Game on: Netherlands and Mexico meet in Round of 16 clash

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Yesterday’s first match stretched past 120 minutes, with Brazil finally eliminating Chile 3-2 on penalties. Will we be so lucky to experience similar thrills today?

There’s certainly potential. Both Mexico and Netherlands have shown talent at both ends of the pitch, but could the two balance each other out? After all, Holland scored the most goals in the group stages, with ten. But Mexico only conceded once, in their last game against Croatia (and they were already up by three). Seems like the perfect conditions for extra time.

[ MORE: Netherlands attempt a draw, beat Chile instead | Mexico thrash Croatia, 3-1 ]

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LINEUPS

Netherlands: Cillessen; De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind; Kuyt, Verhaegh, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder; Van Persie, Robben

Mexico: Ochoa; Rodriguez, Salcido, Marquez, Aguilar, Layun; Herrera, Moreno, Guardado, Dos Santos; Peralta

Talking points

Will Mexico be able to make it past the Round of 16? 
In 1986, when the tournament was held in Mexico, El Tri made it through to the last eight. Then Mexico were banned from the 1990 World Cup, as they had used overage players in the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship. Since their return in 1994, Mexico has made it to the Round of 16 in every tournament. But for the past five World Cups, they’ve failed to progress beyond.

Is this their year? Can a patient Mexico side find Holland’s weakness, making it through to the next round?

Do Netherlands have a weakness?
Going into the World Cup, many thought Holland would be hindered by a lack of experience in many positions, but most importantly, in defense. When your most well-known defender captained Aston Villa through two relegation battles, well, it stands to reason you might have some concerns. But the Dutch youngsters are doing more than fine thus far, with many being linked to moves away from the Eredivisie.

However, they’re not perfect. Stefan de Vrji’s performance against Australia showed that he can be beaten. And while Dirk Kuyt did well to step in as a makeshift left-back in absence of Bruno Martins Indi – a role he’s reprising today – Mexico’s wide men may well be able to take advantage of the 33-year-old’s tired legs by the end of the match.

Expectation
That Netherlands goes through to the quarter-finals. Mexico’s done well thus far, of course, but who would ever be so bold as to expect a CONCACAF side to prevail against a European team? That sort of thing never happens.

One blogger’s prediction
Working off my 0% record here, I’m going to go ahead and say Mexico take this one. Because someday, someday, I’m going to be right.

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.