World Cup Today: What you need to know about the three Friday matches

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WORLD CUP TODAY: FRIDAY, JUNE 13

Neutrals (read: those not rooting for Brazil) will be hoping for less controversy from Matches 2-4 of the 2014 World Cup, all set to go off in Brazil today.

The only match on Thursday was Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia, which was loads of fun before a probable dive from Fred gave the host nation the decisive penalty. Neymar scored twice, Oscar added another and Croatia’s only goal came from a Marcelo own goal.

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MATCH 2: MEXICO VS. CAMEROON
Location: Arena das Dunas, Natal
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Much like the CONCACAF/CAF match-up in Group G, this opener is a must-have if either team wants to get out of Group A (especially if Brazil is going to have the host nation fortune it had against Croatia). Mexico’s lineup is out, and head coach Miguel Herrera has said El Tri will have five defending at all-times against Samuel Eto’o and the Indomitable Lions.

What they’re saying:
Herrera: “Every training session leaves me easy and calm knowing every player will leave their last bead of sweat and last breath on the field to please the Mexican fans. We will fight to the death.”

History:
Mexico leads all-time series 1-0 (Sept. 1993)

Premier League players:
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)
Cameroon: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Queens Park Rangers)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: AP
Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal

MATCH 3: SPAIN VS. NETHERLANDS
Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Spain formally starts what it hopes will be a historic World Cup-Euro-World Cup championship run. This rematch of the 2010 World Cup final won’t be as dramatic, and likely won’t be as evenly-matched. Holland is without injured Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart, while Spain is deeo and relatively healthy.

What they’re saying:
Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque: “”This is a mature team with players in their prime. They aren’t here for what they have achieved, but what they will achieve…The Netherlands has changed a lot in four years. Our team has been stable over the last four years compared to them. They’ve had some enormous changes.”

History:
Spain leads all-time series 5W-1D-4L. Last match was Spain’s 1-0 win in the 2010 World Cup final.

Premier League players:
Spain: David de Gea (Manchester United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
Netherlands: Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

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source: Getty Images
Cahill

MATCH 4: CHILE VS. AUSTRALIA
Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Chile is the favorite here, and some think the South American nation can even topple Spain to win the group. That won’t happen without a defeat over the Socceroos, who are almost an afterthought in a loaded Group B. Chile will be physical and difficult — not to mention dangerous in the attack — but has to hope their “on the edge” play doesn’t take them over, especially players like Gary Medel.

What they’re saying:
Australia midfielder Tim Cahill: “I know for a fact that they’ll have someone, or a few holding and shirt pulling and things like that to put me off my game … So it will be no different to the way we’re going to be and for us we’re up for every single battle. We’re going to stand up and be counted.”

History:
Chile has never lost to Australia (3W-1D). The teams haven’t played since Feb. 2000)

Premier League players:
Chile: None
Australia: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)

Major League Soccer players:
Chile: None
Australia: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola