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UEFA wrap: Germany, England qualify for the World Cup

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Northern Ireland 1-3 Germany

Not that it was ever in doubt, but Germany will officially have the opportunity to defend its crown as they qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland.

Sebastian Rudy scored an absolute howitzer from extremely far out just two minutes into the game, and that set the tone as the Germans controlled 74% of the possession to ease their way through. Sandro Wagner struck in the 21st minute and young Josh Kimmich finished things off for the Germans with four minutes left in regulation, while Northern Ireland grabbed a consolation in stoppage time through Charlton striker Josh Magennis.

Germany tops Group C by eight points with still one match remaining, while Northern Ireland has secured the second spot, leaving them likely to make the playoff round on 13 points.

England 1-0 Slovakia

Harry Kane continued his blistering form, smashing England into the 2017 World Cup with one swift boot four minutes into stoppage time to give his country a thrilling 1-0 victory at home. Kyle Walker stole the ball with the visitors switched off as time ran down, and he crossed to his Spurs teammate Kane who beat Meha Mevlja in the box to poke home.

The home side was poor at times, holding 67% possession but only putting five shots on target of their 17 attempts on net.

The result leaves England six points clear at the top of Group F with one match remaining, locking them into the top spot. Scotland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will now all duke it out for a second place finish.

Scotland 1-0 Slovakia

Scotland picked up an absolutely massive goal as they chase a playoff spot. Derby County striker Chris Martin, a second-half substitute, forced a Martin Skrtel own-goal in the 89th minute, giving Scotland all three points and putting them in pole position for the 2nd spot in Group F.

Slovakia had been playing a man down since the 23rd minute when Robert Mak was sent off for a second yellow, correctly booked for a pathetic dive in the box under no contact. Still, the hosts were unable to grab control of the match, finishing with just 50% of the possession despite the long man advantage. Eventually, the ball came down the right flank and great work by Leigh Griffiths to keep play alive despite going to ground allowed Ikechi Anya to cross the ball for Martin on the doorstep, and his pressure saw the ball cut off the sliding Skrtel into the back of the net.

The win puts Scotland into 2nd place in Group F, two points above their opponents Slovakia and three above Slovenia with one match to go. They face Slovenia in the final round and do not have a goal differential advantage, so only a win would ensure them a spot in the playoff round.

Armenia 1-6 Poland

(Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP)

Poland moved onto the doorstep of automatic qualification as they pummeled Armenia 6-1. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick and got help from Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kamil Glick, and Rafal Wolski to pile it on. The win puts Poland three points ahead of Denmark with one to play, although the teams are even on goal differential, so there could be some final day drama should Poland suffer an unlikely slip against Montenegro.

Montenegro 0-1 Denmark

Denmark kept pace with Poland at the top of Group E, leaving them three points back of the top spot heading in to the final day. It wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been, but an early Christian Eriksen (who else?) goal in the 16th minute saw them through. It was a superb goal, if not glittery, as Eriksen was under pressure from three defenders but surprised goalkeeper Danijel Petkovíc with the shot as it slid by for the lead and eventual winner.

While they’re three back of the automatic qualifying spot, Denmark will also be looking over its shoulder, as Montenegro sits three back of them and two back in goal differential, and playing for their World Cup lives in the final game.

Azerbaijan 1-2 Czech Republic

San Marino 0-8 Norway

Romania 3-1 Kazakhstan

Malta 1-1 Lithuania

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals and two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.