Nigerian coach ready for tough US test but wishes for more time

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Speaking before training at EverBank stadium in Jacksonville, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi says his team is raring to go for the World Cup, but admits the end of the club season has left his team struggling to get fully prepared.

“We don’t have a lot of time, the time is very short, I wish we could have more time that would be much better,” Keshi said. “I am not alone, I think the rest of the coaches are experiencing the same stuff, but some teams are better than some teams, so we’ll just do the best we can do.”

Like many coaches have in the last few weeks, Keshi believes the fitness levels of his players are all at a different level, making things tough on him to get them to the correct level.

He said striker Ahmed Musa, who has a thigh strain, will not play in the match Saturday against the US, and defender Elderson Echiejile will miss out with a hamstring injury.  Keshi said “we hope to get them back by next week.” Juwon Oshaniwa, who was battling malaria, is back fit and training again.

However, with the Cup almost here, Keshi will use match against the United States as a barometer for his team’s preparation, and Nigeria will go full-tilt into the match.

He says tomorrow’s game will give him and his staff a great view into the team’s readiness for their first World Cup game, against Iran in Curitiba on June 16.

“[The US is] a very good team, I think [Jurgen] Klinsmann has done a wonderful job trying to set up a very strong team,” Keshi said of tomorrow’s opponents. “That is why it’s very good for us that we’re playing against the US before the Iran game.  We can assess our team and also correct whatever problems we face tomorrow for the game against Iran.”

Playing a strong pre-tournament schedule, Keshi and Nigeria have come from London where they took on Scotland at Craven Cottage at the end of May, then made their way to Philadelphia as they finished 0-0 against Greece.

One thing is for certain, there’s no hiding why the US scheduled this friendly just before their opening round game against Ghana on June 16.

“I think Nigeria plays similar football [to Ghana], and it will be a good thing for the United States, they should be able to capitalize on that.”

For both sides, the Brazilian heat has been a concern leading up to the match, but with temperatures in Jacksonville hitting 90 today and expected to come close again tomorrow, it’s providing good preparation for the teams as they look ahead to Brazil.

“It’s been very tough,” Keshi said of the heat. “Yesterday was very hot and we had two training sessions yesterday, and [today] we are experiencing the same thing, but sometimes in Brazil we might get the same weather so we have to live with it, we have no choice.”

Chelsea’s Pulisic reacts to Eden Hazard comparisons

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Last week, Frank Lampard compared Christian Pulisic’s potential to that of the finished products shown by Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Raheem Sterling.

After another terrific performance for Chelsea in a 3-0 defeat of Watford, he was asked about being compared to Chelsea royalty: Eden Hazard.

“Obviously he was an incredible player for Chelsea,” Pulisic said. “He’s a world-class player. I’m not trying to compare myself to him just yet. I’m just trying to be my own player and hopefully the fans like that guy.”

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch — His day v. Watford ]

Pulisic drew a penalty and had the pass before the assist on Ross Barkley’s late goal to salt away the win and fourth place in the Premier League for another few days.

The Blues had lost late to West Ham United at midweek, and Pulisic admits the boys were fired up to avenge the setback.

“We needed that one today,” he said. “There was a little extra bit of energy because of that loss. We wanted to come out and prove a point today.”

Finally, Pulisic was asked what he’d be doing if he was home in the States on the Fourth of July.

“If I was home in the U.S. I’d be having a barbecue with my family and enjoying Independence Day.”

Stock answer. Only way he could lose points with us today.

Chelsea cruises past relegation-worried Watford

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Chelsea got goals from Willian, Ross Barkley, and Olivier Giroud in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic drew a penalty for Willian’s goal and helped set up Barkley’s third goal in his fourth-straight start in 10 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – USMNT star shines again ]

Chelsea moves back atop Manchester United for fourth place, one point behind Leicester City.

Watford’s 28 points are one point better than two of the bottom three, with Aston Villa holding a match-in-hand and set to visit Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


Three things we learned

1. Chelsea holds serve in top four fight: Wins for Manchester United and Leicester City meant the Blues could finish the day in either fourth or fifth. The decisive performance was a welcome one for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard following a late loss at West Ham earlier in the week. The Blues meet Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Norwich City before Liverpool and Wolves make for a dangerous final two league fixtures.

2. Pearson plans for midweek: Norwich City looks as down-and-out as any club right now, so it’s not likely a coincidence that Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney came off the pitch with the score line 2-0 and 26 minutes to play. Watford will aim to find points in its home ground against a poor Canaries side on Tuesday.

3. Kante limps off: While Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have remained fit and available to Lampard, the manager won’t be happy that N’Golo Kante’s injury-hit season saw a possible concern with a 78th-minute sub for Billy Gilmour.

Man of the Match

It was either Pulisic or Willian, and we’re going to go with the Brazilian if only because CP gets a lot of run in these parts.


Chelsea – Watford recap

Christian Pulisic came out of the gates in lively form and within minutes Olivier Giroud had an odd-angled chance to head toward goal.

The Blues were all over Watford for the first 20 minutes, Pulisic, Willian, and Giroud very involved in the display.

Giroud put the Blues on the board with an experienced, spinning strike in the 29th minute. Getting the ball off a Ross Barkley feed, the Frenchman hit a cushioned low shot across his body and just inside the far post.

Pulisic played a role in the second goal, dribbling to the end line and getting manhandled by an out-of-his-mind Christian Kabasele on his cut back toward play. Penalty, Willian. 2-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The second half was mostly Chelsea, too, and Willian forced Foster into a terrific 68th-minute save and corner kick to the Blues.

Watford had their moments late, including a Danny Welbeck effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga did very well to save.

Pulisic had a shot blocked in the 90th minute, and Will Hughes couldn’t convert a Welbeck-inspired play at the other end.

Instead, the American would settle for a “hockey assist,” slipping the ball to Azpilicueta inside the 18 before the Chelsea veteran set up Barkley’s exclamation point.

Pulisic Watch: In-form Chelsea star shines on Independence Day

Pulisic Watch
Photo by Matthew Childs/Pool via Getty Images
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Chelsea’s in-form American winger stayed that way, as Christian Pulisic won a penalty and looked lively throughout the Blues’ match with Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: Chelsea 3-0 Watford ]

Here are the moments he was in focus in his fourth-straight start for Frank Lampard, as the USMNT star had another brilliant performance on his nation’s Independence Day.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


8th minute: Pulisic comes out of the gate in lively form and cuts between a pair of defenders before finding Mason Mount, whose cross is blocked out for a corner.

10th minute: Pulisic plays Giroud wide, and the Frenchman’s first touch is a bit wayward. A cross back towards Pulisic is cleared before it reaches the American.

15th minute: Pulisic is one of three players to hit the deck trying to get on the end of Reece James’ delightful cross from the right.

19th minute: Pulisic takes the ball from Willian and finds Giroud, whose shot is saved by Foster and winds up with Willian. His cross doesn’t reach the American and Giroud fouled a defender anyway.

30th minute: Moments after Giroud put the Blues up 1-0, Pulisic nods a high cross back toward the far post but Foster rescues the ball without much worry.

42nd minute: Pulisic won a second penalty kick of the restart when he cut back at the end line and was run over by Christian Kabasele.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Wolves ]

47th minute: Cuts inside and tears into an ambitious shot that has too much pepper on it.

48th minute: He’s at it again a moment later, moving the ball left to Cesar Azpilicueta for a half-cleared cross.

56th minute: Pulisic works a 1-2 with Mason Mount but the ball doesn’t quite get back to the American thanks to Michael Dawson.

85th minute: Protests wildly for a penalty after Kabasele takes him down in the box once again. VAR doesn’t change anything and Pulisic is set to go 90 minutes for the third time in 10 days (He went 72 minutes in the fourth encounter during that time span).

90th minute: Azpilicueta slides Pulisic into the left of the box, but the American’s shot is blocked.

Stoppage time: Takes a short pass and gives it to Azpilicueta in the box, getting a “hockey assist” when Barkley slots home. Pulisic then nearly wins a corner with a pressuring run down the left.

Stat line: Three shots, one on target, one blocked. One-of-3 dribbles completed, one penalty won. Passed at 89 percent (33-of-37) with two key passes and 9-of-15 duels won. Four fouls drawn and three tackles (SofaScore).

Bayern Munich wins record 20th German Cup (video)

Bayern Munich wins German Cup
Photo by M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images
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Bayern Munich was hardly bothered in securing a record 20th German Cup via a 4-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin on Saturday.

The team with the second-most German Cups is Werder Bremen, who has won six times. Bayern has won 10 times this century including the last two.

The Bundesliga champions scored twice in the first half-hour and twice held three-goal leads in what was Bayer’s first German Cup final since a 2009 loss to Bremen.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

David Alaba and Serge Gnabry scored the early goals and Robert Lewandowski scored twice to round out the victor’s scoring.

The first goal of the Polish star’s brace came from a long pass from Manuel Neuer and a shot flubbed by Bayer keeper Lucas Hradecky.

Sven Bender and Kai Havertz scored for Bayer, the latter goal coming deep in stoppage time.

Here’s Alaba’s terrific quickly-taken free kick goal to open the scoring.