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Carrasco’s late equalizer earns Belgium 1-1 draw with Dutch

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AMSTERDAM (AP) Yannick Carrasco scored a late equalizer and teammate Romelu Lukaku squandered two good chances as Belgium came from behind to draw 1-1 with the Netherlands in the 126th Low Countries derby on Wednesday.

Ajax captain Davy Klaassen had given the Netherlands the lead from the penalty spot in the 38th minute as the neighbors played a friendly to prepare for their World Cup qualifiers on Sunday.

[ MORE: New home for USMNT’s Boyd? ]

Belgium had been looking forward to the return from a string of injuries of captain Vincent Kompany, but the Manchester City defender pulled out of the starting lineup just before kickoff as a precaution.

The Netherlands was missing an injury-prone captain of its own, but Arjen Robben is fit and expected to play Sunday for his first international in a year when the Dutch take on Luxembourg in Group A.

It was unclear whether Kompany would be back for Sunday’s game against Estonia in Brussels. Belgium hasn’t missed Kompany yet in its Group H qualifying campaign, scoring 13 goals and conceding none as it won its first three matches.

But his absence was felt as the Netherlands had the best of a scrappy first half, with Vincent Janssen twice getting in behind the Belgium defense – only to run into goalkeeper Simon Mignolet both times.

[ MORE: Griezmann to Man Utd? ]

The two collisions took their toll on the unproductive Spurs striker and he was substituted in the 25th minute, pointing to his head as he left the pitch.

The Netherlands finally broke through when a long ball by Georginio Wijnaldum found Jeremain Lens. Jan Vertonghen, playing at the Amsterdam Arena for the first time since leaving Ajax for Spurs in 2012, grabbed Lens’ shirt to bring him down.

Klaassen hammered the resulting penalty high into the roof of the net.

Belgium started without a classic deep center forward, instead playing with a mobile front three of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Carrasco. Their speed and positional switches caused problems for the Dutch defense, but they did not carve out any clear-cut chances before the break.

“We were well organized and didn’t give much away,” Netherlands captain Wesley Sneijder said. “But we didn’t create much, either.”

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez replaced Mertens with Lukaku in the 63rd and the powerful striker twice came close to levelling the scores 15 minutes later, first seeing a shot deflected wide and seconds later miscuing an effort from close range when he should have scored.

Instead it was Carrasco who finally made Belgium’s pressure pay, with his shot deflecting off defender Joel Veltman and looping over Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal in the 82nd minute.

As Belgium poured forward looking for the winner, Lukako squandered another close-range chance and Stekelenburg saved well from Hazard to ensure the scores stayed level.

“The team played a good match,” Carrasco said. “The second half we were going for goal.”

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.