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EURO 2016, Copa America Today: Group favorites in trouble; Semifinalists to be determined

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There are some big names on the mat at EURO 2016, and three of them see big chances to redeem opening day mistakes on Saturday

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Portugal, Austria and Belgium are all winless after one round of matches, and face the prospect of possible elimination at the group stage.

Later, we’ll learn the opponents for the United States and Colombia in the Copa America Centenario semifinals, as Mexico locks horns with Chile and Argentina hopes to roll past Venezuela.

 

[ LIVE: Follow Copa America 2016 ]


Essential reading: What will Jurgen Klinsmann do with Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood suspended for the Copa America Centenario semifinal? … Here’s AP background on the problems plaguing Croatian soccer.

ICYMI: Flares and fan held up Friday’s match between Croatia and the Czech Republic. … Spain breezed past Turkey. … Colombia was clinical in penalties to move past Peru and into the Copa America semis.


EURO 2016, Game 22: Belgium vs. Ireland

When: Saturday, 9 a.m. ET

Where: Allianz Riviera in Nice

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Here we go! Belgium’s opener was a struggle for the favored Red Devils, who were slugged in the stomach by Italy. Now they face a stubborn Republic of Ireland side still ornery from a conceding an own goal in a 1-1 draw with Sweden.


EURO 2016, Game 23: Iceland vs. Hungary

When: Saturday, Noon ET

Where: Stade Velodrome in Marseille

Live updates: NBCSports.com

These two nascent sides, relatively speaking, will have been buoyed by opening day surprises. Hungary beat group favorites Austria, while Iceland managed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo off the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw with Portugal. A win would do a lot for either side, though Hungary might just settle for a draw.


EURO 2016, Game 24: Portugal vs. Austria

When: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET

Where: Parc des Prince in Paris

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Two sides shook by opening day know a bounce back has to come in Paris, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal look to shrug off that shook feeling and scoop up three points against Austria, a side shocked by Hungary on opening day after cruising through qualifying.


SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 14:  Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina dribbles against Bolivia during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group D match at CenturyLink Field on June 14, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Copa America, Game 27: Argentina vs. Venezuela

When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Ten goals from eight scorers is a pretty good record. When Lionel Messi is one of those scorers, life is extra good. That’s what Argentina brings to the field in the quarters, and La Albiceleste will be heavy favorites against a Venezuela side which has managed two goals just twice dating back to last summer’s Copa America.


Copa America, Game 28: Chile vs. Mexico

When: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

Where: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara

Live updates: NBCSports.com

Mexico’s reward for more or less cruising to the Group C title? A match-up with the reigning champions in the quarterfinal. After a slow start, Chile looked clinical in attack during a 4-2 win over Panama which includes braces for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas of 1899 Hoffenheim. Will CONCACAF only have one semifinalist?

Everton adds keeper depth with Lossl

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Everton has added goalkeeping depth beyond Jordan Pickford.

Danish keeper Jonas Lossl will sign a three-year contract with the Toffees on July 1, staying in the Premier League after his release from Huddersfield Town.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup rewind ]

Lossl, 30, was initially on loan to the Terriers from Bundesliga outfit Mainz, but the deal was made permanent before last season.

The Dane had an outstanding loan campaign but wasn’t as strong this season as the Terriers were mowed down by Premier League competition and relegated to the Championship.

He was one of five players released by Huddersfield earlier this month.

Pickford also had a rough season between the sticks for Everton, but played all 38 Premier League matches for the club. Maarten Stekelenburg was his backup.

River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

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There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

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NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.

Wenger hints he may be retired from management

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It’s been a year since Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal departure was announced, and the legendary manager remains on the sidelines.

Whether by his choice or not, Wenger has spent the year away from soccer, instead vacationing and being a studio TV pundit in France. In his latest public comments, Wenger hinted that while he still plans to return to a role in soccer, he likely won’t be a club manager anymore.

“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance,” Wenger told the BBC. Now I’m at a crossroads.”

Per the BBC, Wenger later added: “You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.”

In the weeks and months after Wenger was effectively forced out of Arsenal after 22 seasons, Wenger repeatedly said that he had many offers to return to management, and it was only a matter of time before he’d accept one of these offers. And yet, it’s been a year and Wenger remains on the outside, perhaps a clear sign that today’s soccer has passed him by, and unless he wants to move to the Middle East or another soccer outpost, he won’t be able to get a top job in Western Europe.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Wenger still supports the Gunners and had some thoughts on the team’s season, as well as the club’s run to the Europa League final.

“I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there,” Wenger said. “I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

“I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club.”