World Cup Today: Swiss, French set to thrill; CRC looks to upset Italy

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WORLD CUP TODAY: FRIDAY, JUNE 20

England’s World Cup hopes are on the thinnest of threads after losing to Uruguay on Thursday, while Japan couldn’t break down 10-man Greece and Colombia looked like world beaters in a 2-1 win over the Ivory Coast.

So what’s on tap for today? Plenty.

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MATCH 24: ITALY VS. COSTA RICA
Location: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Time: Noon ET
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What they’re saying:
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto on hearing that Jose Mourinho thinks a second upset is unlikely: “I am really surprised that José Mourinho said something like that. He plays Sundays and Wednesdays and he is not able to repeat what he did the match before? Of course he is. We know that Italy is a very difficult opponent but we are confident that we will be able to repeat our performance.

“At the beginning, some people said that we were the worst and that we wouldn’t even get one point,” he said. “But we think about what we are able to do. Other people said that Spain would play the final against Brazil. That will not happen now.”

History:
Italy won 2-0 in 1985, the only meeting.

MLS Players:
Costa Rica: Giancarlo González, Waylon Francis (Colombus Crew), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: APMATCH 25: SWITZERLAND VS. FRANCE

Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: 3pm ET
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Cheater’s guide: The Swiss know they have to attack France in order to balance out the French club’s desire to push its offense forward. Frankly, this one could be one of the matches of the tournament as the nations battle for the top spot in Group E.

What they’re saying:
Switzerland assistant coach Michel Pont: “Us, favourites? Absolutely not. Frankly, the current French team impresses me, they have found harmony… It’s extremely difficult to find their weak points, it is the first time I have experienced this in 13 years.”

History:
France leads with 15 wins, nine draws and 12 losses and, though the nations have drawn their last three meetings, Switzerland hasn’t won a match-up since May of 1992.

Premier League players:
Switzerland – Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa)
France – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Moussa Sissokho (Newcastle), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Loic Remy(QPR).

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 26: HONDURAS VS. ECUADOR

Location: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Time: 6pm ET
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Cheater’s guide: Two Colombian managers (and friends) square off in an elimination game. Honduras will be without star Wilson Palacios on a red-card suspension.

What they’re saying:
Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez on a 3-0 loss to France: “”We ran away from football in the last match. It seems to me we were missing something … we needed more confidence with the ball.”

History:
Ecuador has a slight edge in an even series, with three wins, eight draws and two losses.

Premier League players:
Honduras – Maynor Figueroa (Hull City), Wilson Palacios (Stoke City)
Ecuador – Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

MLS players:
Honduras – Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Boenik Garcia (Houston), Marvin Chavez (Chivas USA), Jerry Bengtson (New England).
Ecuador – Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA)

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.