Winter transfer window grades: How each club fared in its January deals

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With the January window now closed, it’s time to take an overall look at each club’s deals and give them a general grade. Some teams are on their way up, some were disappointing, but overall it was a very quiet January by recent standards. Let’s go through the list.

Arsenal: B

The Gunners filled their biggest need at central defender, which was priority number 1. That alone gets them a passing grade, although Gabriel Paulista is admittedly a relatively unknown commodity. They also got Joel Campbell out on loan, which is good for his playing time. As much as fans will hate it, loaning out Lukas Podolski and beginning his permanent move out of London was solid business, as he was playing little and the club was wasting wages on him. They get a solid B, with the Paulista deal subject to push that up or down depending on how good he ends up being.

Aston Villa: C-

The Claret & Blue have the worst goalscoring record in Premier League history to this point, and their answer appears to be Scott Sinclair. Ouch. With no creativity to feed Christian Benteke, Sinclair is hopefully going to jumpstart this attack, but Villa looked as lost as ever against Arsenal in their most recent trip out. Also, a club that has 11 goals in 23 games offloaded Darren Bent, which tells you all you need to know about Darren Bent. Overall, Villa failed to make any sort of splash, and if their solid defense begins to wear down, they could be headed down a very dark road.

Burnley: D

A team in 17th did nothing but loan a 22-year-old defender. It seems this small-market club is resigned to its fate at the end of the season, and will only escape relegation with some miracle coaching and a lot of luck. Michael Keane is a highly-rated defender, but the team has won three of 12 since he joined. It’s not helping.

Chelsea: A-

Chelsea managed to use dark magic once again, turning an unused Andre Schurrle and essentially swap him for Juan Cuadrado plus around $8 million in profit. Cuadrado won’t start over Willian or Hazard, but he’ll provide a more than competent third option. Following a wildly successful summer, the Blues did about as well as they could in a January where the available player pool was slim at best. They still have depth issues at defensive midfielder, and any time Matic misses would mean Chelsea fans will have to suffer through more John Obi Mikel, but otherwise one of the strongest teams in Europe remained that way, and made a profit in the process. Oh, and the last-minute completion of a permanent move out for Ryan Bertrand means they profited in the window. Unreal.

Crystal Palace: B-

Yaya Sanogo is a solid addition, with Alan Pardew finding a good goalscoring option that may not be ready for the big stage of Arsenal just yet. The deal for Jordan Mutch is heavily underrated, as the winger proved one of the few bright spots for Cardiff City last year, and Palace have benefited from his knee injury ruining his move to QPR. Pardew also shored up his defense with Senegalese international Pape Souare, and added Bolton’s Lee Chung-Young. Not all these deals will end up a positive, but they have the taste of good business.

Everton: C-

While Everton didn’t do anything damaging to the club by being inactive, they certainly didn’t help. Aaron Lennon is a solid addition, but not a player who can change their fortunes on his own. Samuel Eto’o was a bust, and has left. This was a team that needed a bit of a spark and didn’t get it.

Hull City: D+

See above, except while Everton isn’t in danger of relegation, Hull City is. Steve Bruce got no reinforcements, and instead offloaded Tom Ince on loan. They tried to snatch Lennon, but he went to the Toffees instead. If anyone can avoid relegation, Steve Bruce can, but there was no help in January. They announced the signing of Dame N’Doye from Lokomotiv Moscow, who has four goals in 14 Russian League appearances this year, a very “meh” number for a 29-year-old, but at least he’s good in the air.

source: Getty Images
Andrej Kramaric was a big risk but also a big coup for Leicester City. Their relegation hopes likely rely on it.

Leicester City: B+

Andrej Kramaric is a hell of a signing, and a shocking snatch for Leicester, who beat out the likes of Chelsea for the club-record signing. Leicester went for quality over quantity, and made it happen.

It’s always risky to bring an inexperienced player in for a relegation battle, but if Kramaric starts firing goals, the rest will follow. They also got the experience in Mark Schwarzer from Chelsea, but his best years are well behind him and he looked slow in his first Leicester appearance, a 3-1 defeat.

Liverpool: C-

The Reds didn’t exactly need anyone to come in, with Brendan Rodgers more focused on figuring out who makes up his best 11 from the players they already have. Things seem to be slowly but surely trending back upwards, but there weren’t too many available players who would have made this team much better. Rodgers is starting to get more from Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, and that will bring goals. That being said, a new piece in either defense or midfielder wouldn’t have hurt, and with no winter additions it’s hard not to be a little frustrated they didn’t look to improve. We’ll see who he decides to add from the academy, as he’s said he will tap into the youth system for reinforcements.

Manchester City: B

Wilfried Bony is a fantastic signing, as it’s hard to criticize the addition of Europe’s leading goalscorer in the 2014 calendar year. Manuel Pellegrini is seeing slow improvement from his defense, and therefore his team’s biggest weakness is starting to close the hole on its own. With the striker position looking thin due to injuries, the addition of Bony is a masterstroke, albeit an expensive one. He may not play every game, but he’s a great addition to the squad. It helps that he’s having a stellar AFCON tournament. City looks poised to duke it out with Chelsea all the way to the finish line.

They also offloaded Scott Sinclair, who was doing nothing but eating wages, although the freezing out and subsequent departure of Matija Nastasic is a bit of a head-scratcher, as he looked to be a top up-and-coming young defender.

Manchester United: B

This team didn’t need much. Louis van Gaal has a long-term project on his hands, not a quick fix, and January isn’t the place to find too many long-term projects. He will ultimately have to overhaul the defense, but right now there weren’t very many clear upgrades. The Victor Valdes signing is a very high-quality get, and a stellar backup to David de Gea, who’s in world-class form. Van Gaal has the club in a much higher position than many predicted at the start of the season, and there’s not much of a reason to disturb that. Oh, and they signed a Bolton defender on loan, perfectly summing up this January window of blah.

Newcastle United: F

Oh boy. Mike Ashley went full crazy. This is a team that could be falling fast, and he did nothing about it. In fact, they managed to antagonize Davide Santon on his way out, and still have to deal with Hatem Ben Arfa after his disaster story continued. But don’t worry, Ashley made a cool $8 million for selling Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, so his pockets are doing alright.

QPR: C

The Rangers are still fighting the dirty relegation fight at the bottom of the table, but have something to show for January. Mauro Zarate for some reason was left out in the cold at West Ham, and QPR benefited. They probably need more than just him, but it’s a good pickup. The Jordan Mutch departure is an unfortunate but understandable one given the injury history.

source: Getty Images
Eljero Elia has looked like a solid buy for Southampton, a team who didn’t need much.

Southampton: B

Why fix what ain’t broke? Southampton is having a stellar season, and they didn’t attempt to bungle that with a million signings. They got Eljero Elia who looks a solid addition – if not a spectacular one – so far, and while the Jack Cork sale is somewhat unfortunate, he was out of contract at the end of the year and did well to get some money for his talent.

I like that the club didn’t look to build on their success this year with a crazy window, and instead decided to keep the mojo in house.

Stoke City: C

Not much to see here. They essentially swapped Robert Huth for Phillip Wollscheid, a somewhat like-for-like swap that may have some upside to it. Stoke is headed for another mid-table finish, carry on.

Sunderland: B+

Adding Jermain Defoe has so far been a very bright move. While it’s the club’s only signing, it will likely be enough to at least hold them at 14th position and ensure they remain in the league. Jozy Altidore had to go, and Defoe at first glance appears to be a huge upgrade. Solid January find.

Swansea City: C-

This has nothing to do with the sale of Wilfried Bony. They were never going to be able to keep a player of his talent forever. In fact, his sale probably netted them a great deal of flexibility in the future. However, they proceeded to dump $7.5 million of it onto Kyle Naughton, which is a questionable decision at best. Jack Cork is a bright signing, with Swansea benefiting from Southampton’s failure to meet his demands. The real judgement of this window will come this summer when we see what they do with the Bony money. Early rumors have them using it to upgrade their stadium. Might want to replace his goals first…

Tottenham Hotspur: B-

They got $7.5 million for Kyle Naughton. That’s a win all by itself. Dele Alli is 18 and went right back to MK Dons on loan, so it’s a non-factor this season, but could be a boost for the future. There’s no real need to add anyone this winter, with Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane bursting into amazing form. They also kept Emmanuel Adebayor from going to West Ham, which is good for depth, although Adebayor will likely start whining about playing time soon. They need to improve the defense this summer, but there was little to do there this month.

West Brom: B-

Spending $7.5 million on a Championship player will always come with question marks, but Callum McManaman should be a good attacking option next to Saido Berahino. We’ll see how he fits into Pulis-ball. It’s a bit surprising the new manager didn’t do his usual spending spree, but maybe he’s got something up his sleeve…oh look, he does! Signing Darren Fletcher at the stroke of the deadline is a great move and will certainly help the creativity. The 31-year-old has something left to offer, if not at Manchester United. Still, Alan Pardew beat out Pulis for most exciting first transfer window at a new club.

West Ham: C-

They made little noise, and failed to convince Daniel Levy to send Emmanuel Adebayor their way, which would have been a very big get. The Hammers will be fine with Andy Carroll looking solid up front, but they’re slipping a bit recently in the table and could have used some new blood. It’s unclear how much 21-year-old Canadian Doneil Henry will make noise immediately, but he’s one to keep in mind for the future.

USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia

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The USMNT face Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain in their final warm-up game before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in November and there are plenty of question marks around their best starting lineup.

Especially at center back and up front.

[ MORE: Player ratings | What we learned | Reaction ]

Following the shocking defeat to Japan (where a 2-0 scoreline in Japan’s favor heavily flattered the USMNT), Gregg Berhalter has plenty to think about as he juggles his roster around ahead of this final audition.

Yes, this final camp before the World Cup has seen the USMNT without six key players (Weah, Steffen, A. Robinson, Carter-Vickers, Richards and Musah) but the most concerning thing is that nobody took the opportunity given to them against Japan. Will anybody step up against Saudi Arabia and cement their spot in the roster, or even the starting lineup?

Below is our projected lineup, plus analysis on what Berhalter should do for the final 90 minutes he has with the team before they kick off their World Cup campaign against Wales on Nov. 21 in Qatar.


USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia (4-3-3)

—– Horvath —–

— Scally — Zimmerman — Palmer-Brown — Dest —

—- Adams —- McKennie —-

—- Reyna —-

— Aaronson — Pepi — Pulisic —


What should Berhalter do?

It’s clear that Gregg Berhalter will make plenty of changes as eight players (six outfield, two goalkeepers) didn’t have any minutes against Japan last time out. That said, he needs key players on this team to find some rhythm playing together less than two months before the World Cup kicks off. This starting lineup should be a mixture between giving players a final chance to impress and letting star players alongside each other as they look to build momentum ahead of the World Cup.

Goalkeepers

Matt Turner proved he’s the undisputed No. 1 as he excelled against Japan (perhaps the only player to leave that game with any credit) and although Zack Steffen is better with the ball at his feet, Turner appears to have the upper-hand. That leaves Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson to battle it out for the final goalkeeping spot on the roster. Expect them both to get a chance in this game.

Defenders

In defense, Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie should both get plenty of minutes to make their final claim for a spot on the roster but it may be a surprise to see them line up together. Perhaps they will have 45 minutes each alongside Zimmerman (a guaranteed starter at CB) to see who fares better as a duo?

At full back Joe Scally should get a run out at right back, while Sergino Dest will likely show off his versatility and play left back. The likes of Dest, and others, need the game time given they’re on the fringes of their starting lineup for their club teams. We now what DeAndre Yedlin can do and he is a leader on this team who is going to Qatar no matter what.

Midfielders

In midfield, I’d start Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie together again. They looked awful against Japan which was very surprising. This duo have to get some kind of partnership going and 60 minutes together here could see things click back into place for them. We know what Luca de la Torre and Kellyn Acosta offer, while Johnny Cardoso and Malik Tillman could both get another, longer, chance to push for a spot on the roster.

Forwards

Gio Reyna playing in a central role as a No. 10 should be something Berhalter prioritizes, while Christian Pulisic is fit and will start (according to Berhalter) so he should start on the left and Brenden Aaronson should start on the right. Getting Aaronson, Reyna and Pulisic used to playing together and interchanging is something that has to be done.

Up top, Berhalter has confirmed that Ricardo Pepi will get his chance to start and his physicality and speed should combine very well with the trio underneath him. Expect Josh Sargent to get a good chunk of minutes too, while Jesus Ferreira is the other option up top but maybe we could see Pulisic or Reyna playing up there as a false nine at some point of the game?

UEFA Nations League: Schedule, how to watch, stream, TV, standings

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UEFA Nations League champions France will not go back-to-back, and Portugal is behind Spain in its bid to return to the throne room, highlighting the odds that a new Nations League winner will be crowned at the end of third edition of the tournament.

England and Wales are also coming to terms with the concept of relegation to UEFA Nations League B after underwhelming campaigns. Hungary look set to reach the semifinal round, which is a huge surprise as they faced Germany, England and Italy in A3.

France lost to Denmark and just remained in League A as Austria were relegated, with Croatia pipping the Danes to a place in the semifinal round.

[ MORE: European Nations League hub — Scores, stats ]

Group A4 is the opposite sort of fight, Belgium and the Netherlands have both played very well but the Dutch triumphed down the stretch (thanks to a 1-0 win as Virgil van Dijk scored the lone goal in Amsterdam) to advance to the semifinal round.

UEFA Nations Leagues B, C, and D also have drama built into the final days as Ukraine and Scotland are jockeying for promotion in B1; Russia’s punishment has left B2 promotion open to Israel, Iceland, and Albania. B4 sees Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard, and Norway fighting to join League A for the next cycle.

There’s also drama as Kazakhstan and Georgia currently lead their League C groups, with Latvia and Estonia in League D’s best spots.


UEFA Nations League live: How to watch, stream links

When: June 1, 2022 – March 26, 2024
How to watch: Fox Sports Live, Fubo TV


UEFA Nations League A, Group 1

Croatia– 4-1-1, 13 pts [ADVANCED]
Denmark — 4-0-2, 12 pts
France — 1-2-3, 5 pts
Austria — 1-1-4, 4 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
France 2-0 Austria
Croatia 2-1 Denmark

Sunday
Denmark 2-0 France
Austria 1-3 Croatia

UEFA Nations League A, Group 2

Portugal — 3-1-1, 10 pts
Spain — 2-2-0, 8 pts
Switzerland — 2-0-3, 6 pts
Czech Republic — 1-1-3, 4 pts

Next fixtures

Saturday
Czech Republic 0-4 Portugal
Spain 1-2 Switzerland

Tuesday
Portugal vs Spain
Switzerland vs Czech Republic

UEFA Nations League A, Group 3

Hungary — 3-1-1, 10 pts
Italy — 2-2-1, 8 pts
Germany — 1-3-1, 6 pts
England — 0-2-3, 2 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Friday
Italy 1-0 England
Germany 0-1 Hungary

Monday
England vs Germany
Hungary vs Italy

UEFA Nations League A, Group 4

Netherlands — 5-1-0, 16 pts [ADVANCED]
Belgium — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Poland — 2-1-3, 7 pts
Wales — 0-1-5, 1 pt [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
Poland 0-2 Netherlands
Belgium 2-1 Wales

Sunday
Netherlands 1-0 Belgium
Wales 0-1 Poland

Saudi Arabia vs USMNT: How to watch, live stream link, TV, team news

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Fair or not, Tuesday’s edition of Saudi Arabia vs USMNT is going to be scrutinized as much as any friendly in recent United States men’s national team history.

Gregg Berhalter’s men looked like sloppy at best and rudderless at worst in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan in Dusseldorf and that’s incredibly alarming with the Yanks on the precipice of their World Cup return, a time when teams are usually questioning the fine-tuning rather than, well, a whooooooooole lot.

Let’s be very fair to Berhalter, who has a young team and has overseen some memorable and downright awesome triumphs in CONCACAF: There are injuries right now — Christian Pulisic was rested with a knock on Friday — and the coach does not have access to Timothy Weah, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Chris Richards.

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

But his judgment is being questioned with Fulham captain Tim Ream, Union Berlin center forward Jordan Pefok, and Benfica back John Brooks healthy and ready to contribute but sitting at home. Berhalter has questioned their fits in the system and also said something nebulous about the team not expressing its “personality” versus Japan and that sounds pretty bad when the system looks awful.

That’s why a big performance against a solid and stubborn Saudi Arabia, a team in theory selected for its similarities to World Cup group stage foe Iran, can really provide a ubiquitous lift to spirits in the world of U.S. Soccer. And while Berhalter might claim that lift is only needed amongst the fans, he’d be kidding himself.

Remember: While the entirety of U.S. Soccer wants the side to go deep in Qatar, this is supposed to be setting the stage for a real challenge for the trophy on home soil in 4.5 years. At the moment, that sounds silly. A year-and-a-half ago, late in the night against Mexico, it did not. Fixing that would be a good first step, and Tuesday’s the next chance.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live, updates and start time

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick off time: 2pm ET
Where: Estadio Nuevo Condomina, Murcia, Spain
How to watch: FS1, UnimasTUDN


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT head-to-head record

This will be the seventh meeting between the Yanks and Green Falcons, but the first since 1999 against a national team representing political issues for the United States. Saudi Arabia won two of the first four but the Yanks claimed home soil wins in a 1995 friendly and the 1999 Confederations Cup. All of the on-field mentions above mean absolutely nothing for Tuesday but they are fun to note on a pre-match preview (Upside-down smile face emoji).


The lowdown on Saudi Arabia

This is a very Saudi Arabia experienced side, one that went 13W-4D-1L in World Cup qualifying and have experience in a lot of 1-0 contests including recent Spain-based friendly losses to Colombia and Venezuela. The team will also feel at home in Murcia, where it played those matches and where it had a scoreless tangle with Ecuador four days prior to this tilt. Ecuador outshot the Saudis 11-5 and had 60 percent of the ball but all that will get you an argument that you deserved better than a solitary point that comes from a real match. If you want to see your Yanks break down a sound team, Tuesday’s a good chance.


USMNT team news, injuries, lineup

This is easily the most interesting lineup in some time for the USMNT after Berhalter gave starting looks to some of his lynchpins and got a mixed bag of results, none of which were exceptional aside from goalkeeper Matt Turner (and even he was not at his best in possession on an admittedly poor pitch in Dusseldorf) and Brenden Aaronson if we’re being judicious in the name of optimism. But really, all of the front three were ghosts. Much of is down to the eight men behind them, though, and forgiving glances can be cast at Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna. Jesus Ferreira is not included after missing a chance that would and could be called a sitter if he didn’t have to jump to head it (We kid, but it’s dark humor).

Aaron Long was very poor and Walker Zimmerman uncharacteristically poor next to him, while youngster Sam Vines had a rough first half before Berhalter adjusted his usage from left back to left wing back with emphasis on the wing part. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are often the heartbeat of this team but both looked a mix of cavalier and junior varsity. That won’t happen often, and very rarely will occur at the same time.

Here’s what to watch from Berhalter’s lineup choices, presuming he doesn’t change his formation.

  • If Matt Turner starts — and then stays healthy and relatively blunder-free at Arsenal — forget about anyone else starting the World Cup opener in Qatar. If it’s Ethan Horvath or presumed No. 3 Sean Johnson, well, anything’s possible.
  • We’ll see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but will it be Luca de la Torre completing the midfield trio? Will Kellyn Acosta or Johnny Cardoso arrive to move McKennie into a different role? Will Malik Tillman get his chance to start? Or will Giovanni Reyna be played in position (please?)?
  • Ricardo Pepi: The way Josh Sargent was plugged into the front three in the second half, it seems like FC Dallas star Ferreira and alum Pepi were meant to trade starts.
  • Christian Pulisic will start on the wing. How does he look, both in form and body language?
  • Sergino Dest and Sam Vines were the fullbacks versus Japan, with Reggie Cannon coming off the bench. Will it be Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin to start? Will Dest swap to left back? Antonee Robinson and Dest are the favorites to start in Qatar, but is the latter’s spot on the right now in question?
  • Much of U.S. Soccer, us included, considered this break to be a bunch of center backs bidding to play next to Walker Zimmerman in Qatar. Will it be Zimmerman plus one on Tuesday or something else?

The Gregg Berhalter era: USMNT boss’ record leading up to World Cup

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United States men’s national team Gregg Berhalter is set to become the 10th man to lead the USMNT into a World Cup when the Yanks take on Wales, England, and Iran for a knockout round spot in this winter’s Qatar-hosted tournament.

It’s a terrific honor and an earned one, as we learned when Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena butchered a tricky but very forgiving route to qualifying out of CONCACAF.

[ MORE: Five questions for the USMNT ]

Rating a USMNT coach is only going to become more difficult in the future given the rocketship-up trajectory of the sport in our country in both investment and development, but also because the Nations League format introduced into Europe and North America limits opportunity for cross-confederation tests.

Berhalter’s USMNT will enter the World Cup having played 56 times across all competitions assuming Tuesday’s Saudi Arabia friendly goes ahead as scheduled in Spain.

Forty-three of those matches will have come against CONCACAF foes. And several of the remaining 13 matches — Ecuador, Chile, Venezuela — came very early in his tenure.

Every one of those non-CONCACAF foes except Qatar, from the 2021 Gold Cup came in friendly competition. A few, like a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, came outside of FIFA’s international window.

This makes it even harder to evaluate Berhalter’s tenure, especially because he’s succeeded in many of the brighest spots. Most notably, Berhalter led the Yanks to one of the most memorable wins in program history when the USMNT outlasted Mexico to win the first CONCACAF Nations League and soon after won the Gold Cup Final over Mexico with an almost totally different team.

And injury woes for Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams mean two of the side’s most important players leave a smaller sample sizes for scouts.

So what do we really know about Berhalter’s USMNT from on the pitch? Unfortunately for those scouting from Wales, England, and Iran… not a terrible amount. But let’s look at a pretty wild cycle.


Gregg Berhalter record as USMNT coach

Overall: 36W-9D-10L — 115 GF, 36 GA — 2.13 ppm
Friendlies: 12W-4D-5L — 43 GF, 17 GA — 1.90 ppm
World Cup qualifiers: 7W-4D-3L — 21 GF, 10 GA — 1.79 ppm
Nations League: 6W-1D-1L — 25 GF, 6 GA —
Gold Cup: 11W-0D-1L — 26 GF, 3 FA — 2.17 ppm (2019, 2021)


Gregg Berhalter record vs CONCACAF

Berhalter’s record against CONCACAF is pretty exceptional, even if it should be somewhat expected for a USMNT (or Mexico) tenure to include gaudy numbers against the confederation.

The Yanks having a winning record against every CONCACAF foe except for Canada, which is .500 at two wins, a draw, and two losses. Along the way, Berhalter’s men have punked essentially every nation that failed to qualify for the final round of World Cup qualifying.

That’s why Berhalter’s overall (all comps) goal differential is an almost silly +79. The USMNT under Berhalter is a combined 9-0 against Grenada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Cuba, Haiti, and Martinique, rolling up 41 goals and allowing — checks proverbial notes — a single goal.

The U.S. has only lost to five CONCACAF rivals and only Mexico and Canada can boast multiple wins against the Americans (Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Panama have also beaten the U.S.).


Gregg Berhalter record vs everyone else

AFC (Asia)

Qatar 1-0 win
Japan 2-0 loss
Saudi Arabia — 2pm ET Tuesday

CONMEBOL (South America)

Uruguay 0-0 draw
Uruguay 1-1 draw
Venezuela 3-0 loss
Chile 1-1 draw
Ecuador 1-0 win

CAF (Africa)

Morocco 3-0 win

UEFA (Europe)

Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 win
Switzerland 2-1 loss
Northern Ireland 2-1 win
Wales 0-0 draw