Italy Roundup: Napoli shows Roma they’ll fight for second behind distancing Juventus

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Fiorentina’s loss to Juventus has effectively eliminated the storied club from the race for the Top Three — if there was a chance at all — while Napoli’s win over Roma says there’s plenty to be decided when it comes to Serie A’s second spot.

Kwadwo Asamoah’s second goal of the season came in the 42nd minute, and it was all The Old Lady would need to extend its top of the table total to 72 points. Juve is now 14-0 at home of the season as Gianluigi Buffon snagged clean sheet No. 14 on the season.

The match was just as even as the score suggested, but Fiorentina will again rue just how close they were to making a statement. Ryder Matos hit the bar on a header that would’ve equalized the match moments after he subbed into the contest. Earlier, Mario Gomez’s dangerous header went wide of the frame.

The Napoli-Roma match at San Paolo had a scary moment, as Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman was carted off the field for Roma. Jose Maria Callejon’s 81st minute goal was the only marker of the match as Napoli pulled to within three points of second-place Roma (though i Lupi has a match-in-hand).

Roma had the better of attacking moments in the match, but Napoli boss Rafa Benitez won’t be complaining after he turned up the heat in the race for second. With the loss — and injury — it’s hard to imagine Roma making an improbable run to leapfrog Juventus. The gap between first and second place is now 14 points.

Elsewhere

  • Lazio 0-1 Atalanta — Home loss not nearly as disconcerting as the near-lack of fans in the seats as Lazio supporters protest against their club president.
  • Inter Milan 1-0 Torino — Hosts keep the heat on Fiorentina after a Rodrigo Palacio goal lifts them to a seventh home win.
  • Parma 2-0 Verona – Goals from Jonathan Biabiany and Ezequiel Schelotto serve to create three points room between the sixth- and seventh-place clubs of Serie A.
  • Sampdoria 4-2 Livorno– The road team looked ready to spur a jump from the drop zone after two goals in eight minutes from Ibrahima Mbaye gave them a 2-0 halftime lead, but Sampdoria found two goals by the 53rd minute before Stefano Okaka and Manolo Gabbiadini lifted their team to the win.
  • Chievo 2-1 Genoa – It was a good day to have a penalty-taker, as Alberto Paloschi converted pens in the 5th and 90th minute to offset Alberto Gilardino’s 88th minute goal as Chievo pulled three points clear of the drop.
  • Verona 0-0 Bologna – The visitors’ earned point worth its weight in gold as they stay out of the drop zone, but they’ll rue not taking all three after Rafael saved Rolando Bianchi’s penalty kick.
  • Bologna 0-0 Sassuolo — Visitors can only find one point from massive six-pointer as relegation continues to loom for bottom-dwellers are now five points from safety.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 27 23 3 1 63 19 44 14-0-0 9-3-1 72
Roma 26 17 7 2 49 12 37 10-3-0 7-4-2 58
Napoli 27 16 7 4 52 29 23 9-4-1 7-3-3 55
Fiorentina 27 13 6 8 45 30 15 7-3-3 6-3-5 45
Inter Milan 27 11 11 5 44 29 15 7-6-1 4-5-4 44
Parma 26 11 10 5 41 29 12 6-6-2 5-4-3 43
Verona 27 12 4 11 43 44 -1 8-2-4 4-2-7 40
Lazio 27 10 8 9 34 35 -1 7-3-3 3-5-6 38
Torino 27 9 9 9 39 35 4 5-5-3 4-4-6 36
AC Milan 27 9 8 10 39 38 1 6-4-3 3-4-7 35
Genoa 27 9 8 10 31 34 -3 6-4-3 3-4-7 35
Sampdoria 27 9 7 11 33 39 -6 5-4-5 4-3-6 34
Atalanta 27 10 4 13 28 38 -10 8-2-3 2-2-10 34
Udinese 27 9 4 14 30 39 -9 6-2-5 3-2-9 31
Cagliari 27 6 11 10 27 36 -9 6-4-4 0-7-6 29
Chievo 27 6 6 15 22 38 -16 4-2-7 2-4-8 24
Bologna 27 4 11 12 22 41 -19 2-7-5 2-4-7 23
Livorno 27 5 6 16 29 50 -21 3-4-7 2-2-9 21
Catania 27 4 8 15 20 46 -26 4-6-3 0-2-12 20
Sassuolo 27 4 6 17 25 55 -30 3-1-9 1-5-8 18

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”