Premier League Preview: Fulham vs Hull City

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  • Only Sunderland (12) have scored fewer points at home than Fulham (16).
  • Only Cardiff City (10) and Norwich (8) have scored fewer points on the road than Hull City (11).
  • Hull have won four of their five-ever Premier League matches against Fulham, with the Whites winning the other.

It’s last-chance saloon…again…for Fulham as they host Hull City at Craven Cottage at 10am ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

With the bottom of the Premier League table a cluttered mess, things are dire once again for the Whites as they face a team that beat them 6-0 at KC Stadium in the reverse fixture.

However, the Tigers have just 12 total goals since that meeting. Despite that, Hull are gunning for their best-ever top-flight finish and a win could potentially put them as high as 12th.

Fulham are full-strength other than Kostas Mitroglou, who Felix Magath has said is back at training but not match-fit.  Aside from the Greek striker, the Whites will have Kieran Richardson and Mahamadou Diarra back, both important pieces in the win over Norwich two weeks ago.

They’ll also have on-loan midfield creator Lewis Holtby eligible again, as he was unable to face his parent club Tottenham last week.

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Hull City also receive a double boost, with strikers Sone Aluko and Shane Long both back in action from injury scares. Aluko missed out last week at Arsenal with a hamstring injury, while Long came off at halftime with a calf problem.

It’s a mystery who manager Steve Bruce will pick up front, with Nikica Jelavic, Matt Fryatt, and Yannick Sagbo all available in addition to Aluko and Long.

What they’re saying:

Fulham manager Felix Magath on Hull: “Hull are six points ahead so they will be fine. The manager of Hull [Steve Bruce], he is a very experienced and good manager, and he will be telling everybody that they have to make points because they are not safe. But six points ahead is a lot going into the last three games so I think the teams with 37 points should not be afraid of relegation.”

Bruce on Hull’s position: “The players have worked incredibly hard this season to come this far and just need to get over the line. We’ve not been lower than 14th all season and that’s a reflection of how well we’ve done as a newly-promoted team. They’ve been a terrific bunch of lads and a pleasure to work with. All it needs now is one more result and we want that to come at Fulham.”

Magath on other relegation teams: “In my opinion I think the atmosphere at Norwich or Sunderland or Cardiff will be more nervous than here. We are under pressure, but not so as under pressure as these clubs from the small towns where the whole town is behind the club.”

Prediction:

With Fulham looking for points and Hull City likely playing for little to gain, the home side certainly has the advantage on the mental stage.  The match will struggle for goals, with both teams looking to stay secure at the back, but a 1-0 Fulham win will muddy the waters at the bottom of the table even further.

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

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Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.