Champions League: Blanc downplays Leverkusen’s poor performance, Ibrahimovic hails PSG’s fast start

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Bayer Leverkusen’s poor performance may limit our ability to read into Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 win in Germany, but for PSG head coach Laurent Blanc, their host’s struggles can’t overshadow the “really excellent” performance his team put in to open UEFA Champions League’s knockout road. With goals from Blaise Matuidi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (two), and Yohan Cabaye, the French champions took a commending lead in their round of 16 matchup, building a lead that’s never been reversed in Champions League.

“Some might point out weaknesses in Leverkusen’s game but our game was really excellent,” Blanc said after the match, as relayed by UEFA.com. “Spirits were really good and I congratulate those who started and those who came off the bench. I really can rely on everyone.”

[MORE: UEFA Champions League: Ibrahimovic brace helps PSG cruise 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen]

Player-for-player, it truly was a stand to performance for PSG, with only goalkeeper Salvatore Sigiru’s lack of action preventing the team from accumulating above average marks across the board. While Bayer’s inept showing left the team with little opposition, the Parisians deserve credit for pushing from the opening kickoff, their third minute goal coming before Bayer had a sustained period on the ball.

“Our performance during the first half was crucial,” Bayer defender Ömar Toprak said, “but we played with fear and I really don’t know why. We played very, very poorly during the first 45 minutes.”

The second half wasn’t any better. After losing central defender Emir Saphic to a red card in the 59th minute, Bayer were unable to get the ball back from their guests. As the teams approached the end of regulation time, the hosts appeared exhausted, with PSG able to  charge through Bayer’s defense to set up Cabaye’s 88th minute goal.

[MORE: What we learned from Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen]

“We scored early and when you are in the lead it is much easier,” star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said, having contributed to all four goals. “In addition the second and third goals came in the first period and in the second period we continued to play our game. This was a really good evening.”

At least, for one team it was a good evening. For Bayer, the result means having to play a perfunctory 90 minutes in France two weeks from now. They’ll be leaving the competition after this round, their place in knockout round confirmed as a function of a weak group.

“We didn’t win any duels and made life much too easy for them,” Toprak said. “In the second half we tried to fight a little bit more and sometimes it worked out, but in the end it was a very disappointing evening for us.”

PSG coach confirms Lionel Messi departure

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PARIS — Lionel Messi will leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season after two years at the club, coach Christophe Galtier said.

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Galter said ahead of PSG’s game against Clermont on Saturday that it would be Messi’s last match at the Parc des Princes. Messi’s contract expires at the end of June.

“I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of soccer,” Galtier said. “This will be his last match at the Parc des Princes, and I hope that he will receive the warmest of welcomes.”

[ LIVE: Latest transfer news

PSG recruited Messi in August 2021 with the ambition to finally win the Champions League. The team is still waiting. Although PSG won its 11th French league title this year, it again exited Europe’s top tournament in the round of 16.

How did Messi get on at PSG?

Messi’s adventure in France has been bitter sweet. In spite of pretty good statistics, he has been embodying the team’s shortcomings in the view of many PSG fans who have repeatedly whistled and booed his name in recent weeks.

After struggling to adapt to the French league – the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored only six league goals in his first 26 games – Messi has improved this season as he developed an efficient understanding with forward Kylian Mbappe.

In 31 league matches, the 35-year-old Messi has scored 16 goals and delivered as many assists. In all competitions, Messi netted 21 goals and had 20 assists for PSG.

“This year, he has been an important part of the team, always available, always committed during training sessions,” Galtier said. “I don’t think any of the comments or criticisms are justified.”

Where next for Lionel Messi?

Despite Galtier’s support, PSG’s appreciation of Messi has not always been so positive.

Earlier this season, the club suspended the World Cup winner following a trip to Saudi Arabia without the club’s permission.

Messi has a commercial contract with Saudi Arabia to promote tourism in the Middle Eastern country and has been linked with a lucrative move there at the end of the season.

There has also been talk of a return to Barcelona, where he spent the majority of his career, or to the United States to play in MLS.

Messi arrived at Barcelona at the age of 13 and left having won 35 titles. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. Messi is also the team’s all-time scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances, and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.

USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup

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After reaching the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT have a big 2023 coming up as they aim to build off a successful showing on the world’s biggest stage.

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For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson was in temporary charge but he has now moved on with B.J. Callaghan taking over an interim basis as the search for a new permanent head coach continues.

After both the general manager (Brian McBride) and sporting director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months, Matt Crocker has arrived as U.S. Soccer’s new sporting director and has some huge decisions coming up as the USMNT’s talented youngsters need some guidance with a World Cup on home soil just three years away.

[ MORE: USMNT roster for Nations League features Gio Reyna, no Tyler Adams ]

As for now, here is the USMNT’s upcoming schedule for 2023, with plenty more games to be added based on their qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup on home soil. 


How to watch USMNT

TV channels in English: HBO Max, TNT
TV channels en Español:
Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT upcoming schedule

* Friendly | ** CONCACAF Nations League | *** 2022 World Cup | **** Gold Cup

2023

vs. Serbia* — Jan. 25, 10 pm ET — Loss 2-1 | Recap & highlights
vs. Colombia* — Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET — Draw 0-0 | Recap & highlights

at Grenada** — March 24, 8 pm ET — Won 7-1 | Recap & highlights + Player ratings
vs El Salvador** — March 27, 7:30pm ET — Won 1-0 | Recap & highlights
vs Mexico* — April 19, 10:22pm ET — Glendale, Arizona – More details

vs Mexico ** — June 15, 10pm ET — Las Vegas, Nevada (Nations League semifinal)

2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 

vs Jamaica**** — June 24, 9:30pm ET — Chicago, Illinois 
vs TBD****
— June 28, 9:30pm ET — St. Louis, Missouri 
vs Nicaragua****
— July 2, 7pm ET — Charlotte, North Carolina

October 2023

vs Germany* — October 14, 3pm ET — Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
vs Ghana* — October 17, 8:30pm ET — GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN


USMNT games in 2022

vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0


USMNT at 2022 World Cup

Group B
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0

Last 16
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1


USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis

at El Salvador — Sept. 2Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0

at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0 
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2 


Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Canada — 28 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +16 – automatic qualification
Mexico — 28 points (QUALIFIED) GD +9 – automatic qualification
USMNT — 25 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +11 – automatic qualification


Costa Rica — 25 points (PLAYOFF) GD +5


Panama — 21 points (ELIMINATED)
Jamaica — 14 points (ELIMINATED)
El Salvador — 10 points (ELIMINATED)
Honduras — 4 points (ELIMINATED)

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The Soccer Tournament to air across NBC platforms in summer 2023

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27 games from the The Soccer Tournament (TST) will be aired across NBC Sports’ platforms in the summer of 2023 as some of the biggest clubs in the world will be represented as teams square off to try and win the $1 million grand prize.

[ LIVE: Watch The Soccer Tournament on Peacock ]

Games will be aired on Peacock and CNBC, as the inaugural 7-a-side tournament takes place in Cary, North Carolina and the likes of West Ham United, Wolves, Borussia Dortmund, Wrexham and various teams from around the world including former USMNT and USWNT players will compete.

“On June 4th, two teams will face off in our championship game for a million dollars. The second place team will get nothing. We are excited to showcase the drama of that moment and 26 additional high-stakes matches through this partnership with NBC Sports, home of the Premier League in the United States,” said TST founder and CEO Jon Mugar.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA


What is The Soccer Tournament?

Here are more details on what to expect from The Soccer Tournament this summer:

“A first-of-its-kind soccer event, TST will feature 32 teams from eight different countries competing in a World Cup-like group stage. Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout stage, where they will compete in single elimination games for a $1 million grand prize.

“Teams competing in the event include 7-a-side teams from notable European clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wrexham, Como 1907, Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, MLS club Charlotte FC, Liga MX’s Club Necaxa, Clint Dempsey’s Team Dempsey, and US Women, a team of former US women’s national team players organized by Heather O’Reilly and coached by Mia Hamm.

“Notable players include legendary Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas (Como 1907), NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (Nati SC), social media influencer and former MLS Academy product Noah Beck (Borussia Dortmund), among others. TST’s field will also include 23 former U.S. senior national team players on both the men’s and women’s side with nearly 1,400 matches of experience combined.”

Below is the full TST game schedule and tickets for all TST games are on sale now at thetournament.com/tst-tickets.


The Soccer Tournament schedule, how to watch live, start times, dates


June 1, 2023

Borussia Dortmund vs. Hoosiers Army (Indiana Alumni) – June 1, 9am ET
West Ham United vs. Far East United – June 1, 10:30am ET
US Women vs. Say Word FC – June 1, 12pm ET
Wrexham Red Dragons vs. Como 1907 – June 1, 1:30pm ET
Wolverhampton vs. Blade & Grass – June 1, 5pm ET
Club Necaxa vs. Hapoel Tel Aviv – June 1, 6:30pm ET
Wrexham Red Dragons vs. US Women – June 1, 8pm ET
Team Dempsey vs. Sneaky Fox – June 1, 9:30pm ET

June 2, 2023

Borussia Dortmund vs. Kingdom FC – June 2, 9am ET
West Ham United vs. Culture by Mo Ali FC – June 2, 10:30am ET
Wrexham Red Dragons vs. Say Word FC – June 2, 12pm ET
Team Dempsey vs. Zala FFF – June 2, 1:30pm ET

Knockout Round (8 games) – June 2, 6pm – 11pm ET
Quarterfinals (4 games) – June 2, 12 pm – 4:45pm ET

June 3, 2023

Semifinals (2 games) – June 3, 7 pm and 9:30pm ET

June 4, 2023

TST $1M Championship Game (Live) – June 4, 3pm ET CNBC – Encore to air on June 10, 2pm ET (NBC)


USWNT release 2023 World Cup jerseys

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The USWNT 2023 World Cup jerseys have arrived and the Stars and Stripes will certainly stand out from the crowd at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand this summer.

[ MORE: Schedule, how to watch, bracket for 2023 World Cup ]

Vlatko Andonovski’s side are going for a third-straight World Cup title, something which has never been achieved in the history of the men’s and women’s game.

Led by Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, this USWNT side have so much experience but there are also exciting young talents coming through with Mallory Swanson and Trinity Rodman excelling in recent months.

Below is a closer look at the the new USWNT 2023 World Cup jerseys, with the away kit also to be worn by the USMNT.


USWNT 2023 World Cup jerseys

U.S. Soccer say that the inspiration for the jerseys are “from abstract expressionism, an international art movement that started in the 1940s in New York and shifted the art epicenter from Europe to the U.S., similar to what the USA team has done for women’s soccer.”

They add there is “a custom USA ‘signature'” as the “bespoke mark is hand painted with ink on paper, and is a nod to the abstract expressionism movement, where each artist would sign their painting. Lastly, the USA’s inner pride mark celebrates the USWNT’s four Women’s World Cup championships in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019.”

When it comes to the home kit, U.S. Soccer say it is “an unexpected take on the tradition of wearing white at home and features a bespoke drip paint technique pattern. Highlighting the energy of the USWNT and how they are diverse players and personalities, but always united, the action painting method pattern features a distinctive placement, making every single jersey unique.”

USWNT
Courtesy: US Soccer

For the blue away kit, which will be worn by both the USWNT and USMNT, there are “bespoke stars and stripe print on the sleeve cuffs – a diagonal stripe with intersecting stars – and a neckline that also features red blades, formed to look like the tip of stars.”

They add that those shapes are “subtle, patriotic nods to the hidden shapes that are inspired by abstract expressionism art.”

USWNT
Courtesy: US Soccer

Here is a look at both USWNT World Cup jerseys in a little more detail, plus the USMNT showing off their new away kits.