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Is Tottenham finally ready to earn a Premier League title?


Slowly but surely, Tottenham Hotspur has broken through brick walls in recent seasons.

First, in 2005, they broke into the league’s top seven – a barrier they found impossible to break for 10 years – marking them as regular fixtures in European soccer. Then, after a series of near-misses and bad luck, they busted back into the Champions League for only the second time in the last 54 years.

Now, they have another door to bust down: the Premier League championship. Is it within their reach?

The structure is most certainly there. Consistent growth is always a positive sign, especially in the modern game where meteoric rises are once in a generation and the more stable way to provide future success is a slow build from within. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has struck a delicate balance between planning for the future and building for now.

This year’s squad is deeper than the last, having brought in Vincent Janssen to take the load off Harry Kane‘s shoulders, plus the addition of Victor Wanyama to aid in the defensive midfield with Eric Dier stretched thin last year. Couple those additions with no significant departures, and this group is primed to achieve even more.

[ MORE: Can Leicester City repeat as Premier League champs? ]

In addition, a healthy Moussa Dembele is vital to this squad. The Belgian’s fitness was a constant concern last season, and it’s nearly impossible to argue the squad isn’t better with him on the field. Following an opening day loss to Manchester United, Spurs was undefeated in 28 Premier League matches with Dembele on the field, compared to five losses without him.

However, a few things must go right – as is with any title challenge – for the club to summit the mountain. First, Harry Kane must shake off his miserable Euro 2016 tournament. It’s hard to predict performance in a league season based on a summer international tournament, but it’s a certain yellow flag. More than likely, the 46 league goals Kane has scored over the past two seasons are a better indication of his future production, but if he lets his poor summer form creep into the new club campaign, Tottenham will most certainly falter.

Spurs will also need to recapture last season’s production from the young England duo of Eric Dier and Dele Alli. The two were unplayable at times, with Dier standing guard in front of the defensive line and Alli pushing forward in the trademark Pochettino press. Both were also less than stellar during the disappointing England showing this summer, and the two have significantly less of a sample size to fall back on. Alli in particular has only been a Premier League starter for a single season, and Dier has only been at his defensive midfield position for that same length of time.

[ MORE: Arsene Wenger has just one year left on his contract at Arsenal ]

Preseason hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, but it hasn’t been ugly either. Spurs lost 2-1 to a relatively weak Juventus side in Australia after an insane amount of travel, they failed to score against a full-strength Atletico Madrid squad in a 1-0 loss just three days later, and they torched a miserable-looking Inter squad 6-1.

Should the London club recapture last year’s form and add the new squad depth to it, it’s easy to see this squad challenging for the title. Not only would a Premier League championship secure an achievement Spurs fans have salivated over for years during their slow rise, but it would also finally shake the monkey off their back that has plagued them for 22 long years – the agonizing length of time since Spurs last finished above hated rivals Arsenal.

On This Day: Bornstein becomes national hero – in Honduras

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You know what today is? It’s Jonathan Bornstein day in Honduras.

Ten years ago today at RFK Stadium in our nations capital, a young, hot-shot kid with plenty of hair named Michael Bradley and Bornstein helped the U.S. Men’s National Team come back to draw Costa Rica, 2-2, in World Cup qualifying. In fact, it’s eerie watching Bornstein’s celebration, running to the corner flag and diving headfirst as he’s mobbed moments after by his teammates. It’s a bit similar to what Lanson Donovan did about nine months later.

[READ: USMNT looks to build in match v. Canada]

To add some context, it was the final day of qualifications matches in the Hex. Three days earlier, the U.S. had already secured a place in the World Cup with a wild 3-2 win at Honduras, meaning Los Catrachos needed to win over El Salvador on the final night and hope that the U.S. would keep Costa Rica from winning in the final match.

Who else, but Carlos Pavon gave Honduras a 1-0 win over El Salvador that night. Then, it was Bornsteins goal later that night that put Los Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and left Costa Rica to battle for the shared spot between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

In honor of the big day, hundreds of Honduras fans had been mentioning Bornstein on social media, and the veteran defender – currently of the Chicago Fire – retweeted quite a few of the thankful messages to him. Below, here’s video of the call from Honduras TV, as well as from Ian Darke and the ESPN crew.

Unfortunately for Bornstein, this may be the highlight of his national team career. He did make the 2010 World Cup squad and started twice, including the matches against Algeria and Ghana, but he never truly took the next step in his career to become a star left back.

After a calamitous performance against Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which also Bob Bradley his USMNT job, Bornstein was dropped and hasn’t been seen from again on the national team stage.

However, even though he’s only a club player these days, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Honduras, that’s for sure.

Euro 2020 qualifying: France settles for draw with Turkey

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Euro 2020 qualifying continued on Monday and included a top-of-the-group clash in Group H.

[READ: England rout Bulgaria in game marred by racist chants]

France 1-1 Turkey

France spoiled a chance at home to put one foot in Euro 2020 after conceding late in the match and settling for a draw with Turkey.

Despite playing without a lot of starters – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and Hugo Lloris are all out injured – France still was strong in the first half and peppered Turkey with 12 shots. Goalkeeper Mert Gunok made an outstanding double-save in the first half and Leicester City’s Çağlar Söyüncü did his best to keep Antoine Griezmann in front of him.

In the 72nd minute, Olivier Giroud came on the field as a substitute and four minutes later, he put France in front to the delight of the home crowd at the Stade de France. What else, but a header off a corner. However, the lead didn’t last long. Off a free kick in the 82nd minute, Hakan Calhanoglu’s delivery was nodded home by Kaan Ayhan. The 1-1 draw leaves both France and Turkey tied with 19 points from eight qualifying matches. It also means that Turkey hasn’t lost to France over two games in this qualifying cycle.

Here’s a look at the rest of Monday’s scores:

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifying scores

Group A

Bulgaria 0-6 England

Kosovo 2-0 Montenegro

Group B

Lithuania 1-2 Serbia

Ukraine 2-1 Portugal

Group H

Iceland 2-0 Andorra

Moldova 0-4 Albania

Ronaldo scores 700th goal for club and country

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Cristiano Ronaldo achieved yet another personal milestone in his star-studded career on Monday evening with a simple penalty kick goal.

With his 72nd minute strike, Ronaldo tallied his 700th goal for club and country in his career. It’s an incredible achievement, and one indicative of his incredible goal-scoring exploits and his long career.

Ronaldo was already leading all active players globally in terms of goals scored, so his 700th is only adding to the list. His former club nemesis, Lionel Messi, still sits a reported 28 goals behind him, according to Soccerway. After them, LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest, and he has “only” 542 goals.

The Portuguese icon becomes the sixth male player to score 700 goals in his career. The others include Pele, Romaro, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskás, and Gerd Muller.

Ronaldo made his debut for Sporting Lisbon in the 2002-2003 season as a 17-year-old and quickly was snapped up by Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson, where he transitioned from a tricky winger to a clinical striker who couldn’t stop scoring.

The 34-year-old has scored 40-or-more goals on three occasions in his career and he scored 25-or-more goals in all nine years he was at Real Madrid. For Portugal, he’s now scored an incredible 95 goals in all competitions. He had 15 goals in World Cup qualifying alone for the 2018 campaign.

Watch the video of Ronaldo’s breaking goal below. Unfortunately for him, Portugal fell, 2-1 to Ukraine.

Southgate, England players sound off on racist abuse

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England took care of business in Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria, but the Three Lions had to endure some horrendous racist abuse from the crowd during the game.

The match was paused on two occasions I’m the first half by the match officials after racist chanting could be heard from a section of supporters, and a large group of Bulgarian fans were ejected towards the end of the half. However, racist abuse continued during the match from small pockets of fans in the stadium.

[READ: England v. Bulgaria delayed after racist abuse from stands]

“I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly,” England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV after the match. “We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players, all the way through the first half in particular, and then again at halftime.

”We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

Raheem Sterling, who scored a brace in the win, also sounded off on social media, as did former England and Arsenal star Ian Wright.

Ultimately, UEFA and the match officials followed the protocol, but the sad part about this is that England and the officials had a plan for racist abuse, and it was predictable that it would happen.

In a statement after the game, the FA confirmed they would be asking UEFA to investigate what happened. However, any punishment is too little, too late for the players who endured the abuse.