s World Cup adventure

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Geoff Cameron hasn’t looked back since joining Stoke City from the Houston Dynamo in August 2012 and things are getting better for the U.S. international.

In his second full season in the Premier League, Cameron has consolidated his place as a starter for Stoke as new manager Mark Hughes replaced Tony Pulis, the man who bought Cameron.

The 28-year-old defender — whose versatility and incredible engine has seen him used in a variety of positions for club and country but mostly right back for the Potters — is excelling as an attacking full back under Hughes and speaks about the change in philosophy from Pulis to Hughes suiting his talents.

(MORE: Read the full archive of Spotlight USA, including Tim Ream, Brad Friedel)

During the two recent USMNT friendlies in Europe, Cameron excelled at center back and was arguably the USA’s best player against Scotland and Austria. Not a bad thing to be doing as he looks to rubber-stamp his spot in the starting lineup at the World Cup in Brazil next summer.

Cameron played in 35 PL games during his debut season in England, he’s been ever present in Stoke’s team this season so far too.

I caught up with him — as well as throwing a bit of banter at each other as our path crossed many moons ago amongst the college soccer circuit — whilst he was on international duty with the U.S. squad.

This is what the marauding right back had to say.

On playing for new Stoke manager Mark Hughes:

I think it’s been tremendous, he’s a really, really good coach. He’s positive, he’s playing the ball on the pitch and that suits my style better than the way we played under Pulis which was a lot of long balls. That didn’t suit my style as much as I would’ve wanted it to. Saying that, I had 38 games last year under him [Pulis] I’ve been fortunate. And as for playing for Hughes, it’s been great so far.

On being encouraged to attack from right back:

He wants the outside backs to get involved and be a part of the offense and make it difficult for the other team so they have to defend me as well. And, I’m seeing the ball a lot more. Where last year, you just get it and you hump it down the line and you just hope for something. Whereas this year there’s intention of going forward, coming in, getting it back and creating stuff.

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Since joining Stoke in 2012, Cameron has cemented himself as a regular and a fans favorite at the Britannia.

On Stoke’s mixed bag of results so far:

I think overall, we’re disappointed with some of the results that we’ve had. You know, the Manchester United and Swansea game and Man City at home we should  have won, we had opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, so those things and those little points here and there hurt you. Saying that, we’ll be okay. I think once we get another win under our belt, our confidence will go and we will get on a roll. I think sometimes we get in a situation where you go up and we’re not used to being up on teams because you kind of fight for a goal in the last minute or something like that and you don’t really realize, ‘hey, you’re up 2-0 against Swansea, let’s keep doing what we’re doing, play the way we played to get the two goals.’ All of a sudden I think we get a little nervous and you’re not confident with keeping the lead. That’s something that we obviously have to work on and get that mentality. I think it’s a mentality thing. (They obviously have been, as Cameron helped Stoke defeat Sunderland 2-0 in Week 12 of the PL, their first home win since August.)

On cementing his place for USMNT:

Just put your name on the list. That’s obviously the goal, going to the World Cup. You just have to be consistent and be a regular player and go from there, little baby steps you know?

On the tough World Cup draw ahead:

I’ll watch it on December 6 and kind of go from there….

On having the other American players at Stoke:

It’s cool. We’re challenging the British guys now, which is cool. I’ve been outnumbered for a while, then Brek and Mo came and slowly we’re taking over the locker room which is pretty cool. It’s good, I think it’s easier for people to adjust because there are a few other Americans to support you if you need anything.

Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec