Europe back on? Juan Agudelo tweets Stoke deal signed, ‘loan imminent’

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The on-then-off move of Juan Agudelo to Stoke City appears to have been revitalized, albeit with a couple of asterisks. Still, after a move to Europe looked in doubt after the former Revolution forward had his work permit application (and appeal) denied, tonight’s tweet from the 21-year-old is an undeniable step forward. Although he is destined to be sent out on loan, the U.S. Men’s National Team hopeful is officially on the Potters’ books.

According to Agudelo’s twitter account, the Colombian-born American signed his Stoke deal on Tuesday, ending hopes the 17-time U.S. international would return to Major League Soccer. Lauding the support the Potters have shown, Agudelo used the hashtags “#SignedToday” and “#Europeanfootballer” to break the news:

[tweet https://twitter.com/JuanAgudelo/statuses/423177618234822657]

The news comes on the same day Stoke City completed the permanent acquisition of Steven Ireland while confirming John Guidetti’s loan from Manchester City. As of Tuesday night, the club had yet to confirm Agudelo’s tweet.

Presumably, the Potters have already worked out a loan deal, paving their way to finalize Agudelo’s contract.  Since his work permit appeal was denied, speculation has linked Agudelo with a move to the Belgian Pro League, with residence in Belgium one of the more common paths non-European players use to obtain an EU passport. Belgium requires only three years of continuous residence to qualify for citizenship, with a pure business (as opposed to familial) relationship all that’s required in a country that supports dual citizens.

The big hope for Agudelo (and undoubtedly, Stoke) is that he can get to England in under three years, something that would require him becoming a regular with his national team. Although he is still a ways from obtaining that status, today’s news is a clear step in the right direction. Be it in Belgium, Scandinavia, or elsewhere, regular, productive playing time will put the Red Bulls product in position to be a factor at the beginning of the next cycle, getting his international career back on track. And on the club level, establishing himself in Europe will open doors to leagues like Portugal or Russia, should Stoke grow impatient waiting for a work permit to be approved.

In the short-term, Brazil 2014 may be too much to hope for, unless the U.S. experiences a number of injuries or dips in form. Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, and Aron Jóhansson seem strong bets to make the World Cup squad, with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann also favoring the likes of Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd. Add in Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan as forward options, and Agudelo may have slid too far down the depth chart to consider Brazil a realistic possibility.

Still only 21 years old, that shouldn’t be Agudelo’s focus. After bouncing from New York to Chivas USA to New England — after trying to jump to England only to end up in limbo — Agudelo should concentrate on playing. Talented but never truly consistent, this gives the U.S. hopeful a chance to embark on the next stage of his professional career. He needs to make it a productive one.

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.

Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination

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Germany dodged a fatal bullet on Saturday, coming back from a goal down to Sweden to steal a 2-1 victory at the 2018 World Cup and keep their world title defense alive… barely.

For all of 16 minutes — plus halftime — the Germans were in line to be eliminated with one Group F game still to play, but ultimately, Ola Toivonen‘s unlikely opener was canceled out by Marco Reus in very short order after the restart, and Toni Kroos broke Swedish hearts in the 94th.

Put another way, Joachim Loew survives to manage another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Sweden felt massively aggrieved to have not been awarded a penalty kick in the 17th minute, when Jerome Boateng took out the legs of Marcus Berg as he bore down on an out-rushing Manuel Neuer. The combination of leg-to-leg contact and a strong push in the back appeared an obvious error for the video-assistant referee to right a wrong, but the call never came.

The opening goal was the direct result of a careless giveaway by Kroos near the center circle, and needed just three touches and two passes to cut through the German defense and spring Toivonen behind Antonio Rudiger. The finish, a perfectly weighted dink — perhaps aided by the slightest of deflections by Rudiger — left Neuer with no chance (WATCH HERE).

Then, with the final touch of the first half, Berg glanced a header from a free kick that was destined to his the inside netting at the far post, but Neuer redefined the phrase “at full stretch” to keep the scoreline 1-1.

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That save proved invaluable for Joachim Loew’s side, as Marco Reus pulled the defending world champions level less than three minutes into the second half. Timo Werner dribbled to the endline and cut the ball back toward the penalty spot, and Reus got on the end of the deflected cross and struck it home with his knee. A semblance of order restored.

Bedlam ensued in the final 15 minutes, as Boateng was sent off for a second yellow card and Neuer lost his footing while scrambling across the face of goal to make a save, only narrowly preserving the 1-1 scoreline. Robin Olsen one-upped Neuer in the 88th minute, rising to his crossbar to punch Mario Gomez’s header just over.

In the fourth of five minutes of second-half stoppage time, Kroos became the hero. From a nearly impossible angle on the left side of the penalty area, Kroos rolled the ball forward to Reus on the restart, creating an ever so slightly wider angle from which to curl his shot toward the far post. It worked to perfection.

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Germany (3 points) will finish group play against fourth-place South Korea (0 points) on Wednesday, while Sweden (3 points) will face Mexico (6 points), who had clinched their place in the knockout rounds until Germany’s late winner.

VIDEO: Toivonen chips Neuer; Germany on brink of elimination

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Germany, the defending world champions, have their backs firmly pressed against the wall, less than an hour away from elimination, in just their second game of Group F play at the 2018 World Cup. As of this moment, they’re set to be eliminated with one game still to play.

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

After losing to Mexico in the opener, Joachim Loew’s side now trails Sweden in game no. 2, just shy of 45 minutes on the clock. As of right now, Mexico and Sweden (six points each) would go through to the knockout rounds, and Germany and South Korea (zero points) would go home.

Die Mannschaft were utterly dominant for the game’s first 30 minutes, holding more than 75 percent of possession, until Ola Toivonen, who scored all of two goals for Ligue 1 side Toulouse this season, got in behind the German backline and dinked the ball over the head of Manuel Neuer for the game’s opening goal.