Everton complete loan deal for Chelsea winger Christian Atsu

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Everton have completed the signing of Ghanian winger Christian Atsu on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

The 22-year-old makes his way to Goodison Park after prolonged negotiations between the two sides. For weeks, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has spoke of his desire to secure the services of a winger, even going so far as to name Atsu as his target. Chelsea, concerned that Atsu would be given sufficient playing time in the Premier League, resisted for some time before assurances from Martinez convinced them of the deal.

“I’m very happy to be joining Everton because it’s a great club, which likes to play football, and it’s a great pleasure to be here,” Atsu told evertontv. “Playing in the Premier League has always been a dream for me and I have achieved that dream.

“This is the biggest level for me to play at. I know that it’s a very competitive league and I believe with hard work we’re going to be successful this season.”

Atsu has been touted as the replacement for Gerard Deulofeu, the Barcelona loanee who starred at Goodison last season. Like the Spanish winger, Atsu is what Martinez calls a “gifted technical footballer” who possesses the right personality and character. “[Atsu] will excite fans because he brings something completely different and a different way of playing to what we’ve got in the squad. He’s a left-footed player who loves taking people on and he’s got a really good understanding of the game for such a young man.”

Although left-footed, Atsu prefers playing as an inverted winger on the right side where he can cut in and look to shoot or take on central defenders. With that current role occupied by Belgian speedster Kevin Mirallas, expect Atsu to impact matches as a late substitute or, potentially, from his secondary position on the left wing.

Having yet to make his Premier League debut, Atsu is a player that Martinez will carefully work in over time, much like he did Deulofeu last term. The Ghanian arrived at Chelsea from FC Porto last summer on a $4 million deal and was immediately loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, where he notched five goals and six assists in 26 Eredivisie matches.

Having already passed his medical and secured a work permit, Atsu will be available for Saturday’s Premier League opener at Leicester City (10:00am ET on NBCSN).

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.