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Germany waiting on Boateng’s fitness ahead of Slovakia game

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EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (AP) With fitness worries over central defender Jerome Boateng, Germany coach Joachim Loew gave his players the day off Thursday.

The World Cup champions need to get through four more matches to claim their fourth European Championship title – and first since 1996. It starts with the round of 16 game against Slovakia in Lille on Sunday.

[ MORE: Story of EURO 2016 so far

Boateng is bidding to overcome the calf muscle problem that forced his early substitution in the 1-0 win over Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

“The medical team and Jerome are working hard on it. We’re all very positive about it and hope it works out. We’ll do everything to make sure (he’s fit),” Germany assistant coach Marcus Sorg said Thursday at the team’s tournament base.

[ MORE: Latest EURO 2016 news

Sorg was unable to say for sure whether the 27-year-old defender, arguably Germany’s player of the tournament so far, will be fit by Sunday.

“I’m not a prophet,” Sorg said.

If Boateng doesn’t make it, Benedikt Hoewedes or Shkodran Mustafi will likely partner Mats Hummels in front of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“We have perhaps two of the best three central defenders in the world in Mats and Jerome. But we’ve a lot of trust in the guys behind them, in Beni and Musti,” assistant coach Thomas Schneider said. “We trust the players that come off the bench.”

Slovakia defeated Germany 3-1 in a tournament warm-up game in Augsburg on May 29 thanks to goals from Marek Hamsik, Michal Duris and Juraj Kucka.

However, Germany was missing first team regulars Neuer, Hummels, Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil, and a powerful storm interrupted play for 40 minutes and conditions were difficult on the water-logged field for the second half.

“We can’t take the friendly game as an indicator,” Schneider said. “We know that Slovakia asked a few questions at the time but we were in preparation mode. Now we’re in the knockout rounds. There are different factors at play.”

Slovakia finished third in Group B behind Wales and England, its 2-1 win over Russia in Lille proving crucial to its progression before it sealed the deal in the scoreless draw with England.

“They’re a technical side, very direct and compact, and they’ve shown their defensive side already in the tournament,” Schneider said. “For us it’s a hard task but a task we can manage and one we definitely will.”

Loew, who had earlier said his side knew what to expect against Slovakia, warned against any complacency.

“We want to stay as long as possible in France. The smallest mistakes now decide whether we go home or reach the next round,” said Loew, who gave his players their second day off in the tournament to stay fresh and recover from their travels.

Germany’s team base is about 500 kilometers from Paris and more than 600 from Lille, cities where the side played all its group games.

If Germany defeats Slovakia on its return to Lille, the team will play either Spain or Italy in Bordeaux, where progression would mean a semifinal match in Marseille. The final is back at Stade de France near Paris.

“All the concentration is on the next game and then we’ll see what happens afterward,” Schneider said. “It’s not bad that Italy are playing Spain as one top team will be out. In the end you have to beat every team if you want to be European champion.”

World record-holding manager Gutendorf dies at 93

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The world record holder for most teams managed has died at the age of 93.

Rudi Gutendorf, who managed in the United States with the NASL’s St. Louis Stars (1968), last managed in 2003 when he led the Samoa national team.

[ MORE: Maguire shining for Man Utd ]

Those are two of 55 teams he led onto the pitch, 22 of which were national teams. He led teams from CONCACAF (Trinidad and Tobago), CAF (Ghana), CONMEBOL (Chile), OFC (Fiji), and AFC (Australia).

The German-born Gutendorf did a lot of his club work in Europe, leading clubs as big as Hamburg, Schalke, Real Valladolid, and Hertha Berlin.

Gutendorf managed Rwanda in the wake of the country’s dark civil war. From DW.com:

“Such hate, you cannot believe. I was able to unite these two tribes to play football, and good football,” he said in a 2013 interview of the mixed Rwandan team of Hutu and Tutsi players.

What a fascinating career Gutendorf had, and the stories he’s told.

Man Utd’s Maguire “showed what a man he is” versus Leicester

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Manchester United is still working to find its form as a team, but center back Harry Maguire continued his run of fine performances when the Red Devils beat his former team on Saturday.

United beat Leicester City 1-0 on the day, a Marcus Rashford penalty the difference, but Maguire and fellow new back Aaron Wan-Bissaka were again exceptional.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-0 Leicester City ]

Ashley Young has been through a few iterations of Manchester United, and the long-time club offered up lofty words to credit Maguire’s contributions to the team.

“Again he showed today what a man he is,” Young said. “You know, I think the manager’s said about him, he talks non-stop, he’s a real leader and he can play as well.”

Maguire won five aerial battles and two tackles while completing 83 percent of his passes and managing two shots against his former side (WhoScored). On the season, only Anthony Martial has consistently been more important to the team.

He also did not record a loss of possession, and seemingly was unbothered by plenty of criticism from the traveling fans. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t think it bothers (Maguire) whatsoever,” said Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “You’ve got to be that way and when you play, when you coach, when you manage, we don’t get carried away when we win a game that we maybe didn’t deserve to win, but we don’t get in the dumps when we don’t win.”

Solskjaer also loved Maguire and Victor Lindelof for their performance against pesky Leicester star Jamie Vardy.

“I’ve got loads of admiration for Vardy,” Solskjaer said. “I think he’s my type of centre forward, runs in in behind, harasses and you’ve got to be spot on with the decision-making, when to stay up, when to drop off, and both of them proved their worth today. There were a couple of races and Harry did well.”

Maguire didn’t love being on the other side of Vardy, either.

“It was tough playing against Jamie,” he said. “I’ve played with him for two years and he is a top player who can terrorize defenses when he is on his game. … We knew it was important to get the win, especially after the international break. We have to build on a solid base and we want to keep clean sheets, especially at Old Trafford. We are always going to score goals with the attacking talent we have.”

United hosts Kazakhstan’s Astana on Thursday in the Europa League before visiting West Ham United on Sept. 22.

Watch Live: Bournemouth v. Everton

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin gets the start up top as Everton looks to take down hosts Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Alex Iwobi, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Richarlison join Calvert-Lewin in attack for the Toffees, who can go fourth with a win.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Bournemouth enters the day in 16th, a point ahead of the bottom three, but can rise into the top half with a win. Early season vibes.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Rico, Ake, Cook, Stacey, Solanke, Billing, L. S. Cook, Wilson, King, Wilson. Subs: Boruc, Surman, Lerma, Ibe, Fraser, Simpson, Mepham.

Everton: Pickford, Digne, Mina, Keane, Coleman, Delph, Schneiderlin, Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Walcott, Sidibe, Bernard, Davies, Kean.

USWNT legend O’Reilly scores stunner on night to honor her career

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USWNT hero and North Carolina Courage playmaker Heather O’Reilly gave her special day its just desserts.

The 34-year-old New Jersey native scored a sweet goal late in North Carolina’s 6-1 demolition of Orlando Pride on Saturday night, which just so happened to be the evening chosen to celebrate her 17-year career.

[ MORE: Fan banned from all NWSL games ]

O’Reilly dribbled down the left before cutting to the middle and slashing a shot across the goal and inside the far post.

She has 231 USWNT caps with 47 goals, a Women’s World Cup crown, three Olympic gold medals, three top-flight domestic titles, two Women’s College Cups, and an FA Cup with Arsenal Ladies.

The Courage have four matches left in the regular season and look set to again be the No. 1 seed, so O’Reilly may yet have more memorable moments left in her playing career.