World Cup final Man of the Match rankings

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Germany has won the World Cup in extra time, outlasting Argentina who were up for the challenge but ultimately wasteful.

Lionel Messi wasn’t able to put the cherry on his legacy, but for Germany they put a handfull of near-misses behind them and capped off a two-decade long building process.

For a match that produced few goals, it was still full of individual performances, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.

Much of the action took place in the midfield, and that’s where we concentrate our list. But first, the hero…

5. Mario Götze

Not even born the last time Germany won the World Cup, the 22-year-old came on just as regulation came to a close, and replaced a legend. But it was he who produced the moment of brilliance, and that it was.

Settling Andre Schurrle’s cross with a chest touch and volleying home midair, he produced a moment his country and the world will never forget, and for that it’s impossible to ignore.

Götze is the youngest scorer in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966. Shots of him taking in the moment after the match were chill-inducing.

4. Ezequiel Garay

Argentina’s defense has to get credit in some way, and Garay was the best of the bunch

As the match went on, the Argentinian defense had to do more and more work, and for most of it they were up to the task. Martin Demichelis had himself a great match as well, but as they tired he did too, and was at fault for not tracking Mario Götze on the final blow, Germany’s goal.

Garay completed 35/40 passes including just two giveaways in his own half, and led the match with 11 clearances. He tracked Miroslav Klose very well, and had the most energy of his defense as the match waned on.  The Argentinian defense didn’t concede for nearly 500 minutes before Götze’s winner, and Garay was a leader at the back.

3. Jerome Boateng

From Argentina’s defense now to Germany’s defense, Boateng was a rock.  He often pressed up high to support the midfield, and pumped long balls up forward as well.  Those long balls ended up bringing his passing numbers down, but his marking abilities – even with the high line – were near perfect.

He also completed all six of his attempted tackles, meaning he was incredibly hard to beat on the ball. He won 4/6 duels in the air, and cleared the ball nine times.

His brother is embroiled in controversy with the Ghanan national team, but for Jerome, it’s delight at the end of the 2014 World Cup.

2. Javier Mascherano

Lionel Messi wore the captain’s armband, but it’s clear who ran the midfield: Mascherano. A star performance all tournament, Mascherano was a physical presence that punished Germany every time it tried to enter the middle of the pitch.

He probably should have earned a second yellow card a few times, but let off a couple of times, he rewarded his team.

Messi won the Golden Ball for player of the tournament (more on that ridiculous decision later) but Mascherano was the best player on the Argentinian team.

1. Bastian Schweinsteiger

This is actually a relatively obvious choice.  Punished repeatedly by physical Argentinian play, Schweinsteiger got up and responded every single time. When Sami Khedira went down just minutes before kickoff with an injury, young Christoph Kramer came in.

Schweinsteiger knew he would have to provide the youngster with cover already, but when Kramer himself got his bell rung and replaced by an attacker in Schurrle, it was the 29-year-old who took the middle of the pitch and made it his own.

As Messi felt the need to drop deeper and deeper into the midfield, he found himself smothered by Schweinsteiger, and he was able to distribute the passes as well.  He finished with 94 completed passes in 105 attempts, a 90% completion rate and the most completed passes of anyone on the field.

It’s not the first time Schweinsteiger’s put in a performance like this for either club or country, but he’d been somewhat of a princess this tournament, whining to the referee constantly and shying away from physicality, along with making silly challenges. Not today. He was the Schweinsteiger of old, and ruled the midfield of a World Cup final, and for that is our Man of the Match.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: BATE Borisov pick up win, end early-season drought

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Saturday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Rukh 0-1 BATE Borisov

With an early goal from midfielder Stanislav Dragun, BATE Borisov, Belarus’ most successful team (15 league titles) and a regular face in European competition, earned their first win of the season. Kirill Alshevsky, who took over at the helm prior to the season, had started his spell on a two-game losing streak.

BATE, despite not winning the possession battle decisively, generated twice as many shots on target as the visitors, registering a total of 11 shots throughout 90 minutes at Borisov Arena.

A winner of 13 straight Belarusian Premier League titles – spanning from 2006 to 2018 – pressure began looming over BATE after starting the 2020 campaign with back-to-back lackluster results. BATE, who lost to Arsenal in Europa League’s Round of 32 in April 2019, were outscored 5-2 in the first, two games of the league.

Dinamo Minsk, the second most successful Belarusian side, also picked up their first three points on Friday, following a slower-than-usual start to the season. Meanwhile, defending champion Dinamo Brest fell 2-1 to Slavia-Mozyr, dropping to eighth on the table.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Shakhtyor 0-0 Nerman

Dinamo Brest 1-2 Slavia-Mozyr

NWSL extends league-wide training moratorium through May

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The NWSL is extending its league-wide training moratorium another month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced on Saturday.

All NWSL teams will be unable to partake in team trainings until at least May 5, extending its previous training moratorium that was set to expire on Sunday, April 5. The 2020 season – which was set to start on April 18 – is expected to start by the end of June, according to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

“We’ve been just communicating with our players and we’re targeting for the end of June for our season to start,” Baird told The Equalizer. “I say that with conviction and hope, but … we’re gonna adhere to the public health guidelines that are in place at the time and I don’t think that we can predict what they are. But our strategy is in place.”

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer and United Soccer League extended their training moratorium through April 24 and April 19, respectively.

Report: England manager Gareth Southgate agrees to 30 percent pay cut

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England manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to a 30 percent pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic, our partners at Sky Sports reported on Saturday.

[ MORE: What PL clubs are doing to help during coronavirus ] 

Southgate’s move, which is reportedly expected to be confirmed by the Football Association (FA) next week, comes hours after the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) released a statement on behalf of the Premier League players responding to proposed pay cuts.

A FA spokesperson told Sky Sports the following: “The financial implications of the coronavirus are not yet known however, as a not-for-profit organization, we want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organization and our employees.

“We will make a further announcement on our next steps in due course.”

On Friday, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – and a handful of technical staff personnel – became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. Howe’s “significant, voluntary” pay cuts were done in light of the club furloughing non-playing employees throughout the organization, joining Tottenham, Norwich, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Spanish league and players still far apart on salary cuts

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish league and players are still far apart on the size of the salary cuts they need to take to help reduce the financial impact caused by the coronavirus outbreak, with the footballers saying the organization wants them to carry nearly half the total losses.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players have said they are willing to reduce their salaries, but not as much as the league or the clubs want.

“After analyzing the current circumstances of the sector and given the distance in conversations with the players’ association, it is necessary to adopt measures in view of the serious economic crisis that COVID-19 is causing in the Spanish soccer industry,” the league said in a statement.

It also added that government furloughs are “an exceptional mechanism to avoid and mitigate the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on the sector, and thus guarantee its subsequent recovery.”

According to media reports, the league expects losses of 957 million euros ($1.03 billion) if the season is canceled, with 303 million euros ($327 million) lost if it resumes with games in empty stadiums and 156 million euros ($168 million) of deficits if it continues with fans.

The players said the total cuts in salaries requested by the league would account for 451 million euros ($487 million) if the top flight cannot restart.

The reduction in salaries being discussed reportedly varies depending on the clubs, and also on whether they are playing in the Champions League or the Europa League.

Team captains met with the players’ association late Friday to discuss their options after the league earlier in the day called for all clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs to reduce labor costs while the stoppage of play continued. The furloughs help the clubs and guarantee players their jobs once the crisis is over.

The league said it is responsible for preserving an industry that represents 1.37 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs about 185,000 people.

Atlético Madrid and Barcelona were among the clubs to resort to the furloughs in recent days. Both reached an agreement with players to reduce their salaries by 70 percent, and guaranteed the wages of other employees were unaffected.

There are nearly 125,000 cases of the new coronavirus in Spain, which on Saturday surpassed Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States. The death toll in the nation stands at 11,744.

The government is expected to extend lockdown measures until April 26, likely keeping the Spanish league suspended until then.

The league has said the season won’t resume until authorities deem it safe for everyone’s health. It said it will recommend a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can restart, though it suggested recently the training period may begin with restrictions before the lockdown is removed.

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