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2017 Confederations Cup: Group B preview

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We are just a few days away from the start of the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so it’s time to take a look at the four teams competing in Group B.

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Here’s what you need to know ahead of the tournament kicking off.

[ MORE: Full schedule, stadiums, streams 


Group B

Cameroon
How they qualified: By winning the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, beating Egypt 2-1 in the final.
FIFA ranking: 32
Star player: Vincent Aboubakar – Besiktas striker scored the winner in the AFCON final and has 16 goals in 56 games. Bags of pace and experience.
One to watch: Fabrice Ondoa – Goalkeeper is just 21 years old but already has 31 caps to his name. A real star for the future.
Manager: Hugo Broos – Experienced Belgian manager who led the Indomitable Lions to success at AFCON 2017.
Chance of winning: 30% – They will do well to get out of this group but if they do they can keep things tight and cause a few upsets. Darkhorse.

Chile
How they qualified: Winning 2015 Copa American on home soil by beating Argentina on penalty kicks in Santiago. Adding the Copa America Centenario for good measure  in 2016 too.
FIFA ranking: 4
Star player: Alexis Sanchez – One of the top forwards in the world right now, scored 24 goals and added 10 assists in the PL for Arsenal. A wanted man who will put on a show to drive up his wages and transfer fee. Just watch.
One to watch: Not exactly an up and coming star, but Marcelo Diaz is so often overlooked while Sanchez, Vidal, Bravo and Medel steal the limelight. Diaz holds everything together.
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi – Former Spanish international has had ups and downs but his team are dynamic and experienced. If they qualify for the World Cup next summer (slight qualifying struggles continue) they may be among the favorites.
Chance of winning: 60% – Clear favorites for this tournament after Germany sent a young, inexperienced squad.

Australia
How they qualified: Winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, beating South Korea 2-1 in extra time in 2015.
FIFA ranking: 48
Star player: Tim Cahill – Okay, he’s 37 years old but Cahill still comes up with the goods when the Socceroos need him. 48 goals in 96 games.
One to watch: Aaron Mooy – An absolute beast in Huddersfield’s promotion push. Man City man will likely have plenty of loan offers in the PL this summer. Energetic and creative midfielder.
Manager: Angelos Postecoglou – In charge of Australia for almost four years, Postecoglou has built a solid core which has taken the AFC by storm.
Chance of winning: 10% – Will struggle to progress from the group.

Germany
How they qualified: By winning the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA ranking: 3
Star player: Julian Draxler – Named captain of this young German squad, the PSG attacker will be the go-to guy for Die Mannschaft.
One to watch: Sandro Wagner – Three goals in two games for Germany say it all. Wagner is looking to continue his fine season after helping Hoffenheim finish fourth in the Bundesliga.
Manager: Joachim Low – A really intriguing squad selection from Low who has left Ozil, Kroos, Muller, Neuer, Hummels, Boateng and many more experienced players at home. Time to see if his next crop of youngster have what it takes.
Chance of winning: 50% – Will progress from the group and this young German team will gain valuable experience from a big clash with Portugal or Mexico in the semifinals.


Game schedule
June 18: Cameroon vs. Chile – 2 p.m. ET – Moscow
June 19: Australia vs. Germany – 11 a.m. ET – Sochi
June 22: Cameroon vs. Australia – 11 a.m. ET – Saint Petersburg
June 22: Germany vs. Chile – 2 p.m. ET – Kazan
June 25: Chile vs. Australia – 11 a.m. ET – Moscow
June 25: Germany vs. Cameroon – 11 a.m. ET – Sochi


Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Guardiola: ‘We will come back stronger, kinder … and a bit fatter’

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Through all of the innumerable challenges and tragedies the world is currently facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is doing his best to not only help the fight back in his native Spain, but also give everyone a chance to smile and laugh at their own expense.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Guardiola, who last week donated $1.1 million to fight the virus in Catalonia, released a video message of encouragement and hope on Monday — encouraging everyone to stay inside, and hopeful of returning to a sense of normalcy in short order:

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

“You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”

Transfer rumor roundup: Sancho to Man Utd; Madrid’s Haaland backup plan

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A roundup of all of Monday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Jadon Sancho is a virtual lock to leave Borussia Dortmund and return to the PL this summer, and the 20-year-old winger will almost certainly command a transfer fee of more than $150 million just three years after signing from Manchester City for just $10 million. Today, it’s Manchester United who are rumored as frontrunners for Sancho’s services, based upon reports that Sancho has “unofficially confirmed” he will choose to join Man United when the transfer window opens.


Updating a transfer rumor from last week, Real Madrid are still very much in on another Dortmund starlet, Erling Haaland, but that doesn’t mean they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket. Los Blancos are reportedly eyeing Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former Dortmund man himself, as a backup option should Haaland remain at Dortmund or land elsewhere this summer. Aubameyang, who’ll turn 31 this summer, isn’t likely to move for less than $60 million, which could prove a stumbling block.


If the rumors are to be believed, this summer will be a costly one for Man United, who are also interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez. The price tag on the 25-year-old? Close to $170 million. It would seem unlikely that United could afford Niguez (at that price) without getting $100 million (at least) for Paul Pogba.


Another current Arsenal (and former Dortmund) player, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, hopes to turn his loan to Roma into a permanent move this summer. Arsenal are expected to ask $22 for the 31-year-old, but the Serie A side is hoping to pay closer to $12 million instead.