Tim Howard on his stunning display vs. Arsenal, Everton’s good form, tough draw for USA

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LONDON — After pulling off a string of fine saves for Everton against Arsenal on Sunday, U.S. national team ‘keeper Tim Howard reminded us just how good he really is.

Minus the beard.

Howard, 34, shaved that beauty off before the match against the Gunners and made three stunning stops, two while racing quickly off his line in the first half and the other a remarkable reaction save from Aaron Ramsey’s close-range volley after the break.

He was in inspired form and only Mesut Ozil’s close-range tap in the 80th minute spoiled Howard’s shutout but his team then went straight up the other end to equalize and grab the Toffees a deserved point.

I caught up with Tim after the game in the tunnel on Sunday, he looked about 10 years younger without the beard might I add, and we spoke about his display, Everton’s terrific start to the season and how he rates the World Cup draw the USMNT were handed on Friday.

Over to Howard.

On playing as a ‘sweeper-keeper’ to make saves in the first half:

It was something we worked on [coming off his line fast]. The boys had to get to the edge of the box when Arsenal possessed, so I needed to be sharp of my line knowing that balls can get played through.

source: Getty Images
The beard has gone… but the magic of Howard remained as he delivered a top class performance.

On what’s going through his mind when strikers are coming in on goal:

I’m just trying to close the distance. You have got to get at their feet and the sooner you go down, the more space you leave for them to lift it over, so you have to close the distance as close as you can.

On Everton’s superb comeback after conceding late on:

I was just looking for a reaction and I think we got that, which was a huge positive. There wasn’t much time left, there’s never a good time to concede but I thought that was a really bad time to concede because it didn’t allow us to pick ourselves back up off the floor. But credit to us, we did that and Gerry takes his goal really well. Then Rom sets one up and maybe if he hits the target with it, it’s a different story. I thought we showed a great reaction.

On how Everton can improve going forward:

That’s the one thing, as well as we played in the first half for the possession we had we didn’t create enough chances. I think nearly at the halfway point, that’s something we’re looking to get better at. We defended really well, we’ve shown that with the clean sheets that we’ve kept. We’ve got in the attacking third a bunch of times but now we have to try and finish off our chances.

On if the draw was a fair result:

I think so, they probably had more clear cut chances. It looked like a 0-0 for a very long time. They wouldn’t think so, but for us we’re happy.

source: Getty Images
Howard rushed off his line to great effect in the first half to thwart Arsenal’s offense.

On Everton’s impressive defensive unit frustrating Arsenal:

We did a really good job. The goal we conceded was not like us at all. A ball over the top and then second and third defending, normally that’s our bread and butter. It happens. Arsenal threaten you in front so it opens up space behind but I’m very happy with the guys. No question.

On Gerard Delofeu’s equalizing goal…

Gerry’s got a bit, he’s shown that in the games. He’s done really, really well and he’s a difference maker. We saw him standing on the touchline and we were looking for him to come on and give us something and he did really well.

On tough World Cup draw for the USA…

It’s a tough draw for us. I think we’re gonna, without question, go there and stand in the middle of the ring and give as good as we get. It’s going to be difficult. But looking across the board, I won’t tell you which group, but I think one group is pretty easy. Other than that they are very difficult groups.

Sweden players, coaches left fuming after last-minute loss

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A last-minute goal. A non-called penalty. A disrespectful celebration.

Sweden had a lot to be upset about when the final whistle blew on Saturday.

[ MORE: Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion” ]

The Swedes were within seconds of holding defending champion Germany to a draw, and moving into good position to advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup, when Toni Kroos scored deep into stoppage time to give Germany a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“I’m sorry that we didn’t get at least one point,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “But I’m not blaming anyone tactically or analyzing too much right now, there are so many emotions going around. This is probably the heaviest conclusion that I’ve experienced in my career.”

Kroos’ goal from a set piece came in the fifth and final minute of injury time. The draw would have kept Sweden ahead of Germany in Group F and needing only a draw against Mexico in the last match.

[ MORE: Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination ]

“It was just bad luck,” Sweden forward John Guidetti said. “Now we need to try to find a way to win the last match. In a few days we play again and we have to win it. It’s simple.”

Germany, which is tied with Sweden on points and goal difference, will play against South Korea in the final round.

“We still have an excellent opportunity to qualify,” Andersson said. “Now we have to clean up, tidy up after this game. We’re going to do that.”

The Swedes were leading Germany at halftime thanks to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute at Fisht Stadium. They felt they could have been ahead even earlier if the referee had called a penalty when Marcus Berg appeared to be fouled inside the area with a clear chance to score. There was no formal video review called for.

“If we have the (VAR) system, it’s very unfortunate that he (the referee) can feel so secure in the moment that he doesn’t go and have a look at the situation,” Andersson said.

He and the Swedish players said they also couldn’t understand why Germany decided to celebrate near their bench.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“You shouldn’t celebrate in front of our bench the way they did, that’s disrespectful,” Guidetti said. “You can celebrate with your own fans. Don’t celebrate in front of our bench like that. That’s why they apologized, because they knew they did something wrong.”

Andersson said he was “very annoyed” by seeing the Germany team “running in our direction and rubbing it in our faces by making gestures.”

“We fought hard for 95 minutes,” he said. “And when the final whistle blows, you shake hands.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — England, Colombia back in action

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Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Sunday, with England back in action and in need of three points — and a resounding win — to keep pace with Belgium in Group G.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Following Belgium’s 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia — the same side that England beat in stoppage time earlier in the week — on Saturday, the Red Devils have positioned themselves perfectly to win the group with a draw against the Three Lions on Thursday. England need a five-goal victory at 6-1 or higher to the finish top of the group following a draw on the final day.

Then, it’s a pair of Group H fixtures, kicked off with Japan (1st) versus Senegal (2nd) — both of whom won their first game — followed by Poland (3rd) versus Colombia (4th).

Below is Sunday’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 – Sunday, June 24

Group G
England vs. Panama: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group H
Japan vs. Senegal: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Colombia: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

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FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion”

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At 1-0 down, they were headed for elimination in the group stage (with a game still to play); once level at 1-1, they faced yet a steep hill to climb on the final day of the group stage; after Toni Kroos scored his stunning 94th-minute winner, Joachim Low could finally exhale and imagine himself managing the German national team for another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Cup was, for most intents and purposes, a worrying performance for the defending world champions. Fortunately for Low and Co., the one place in which their comeback dramatic victory was a raging success is the only one that matters: the Group F table, where Die Mannschaft currently (somehow) sit second and control their own destiny — quotes from the BBC:

“This was a thriller, full of emotion, right up until the final whistle. Brandt hit the goal post just three minutes before the end too. We took out a defensive player and brought on an attacking player because we knew had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.

“We had a couple of great chances — Mario Gomez’s header being one of them. The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. We’ve had these situations in other tournaments as well. For the viewers that’s part of the attractiveness of football.”

“Something I did appreciate today was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down. We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.

“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”

There’s still plenty of work to do for one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites — there’s a little matter of needing to beat, or at the very least, best Sweden’s result against Mexico — but that can wait until tomorrow, because Saturday unexpectedly became all about survival.