World Cup Today: Only one of 8 teams out of it in Groups E & F

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How’d you like to win your first two matches of World Cup and not be guaranteed a place in the knockout round? It’s extremely unlikely, but that’s the predicament facing France on Wednesday despite outclassing Switzerland and Honduras to open its tournament and boasting a plus-6 goal differential.

Still, the French should be through barring a three-goal stomping from Ecuador coupled with Switzerland running roughshod over Honduras. And with four matches on tap today, we’ll have to shift our focus from Tuesday’s action and controversy, which saw:

Luis Suarez’s third bite take the focus away from Uruguay’s advancement over Italy.

England’s snoozer of a draw against Costa Rica.

Greece playing the snake-in-the-grass to near-perfection in ouster of Ivory Coast

Colombia reinforcing its status as title threats with a 4-1 thumping of Japan

[ MORE: How will U.S. lineup vs. Germany ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

Two more group finales are in store on Wednesday. Let’s take a look at what’s in store:

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MATCH 43: Nigeria vs. Argentina
Location: Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
The Soccerly headline says that Argentina is out to prove they are more than just Lionel Messi, who turned 27 on Tuesday, but they haven’t needed anything additional than Leo so far. Argentina is through and will win the group with a tie or better. Nigeria is also through with a draw.

What they’re saying
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella on Messi: “Whenever there is a player like Messi, there’s a dependence. We are trying to improve but dependence always exists. We have to try to take the pressure off him between all of us because we are a team. But for a great player there is always pressure at a World Cup.”

History
Argentina holds a 4-1-1 advantage, including a 3-for-3 mark at World Cups 2010, 2002 and 1994.

Premier League Players
Nigeria: John Obi MikelVictor Moses (Chelsea); Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)
Argentina: Manchester City has three representatives: Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero.

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source:  MATCH 44: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran
Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
BNH is out, while Iran still advance with a win, a Nigeria loss and a better goal differential (Iran’s is currently -1, Nigeria’s +1). With the two teams having drawn 0-0, there’s also the chance of lots being drawn if the matches both finish 1-0.

What they’re saying
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on the match’s importance: “This is our World Cup final, it’s as simple as that. We didn’t come here to win the trophy. Nobody expected that from Iran, but we raised our expectations and we raised our dreams. We want to play the match with one goal in mind: to fulfil our dream of reaching the last 16.”

History
BNH has not won in five attempts against Iran with at least three goals scored in each match (Iran outscoring them 16-7).

Premier League players
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Asmir Begović (Stoke City); Edin Džeko (Manchester City)

MLS players
Iran: Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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source: AP

MATCH 41: Honduras vs. Switzerland
Location: Arena da Amazônia, Manaus
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Believe it or not, Honduras is not out of this thing yet. It would take a crazy dose of CONCACAF magic, as the Central Americans will need to win and see Ecuador lose to France by margins that erase a goal differential of four. Switzerland needs to win and see Ecuador lose as well, though the erasing of goal differential is easier than Honduras’ task.

What they’re saying
Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka: “We have a better team and more quality than Honduras. And I think we deserve to go through to the Round of 16. We’re utterly determined to make it, and we’ll show it against Honduras.”

History
Met once at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they drew 0-0.

Premier League players
Honduras – Maynor Figueroa (Hull City), Wilson Palacios (Stoke City)
Switzerland – Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa)

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

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 42: Ecuador vs. France
Location: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Time: 4pmn ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Ecuador needs to win and hope Switzerland doesn’t absolutely destroy Honduras in Manaus. France wins the group with a draw, and it would take a grievous and historical loss to eliminate them as well (And what if they had Ribery?!?)

What they’re saying
Ecuador’s Christian Noboa on the match: ““It’s like a final for us and we’re hoping to win it and make our people happy. We can beat France. That’s why we’re here at the World Cup, because every team is capable of beating anyone else. We’ve seen that in the other games, and there isn’t much difference between sides now.

History
The two nations have never met.

Premier League players
Ecuador – Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
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).

MLS players
Ecuador – Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA)

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Watch Live: U.S. starts U-20 World Cup v. Ukraine

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The much-anticipated U-20 World Cup run for the United States begins Friday with a Group D opener versus Ukraine.

[ STREAM: U.S. U-20s v. Ukraine on Telemundo Deportes ]

Tim Weah and Paxton Pomykal lead the way for Tab Ramos’ United States, who will also meet Nigeria and Qatar in the group stage.

Winning the group likely means avoiding heavily-favored France in the knockout rounds until a potential and unprecedented final.

 

Transfer rumor roundup: Dembele to Man Utd, Fraser to Arsenal

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Manchester United will fire off a $45 million opening bid to bring Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Old Trafford.

It seems unlikely that number will do the trick for the Ligue 1 outfit which bought him from Celtic for $25 million last summer.

Prolific in Scotland after making his name at Fulham and letting his contract run out, the 22-year-old scored 15 goals with five assists in his first Ligue 1 season. He also scored three goals between UEFA Champions League qualifying and the tournament itself.

That comes from Sky Sports’ Transfer Centre, which also has the report that United remains interested in Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff — we’ve covered that before — and has cooled on Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton due to a $45 million price tag.

Nathaniel Clyne is a man in demand after his loan stint at Bournemouth furthered his chances of leaving Liverpool.

Sky Sports says the right back’s price tag is around $20 million, and that Napoli, Crystal Palace, and West Ham are all interested in his services.

Clyne had an assist in 13 matches on loan for the Cherries, who are also worried about interest in star playmaker Ryan Fraser.

The diminutive midfielder showed a dynamic connection with Callum Wilson and rang up seven goals and 14 assists at the age of 25.

But Bournemouth is said to want $38 million for its star. Will Arsenal go that high?

Pochettino joke inspires full press release denial from Real Madrid

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Real Madrid might just be pretty soft… off the field.

Easy, Madridistas. We’re simply talking about the strongly-worded condemnation of Mauricio Pochettino‘s Friday comments about Real’s training grounds.

The Tottenham Hotspur boss, seemingly joking, claimed that Real chairman Florentino Perez would not let Spurs stay at their training ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final against Liverpool unless he signed a deal to manage the Madrid club, saying, “I asked Florentino to let us sleep in the sports centre, but he did not want to let us have the facilities.”

From reading the comments, it’d be hard to believe he was being serious (especially with Zinedine Zidane a club legend and squarely in charge). But either the public was legit enraged by Poch’s quip, or Real is very soft. Perez’s club released this strongly worded statement regarding whether it was ever asked to allow Spurs or Liverpool to stay on the club’s grounds. From RealMadrid.com:

Real Madrid CF also wants to emphasize that the accommodation of the finalist teams of the Champions League are assigned by UEFA following criteria of organization and security. And that at no time has our club been requested that these teams could be accommodated in the facilities of Ciudad Real Madrid.

Sometimes it’s better to just stay silent and roll with the punches, Mr. Perez.

PSG boss Tuchel admits Neymar, Mbappe could leave

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Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel hopes to hold onto his two biggest stars, but recognizes that both Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could leave Ligue 1 for the right offer.

Neymar has been in the headlines after his season ended early following a suspension for hitting a fan after PSG lost the French Cup Final. It would be easy to see him leaving PSG, especially with Real Madrid and Manchester United among those expected to spend big this summer.

[ MORE: Bayern confirms Sane pursuit ]

And Mbappe said he was keen on a “new project,” later saying that could be at PSG. And Les Parisiens released a statement saying he was not for sale.

Tuchel admits that hasn’t eased his concerns.

“I was a bit hesitant after what Mbappe said,” Tuchel said.

“As a coach, I do want them to continue, but this is football, we are not naive. Many clubs want to transfer many players. But if you ask me, the manager, yes, I want them here next season. But if not, we will find solutions.”

There are very few clubs on Earth which wouldn’t want either player, but few with the resources to buy and then pay them. And in terms of the Premier League, you’d almost bet on Neymar to have big interest in Manchester United if the Red Devils were in the Champions League.

Do you think either will stay at PSG?

Either player would be huge dominoes in the transfer market, and could trigger the movement of essentially anyone else to Paris: Paul Pogba? Ousmane Dembele? Toni Kroos? Almost anyone would be on the table.