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Guardiola praises Man City’s possession, KDB in win over Chelsea

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When Pep Guardiola was announced as the incoming manager of Manchester City, pie-in-the-sky expectations were immediately thrust upon the Spaniard, as if he were some kind of miracle worker.

Season no. 1 in the Premier League didn’t go quite as many had hoped, but Guardiola was prepared for some early struggles — perhaps even expecting them. Season no. 2 has started at breakneck speed.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Man City win at Chelsea; Kane gets 2 more ]

There’s no two ways about it: the 2017-18 edition of Man City is already quite special, still with plenty of room to grow, and this season’s title race should be equally special, assuming Manchester United and/or Chelsea and/or Tottenham Hotspur can keep pace with Guardiola’s men.

Speaking in his post-game television interviews following City’s 1-0 win away to Chelsea which puts them back atop the league table, Guardiola held back very little in praising the performance of his entire team, while singling out one very special Belgian playmaker in particular — quotes from the BBC:

“It is important to win and especially with the way we played. In the first half we didn’t find the right position but in the second we were better. A big congratulations for the victory.

“Chelsea want to play and they are so so dangerous in attack but we kept the ball and when they had it we pressed as high as possible.

“We had control and the second half we adjusted our possession and the way we attacked. They could not play and had to do long balls.

Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding, he makes absolutely everything. He is good in small spaces, he is humble and clever. He has speed and fight and can attack through the channel. He can play in four of five positions so we are lucky.”

[ MORE: Conte updates Morata’s injury, bemoans lack of luck ]

As for De Bruyne, he says the entire team is already reaping the rewards of a refocused mentality, courtesy of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager — quotes from the BBC:

“I feel very happy. We produced a good performance. We knew it would be tactically very difficult. They are one of the best teams on the counter attack. The way we played was very positive.

“We had a little bit of a plan not to get caught by Eden and Willian because they are dangerous, that’s why we played like a 3-4-3 and we managed to do it very well.

“The spirit is very good. I think it was after a game in pre-season that Pep said we need to get the mentality to hate to lose. This year we try to do that and win the points in the big games. It can change very quickly but we ha a good spell in September and try to do the same when we come back after the international break.”

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

“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