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Done deal: Arsenal signs Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona

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The news became official Thursday evening London time, with Arsenal turning a weeks’ long rumor into fact. Alexis Sánchez, Chile’s best player at the 2014 World Cup, has completed his move from Barcelona, becoming the Gunners’ second major grab from La Liga in as many summers.

Last year, Arsenal made a major splash by picking up German midfielder Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. Though Sánchez’s fee is as yet undisclosed, its’ likely to end up in the neighborhood of $51.4 million (£30 million), a fee that will prove Arsène Wenger’s 2013 splurge was no isolated incident.

In bringing in the 25-year-old forward, the Arsenal boss has found some much-needed help for forward Olivier Giroud up top.

“Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks,” Wenger said, via the club’s website. “He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad.”

Sánchez, who scored twice in four games for Chile at Brazil 2014, is coming off the best of his three seasons in Barcelona, scoring 19 goals in 34 league games as the Blaugrana finished second in La Liga. He leaves Catalonia with 47 goals in 141 all-competition appearances since leaving Udinese in 2011.

“I’m so happy to be joining Arsenal,” Sánchez said, “a club which has a great manager, a fantastic squad of players, huge support around the world and a great stadium in London. I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates and to be playing for Arsenal in the Premier League and Champions League.”

With his arrival, Sánchez provides some desperately needed depth for a team that was overly dependent on Giroud. While the Frenchman led the team with 16 league goals, he was one of only two players to reach double-digits for the club. The only other natural center forward to score during the Premier League season was Nicklas Bendtner, whose nine appearances (one start) produced only two goals.

At times relying on Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott at the top of their 4-2-3-1, Arsenal’s lack of depth at striker was a factor as the team receded from the 2013-14 title race. Only 5’7”, Sánchez has evolved from the wide-to-in threat he posed at Udinese, proving capable of playing along the defense as well as from the flank.

At Arsenal, he’ll likely be asked to do both. When Giroud doesn’t get the call up top, Sánchez will be Wenger’s obvious choice to start. However, when match ups call for more typical number nine to lead the Gunners’ attack, Sánchez will be capable of excelling elsewhere in Arsenal’s starting XI.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’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 C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.