World Cup Today: Germans and Portuguese and Yanks, Oh my!

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WORLD CUP TODAY: MONDAY, JUNE 16

You may not be aware of this fact, so please read these words carefully to avoid the repercussions of shock: the United States begins its 2014 World Cup this evening with a match against Ghana.

Before we get to the Group of Death, how about a hand for Sunday’s competitors? Switzerland used a stoppage-time goal to complete its comeback over Ecuador, France took advantage of some typical Honduras physicality to win 3-0 over its 10-man CONCACAF foes, and Lionel Messi was Lionel Messi to lead Argentina past Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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MATCH 13: GERMANY VS. PORTUGAL
Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s guide: Much of the match — and Portugal’s tournament — rides on the health of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world. Even if Germany tasked with facing a healthy CR7, the Portuguese will have deal with perhaps the deepest team in the entire tournament. Germany has a history of winning, while Portugal has been inconsistent at best but did manage a 4th place finish in 2006.

What they’re saying:
Portugal coach Paulo Bento on Cristiano Ronaldo: “Having the best player in the world in our squad does not make it mandatory for us to win the World Cup. I have said this before to the people of Portugal. There have been times when we have had the world’s best player and not even qualified for the World Cup.”

History:
Portugal has only beaten Germany once in their last 10 match-ups, the win coming in the 2000 European Championships. Overall, Germany boasts the advantage at 9W-5D-3L.

Premier League players:
Germany: Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal),
Portugal: Nani (Manchester United)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: APMATCH 12: IRAN VS. NIGERIA 
Location: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Time: 3pm ET
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Cheater’s guide: Some are looking at this match as a breather in between the two intense Group G matches, but Nigeria will look to pick up three points to put some heat on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the perceived battle for second place in Group F. A win for Iran would be a major moment for the nation, whose only World Cup win is their 1998 win over the United States.

What they’re saying:
Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi: “For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We’re not going to take Iran lightly because they’re not going to take us lightly. So we have to go out with everything that we have. This squad is probably a year-plus old, it’s a new team. Most of the players are young.

“In two years’ time we can be much better. I pray that Vincent Enyeama, [Joseph] Yobo and [John] Obi Mikel will bring all their experience. Youth is good, but if we can combine youth and experience that will be great for us.”

History:
Nigeria beat Iran 1-0 in a January 1998 friendly.

Premier League players:
Iran: None
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)

Major League Soccer players:
Iran: Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Nigeria: None

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 14: GHANA VS. UNITED STATES
Location: Arena das Dunas, Natal
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: If the US has “dos a cero” against Mexico, Ghana has “2-1” against the United States. The Americans look to kick off their World Cup by exorcising previous tournament demons in a “must-win” if progressing to the knockout rounds is going to happen. Ghana is confident of making it three tournaments in-a-row against the USMNT.

What they’re saying:
United States attacker Clint Dempsey: “Ghana is a good team. They’ve done well in the past two World Cups, but at the same time, anytime you come to a World Cup, it’s always a fresh slate. You need to prove to the rest of the world that you’re a quality side and that you’re developing the game in your home country and moving in the right direction.

“I think our preparation has been very good. We’re excited about the opportunity to play against Ghana, which is a top team. But at the same time, if we play with the best of our ability, we have the quality to go far in this tournament, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

History:
Ghana has defeated the United States in two matches, both at the World Cup and both by 2-1 score lines.

Premier League players:
Ghana: None
United States: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City)

Major League Soccer players:
Ghana: None
United States: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

USWNT’s 28-game run snapped in hammering by France

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Kadidiatou Diani scored twice and France ended the U.S. national team’s 28-game unbeaten streak with a 3-1 victory Saturday in Le Havre, France.

The top-ranked United States had not lost since falling 1-0 to Australia in 2017, The Americans were 25-0-3 over the span.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto also scored for third-ranked France. It has won eight straight matches.

It was the first of 10 matches the United States will play before the World Cup. The Americans are the defending champions and could meet France again in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

France went up in the ninth minute on Diani’s goal off a cross from Delphine Cascarino. Diani scored again in the 57th minute to make it 2-0. The 23-year old plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

Katoto, Diani’s PSG teammate, added a goal in the 78th minute.

Mallory Pugh scored for the United States in the final moments.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis had to tinker with her starting lineup and rested stars Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz as a precaution because of minor injuries. Also held out was Kelley O’Hara, still recovering from ankle surgery.

Defender Tierna Davidson came in for Emily Fox in the 53rd minute, marking her first appearance since she fractured her left ankle in a match for Stanford in September.

Davidson decided to leave the Cardinal with a year of eligibility remaining to focus on making the World Cup team. She was the first overall pick in last week’s National Women’s Soccer League draft by the Chicago Red Stars.

The match at La Stade Oceane was sold out with over 25,000 in attendance. The stadium is one of the nine venues that will host World Cup games. The Americans’ next visit to the stadium will be for the final match of the World Cup group stage against Sweden.

“I’m not worried,” Ellis said following the loss. “We know who we are and what we can do.”

Next up for the United States is a match against Spain on Tuesday at Estadio Joss Rico Perez in Alicante. The U.S. women trained in Portugal ahead of the two-match European trip.

Serie A: Roma climb into 4th; anti-racism showing at Inter

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Roma 3-2 Torino

Nicolo Zaniolo announced himself as one of Europe’s most promising young talents, with the opening goal in Roma’s 3-2 victory over Torino, a game in which the 19-year-old was the best, most dangerous attacker for the whole of 90 minutes.

Zaniolo was initially denied by Salvatore Sirigu, but the young Italian managed to collect the rebound and put it home on the rebound, all while on the ground. Aleksandar Kolarov made it 2-0 not long after the half-hour mark, and Roma appeared to be on their merry way to a third straight victory.

The score was 2-2 by the 67th minute, thanks to Tomas Rincon and Cristian Asnaldo. Stephan El Shaarawy had other ideas, though, as he slammed home the winner, courtesy of a perfect through ball from Lorenzo Pellegrini, in the 73rd.

Now fully recovered from a disastrous start to the season (just five wins from their first 15 games), Roma sit fourth in the table, a point ahead of capital rivals Lazio.

Inter Milan 0-0 Sassuolo

Elsewhere in the top-four, third-place Inter Milan were held to a scoreless draw by 12th-place Sassuolo, but the game’s real story took place in the stands.

With Inter serving the second of its two-game ban on fans being allowed inside the San Siro due to racist chants, more than 10,000 local children were invited to attend as part of an initiative against discrimination. Brothers Universally United hung anti-discrimination signs around the stadium and the players word “BUU No to discrimination” on their shirt sleeves.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Udinese 1-2 Parma

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Frosinone v. Atalanta — 6:30 a.m. ET
Fiorentina v. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
SPAL v. Bologna — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. Empoli — 12 p.m. ET
Napoli v. Lazio — 2:30 p.m. ET

La Liga: Atleti cut into Barcelona’s lead; Real Madrid move into 3rd

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Huesca 0-3 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid cut Barcelona’s lead in the title race to two points with a resounding victory away to 20th-place Huesca. Barcelona will host 15th-place Leganes on Sunday.

Lucas Hernandez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, and while his finish inside a heavy fog would ultimately be enough for Diego Simeone’s side, Santiago Arias (52nd) and Koke (71st) tacked on insurance goals in the second half.

Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla

In a battle of two sides level on points in a battle for third place, Real Madrid turned in one of their better performances on the season en route to a 2-0 victory over Sevilla.

Sure, Los Blancos didn’t break the scoreless deadlock until Casemiro unleashed his long-range blast in the 78th minute — thus the result was in doubt for much of the game — but Madrid were in complete control despite the goal coming late on. Sevilla managed just four shots over 90 minutes and held just 31 percent of possession.

Even still, the score remained tight at 1-0 until stoppage time, when Luka Modric 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric put the game to bed.

Now in sole possession of third place — three points clear of Sevilla, but still seven back of Barcelona — Santiago Solari’s side appears to have righted the ship enough that they’ll cruise to a top-four finish.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-2 Valencia

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Betis v. Girona — 6 a.m. ET
Villarreal v. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Rayo Vallecano v. Real Sociedad — 12:30 p.m. ET
Levante v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Leganes — 2:45 p.m. ET

USMNT youngster joins NYCFC on loan from Benfica

Photo credit: @NYCFC
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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. national player Keaton Parks has been acquired by New York City FC on loan from the Portuguese club Benfica for the 2019 season.

The 21-year-old Texan is a versatile central midfielder. He joined Varzim of Portugal in 2015 when he turned 18 and then signed with Benfica in 2017.

He made his national team debut in May, entering in the 62nd minute of a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Philadelphia.

New York sporting director Claudio Reyna said Saturday that Parks “comes to us highly motivated” and can “make a strong impact” in midfield.