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Leverkusen midfielder Calhanoglu forgoing salary during ban

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LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu will forgo his salary and bonuses for the duration of his four-month FIFA suspension for breach of contract.

“Bayer had nothing to do with the events at the time. But the club is hit hard by the penalty in a sporting and financial way. That’s why it’s evident to me not to harm the club any further,” Calhanoglu said in a Leverkusen statement Tuesday.

The 22-year-old Turkey international was a youth player at Karlsruhe when he was paid 100,000 euros after agreeing to sign for Turkish club Trabzonspor. But he extended his contract with Karlsruhe in 2011 and went on to join Hamburger SV in 2013. He switched to Leverkusen in 2014.

[ MORE: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Calhanoglu’s appeal against the FIFA ban was denied last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled Calhanoglu must also pay 100,000 euros ($108,000) in compensation to Trabzonspor.

Leverkusen has criticized the timing of the ban, which means Calhanoglu will miss the club’s Champions League matches against Atletico Madrid and the rest of the Bundesliga season.

“Although Bayer Leverkusen had nothing to do with the events in 2011, we are now being heavily punished. Now we’re missing a very important player during a decisive part of the season,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said.

The club said Calhanoglu would continue to train with the team, that “he will support his teammates as a fully fledged team member to the best of his ability even without competitive games,” and that it will help Calhanoglu maintain his athletic performance.

Calhanoglu is also suspended for Turkey’s World Cup qualifying match at home against Finland on March 24.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE