Manaus will be wet, sticky – nothing the U.S. hasn’t seen before

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High of 84 degrees (F). Low of 73. Eighty-three percent humidity, and 70 percent chance of precipitation. According to The Weather Channel’s forecast, the United States and Portugal will face those conditions tomorrow in Manaus.

It’s the third of four group stage games set to take place at Arena da Amazônia, with Italy’s over England (June 14) and Cameroon’s loss to Croatia (June 18) already been played in relatively similar weather. For England, the conditions played a part as the team noticeably tired by the 75th minute, hindering the Three Lions as they tried to comeback from a 2-1 deficit. Croatia’s 4-0 win over Cameroon was so one-sided, it was unclear if the conditions played a part.

[ MORE: Three areas of focus for the U.S. against Portugal ]
[ POSNANSKI: Confidence and the unconventional Klinsmann ]

To U.S. men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, they’re conditions his team should be used to. From reporting by ESPNFC:

“I think we are very well prepared for this climate here in Manaus,” he said at Saturday’s news conference. “It’s similar to climates in CONCACAF or Central America, or even if you go to Florida and play in Miami. It’s similar to what we experience here. I think we are very well prepared for tomorrow.”

It will be the second straight match both the U.S. and Portugal have played in high humidity. The States’ Monday match against Ghana in Natal saw game-time conditions approach both 80 degrees (F) and 80 percent humidity. Portugal’s meeting with Germany in Salvador was played at 78 degrees and 79 percent humidity.

Given that experience, what’s so special about Manaus? For Portugal coach Paulo Bento, talk of the conditions is a distraction first. From the L.A. Times:

“It will be difficult to ignore the heat and humidity with so many people asking about the heat and humidity,” Portugal Coach Paulo Bento said. “If we are thinking about the heat and humidity and we forget about our game strategy, then we will be in trouble.”

Perhaps the conditions should be a secondary concern, but as we saw in the U.S.’s match in Natal (and, for that matter, England’s match against Italy), they can be a factor.

[ MORE: Germany’s formation sheds light on Klinsmann’s roots ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Then again, these conditions can impact games in Miami or Central America, too. Heat and humidity are not exclusive to the Amazon.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.