Bundesliga Roundup: Easy victories for Germany’s top three

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There were very few surprises in Germany this weekend, with Bayern Munich, Dortmund, and Leverkusen all coming away with routine wins. Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen did their best to spice things up with an eight goal thriller, but it would’ve possibly been a bit more exciting had three of the goals not come from the spot. Then on Sunday, Gladbach will try to create a little breathing room in their fourth place, fourth Champions League spot with a win over relegation-threatened Freiburg.

Friday

Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg
After a string of four straight wins , Wolfsburg are slipping once more, which is never good when there’s so much competition for Germany’s four Champions League spots. Hamburg took an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu, but Ricardo Rodriguez evened things up with a penalty around the half-hour mark. Both teams did their best to find a winner, but the defenses were up to the challenge and both had to be content with just a point. That’s two draws in a row now for Wolfsburg, leaving them two points behind fourth-placed Gladbach, but Gladbach don’t play until Sunday afternoon.

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Nurnberg
Second placed team meets team second from bottom, and no surprises ensue. Leverkusen took revenge after their 5-0 drubbing at the feet of Manchester United, with Heung-Min Son scoring a brace around a goal from Stefan Kießling. Leverkusen’s third win in a row keeps them three points ahead of Dortmund, but they still remain four back of the mighty Bayern.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Braunschweig 
Yes, it’s Bayern still at the top of the table, although beating bottom-side Braunschweig by a mere two goals doesn’t feel that impressive. Perhaps they were saving themselves for a very important midweek cup date with Augsburg? No matter, Arjen Robben had a brace by the 30th minute, and it was all over for the suffering Lions. They need three points to pull them up to safety, but fortunately, have a less intense schedule prior to the winter break.

Hertha Berlin 0-0 Augsburg
The draw, combined with Schalke’s three points later in the evening, means newly-promoted Hertha have slipped out of Germany’s European spots. Augsburg, meanwhile, have hoisted themselves up to 10th, and have a fairly easy run of Hamburg, Braunschweig and Frankfurt to close out the year.

Hoffenheim 4-4 Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim sure do like high scoring games: they’ve put in 32 this season while conceding 34, which at least makes things fun for neutrals. The visitors got things off to an interesting start by conceding two penalties before fifteen minutes were up, both duly convereted by Hoffenheim captain Sejad Salihović. Then Hoffenheim generously gave one back to Werder Bremen, when Sven Schipplock handled the ball inside the area. Aaron Hunt put in the resulting penalty, with Eljero Elia finally scoring from open play less than a minute later to close out the first half. Hoffenheim came roaring back with goals from Kevin Volland and Kai Herdling early in the second half, but Niels Petersen but the visitors within one before the hour mark. That turned out poorly for Hoffenheim, as substitute Philipp Bargfrede scored in injury time to grab a point for Bremen.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Well, Mainz certainly didn’t make this one easy on themselves. Shortly after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the opener for Dortmund, the hosts earned themselves a penalty, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s equalizer was canceled out by the 78th minute. That’s when Elkin Soto’s handball got him sent off, and sent Robert Lewandoski to the spot. Of course he converted the penalty, but added another for insurance purposes, a penalty given just before the final whistle.

Schalke 04 3-0 Stuttgart
Schalke might be one of the most inconsistent sides in Germany this season, but they had no trouble overpowering mid-table Stuttgart in Saturday’s closing match. Jefferson Farfán scored a brace on either side of the half and, despite a double switch from Stuttgart boss Thomas Schneider, Jermaine Jones put in a third. That’s four unbeaten for Schalke, lifting them into sixth, although they’re still far from where they’d like to be.

Sunday

Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt
An interesting fact for you: Eintracht have yet to win at home. Hannover have yet to pick up a point on the road. If only this fixture were reversed, we could be spinning in an endless loop of frozen time. Instead, we’ll likely end up with a low scoring draw.

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Freiburg
Freiburg, another team that have yet to win at home, although they’re alright on the road, considering they’re fighting a relegation battle. It matters little, though, since Borussia-Park remains a fortress, with Gladbach having won all six of their home games thus far.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 7 — Spain, Portugal aim for wins

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Spain and Portugal got through the toughest match on their Group B dockets, against each other, but now need to stack some W’s.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s EURO champs open Wednesday’s World Cup action with a match against Morocco, and manager Fernando Hierro leads Spain against Iran to close out the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

In the middle, Uruguay looks to suck the drama out of Group A by joining Russia as 2-0 sides.

Below is Wednesday’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 – Wednesday, June 20

Group A
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia: Rostov, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Portugal vs. Morocco: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Spain: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Fortunes up or down? 32 thoughts after first 17 World Cup games

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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All it took was one round of games for some favorites to be doubted, others to verify their status, and some underdogs to earn dark horse status.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

While there are valid reasons to make early judgments, it’s important to note that some perceived setbacks don’t change much while others put a serious crimp in tournament hopes.

Group A

Russia (2 games played) — Fortunes way up — Two resounding wins combined with early tumult in Group B could help Russia consider a quarterfinal spot.

Uruguay — Fortunes level — Jose Gimenez’s 89th minute winner may allow the CONMEBOL side to render its group finale moot by hammering Saudi Arabia.

Egypt (2 games played) — Fortunes way down — Could be out of the tournament should Uruguay get a point against lowly Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia — Fortunes down — Unsure anyone figured the Green Falcons as anything other than an obstacle, but their performance against host Russia was miserable.

Group B

Iran — Fortunes up — Carlos Queiroz would’ve circled the Morocco opener as a must-win. Mission accomplished, however it was done.

Portugal — Fortunes level — Needed a PK, goalie error, and wonder free kick to get a point from Spain. Still, got the point.

Spain — Fortunes down — Still look capable of imposing themselves on the tournament, but too many errors in their first outing.

Morocco — Fortunes down — Probably should’ve had a point against Iran, but would’ve wanted three anyway. Very disappointing and now a mountain ahead.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Karim Ansarifard of Iran is challenged by Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Group C

France — Fortunes level — Clearly the better side against Australia, didn’t inspire title confidence but could’ve easily nabbed a three- or four-goal win.

Denmark — Fortunes up — Despite being the second-best side against Peru, now can expect the knockout rounds by beating the Socceroos.

Australia — Fortunes down — France first was always going to be a struggle, but to fight so valiantly and fall to an own goal will be a mental hurdle ahead of Peru.

Peru — Fortunes down — Terrific energy and performance would’ve led to a win with any finishing luck, but getting a result from Denmark was very important. A loss presents a major challenge.

Group D

Croatia — Fortunes up — Its tactical options for the second match against Argentina are wide open after securing three points against Nigeria.

Argentina — Fortunes down — Forget control of the game and Lionel Messi’s 11 shots on target; Not getting full points against Iceland is a significant setback. A group stage without Messi is possible.

Iceland — Fortunes up — It remains hard to picture Iceland getting out of the group, but the UEFA side has now flummoxed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in successive tournaments. Can they find a win against Nigeria to set up a wild final day?

Nigeria — Fortunes down — Group D was always going to be tough, but a 2-0 loss to Croatia means the margin of error is almost zero.

Group E

Serbia — Fortunes up — Forget how Serbia won, their fortunes have leapt due to Brazil drawing Switzerland.

Brazil — Fortunes down — Drawing their second-trickiest game could see Neymar and Co. in position to finish second in the group instead of first. The only silver lining is that Germany may also fail to claim its group and make runner-up a good thing for the Round of 16.

Switzerland — Fortunes up — Maybe Swiss supporters were expecting it, but a result against Brazil is a positive step for a team that took Argentina to extra time at the 2014 tournament but underwhelmed at EURO 2016.

Costa Rica — Fortunes down — Now needs to beat Brazil to have much hope of anything going into the final group match vs. Switzerland.

Group F

Sweden  — Fortunes level — Beating South Korea was nice and we understand the chemistry argument, but a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic would’ve feasted on the spoils offered in the opener.

Mexico  — Fortunes way up — El Tri is a very good tournament team, but if you had them beating Germany 1-0 in the opener you’re a better prognosticator than me.

Germany  — Fortunes down — Still favored to come out of the group and deep enough to repeat as champions, being unable to get a result from Mexico will only raise more questions about leaving Leroy Sane home (fair or not).

South Korea — Fortunes down — Would’ve wanted no less than four points from the Sweden and Mexico encounters, and has zero heading into the second against El Tri.

NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA – JUNE 18: Andreas Granqvist of Sweden. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Group G

Belgium  — Fortunes up — Delivered expected dominance against Panama and could have a spot in the knockout rounds sewn up by the end of Day Two versus Tunisia.

England  — Fortunes up — There will not be Wayne Rooney questions about this tournament’s captain, as Harry Kane scored twice on a day he perhaps wasn’t at his best. Will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds by beating Panama next, you’d have to think.

Tunisia  — Fortunes slightly down — Needed to surprise England or Belgium to get out of the group, and still has a second opportunity after losing late to the Three Lions.

Panama  — Fortunes slightly down — Not sure anyone was expecting a Cinderella story, but even those will feel it more unlikely after a big loss to Belgium.

Group H

Japan  — Fortunes up — Not a bad team at all, but prospects were dim given the talent of the group. After beating Colombia in match one, there’s a house money feel to this one.

Senegal  — Fortunes up — Controversy aside, the Lions of Teranga deserved all three points against Poland and are in pole position to win the group.

Poland  — Fortunes down — Disappointing is an understatement leading into a match versus Colombia which could leave both on the outskirts with a match to go.

Colombia  — Fortunes down — Carlos Sanchez’s third minute red card didn’t ultimately doom them, but the task is tall with equally desperate Poland up next.

Arsenal seals transfer of German goalkeeper Leno

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Arsenal unveiled German goalkeeper Bernd Leno on Tuesday as the latest member of Unai Emery’s unit.

The longtime Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper, 26, has six caps for Germany but is not on the World Cup roster.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Leno had appeared in 304 matches for Bayer before the move, which will reportedly cost the Gunners approximately $25 million.

Head coach Unai Emery said: “We are very pleased that Bernd Leno will be joining us. Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience. He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga for the past seven years. We are all excited that Bernd has chosen Arsenal Football Club and look forward to start working with him in pre-season.”

The Gunners have Petr Cech and David Ospina at goalkeeper, but it’s reasonable to expect at least one to leave town. Emery has already added Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus to help shore up his defense.