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Group scenarios: Can Neymar, Brazil keep Rio 2016 dream alive?

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Host nation Brazil, led by Barcelona superstar Neymar, were booed off the pitch once again on Sunday as they drew 0-0 with Iraq and left their Olympic hopes in the balance. 

After two 0-0 ties in their opening two group games, the host nation are on the brink of elimination from the Olympics.

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One of the pre-tournament favorites, Brazil has never won Olympic gold and they aren’t coping with the pressure of being on home soil well. At all.

Ahead of the final round of group games taking place on Wednesday in the men’s competition, we thought it would be a good time to see how things stand.

The top two teams from all four groups make it through to the quarterfinals of the tournament and below we take a look at the current standings, who plays who in the final round of group games and the scenarios which could play out.


Group A 

  1. Denmark – 4 points
  2. Brazil – 2 points
  3. Iraq – 2 points
  4. South Africa – 1 point

Denmark vs  Brazil
South Africa vs. Iraq

Scenarios: If Brazil beat Denmark then they will advance to the quarterfinals. If either Iraq or South Africa win, plus Brazil fail to beat Denmark, then Brazil will be eliminated. If South Africa beat Iraq and Denmark beat Brazil then South Africa will reach the last eight. So, everyone still has a chance to advance but the situation for Brazil is simple: win and you are in.


Group B

  1. Nigeria – 6 points (Advanced)
  2. Colombia – 2 points
  3. Japan – 1 point
  4. Sweden – 1 point

Colombia vs. Nigeria
Sweden vs. Japan

Scenarios: The situation is clear for Nigeria, the Super Eagles are through after two wins from two. Awesome. The rest is, erm, complicated. Colombia know if they beat Nigeria in their final group game then they will also be through to the last eight and if they draw and Sweden vs. Japan ends in a draw then Colombia will go through. Both Sweden and Japan have -1 goal differential, so if either wins and Colombia draws or loses then the winner of Sweden vs. Japan will advance to the last eight. If Colombia loses and Sweden vs. Japan ends in a draw then all three teams will end on 2 points. If that happens and Colombia lose 1-0, then all three teams will be level on goal differential at -1. That means the next tie-breaker, goals scored, will be used. Japan has scored six goals, while Colombia has four and Sweden has scored two going into the final group game. So, the remaining three teams in the group are all alive and fighting for second spot.


Group C

  1. South Korea – 4 points
  2. Mexico – 4 points
  3. Germany – 2 points
  4. Fiji – 0 points (Eliminated)

South Korea vs. Mexico
Fiji vs. Germany

Scenarios: It seems like a straight shootout between Mexico and South Korea for top spot. Both teams have four points and they face each other in their final group game with South Korea having +8 goal differential and Mexico at +4. That means Germany will have to beat already eliminated Fiji heavily and hope that there’s a winner between South Korea and Mexico. If that games does end in a draw and Germany win, as expected, then South Korea, Mexico and Germany will all end up on five points and goal differential will be needed as a tie-breaker. Germany is currently on 0 so they’d need to at least win by five to give themselves a chance of advancing if there’s a winner between South Korea and Mexico. Intriguing.


Group D

  1. Portugal – 6 points (Advanced)
  2. Honduras – 3 points
  3. Argentina – 3 points
  4. Algeria – 0 points (Eliminated)

Argentina vs. Honduras
Algeria vs. Portugal

Scenarios: Portugal is through and Algeria is out so Group D is pretty simple. The winner of Honduras vs. Argentina makes the quarterfinals and if it is a draw, Honduras will go through as their goal differential currently stands at 0, while Argentina is a -1.


How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

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Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.