Portland adds two more Argentines: What the Timbers may be getting with their latest South American imports

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Rumors Portland would add two Argentines came to fruition on Wednesday, with the Timbers turning to South America for solutions at their roster’s two biggest areas of need. Looking to the same source that gave them Diego Valeri last offseason, Portland has signed forward Gastón Fernández and center back Norberto Paparatto from Argentina’s Primera División, adding the pair of 30-year-olds to the team’s thin striker and defense corps.

The moves had been rumored for some time, with “internet sleuthing” having already identified the potential acquisitions. With team general manager Gavin Wilkinson and head coach Caleb Porter having flown to Argentina shortly after the Timbers were eliminated from the playoffs, there was little doubt the teams’  signings would likely come from the Primera. Given the Timbers lacked an established striker and ended the season with Pa Modou Kah and Mamadou “Futty” Danso in central defense, it was clear which areas the team intended to target.

As with any imports, the question is what the Timbers are getting, particularly with Fernández (pictured, above). Typically employed as a supporting striker, La Gata hasn’t registered a competitive goal for Estudiantes since June 24, going 33 appearances for El Leon without scoring. Over the past six months in Argentina, the former Monterrey and Tigres attacker has only made one appearance for Mauricio Pellegino’s team, coming on a halftime of the team’s a 2-0 loss to Tigre on Dec. 8.

“It was our priority to find a striker that was the right fit for our group on many different levels,” Caleb Porter said in a statement released by the club. “We had a specific type of player in mind, someone that could create goals but also have chemistry with our other quality attacking pieces.”

Quick, skilled, and capable of playing used as anything from an attacking midfielder to striker through the middle, Fernández has the talent to reestablish himself in Major League Soccer. His main problems in the past — a want to hold to spent too much time on the ball — could be alleviated by playing in a system that’s already defined Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe as its focal points. At only 5’7″, however, Fernández lacks the size and physicality the Timbers enjoyed last year with Ryan Johnson.

Size is not an issue for the Timbers’ other Argentine import, with the 6’4″ Norberto Paparatto bringing Omar Gonzalez-level height to Porter’s back line. He also brings six-and-a-half years’ experience at Tigre to Major League Soccer, having been a regular on a team that made the 2012 Copa Sudamericana final. Though his speed and ability on the ball have allowed him to occasionally play on the right, Paparatto should immediately slip into Portland’s central defense, providing the Timbers with the high-quality center back the squad desperately needed at times last season.

“He is technically and tactically sound and will bring another player in our locker room that has experience and leadership qualities playing at a high level for many years,” Porter said. “Norberto will also help with our aerial ability, which is a critical component we wanted to enhance in our team.”

Out of the box, Paparatto will improve the Timbers, and in that way, he represents a signing on the opposite end of the spectrum from Fernández. Whereas the former Tigre man has consistently played over the last two years (making 82 appearances), La Gata’s only played 19 games in 12 months. While Fernández will be judged on his ability to rekindle the goal scoring touch he showed when returning to Estudiantes from Mexico four years ago, Paparatto looks to be a steadying influence at the back, his biggest concern being a tendency to mistime tackles (24 cards over the last two years). And whereas Fernández has experience playing outside of Argentina, Paparatto is making his first venture abroad, traveling 6,800 miles to do so.

Given the squad Portland had before signing their third and fourth Argentines, the risks make sense. In defense, where Timbers need more of a sure thing than a dice roll, Paparatto gives them somebody who can partner whomever emerges from the Kah, Danso, Mikael Silvestre battle. In attack, if Fernández can’t rediscover his form, the team still has Maxi Urruti, Frederic Piquionne, or the myriad possible combinations available to a team that could be moving away from playing a traditional striker.

Belgium vs Morocco, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Belgium will look to get back to their best and make it two wins from two in the group stage but Morocco will make it extremely tough for Kevin de Bruyne and Co.

STREAM LIVE BELGIUM v MOROCCO

Roberto Martinez saw his side totally dominated by Canada in their Group F opener but they took their one big chance and won the game, largely thanks to poor finishing from Canada and Thibaut Courtois saving a penalty kick. The No. 2 ranked team in the world has to improve. Fast.

Morocco caused Croatia plenty of problems in their opening game and a draw was a fair result as their high-pressing caused Croatia a lot of problems. They will look to do exactly the same against Belgium and could have plenty of joy if Hakim Ziyech is found in dangerous areas in the final third.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Belgium vs Morocco. 


How to watch Belgium vs Morocco live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 8am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor 
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Kevin de Bruyne was almost apologetic after being named man of the match against Canada as he said he and his teammates really struggled in their World Cup opener. Belgium have to give their back three more protection as they are really susceptible to speedy wide players cutting in wide and teams playing direct and cutting out their midfield playmakers. Roberto Martinez starts Meunier and Onana in this game to try and give Belgium a little more control and solidity. Michy Batshuayi continues to fill in for the injured Romelu Lukaku once again.

Morocco will try and do exactly what Canada did to Belgium and they have the players to do it. Ziyech and Boufal will cause problems out wide and Morocco looked solid defensively against Croatia. There is a real whiff of an upset in the air around this one as Morocco will be roared on by their large group of supporters in Qatar.


Belgium quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 2
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Key players: Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard

Morocco Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss


Costa Rica stuns Japan to blow Group E wide open

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Costa Rica scored a late winner to stun Japan and blow Group E wide open as the Samurai Blue will be kicking themselves.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Keysher Fuller scored a chipped effort in the final 10 minutes to grab Costa Rica and an unexpected win as Japan dominated the game but couldn’t create clear-cut chances and they were made to pay.

After beating Germany in their group stage opener, Japan knew a win in this game would basically send them in to the last 16. Now they face Spain in their final Group E game needing to dig deep.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Following their 7-0 defeat to Spain in their World Cup opener, Costa Rica dug deep and have given themselves a chance of getting out of the group as they face Germany in their final game and are level on points with Japan.


Los Ticos put in perfect underdog display

After being battered by Spain this was a heroic display from Costa Rica. They let Japan have most of the ball and play but late on took their one big chance (it was their only shot on goal) and that was all they needed. This was almost like watching a lower league team play against a Premier League opponent in an FA Cup game. Costa Rica were solid defensively in a back five and snapped into challenges and did whatever they could to put off a very talented and technical Japan side. Yes, Japan had an off day and just never looked comfortable on the ball but don’t underestimate the incredible work Costa Rica did off the ball to unsettle their opponents. Los Ticos have restored pride in their team and they now face a showdown with Germany knowing they have to put in exactly the same kind of display.


Stars of the show

Japan vs Costa Rica
Graphic via FotMob.com

Kendall Waston: Came into the team and delivered a brilliant defensive display. The veteran led by example and cleared everything.

Maya Yoshida: Japan’s captain did everything to hold off Costa Rica and tried to drive his team on from the back.

Keylor Navas: The legendary Costa Rican goalkeeper made a key save late on and rolled back the years to inspire a great defensive display.


How to watch Japan vs Costa Rica live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan will now look to build on their first-ever win against Germany and they will be full of confidence after a resolute team display. Manager Hajime Moriyasu makes five changes to the team which beat Germany as the the strength of his squad is incredible and he will once again look to the bench and aim to blow opponents away in the final 30 minutes. It is all about the team first and his players totally buy into that model.

As for Costa Rica, they have to forget the hammering to Spain. That can happen when you play Spain who have so many great attacking players and when it clicks, they can pummel teams. They simply have to win this game and Kendall Waston and Gerson Torres are the only two changes from the defeat to Spain.


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada

Costa Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz


Australia vs Denmark: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This will be an epic battle in Group D as Australia and Denmark can both reach the last 16 of the World Cup heading into their final group game.

STREAM LIVE AUSTRALIA v DENMARK

After their superb win against Tunisia last time out, Australia know a win against Denmark puts them in the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history. Graham Arnold has had plenty of criticism for the way his team play but they were totally committed against Tunisia and always carried a threat on the counter. They will have to put in a very similar display against the talented Danes but a point could well be enough as Tunisia would have to beat France in the other game in Group D to complicate matters further for Australia and Denmark.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Denmark, they have had a very poor tournament so far. They were woeful in attack against Tunisia in an opening game stalemate, while they were beaten by France last time out and Kasper Hjulmand has failed to get his team going in attack. Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are trying to drive Denmark on from midfield but they just haven’t look dangerous going forward. They have to win against Australia and then hope Tunisia doesn’t beat France and it goes down to goal difference. 

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

Here is everything you need for Australia vs Denmark.


How to watch Australia vs Denmark live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Australia will set up exactly the same as they did against Tunisia as they will whip in balls to Mitchell Duke who was the hero with his superb flicked header. Both Duke and Arnold pointed to the ‘Aussie Spirit’ getting them the win against Tunisia and there is a real grit and determination about this team.

Denmark know they have to win, so they will go for a more attack-minded lineup and they have the quality to beat Australia. They will likely start Braithwaite and Dolberg as they try to get something going in attack and this is basically a knockout game in the group stage.


Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Denmark quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 10
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group F)
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Key players: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen


Tunisia vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Tunisia need a win and help as they clash with reigning World Cup champions France in their Group D finale.

STREAM LIVE TUNISIA v FRANCE

With France already through to the last 16 of the World Cup courtesy of their two wins so far against Australia and Denmark, Didier Deschamps may rest a few key players for this game. That will give Tunisia hope and after their 0-0 draw against Denmark and their narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia, they’ve been in both games but just can’t find that finishing touch in the final third.

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

France have an abundance of talent, and that’s just on their bench. Despite losing Nkunku, Benzema, Pogba and Kante to injury before the tournament kicked off, it hasn’t really impacted them as they’ve made light work of their opening two group games. Kylian Mbappe was the difference against Denmark and he already has three goals at this tournament to be the joint top scorer.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Tunisia vs France.


How to watch Tunisia vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia need to take more risks in attack and this is all or nothing for them now. They need to win and hope that Australia against Denmark ends in a draw as they have the upperhand over Australia when it comes to goal difference. If they win and Denmark win it will also go down to goal difference to see if they reach the last 16. Surely Khazri and Khenissi will start this game to give them extra quality in attack.

France now have the luxury of resting some of their key players ahead of the last 16 but Deschamps will be keen to make it three wins from three in the group stage to keep momentum going. Expect to see the likes of Camavinga, Saliba, Guendouzi and Thuram from the start. France just need a point to guarantee top spot in the group but in reality their huge advantage in goal difference over Australia (6 goals better off) means they’ve already won the group.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema